Guest Post By Alison Goldberg
As I started thinking about this post, I asked critique partners and friends for their questions about promoting a debut picture book. In addition to nuts and bolts questions about swag and event planning and blogs, one person asked: What if you (secretly) don’t want to promote?
And I kept thinking about this question, since it underlies a lot of conversations I’ve had with writers on this topic.
For many of us, creating a promotion plan for a first picture book can feel intimidating, at times overwhelming. It requires diverting precious time away from writing and/or illustrating. The activities involved may demand a different set of skills from the ones honed to polish a manuscript for publication. Just the idea of marketing ourselves can be challenging, and for the introverts among us, particularly exhausting.
My first picture book, I Love You for Miles and Miles, released from Farrar, Straus and Giroux on December 26, 2017. During the past year I’ve tried several different strategies to promote my book. I have also not tried several different strategies to promote my book.
There are countless ways to tackle book promotion. As I reflected on this question, I realized that a big part of making this process feel manageable, accessible, and worthwhile—something that I actually wanted to do--was to come up with my own goals for success.
Book promotion isn’t just about trying to sell more books, but I think sometimes the resistance to promotion is the feeling that’s the only thing we’re supposed to be doing. But there are so many other reasons to leverage the opportunity of a book launch to promote--especially as a debut. It can be empowering to redirect our focus to goals that support our ongoing careers as published authors, help us develop new skills, strengthen our communities, and connect us to kids, families, librarians, booksellers, and teachers.
Just like each of our writing journeys will vary, each of our book promotion paths will vary. What do you hope will happen when you send your new book out into the world? Who do you want to share it with? Who do you want to connect with? What skills do you want to develop? What steps can you take with your debut that will help you launch your next book? How can you use the opportunity of this book launch to support your community?
When launching a picture book debut, I think it’s worth taking the time to step back and come up with book promotion goals that feel true to you. As an example, I share my book promotion goals below. Your plan can be as big or as small as you want it to be. It can involve a whole team of people or just a few. It can involve lots of cookies or no cookies at all. The important part is that it includes what you want to do.
My Book Promotion Goals:
1) Develop infrastructure for my writing business
As a new children’s writer, I had invested a lot of time and resources in developing my craft, far less in developing my writing business. One goal was to use the opportunity of my launch to create more business infrastructure. What did this look like for me? I overhauled my website, and created contact lists for email outreach to friends and family and a postcard mailing to bookstores and libraries. All of this was pretty time consuming, and the website was resource intensive, but these things will be in place for my next book launch too.
2) Tell my story as a debut
At every step in my writing journey I have read the profiles of writers, often in the form of blog posts hosted by other writers. Another goal I had was to tell my story as a debut in order to give back to this supportive children’s writing community with content of my own. This was easy to do, free, and great preparation for a media interview request when it came along. (Here are those posts and interviews.)
And telling my story as a debut connected back to my goal of developing business infrastructure. I wanted to establish a greater presence online to make it easy for potential readers, reviewers, and editors to learn more about me as a writer.
3) Connect with my local bookstores and libraries.
I love my local indies. I love my local library. A big part of my excitement for launching my book was the chance to connect with and support bookstores and libraries in this new role. I prioritized events in these venues and this has been a highlight for me--a chance to get to know more bookstores in my area and share my book (and crafts and cookies) with kids and families.
4) Expand my writing community
I found that launching a debut was a terrific opportunity to meet more children’s writers. I joined an amazing debut group, Picture the Books, and connected with other writers and illustrators with 2017 picture book debuts. We shared information and strategies, circulated advance copies, and supported each other throughout our debut year. I also connected with agent-mates with 2017 release dates and a broader community of writers on social media.
I knew that my events would be more fun for me if I planned them with other picture book creators. Expanding these networks helped me to find authors and illustrators to team up with.
5) Support an issue
I’ve been involved in the Campaign to End Childhood Hunger for decades and saw the opportunity of my picture book launch as a chance to raise some money and exposure for this work. I included this information in my book trailer and on my website, and I’m exploring ways to build this support into future events.
Finally, I had a goal to experiment with strategies throughout the year, to stretch myself and learn about a variety of tactics for my next book launch. For example, even though I decided I wouldn’t plan school visits for this release, I volunteered to lead a storytime at my children’s former preschool to learn more. Since I was curious about the potential reach of a book trailer, I went to conference workshops for advice and ended up working with an animator to make one. I’ve never participated in a book festival before so I recently sent in some applications.
Alison Goldberg is the author of the picture book I Love You for Miles and Miles, illustrated by Mike Yamada (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017). Before becoming a children’s writer, she worked for economic justice organizations and co-wrote the resource guide, Creating Change Through Family Philanthropy: The Next Generation (Soft Skull Press, 2007). To learn more about Alison visit her website at alisongoldberg.com/
To purchase I Love You for Miles and Miles go to:
Signed copies are available through www.portersquarebooks.com/alison-goldberg
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