Prior to the release of my debut picture book, many colleagues had warned me that the marketing work for my book would fall squarely and heavily on my shoulders. That was a bit terrifying! I was new to this rodeo and the marketing bulls were rippling with scary muscles and fuming with bad smoky breath. I dove into research, determined to be a marketing bronco buster, and then along came Jordan Standridge, Marketing Associate at Charlesbridge Publishing. And suddenly, I was no longer alone.
I have been incredibly relieved to find that Jordan has proved to be both a partner and champion in marketing my book – which is really our book! I’ve invited Jordan to join us for 24 Carrot Writing’s July Marketing Month to explain how authors can help market their book, what they can expect from their publishing house, and how to have a good marketing partnership with your publisher.
Thanks for joining us Jordan!
As the Marketing Associate for Charlesbridge, I work closely with authors. So really, anything that falls under that umbrella: I’m in touch with indie bookstores across the country, and help get events set up; I submit authors and their books for festivals, if timing and fit are there, and organize the planning leading up to it; I reach out to various outlets/influencers for publicity opportunities, and mailing out advance/complimentary copies; I pitch upcoming books at bookseller regionals/conferences, too! Basically, if you’re an author with book releasing with us, we’re going to be working together.
As much as I am going to help get your book out there in the world, it’s so helpful to have an author to work with that is willing to put in the work, right there with me. So how can a debut author be a partner to market their book?
- Introduce yourself to your local indies, and get to know the kids’ department staff (supporting these stores is a great idea, too). Don’t force anything, but be genuine about it. It shouldn’t be a one-time deal, but an over time, thing. I worked at Powell’s Books in Portland, OR as the Kids’ Lead for a number of years, and we had a bunch of local kid lit creators come through and we’d talk picture books. Usually, it wasn’t even about their books, but the new releases that just came out. When it gets closer to your own release, they’ll be much more likely to order copies and want to host you for an event. So possibly higher quantities, and signing opportunities, too?
- Be willing to put yourself out there. This is definitely connected to the first idea. What I thought was really cool about Portland’s kid lit community was how they all supported one another. When someone had a new book coming out, they all went to the bookstore event and bought a copy. Go and mingle with your fellow local creators — get to know them, and let them get to know you. Do you have a card? Some will likely be active on social media and champion other kid lit work, or have a kit lit blog, and they could be a supporter of you — but they have to know who you are first!
- Have a social media presence and your own website. Some self-promotion is key! Let people know when your book is coming out; when and where you have upcoming bookstore events; if you’re also the illustrator, share your illustrations. It can’t always be about you, so share the release dates of your new creator friends and their events. Show support for your local bookstores — cool kids’ book displays, purchases you made. What’s happening soon — Children’s Book Week? Independent Bookstore Day? Get yourself in the mix.
- Plan and practice a presentation, and have a tie-in activity. I hope you like public speaking! If that gives you anxiety, start preparing and practicing. Plan a presentation beyond reading the book. How can you engage with a young audience, and make it a little more interactive? What might be a fun (possibly, even educational) tie-in activity you could do together? The more lively the event, the likelier for sales.
I think the most successful marketing partnership between author and publisher is when it can be a more collaborative experience. If you, the author, have relevant kid lit/book subject contacts that would help promote the book, tell us — we’d send out copies. Are you already tight with certain bookstores, and have the event coordinators’ contact info? Pass that along. And yeah, you had an idea for a tie-in activity guide that you would then be able to use at all your events. The publisher sees the value in that material, so of course we helped bring it to life! If you have a reasonable ask, that would help sell copies of the book, the publisher will try to help make it happen.
Those essential first steps I mentioned earlier are the building blocks for this question, too.
Kelly, you’ve been not only willing, but excited, to help promote your book! Do you remember our early conversations around author events (pre-Covid-19), and you essentially said "I’ll drive to any bookstore events you set up in MA and the states that touch it." Haha. That’s dedication. I knew then that you would be awesome to work with. While I don’t expect that level of determination, I admire the spirit, and it was nice to know you gave me the green light to really go for it. When events were starting to go virtual, you adapted, and even learned all of the various platforms that bookstores threw our way. You also worked on your presentation (you had a couple, depending on what the situation called for), even offering a meaningful and easy craft kids at home could make, so it definitely made my job easier.
When you’re a debut, bookstores don’t have a backlist/sales to consider when making event decisions. However, if you’re putting in the extra work, I can better attempt to paint a picture in an event coordinator’s mind on what an event with this author will look like, what we can offer, and how that would be a draw for their community’s families. So, in short, be willing to open up your schedule and prepare!