Guest post by Ashlee Rowe.
A Wisconsin native, Ashlee Rowe was the public relations manager for a small children’s publisher before leaving for the freelance writing and publicity market. She currently lives in Charleston, SC. For your publicity needs contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
You’ve probably been there. The local bookstore or festival signing shiny new copies of your books, reading to excited children, and answering questions. If you’re a children’s author, you’re usually lucky. Children are star-struck by the chance to meet a real live author, and most parents are eager to encourage any literary interest. The event is a success; you’ve managed to reach an audience—maybe as many as one hundred more people know about your book. But does it really help the bottom line? Is this the best use of your time? What other things could you be doing to help promote yourself and your books?
In my time working as public relations manager for a small children’s publisher there are two major and often overlooked types of events that authors, especially children’s authors can do to help their book sell: school visits and speaking at tradeshows.
Book Marketing at a Tradeshow
As an author, it is more essential than ever to market yourself, and to make your name recognizable to those in both the writing community and in your local region or state. There is no easier way to make your name recognizable to bookstores, gift shops, and distributors than by connecting with them at a trade show, especially if you are available to give a presentation. Speaking at these events gives you that rare opportunity to reach a large audience in a memorable way, especially if you have some background that makes you an expert in a literary or childcare field. By speaking, you are showing distributors and booksellers that you are serious about the industry that you are working in, that you are willing to market yourself, and that you believe in your product. As they say, it’s a small world and if you can impress that one right person, it matters a little less whether or not your book “fits” for their company, they’ll work to make it fit.
Not sure what to speak about? Pick from any number of topics related to your books or your professional background and become an expert. Are you a former teacher? Then speak about the importance of picture books for early readers. Does your latest book have science or math themes? Then give a presentation about how picture books with these themes can enhance and strengthen understanding of these concepts for visual learners in the classroom. If you’re creative, you can find a way to incorporate your book into any type of presentation for any show.
School Visits Connect You with Audience
I’ve been surprised at how many authors and illustrators I’ve worked with that are afraid of speaking in front of a group of children. You write for children right? By declining or refusing to do school visits, you not only miss out on a major sales opportunity for your books, but you also miss out on a potentially lucrative opportunity for yourself. If you have a part-time job or are fortunate enough to make writing your full-time career, school visits are a perfect way to supplement your income while boosting book sales. In fact, several authors I’ve had the chance to work with are able to make a living off of school visits alone, with royalties and book sales existing as an income perk. Not only are they able to make money off the school visit fees, but most of the children at these assemblies are going to want to purchase a copy of your book, and guess which author they’ll remember the next time they are at a bookstore with their parents. One author I know more than doubles the sales of her three and four year old picture books from school visit orders alone. Plus, she is able to make an additional school visit “fee” by purchasing books directly from us with her authors’ discount and reselling to schools at the normal retail cost.
If standing in front of a class or assembly of children scares the dickens out of you, start small. Daycare centers or after school programs can be a great way to fine-tune your school visit before tackling larger crowds.
Of the authors (and even illustrators) I’ve worked with, those with the most successful long-term titles are those who do regular school visits. Because the publisher I work for continues printing books for years, this means that we have some authors who still promote their books at school visits five or more years after the original publication date. Guess which authors’ future manuscripts tend to be accepted or which authors are asked to work on special projects?
In my experience, many new authors overlook the school visit and tradeshow arena in favor of the more obvious “writer” events. Don’t get me wrong, bookstore and gift shop signings are wonderful–not to mention fabulous ways to reach out to the community–but by doing so you limit yourself and your potential audience, which makes it difficult to generate that all important word of mouth outside the local bookstore market. So if you’re looking for a way to help generate more book sales and get your name out there, the school visit and tradeshow market might just be the ticket.