An Index...

Thanks for joining us on our book promotion journey here on the BubbleStampede Blog.  We learned a lot from our discussions and hope you've found some gems, too.  
If you'd like to read an overview as we look back and reflect, you'll find that here
If you're looking for information on specific topics, you'll find a rough index below.  Of course, the best way to get ALL of the promo info jammed into this blog is to start at the very beginning.  But however you read this blog, be sure to check out the comments.  Some interesting discussions live there.
Happy Promotion Journey to You!


About Us
---Welcome to Bubble Stampede - Why this blog, and our goals for it.
---Who Are We Again - About Laura and Fiona and their books
---You Ever Heard of Us? - Promotion we're already doing...where we're starting from
---Who are YOU Marketing To? - Choosing the right target audience, hubs and nodes
---Book Touring in Pajamas - Choosing the right blogs for your virtual book tour
Authorless Visits
---Who are YOU Marketing To? - when you can't go, but your book can
Author Photos
---The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - why do we need one, what makes a good one, getting creative
Author Promotion vs. Book Promotion
---You Ever Heard of Us? - Importance of building your author name, not just the book
Blog Tour
---Book Touring in Pajamas - What is a blog tour, is it worthwhile, how to make one
---Blog Tours and BookTrailers - How did we do?
---You Ever Heard of Us? - Initial launch ideas
---Launch Event Cluster: 15 Events in Two Weeks - Did we do it? Importance of launch timing
---Book Launch Tango - Organizing and planning two different kinds of in-person book launches
---Online Book Launches (Or the Chicken's Way Out) - Organizing an online book launch
---Book Launch Aftermath - post mortem discussion
Book Signings
---Who are YOU Marketing To? - Themed signing
---Buddy Up at the Book Signin' Corral - Book signing with a buddy
---Book Signing or Book "Event" - Make it special to draw in the crowds, unique activities
Book Trailers
---Grab Your $7 Popcorn - Getting started, choices
---Down in Front! - Making a trailer
---Featured Attraction - Laura's trailer
---Roll Them Credits! - What we learned about what makes a good trailer
---Blog Tours and BookTrailers - How did we do?
Buddying Up for Promotion - Strength in Numbers
---Just One Thing: Advice from Those Ahead of You on the Path - an idea to expand your repertoire of good promo ideas
---You Ever Heard of Us? - Postcards
---A Little Something to Remember Me By - bookmarks, postcards, buttons, tattoos, pencils, treats, and other promotional giveaways
Illustrator - Involvement in Promotion
---Promo So Far? - Using illustrations in promo
Links to more Promo Info
(Also see posts about individual subjects...we've embedded lots of links about specific subjects along the way)
---Promotion Gold in Them Thar Hills - Eight links to fabulous online promotion articles
---Shrinking Violet Promotions - Promotion for the introvert
Launch - See Book Launch
Marketing Dept
---Promo So Far? - Working with the publisher's Marketing Dept
---Ask Not What Your Publisher Can Do For You...Actually, Go Ahead and Ask! - Inexpensive ways to get your publisher to help your promo efforts
Online Materials
---Offbeat Ideas for Connecting with Your Readers - videos, games, blooper reels, polls, other unusual activities
Online Presence (See also Websites and Blog Tours)
---You Ever Heard of Us? - interviews, guest chats, CYBILS, blogs, websites and other online ways to get our name out there
---Social Networking Sites: Just how social does an author have to be? - JacketFlap, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, GoodReads, Twitter: a first look
---Flittering and Twittering - Which social networking sites we chose to use and why
---Friends, Fans, and Family - A social networking followup, what we did and how it worked
---Launch Event Cluster: 15 Events in Two Weeks - scroll to the end of the post to read about
Postcards - See Giveaways


Press Kit

    Online Press Kit

       ---When the Press Comes A-callin' - what are online press kits, what's in 'em, some good examples
       ---Online Press Kits and Websites - How did we do?
    Physical Press Kit
       ---Catching an Editor's or Producer's Eye - Press release tricks and tips
       ---Online Book Launches (Or the Chicken's Way Out) - link to Fiona's press release
Print Media
---Step Away from the Computer - Newspapers, alumni magazines, announcements etc.

Promotion Overview
Sweeping Up the Dust and Bubble Juice - our last post, a wrapup

Promotional No-nos
---When Promotion Goes Over the Top - How far is too far, reasonable promotion or pushy and obnoxious?
Radio and TV
Readers' Theater
---Places Everyone! - What is it and will it work for poetry and nonfiction, and books without a story arc?
Signings - See Book Signings
---You Ever Heard of Us? - Libraries, conferences,
Specialty Markets
---Who are YOU Marketing To? - brainstorming
Trailers - see Book Trailers
Websites (See also Online Presence)
---Microsites vs regular author website Part 1 - a book specific site or include your book on a regular author website
---Microsite - Tech details
---Ask Not What Your Publisher Can Do For You...Actually, Go Ahead and Ask! - Making good use of your publisher's website
---Online Press Kits and Websites - How did we do?
Word of Mouth

Book Launch Aftermath - 1 + 1 = 2 Successful Events

Laura is blue. Fiona is green
When we first started this blog, our book launches seemed so far in the future.  But as of a few days ago, they've come and gone. Stampede! and Bubble Homes and Fish Farts are well and truly launched into the world. 
Yay! It's pretty hard to believe!


I thought it might be helpful to talk about how things went and what we learned from our launch experiences. Since the buzz of your online launch is still ringing in the halls, Laura, let's start with yours.   
OK, let's--I'm still doing the party cleanup, so it's definitely on my mind.


I popped into your online ning launch on Monday and the place was hopping.  People were leaving notes in your guest book and comments about everything from animal crackers to your funny elephant-beagle stampede video. Several folks were chatting with you in the online chat area while I was there.


The event looked to be a terrific success.  Were you happy with it?  Did it turn out the way you wanted it to? 
I was happy with it! Thrilled, actually. It was still a little nerve-wracking, wondering if people would show. But when I woke up Monday morning, several people had already come and commented, saying lovely things! Gave me confidence for the day.
Any idea how many people attended?
Lots of people came--311 unique visitors Monday, almost 50 more on Tuesday, and they're still trickling in. More than half stayed 5 minutes or longer, and of that half, about 1/3 stayed 5-20 minutes, 1/3 stayed 20 minutes to an hour, and 1/3 stayed more than an hour. So people were hanging out and visiting the different activities, etc. 72 people signed the guestbook, which was lovely. I never would have had that many people at an in-person launch.
That's a terrific turnout.  A success, indeed!


So, what lessons did you take away from this experience? What would you have done differently?
An online launch is a lot of work! I spent many hours getting the various documents and activities ready over the past month or so.
Clicking around, you could certainly see that. You had a lot of content. You basically created an entire website! 
But it felt less stressful for me than the thought of preparing for an in person launch. How much punch do I buy? Will there be enough cake? Will it snow that day and everyone will stay home? I didn't have to worry about those questions.
[giggle]  All the things *I* was worried about! 
You had many more technical aspects to your launch, though.  Did that cause any hiccups? 
You know, AFTER I committed to and started publicizing the ning address, I had a day on a different ning of mine (I was using for an online class) go down for a day. Server problems. Just unavailable. So the day before the launch, I worried about that. What if the whole thing just disappears? Ack! Looking back, I should have had a backup plan. I'm not sure what it would have been, but just some idea of how I would have handled it. Reschedule? Try to put the material elsewhere? I don't know... Luckily, from a tech point of view, the only bad thing about the ning was that you can't insert your reply right after a comment on a blog post (the comments just appear in chronological order). I knew that going in. I kind of wish I had commented more throughout the day (though I was chatting online a lot) so people could have seen replies while they were there. I'll think about that more next time.
Hmm...I hadn't noticed that as a problem.  But then, I'm used to dealing with blogger and comments are chronological there. 
Also, the live chat function shut down a few times on me, mid-conversation. That was an annoyance, but not catastrophic.
I learned that a big plus of the online launch is you create lots of materials that you might repurpose and use on a long-term basis! I'm leaving everything up for now because people are still dropping in, which is wonderful! And the launch is being mentioned in some of my upcoming interviews. So I'll leave it up for a while. Eventually, though, many of the activities, videos, readings, etc., will migrate to a more permanent home on my website. So that's very cool. Everything feels new and exciting for the launch, but then there will be a long-term payoff, too, I hope.
Repurposing is very smart.  And debuting new materials on the online launch site draws visitors in.  If you'd simply moved content over from your established website, I don't think you'd have had as many visitors.  "New and exciting" is an important component.  
Exactly. And I learned that people are awfully friendly and supportive! I tell you, on my to-do list is to print out all the comments people left. Next time I get a rejection or bad review, that puppy's coming out to cheer me up! I was really basking in everyone's excitement and support. It was amazing! I could enjoy it in a way that would have been hard for me to do in person.
Yes, being able to go back and reread the comments is a nice benefit.  In-person comments are relegated to memory, and that fades over time.

I thought your "Do me a favor?" section, where you suggested several cost-free ways folks could help Stampede! find its way in the world, was very well done.  Several people noted they would.


Subliminal message starts here. 

Go...go...go request that your library purchase copies of  Laura's "Stampede! Poems to Celebrate the Wild" Side and Fiona's "Bubble Homes and Fish Farts"...go...get thee to your library... 

Subliminal message ends here. 
lol. Maybe I should have put background music on my launch site (except I hate background music on sites) with this subliminal message playing very quietly in the background!
Thanks! You know, I've been working harder to support books I like but can't buy. I do the One Book I Love on my blog (in addition to my Favorite Book of the Week in my sidebar), I try to more purposely mention recent books I love to librarians and booksellers, and I'm starting to mention them on Facebook once in a while, too. I think every little bit helps. But it's hard to stay on top of! So I thought, what would I most like people to do? Well, if they can't afford buy the book themselves, the next best things are to ask their library to buy it or to leave a customer review at on online bookseller.
Me, too.  These are simple things, but powerful ones, yet not something I thought much about until my book was published. I've found the response to book suggestions has been good.  People seem to like hearing about books their friends have found and loved.
I think if you're asking people to do a favor, it makes sense to do as much of the grunt work for them as you can! So I made a flyer they could drop off at their library or text they could email in if their library has that option. And I provided links for leaving reviews. I told people I'd be very grateful if they had time to choose just one thing to do. And I got a fair number of comments and emails afterward with people telling me they did just that. So that was lovely.   
You handled it beautifully.  Very easy for folks to follow through...very pressure.  Well done!
Thank you. I was worried about being too pushy. And on that note, enough about me. How was your local launch? 
It turned out really well. The atmosphere was festive and celebratory, exactly as I'd hoped. About 150 people attended.
Wow! That's huge! That's an absolute boatload of people. This was the one at the nature center, not the aquarium, right?
That's The Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve.  It wasn't a large space, as you can see here: 
(this picture captures about a quarter of the room), so 150 is about the maximum capacity. Any more people and it would have been too crowded and possibly a problem.  As it was, it was just right.

It looks like a beautful setting. 
It is.  It's located right next to the wetlands. The building is rustic with many windows...a very nature-y feel to it. A great match for the book.
And while that sounds just aesthetic, I think the setting creates a mood for your party, and if people felt very nature-y, of course that's conducive to buying a nature-y book. A modern, hi-tech party room might be just as cool, but not the right match for your particular book!
Hmm...I hadn't thought of it that way, but it makes sense.
As for the rest of the launch...
The kids' crafts tables hummed with kids making about 70 animal hats and bubble blowers, 
...we went through 300 square inches of cake (all that was left at the end was the book cover and 4 cut pieces),
and I signed books in between a couple of readings and a quick buzz through the room. 
That sounds excellent! Beautiful cake and crafts--can't go wrong. It looks like everyone is really into the activities. Excellent.  
The kids seemed to really like the hats and bubble blowers.  My only regret is that the weather wasn't good enough for the kids to go outside to try out their new blowers. 
That is kind of too bad about the weather, but the good thing is, they'll use them at home on a nice day, and their friends will say, "Where'd ya get that?" and they'll talk about a cool party for a book, YOUR book, etc.!
I hope so!  It also meant I had four gallons of bubble solution that didn't get used. But, not to worry, I donated it to a local elementary school, so a few classroom's worth of kids will have some bubble-blowing fun because of it. 
Great solution (hehe). I hope some promo materials for Bubble Homes were delivered along with the bubble liquid. 
The librarian bought a copy of the book. Does that count?  Other than that, no, I wanted the bubble juice to be a gift, not seen as a way to elbow in a sales pitch, so I just left it at the book and bubble solution. 
[Shaking head.] Oh, Fiona, I have a low tolerance for pitching, but even I wouldn't see leaving some postcards or bookmarks with the bubble liquid as "elbowing in a pitch."
It just didn't seem right to me.  I guess it comes down to those comfort limits we keep talking about
But you were a lot braver in your promotion (via radio, etc.) than I could have been, so I guess I can't say too much. :>)
We both tried some things that pushed our comfort zone out a little wider than it was when we started.  It's been an interesting journey.
So, what do you think was key your successful in-person launch?
One important thing I did, that I would make sure to do again next time, is have lots of help. I thought I would be able to take an active role in organizing and supervising the event, but I was too busy signing books, chatting with well-wishers and kids. I had one relative sell books, another man the refreshment table to keep supplies up and act as a welcomer, three teens supervise and assist at the kids' tables, and my son run rover and be the official photographer.  Thanks to these guys, everything went smoothly.
That is so smart. And with that many people attending, definitely necessary! 
Many of the launch post mortems I'd read online emphatically advised, "Get lots of help!!!"  I'm really glad I listened.
One thing that surprised me was how effective the media was in getting people out. About half the people who attended were people I didn't know. Many of them mentioned they'd read about the launch in the paper or heard about it on the radio.  I figure for every person who came to the launch because of media reports, there are quite a few others who heard about the book, so it was a good way to get the word out. 
I think that's an amazing statistic, Fiona. To have 50% of a book launch crowd be non-friends and non-relatives? Absolutely fantastic.
I was surprised and pleased. I knew many of my family and friends would be there, but I had no idea so many others would come.
I had a few non-acquaintances drop in at my launch, and it was exciting to have teachers or librarians introduce themselves in the chat area and talk about getting my book for their school. But the vast majority (probably more than 90%) of names in my guestbook are ones I recognize. Hopefully others I didn't know came and enjoyed the launch too, but the major participants were definitely folks I know online with a few family members sprinkled in. 
Congratulations. Really, the whole point of a launch party is to SPREAD the word, so getting word out to people you DON'T know is key.
In fact, now that we're talking about it, I think I would try to increase that aspect of my own launch next time. I don't know how, exactly, but maybe even just encouraging people to send the invitation to the media specialist at their local elementary schoools, etc. That's a good thing for me to keep in mind for next time--thanks!
The launch, as an "event", served as an anchor for the news media in a way that a "book release" alone wouldn't do. I bet the media bites you're getting are mostly anchored by your zoo appearances, too, Laura. 
Ya know, the only local print coverage I've gotten, that I know of, is inclusion in a roundup of kids' books in the Minneapolis Star Tribune --yay! No mention of the zoo, though, because I wasn't featured--it's just one paragraph per book. But I think the zoo events made it into the calendar sections of both local papers, though.
Media will probably become more interested as the zoo dates approach. I didn't see any interest until a week or two before. 
Well, the first zoo appearance has now come and gone, and it was a disaster of poor planning (on the zoo's part).
Oh no!
There was no signage, no promotion, no space for us to do our storytime--we were just stuck in a craft room (and that's all the sign on the door said--"Kids' Crafts" that was super-crowded with tons of kids loudly doing crafts and parents shouting across the room--or talking on their cell phones. When the lone zoo volunteer announced storytime and told kids they could continue crafting, she didn't even ask them to do the crafts quietly. Hardly anyone even heard the announcement because the volunteer was soft-spoken and microphoneless. And the few kids who ventured over to the rug for storytime could hardly hear Dara and me. We had to practically shout into their faces to be heard over the crafting din. 
What a nightmare.  Oh, Laura, I'm so sorry to hear that.
I am SO glad no media promoted it or were there. What an embarrassment that would have been. Shudder.
Lack of media coverage is probably part of the zoo's lack of this case, a good thing! 
But even so... an event---a well-planned one, that is---is a good way to get media attention. I'm going to keep that in mind for the future. And [grin] not necessarily waiting until the next book launch, either. It may come in handy for repromoting this book, say, closer to Christmas. I wouldn't do such a huge event as I did for the launch, but I'd try to create some kind of event to leverage that media attention. 
Good point. Especially since my next trade book doesn't even have an illustrator yet, so I'll want to re-create excitement about Stampede over the next couple of years!  I've already got a couple of September storytimes lined up, but now I'm wondering if I should be thinking about some kind of actual event to focus on the back-to-school aspect. Hmm...I'm too overwhelmed right now to think too hard about a back-to-school party, but I'll let the idea simmer at the back of my brain for a few weeks. 
Mwahahaha...we've got her!  It doesn't have to be a big event...just enough to have a media hook and get folks thinking it's something different they'd like to go to. You can do it! 
If I survive April/May, I'll be brainstorming! 
Well, Laura, that's our two launches.  
Wow, Bayrock...we rocked! Two very different launch approaches, but both very successful in their own ways.
[Fiona and Laura do a high five]
Yup, we sure did.  And I must say... for me, talking about it all here with you contributed greatly. So, thanks for the chats! 
I agree. This blog as a sounding board has been invaluable! Thank you!
Whew! I'm still doing mop-up, packing up door prizes, etc., but it's nice to have hosted and survived our launches, and to feel like they went well. I wish we lived near each other so we could go out to celebrate! Somehow virtual snacks (though they were a big hit at the launch) really don't do a ton for me:>)
At least virtual snacks don't make it onto the hips. ;^)  But, I agree, a celebratory drink and a "cheers" would have been nice to share in person. day we'll find ourselves in the same city again.
Well, folks, the subtitle of Bubblestampede is "2 authors, 2 books...and a 9-month conversation about...aack!...PROMOTION!"  We started talking together last August and went live September 1, so our nine months has run its course. It's hard to believe so much time has gone by so quickly.  We'll be taking a week off and will be back again with a wrap-up post to finish things off.

Reader's Theatre, Teacher Guides & Blog Tours...Oh, my!

Laura is blue. Fiona is green.
It's book launch season for both of us here at Bubble Stampede, so now that we've spent a few weeks talking about launches, we're back to catching up on the rest of our promo plans.


First up, Readers' Theatre


Both Stampede! and Bubble Homes and Fish Farts have self-contained sections about individual animals, a structure which lends itself nicely to readers' theatre.  So, in our original post about readers' theatre, we each decided to create one. 


I started work on my readers' theatre script, but a little way into it I changed my mind and decided not to do one, after all. The reason?  As I analyzed the book looking for ideas to include in a teachers' guide, I realized there were a lot of opportunities for interesting activities involving voice and point of view, so instead of creating my own readers' theatre script, I've included activities in the teacher guide that will result in students creating mini-scripts that can be used as a class readers' theatre project.


I know your virtual book launch next week includes the readers' theatre script you created for Stampede, Laura. How did it go for you? 
My daughter Maddie helped me out with the scripts, brainstorming situations that could lead to the poems, and reading them out loud with me repeatedly as we tried to make them shorter and more interesting!
Is the script unveiling part of your launch or can you talk about it, here, and maybe give us a sneak preview? 
Nope, it's not top secret!
I actually ended up doing two versions. I did a shorter version, for a smaller, younger group of kids, here, and I did a longer version, for a larger, older group of kids, here.
Doing scripts for different age groups. What a great idea! 
Thanks--I did two versions because we did the one I liked and then realized it was WAY too long for kids the age who would be reading Stampede. So I edited it down to a shorter version more suitable for primary grades. I like the longer one, though, because I think the humor and sarcasm allows older kids to enjoy the book, too. I hope.
Makes sense to me.  So how did you go about including the poems?  Or did you? 
Well, that was the question. I couldn't include many poems, because who would need to buy the book then? But how to turn a poetry book into something else? I wanted the scripts to stand alone, so that they would appeal even to teachers who didn't already have the book in the classroom. But I also wanted to give kids a way to perform the actual poems. Performing poetry is a standard in many states' curricula, and I think a Reader's Theater script with different characters reciting different poems could be a blast. So each script has a couple of the poems in it, and then has spots throughout for kids to read more actual poems from the book. But the scripts make sense without the optional poems, too. Hmm...Does that make sense? It's hard to explain.
Sure does!  Smart thinking. That sounds great. I bet teachers who use the scripts without Stampede! will want their own copy of the book after their students have performed your readers' theatre. 
I hope so! We'll see what kind of response I get if any teachers actually use these. I'm hoping that if I plug them a bit during my school visits in April, some teachers might give them a try.


Next up, teacher guides


I've been collecting ideas for a teacher guide for over a year, so I had hoped to have my teacher guide ready before the book was released.  However, I wanted to include art from the book, and until I had the book in hand, I didn't know what the actual colour palette would be.  All of the electronic files and physical layouts I'd received had come with the caveat that "these colours aren't right, but it gives you an idea".  I'm glad I waited, as you can see from comparing the actual colours with what I used on the postcard before I knew the palette. 
Postcard, where I guessed at the colour palette:
Book cover with actual colours:
Wow--that is a big difference. (And the delicate colors are one of my favorite things about the art.)
Mine, too. :^) The postcard looks so garish now that I compare it to the actual colours.
Waiting also meant that when I did finally know the true colour palette, the busy-ness of Christmas season was upon us, and then it was into book release and other promotional efforts, so the guide is still a work in progress.
The illustrator and I are working together, sharing our expertises with each other.  While I do a teacher guide, Carolyn has created line drawings of animals from the book for kids to colour, cut out, and turn into hats or masks, all of which we'll both have available on our websites for downloading. 
Carolyn's also designed the neatest bookplates that mesh with the design of the title page, so we can "sign" books for folks too far away to get us to sign an actual book.  Win-win.
What a fabulous idea! That is so cool. And I love the idea of bookplates. I know Grace Lin has done that for her books. Hmm...maybe I should get in touch with Steven Salerno and see if he'd like to do that. He did already extract a couple of pieces of spot art for use on my microsite, so maybe I could just design a bookplate using one of those...Can you share more details about how the bookplates actually work? Do you simply print them out as labels? Or are these items you ordered from a printer?
We're still working out the best way to do it.  Right now we have a page of them as a pdf file, so we can each print them out on sticker sheets (available at any stationery store).  But I'm pretty sure these aren't "acid free", so I want to look into it a little more to find out if that's okay to use or if we should contract a printer to print them on acid free paper.  Can you get stickers that are acid-free?  Or would you have to glue the plates in yourself using special glue?  Don't know. That's what I want to find out.  
With all the scrapbooking supplies that are acid-free, I'd be flummoxed if you COULDN'T buy acid-free sticker sheets.


Ooo, that's a good source to check. 
Laura, you went a different route for your teacher guide.  How'd that go?
Fabuloso. The lovely Tracie Vaughn Zimmer did my teaching guide. I had always hoped to have her do mine if I had a poetry book published because she does many poetry book teaching guides and rounds them all up on her website. She does tons of other teaching guides, too. Of course, she's busy with all her own writing stuff (she has a new poetry collection called Steady Hands, as well as 42 Miles, and Floating Circus, all within the past year!), so she doesn't do as many of these any more. (If you want to know if she can do yours, contact Tracie here.) 
I've seen her guides. They're terrific. She does a great job.
Luckily, she had time to do mine. She sent me the text, and I designed it into a document and put it online here. I just put this up a couple of days ago, and it might get tweaked some more, but at least it's in decent shape. I'm so happy with it, and I'm excited to be able to have it up before IRA here in Minneapolis in early May. I'm happy I'll be able to hand out Stampede biz cards to teachers and let them know they can visit my microsite and find links to the Reader's Theater and a Teaching Guide.
Oh yes!  Great timing.
So, all in all, the teaching guide was a piece of cake, because I didn't have to do it:>) I wish I could hire experts to do all this stuff!  
Wouldn't that be nice?  :^)

Last up, blog tours


My tour was last week.  Keeping in mind our discussion here and here about going beyond our writing communities, I ended up with one writer and the rest a mix of librarians and book reviewers as tour stop hosts.  My publisher sent out review copies to each of them to use for review and perhaps as a prize, if they wanted to do that. The tour was successful, but I'll do things a little differently next time. 


For example, I asked each of my hosts to send me a list of questions.  Each of them sent about 8-10 questions (which was a lot to answer!), and there was a fair bit of overlap amongst them.  Next time, I'd ask hosts to send their questions and let them know I'll pick five to answer.  That way I can have some control over the content, limit the number of questions I have to answer, and can prevent overlap.
That's the one thing I dislike about blog tours. They all kind of sound the same after a while because they tend to cover the same basics at each post. I think the pick 5 is a great idea. And most of them say, "Answer the ones you want" (at least I do when I send questions to someone), so I think I'll take advantage of that tip, too!


I also wondered about the timing.  I originally thought doing it as close to launch as possible would be good, but the book got pretty good exposure from the big review sources, bloggers, and impromptu essays and guest blogging I was invited to do, as well the ICL guest chat and other things I had planned.
You've been rocking the promotional deal lately. That's excellent!
Yes, the extra promo that came from sources beyond my control combined with the what I did plan has been least for now.  But I'm starting to question whether there might such a thing as too much exposure at once, and if I should perhaps have waited with some of my plans in an effort to stretch things out over a longer time.  
That's an interesting question. For me, personally, I need to see a book title about 3 or 4 places before I finally think, Hey, this is a book I should read. I mean, if I read one thing about it and it immediately captures me, I go put it on reserve at the library. But if it's a book I'm not predisposed to find, it takes several sightings before I think I need to read it because it's clearly a book that's going to be discussed places. So if I want to participate in those conversations, I need to read the book (says the woman who still hasn't read all of the Harry Potter books, nor any of the Twilight ones).
Hee hee. 
So I think all this exposure is probably good. Everyone (editors, publicists, book buyers) talks about how short a time a book has to make an impression--picture books especially. So the danger in spreading things out is that you might never get the momentum going. I think the accumulation of many events in a short time period is probably the most effective. With occasional events sprinkled thereafter. That's just my initial thought.
I hope you're right. The initial burst of activity has been good, but I don't want it to turn out to be one big bang and then nada. I'll celebrate for now and play it by ear and see what happens. 
For Stampede, for example, I have a bunch of April/May events, and couple of storytime events now set for September/October, and that'll be fun. Places can emphasize the school aspect of the book rather than the poetry aspect at that point.
Good idea.'re planning on visiting a few blogs but not doing an official "blog tour", right?
Exactly. I'll be appearing on several blogs throughout April, but I don't have definite dates to share yet, except that I'll be at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast on April 17 and The Miss Rumphius Effect on April 24.
Those are great blogs. Carolyn and I will be visiting Seven Impossible Things a month later, on May 17, and Tricia posted my very first blog review at The Miss Rumphius Effect.  Can't wait to see where else you'll pop up.  Do post links to the Laura Salas Extended Non-blog-tour Blog Tour when you know them.  ;^)  
Thanks, I will! Mine is more like a blog meandering rather than a blog tour! But that's ok. I didn't have the time/energy to try to set up a tighter schedule, so I'm just going with the flow of when it works best for my various hosts. They'll all be in April, and ideally I'll be in at least one place each week, but who knows. This is one promotional area I'm not actually taking charge of.
A "blog meandering"...  I like that!  I think next time I'll spread things over a month instead of fitting everything into one week. That's a nice compromise---close enough together to be a sorta-cluster, but far enough apart that you get the benefits of exposure over a longer period of time.
So, dear readers, have you created readers' theatre scripts, teacher guides and blog tours?  Leave us a comment.  We'd love to know what worked for you and what didn't.

Book Launch Tango

Laura is blue. Fiona is green.

As many authors do, I collected tips and information about book launches long before my book was due to be released. 
Me too! I never looked at bridal magazines as a kid or daydreamed about my wedding, but I have files full of marketing articles related to "the big day" (in my case, when I have my own book out!).
Hee hee...that's too funny, but that's it, exactly!    
When it came time to plan my own launch, I went through the file of assorted notes as a first step. With so much information from so many different launches all in one place, patterns appeared. 


One pattern of note was the choice between doing it yourself or doing it in conjunction with another organization. As it happens, for my two launches, I'm doing one of each.  I've learned a lot from the double experience.
Whew--two launches! I'm overwhelmed just thinking about it. You go, girl!
Well, it just sort of happened that way.  I really wanted to have a launch at the aquarium, but it's more than an hour away from where I live.  I knew if I had only the aquarium launch, then many of my family, friends, and community members wouldn't be able to join me in the celebration. The solution was to have another party closer to home. It's actually working out quite well...mostly because one of them is taking almost no effort on my part.  I can't imagine doing two launches where both required a lot of organization and time. 
Gotcha. Back to the wedding analogy, it's kind of like getting married in the Bahamas and then having a fabulous party when you get back home, too! 
Hee hee, yes, the wedding planner makes all the difference! 

Working with the aquarium has had many advantages:

- a free facility complete with ambience that matches the book,

- help brainstorming and organizing the event,

- access to the aquarium's five-figure contact list for publicity,

- the gift shop taking care of ordering and sales of books,

- aquarium staff to design and supervise activities and crafts,

- guaranteed traffic on launch day.
Ooh, this sounds wonderful! Why consider anything else?


Funny you should ask.  The negatives: little say in activity choices (some things I wanted to do weren't possible due to the venue) and scheduling, those attending the launch have to pay regular aquarium entrance fees, limited options for date and time, and food had to be catered (expensive).
Oh. That's why:>)


There's always a catch, isn't there? :^)  
For a do-it-yourself launch, the advantage and disadvantage lists are almost flipped. I had complete freedom in choosing the venue, date, time, refreshments, scheduling, and activities.  My guests don't have to pay an entrance fee, and because I'm taking care of book sales, I could choose whether to keep the profits or offer a larger discount (I opted for the discount), so the cost to attend is much less.  However, I'm totally responsible for designing and paying for everything, including publicity, books, craft supplies, and arranging enough bodies to help supervise refreshments, sales, and activities (I've bribed a gaggle of teens with pizza). 
Yeah, I guess the old Spiderman saying (who stole it from I think Eleanor Roosevelt) is true: With great power comes great responsibility. We pay for freedom and power in everything, book launches included. Getting to choose and create everything costs in time and money.


You got it. One thing I was lucky about that may not always work out for future launches, was that the DIY launch venue was both free and had an atmosphere appropriate to the book, which I understand is a challenge for private launches. 
That is SO cool that the aquarium worked out and matches your book so wonderfully.


Yes, I'm really pleased about that. And the exposure at the aquarium is amazing--the traffic and that contact list!  But I would have liked to have a little more say in things. I think the do-it-yourself launch will be the most fun because I've had the freedom to put more of myself into it, but it'll also be the more expensive and time-intensive of the two.  But, it's all about tradeoffs, isn't it?  For this book, I'm willing to devote the time and $$ to a celebration (woohoo! I've worked long and hard to get here.)  I'm not sure I'll always be in a position to spend time and/or money for future book launches—time will probably be the bigger factor—so it's nice to know there are options that are easier on the pocketbook and calendar.
I can't wait to hear how both launches go. And I know you have it on your site/blog, but could you post the details here? I'd love to see how differently the two events are being pitched.


Sure.  The details publicized by the aquarium are located here.  And here's a mini version of the 11X17" poster I created for the DIY Launch. 

Oh, cool! So your aquarium launch is being rolled into a pre-existing Super Saturday event?
Yes. The Super Saturday events that day will be about the animals in my book.  As part of it, kids will be able to make masks and hats from pen & ink outline drawings Carolyn (my illustrator) created.
That's fabulous. What a great built-in audience for you. Yay! And I love the poster. Those iridescent bubbles are beautiful.

Thanks! Can you tell they're all the same bubble? ;^)

Have you tried different kinds of book launches?  What would you sefinitely or definitely not do next time? Are launches even worth it? We'd love to hear from you. Leave us a comment.  

Launch Event Cluster: 15 Events in 2 weeks

Laura is blue. Fiona is green.

Laura, remember way back in September (in the comments), you and I sat wide-eyed and gulping in disbelief at Sara Dobie's recommendation about clustering fifteen events around a book launch?


"The media likes tangible events, as opposed to vague announcements, as in “People can buy my book now! Cool, huh?” No. They don’t care. They care, however, when you have a cluster of events coming up where people can actually meet you. What does a cluster entail? I’m talking fifteen to twenty scheduled events, clustered around a two-week period, with your launch right at the beginning." 


I do remember! At the time, I thought she might as well have said 100 events!


LOL. Yeah, it was one of those things you just had to read twice to make sure you'd read it right the first time.  But...after a bit of thought, and bit more gulping, we did decide to take up the challenge. Since my book has been officially released and yours will be soon, I thought we could report back and compare notes on our 15 events in two weeks.


Good idea. How'd it go for you?


Wel-l-l...not quite according to plan. As soon as I'd said, "I'll do it!", I set about scheduling events for the two weeks immediately following my February 1 release---a talk at my local library, sitting on a panel at my big city library, an online chat at the Institute of Children's Literature, and several school visits, etc. all of which came to be. availability---something I hadn't anticipated---threw a major spanner in the works, delaying my plans for two book launches (which Sara had originally suggested should be the kick-off to our event-filled two weeks), and a blog tour. Bing! That accounted for almost half my fifteen events that couldn't happen in conjunction with ones that had been set up so far in advance. The problem? It turns out that book release day doesn't always mean books are available for sale at local events or for sending out to reviewers, particularly if the author and publisher are located in different countries.  For example, my Canadian distributor would only guarantee book delivery for events scheduled a month *after* the official release date, so my fifteen things ended up split, some in February and some in March.  Not exactly the big cluster I was aiming for.  Next time, I'll make sure the events are all scheduled a month after official release date so they can happen together in one cluster. 


That is so frustrating! And places schedule events, even freebie ones, so far in advance! And once you're committed... 


Exactly. I couldn't move them.


I've heard horror stories about this before, but I was hoping it was a rare occurrence. 


I think it happens more often than we realize. As I talk about my experiences with other writers, stories keep coming out of the woodwork. But, you know, it makes sense if you think about it. The rest of the publishing process is glacially slow, taking months and months at every step of the way, so why should this part of the process be any different? It's just that we writers treat that release date like a starting gate bell. We're in position waiting for it to ring so we can dash, but really, we could dash a month or two later and it wouldn't make any difference in the end.  


Something interesting to note about the events I did do: Each one ended up spawning either extra publicity I hadn't arranged or counted on, or requests to participate in additional events---more promotion opportunities.  So, in my limited sample, at least, it seems that making the effort to get involved in events around a book release generates momentum.  I can sure see how a larger cluster could give a significant push to a book's journey out into the world.


That's good to hear. Really good, in fact.


I've decided that March will be "Launch Month". I'm going to do what I can to try and re-energize the momentum I saw sparked in February. My two book launches are scheduled for March 14 and 28, my blog tour for the week of March 23-27, and I'm scheduled to be the guest blogger at the Charlesbridge blog during the month. I'm also working a couple of angles with radio [gulp] and TV [gulp], so it'll be interesting to see what will result from that mini-cluster of events. 


Woohoo! Radio and TV--and you're a theater geek, so those would be natural for you! If you land anything that gets streamed on the web, please be sure to let us know!


It probably won't be streamed; these are pretty small-town affairs. But if they do, I'll be sure to let you know!


It's nice that you'll have a second set of several events, so that it's not just one orphaned little reading or something! And thank goodness you were able to reschedule! Did that cause any problems--for you or the venues/hosts?


Thankfully, the launch dates were still under discussion when the book availability issue arose, so it was easy to schedule them for later. 


How about you, Laura?  Are you faring better on your fifteen things in two weeks challenge? Will book availability be an issue for Stampede!


It already has been. 


Oh dear.  Sorry to hear that.


When I jumped on the 15 Things bandwagon, I don't think I even knew the official pub date. It turns out it's April 6. I already had 2 full weeks of school visits scheduled in April, and I thought, "Excellent! I can not only promote my book at the school visits, but maybe I'll set up some book signings in the towns I'll be in (which are a couple of hours from my home)." These two weeks are a coordinated effort between many rural school districts, and they not only order your books for their schools, but they let kids pre-order books to buy and then have the author sign on school visit day. Fabulous! 


Wow. Yes, what a terrific opportunity.


Then came the bad news. They couldn't order Stampede.


What!? Why not?


Because the pub date is too close to the school visit dates. Not only would it be hard to get the books distributed, but they just couldn't risk them not being available (I'm sure they've run into problems before). I contacted HMH's Customer Service, but they could give no guarantees. So. I'm pretty sad that the 10 or 12 schools I'm visiting won't be able to sell Stampede on pre-order. It would have perhaps been a nice cluster of sales for my newly-released book:>/


Oh, that *is* too bad. But it's exactly what I ran into, too.  Is this common knowledge that you and I somehow missed?  It doesn't do us much good this time around, but we'll sure know for next time.


But on to the good news. My official release date is April 6. Here's what I have on the calendar so far:


April 10: Reading/event at the Minnesota Zoo (in conjunction with their Farm Babies event)

April 11: Reading/event at Micawber's Books

April 14-17: School visits where I won't have pre-sold Stampede, but I'll at least be able to spread the word and leave promo cards

April 18: Presenting a poetry-writing workshop (for adults writing for kids) at the Loft Literary Center's Festival of Children's Literature

April 24: Storytime at a St. Paul library

April 25: Reading/event at the Como Zoo in St. Paul (in conjunction with their Go Green for Gorillas event)

That week: Looks like a reading at my Barnes & Noble in conjunction with Turn Off the TV Week (still working on details)

April 28-May 1: More school visits

I have some stuff planned beyond that, too, but that's the basic cluster of the period right after launch.

That's looking nicely clustery. Well done!  But, [ahem] I do notice a distinct absence of a "book launch". 

I'll also be doing an online launch party, probably on April 6th itself, though I haven't decided for sure yet. And in April I'll have interviews/features on several blogs. This week, in fact, I need to sort out what I'm doing and start answering questions! I think I'll have about 5 features, which is lovely! People have been so generous in offering to host me.

I echo that. I've been amazed at how open folks are to receiving review copies and hosting.

Hey, here's one cool thing if you haven't already seen it. It's called, and I use it to keep up with authors who are coming to my area to visit. And then the lightbulb went on and I realized I needed to start registering my own events here! So people can search on my name and get this page. And people who live in or near the zip codes I'll be doing events at will have my events show up on their Events In Your Area page. 

Now this is very cool. I hadn't heard of it before. The homepage automatically listed the authors on tour in my area. Talk about user-friendly. And I recognize a few of the local author names, too. Nifty. I'm going to check into this one further. Thanks!

And, even cooler, I discovered that events feed into the local online calendar that's run by the St. Paul Pioneer Press. So people who use to search for entertainment events will have my events come up! I don't know the details of that as I only learned it when a Google Alert showed me! But hey, anything that helps get the word out and might increase attendance is great. I'd definitely recommend signing up at and listing your events that are open to the public. It's nice to have an online listing that you can link to from your site or blog or something that says, "See my upcoming events." I haven't done that yet, but will as it gets a little closer.

So, that's my progress on 15 Things. Overall, I'm happy with what I've got set up. Once the Barnes & Noble plans and launch party plans are complete, I'll be set for April. Yea!

This task sounded overwhelming at first, but it's not been too too hard:>) 

I agree, my split clusters notwithstanding. One step at a time, one event at a time, it was manageable.

So, dear readers, have you ever tried to cluster so many events in such a short time around a book launch.  Have some good advice on how to do that?  We'd love to hear from you.

Online Press Kits and Websites: How Did We Do?

Laura is blue. Fiona is green.

Today at Bubble Stampede we're continuing to check in with each other to see how we did on some of our promotional efforts.  Ideas sometimes sound easy and straightforward in the planning stages, but get a little more complicated once you get into them, so we thought we'd share that part of the journey, too.  So...first up: Press Kits. 


When we first talked about press kits, we decided we would each set up an online press kit as part of our respective websites. My online press kit content includes: web-ready and print-ready author and cover images, two bios (one long, one short version), and a link back to information about Bubble Homes and Fish Farts on the book page.


I just love this, Fiona. The spacing, the use of whiteness, the calm looks SO professional and wonderful. A+ for you!
Thanks! I'm really happy with it. I tried to keep it uncluttered so busy folks would be able to find what they were looking for without too much fussing around.
My press kit doesn't fit very seemlessly into my web design. The big square is for text, and the rest of the page is a grid. That's my web design. And images always go in the gridded section. So it looks a little odd (on the book cover page and on my photos page) having images inside that big square. It's the only place on my entire site that does that. But, frankly, I decided I had to make this strictly about function at this point. Maybe someday I'll be able to rework it to look better. Probably not, but I'll fool myself with that little promise:>)
You know what, I didn't find that to be an issue at all. Everything was easy to find. logical, and well-laid-out.
Happy to hear that. You know, when you work on this marketing stuff, you're examining it so closely, and it's easy to only see what's *not* coming out exactly right. But after you finish and a few weeks go by and other people think it's ok, you look back and think, Eh, not so bad. At least I do.
Me, too.  Sometimes I have this image in my head of what I want something to look like, and then when I can't replicate that in real life for some reason, the result never seems good enough because it doesn't measure up to what I see in my mind. It looks fine, just not what I had in mind.
For bios...
None of my existing bios seemed appropriate to use, so the long bio text took a little rewriting.  Why, oh why, can we not write just *one* bio and use it for *everything*?  Were you able to use an existing bio, Laura? 
No, my bios needed work, too. I wanted to make the tone a little more conversational than what I had available already, especially on the longer one. It's not as poetic and fun as yours--you did a great job--but it's serviceable. I can always tweak it when I have time to breathe.
Oh that's too funny, because as I was reading yours I was thinking the exact opposite---how I should go back and rewrite mine to show more fun moments in my childhood as you had! LOL!
Oh, thank you! I'm glad it didn't sound too dry. I think it makes sense to not try to do everything in one bio. So if there's at least one aspect that stands out, that's pretty good. Otherwise, it ends up as a jumbly mishmash.
The image end of  things went pretty smoothly, except for two things: 
1. I'm still waiting for permissions for my new author photo, so for now, I've included a small image of the old one as a placemarker.   
2. I realized that I've got tons of experience manipulating and creating web-ready images, but I know diddly squat about hi-res images for print use.  I started with what I thought were hi-res cover images, but soon discovered they weren't.  My illustrator shared a hi-res cover image with me---real hi-res :^)---but it was a HUGE file. Way too big to use. I got an idea of the file and image sizes I should aim for by comparing mine to Grace Lin's and Cynthia Leitich Smith's (two of the press kits we looked at originally). I think I've got it now.
Oh, shoot. It's amazing how much time it all eats up, isn't it? I hadn't done any hi-res images before, either!  
How did things go for you? 
It took a bit of figuring it out. I'm also not thrilled with my photo. But I figured it was better to get something up there, which I can always easily switch out if I get a photo I'm happy with! And I'm glad I've got the web-ready and print-ready versions. I've actually already given two people the print-ready link when they asked for images!


Cool! So it is getting used. Yeah!


The other topic on today's agenda is getting a web presence for our books.  Laura, when we talked about getting our books onto the web, you chose to go with a microsite with a new domain name, and I had plans to use my existing site. You had reported back, but I hadn't, so here's my report:
In the process of adding a Bubble Homes and Fish Farts section to my website, I ended up revamping the whole site, giving it a whole new look. My very white site design always seemed so blah to me, so I went with my favourite deep blue colour and then gave it an overall bubbly look to go along with the book. It feels so much more "me" now that it's got colour again. 
In general, a white background makes all the elements look very stark. So if you purposely have a minimal, carefully-designed site, that's fine and it can work. But it can really show any design blemishes too, to me. Kinda like a white wall REALLY emphasizes the art you have hung there, so every one had better be perfect! I'm not saying you didn't do well with the white, but I do like this better. 
Colour seems to give it cohesion. The book section is basic at this point, but the bones are there...a sneak peek inside the book, book data, links to booksellers, how to attend one of the launches etc.  It's still waiting for a teacher guide, links to bubble sites and activities, bubble-iography, and pics and videos.  As you say, it's something I can tweak when I have time to breathe. :^)  
I hope everyone reading this pops over to your site to check it out, Fiona. You did such a lovely job! How many hours do you estimate it took? Or are you afraid to even guess?
Thanks, Laura.  Oy, I couldn't begin to guess the number of hours it took. I worked in slivers and chunks of time as I could squeeze them in around my regular workload, over about a two week period. Doing it myself saved a chunk of change in web designer fees, though, so it was worth it.
It's yummy. And if you have the skills, that's terrific. Anything that gives you more control over how you present yourself and your book is a good thing. I love the bubble icons and stuff. They really add continuity throughout. Now, do you expect that with your next trade book, you'll overhaul again? Or is this neutral enough that you think you'll just change the book-specific stuff?
I tend to revamp the design every few years, anyway, so I'll leave it bubbly until the next book comes out. Previously, my design changes have been quite drastic, which was time-consuming, but this time I used a more modular approach, so when it comes time for a change, it'll be easy---swap a few pics, change the nav bar and background colour and that'll be that.
That is so smart. I'm a huge fan of modular anything and efficient updates:>) And the overall look, even without the bubble stuff, is so clean and gorgeous. Sounds like you were thinking ahead, which is so smart.
And for now, there's a really great focus on Bubble Homes and Fish Farts, since it not only has its own section, but it's featured on the homepage, too. I really love it.
Well---hee hee---I took that from you, actually. ;^)  When you explained how you were planning to connect your main site and Stampede! microsite with a landing page that focused on Stampede!, I thought that was a great idea and tried to emulate that within my single site. It seems to work well.  Have you joined your two sites that way yet?
Not yet. I'll add the landing page next month. From there, people will click to enter either my regular site or the special Stampede! site. We'll see how that works out.
So how about you, oh loyal reader, do you have a skookum press kit on your website or know a children's author who does? We'd love to hear about your press kit process. Leave us a comment.

Step Away from the Computer...Offline Promotion Opportunities

Laura is in blue. Fiona is in green.

At Bubble Stampede we've talked a lot about online promotion, but with my book release yesterday(!) I've been poking around offline to see what kinds of opportunities are available there, too. 
Oh my gosh! I can't believe we didn't throw a party here on Bubble Stampede!
[Fiona and Laura break out the party hats and noisemakers]
I go to a book club at an independent bookstore in a few weeks, and I think I'll call ahead of time and ask them to order it for me if they don't already have it in stock. I can't wait to read it!
Aw, shucks, thanks! 
Okay, :^) now on with the post.  Here are few offline opportunities:


Local Author Makes Good

Local papers are interested in local stories about local folks, so this one's an obvious. 


My three local papers will get a mini press kit (cover shot, author photo, press release, reviews (JLG and Kirkus have said very nice things)
(Congratulations! Thanks!)
...and links to my website for more info), with the hope that they'll want to do a feature article about the release.  By doing that now, I hope enough time will pass before my book launch party that they'll want to cover that, too, when the time comes.
My booksigning buddy Dara Dokas and I are planning to send out a joint release to our local papers. Neither paper has much space for book reviews, and the papers are way too big to care about the release of our books.
Ah...the difference between small town and big city papers: the first are always scrambling for local stories, the latter get more than they can use.
So true. But we're hoping that if we send a press release and also suggest 2 or 3 other local authors with new animal-themed books, maybe one of the book editors will choose to do a themed roundup book review with the twist that we're all local. And we'll let them know of our two zoo appearances in April, so there will be an event tie-in, too. Honestly, I'll be surprised if either bites on this, but it's worth a shot, because it would be great exposure if either or both did!
This is a great idea.  I live about an hour outside a big city and the likelihood of my getting into the paper there echoes yours...slim.  But you've just reminded me of friends who were successful in doing just what you suggest: local young adult authors Kim Denman, Shelley Hrdlitschka, and Diane Tullson belong to the same critique group, so when they each had a book released in the same season, the big city paper did a feature on the group and their books.  A very successful strategy. It gave the paper something a little different from the run-of-the-mill author book release piece. I think your bunch of animal authors stands a good chance...especially with something as photo-op as the zoo!  Fab idea to incorporate that, too.
We need to get to work on this now, though, since feature coverage is planned out a month or two in advance.
I'll probably send an individual press release to my tiny neighborhood paper and glossy mag. Again, no big expectations, but worth a shot.
Also, we have a couple of local parenting magazines--you know, the kind they give away at the library and community center? So we'll likely send our joint press release to them, too.
Now that's one I hadn't thought of. I'll add them to my list, too.


Where did you go to School?

Along the same lines as "local author makes good" is the "graduate of this school (or our town) makes good". 


I don't live in the same town where I graduated from high school, so I'm going to send a mini press kit to the newspaper there and see if that sticks.  A fair number of my fellow graduates still live there and may remember my name.  It's only a few hours away, so I may wait a month or two and do this in conjunction with setting up a book signing.


And then there's the university alumni magazine. Mine reviews books written by alumni, giving a quarter page or so to each book.  Great exposure.  My publisher has sent a review copy there. 
I grew up and went to college in Orlando, and one children's book isn't going to make any publication there interested in writing about me, unfortunately. Dang.
Dang is right.  Does your alma mater publish an alumni magazine?  If they do, but don't do reviews, perhaps they have a news section, broken down by faculty or year?  A small mention is better than none.
Good point. I should check that out. I don't receive the alumni magazine, but I'm sure there is one.


Many local papers, radio station websites etc. have announcements sections.  And bonus news: they're usually free.  They often need some lead time, so check this out in advance to get your notices in on time.


My local small-town papers have "Seven Days" and "Around Town" columns where people can submit blurbs for local events. I'm always surprised by how many people read it.  Perfect for book launch info.  The big city paper has a header on the book section that lists book events around town, but there's much more demand for this space, so while I'll submit the info about my Vancouver launch there, there's less likelihood it'll get in. Do your big city papers do something similar, Laura?
They have a Book Readings section in the calendar, but only about 10% of the readings submitted get listed (because space for news keeps shrinking as ad sales shrink). I know because I used to fill in on the Calendar desk sometimes! Maybe someone will recognize my name and make sure mine is included...but that's no sure thing.
Hey, it's worth a shot...



My local radio station is very community-minded. The morning show frequently has ticket and prize giveaways related to local events, so I'm looking into the possibility of doing a book giveaway as part of the morning show during the week before my book launch.  Callers answer a trivia question to win a copy of the book, one book giveaway per day.


Cable TV

Community cable TV often tapes short segments of local arts of interest. I can hear you hyperventilating at the thought of that, Laura, and the idea scares me spitless, too, but I'm digging to steel myself to call and find out if they'd be interested in a local author of a quirky book.  Of course, I'm pretty brave while typing this blog post, so we'll see what happens when it comes time to actually make the call!
Better you than me! Really, this sounds smart. You can do it--Report back shortly!
Sounds like you're really on top of this, Fiona! These all sound like great ideas! At this point, I'm going to be happy if Dara and I can get that joint press release out to the two big papers in the next two weeks, and if I can get my individual one, too.
And I'm really glad you chose this topic for this week. I've been so focused on online stuff--probably because that's much less intimidating to me--that I haven't been thinking local at all (because that might involve my actually talking to real live people). So this is a good nudge for me.
So, what say you, oh loyal readers?  Do you have a favourite, perhaps little-known, way of getting the word out in offline media?  We'd love to hear what's worked for you.  Leave us a comment.

When Promotion Goes Over the Top

Laura is blue. Fiona is green.
Laura, over the last several months, you and I have talked about a lot of things authors can do to promote their books.  In blogpost after blogpost, we've enthusiastically embraced idea after idea.  Some readers might think we're all-about-the-promo...that if they ran into us on the street they'd get mauled by our latest promotional efforts.  Not so.  As introverts, we're not likely to inadvertently get in anyone's face about anything, let alone go overboard on promotion.
That's so funny. Most people who meet me in person never even know I have a book coming out unless someone I'm with brings it up!


Hee hee. Yup, but with all of the ideas we've had flying about lately, I've been thinking about the book promotion efforts directed at me, and how I feel about them. I thought it might be interesting for us to explore where the lines are beyond which promotion is too much and it becomes a turn off.  So here's my start.


An author being "Me! Me! Me! when the subject should revolve around someone else:

A member in one of my author groups cannot post to the group without somehow pointing to herself and her books.  Ever.  And I'm not talking about a 26-line sigfile (which can induce eyeball-rolling in its own right), but someone who seems to hinge her contributions on her ability to put herself front and centre by the end of her replies. Every one of them. It makes me question the genuineness of her friendship.  It seems like she's simply using the group as one big marketing audience. It just doesn't feel right.  I finally decided to turn it into a game. Now whenever I see a post from her I try and guess how she'll connect that particular topic to her own work.  It's especially fun if my first reaction is "How on earth will she turn this to her advantage?"  Somehow she always manages to find a way.  It's good for a chuckle, but it's a sad chuckle...I'm really turned off by the blatant marketing to a group whose primary purpose is friendship.  I feel used.  I steer clear of her in other venues, and I definitely won't buy, review, or talk about her books anywhere.  I just don't want to be associated with that.
Yikes. I think a key line there is "whose primary purpose is friendship." She's clearly crossing the line. I have a couple authors in mind who send melodramatic posts to a writing-information group I'm in. They're not pitches to sell her books directly, but she does always seem to make it about her, not about writing. Her posts always feel very purposeful to me that way. Not quite as bad as the one you described, though!
Yup...making a mountain out of a mole hill to draw attention to "the book"...definitely a variation on the theme.

An author never without "the book" and it's always first in their thoughts wherever they go:

You know the type.  Exuberant, effusive, and "the book" comes up first in every conversation, in every context.  The moment they see "new meat" enter the room, the sales pitch comes out. This is an expanded in-person version of the above. It's almost as if the book takes over the author's person. These are the sort of people you hope you see first so you can duck and hide under your hat and cross the street to avoid them without being seen.
These people scare me. Thank goodness, I rarely meet them. Maybe it's just because I'm not that sociable! 
LOL...nah, I think they scare a lot of people. 
Luckily, while I'm at risk somewhat for being a "Me! Me! Me!" person online, I'm so much more reserved in real life that I would never be this person. Whew!
Oh, no, my dear, you're not even close.  You and I are in several online groups together, plus I see you on your blog, Facebook and Jacketflap.  You are open and genuine, and you share your journey in a most generous, interesting way (always a terrific read), but I've never felt you were Me! Me! Me!.  It probably just feels that way to you because it's so much more "out there" than you are in real life. 
You don't know what a relief it is to hear that. I've worried that I've been going too far. You're right, probably just because it's more than real life and really more than my comfort zone.



Unsolicited email with book advertising from folks I don't know gets bumped directly into the "never buy this book" category.  Usually this sort of thing means the person has harvested my email address from a group I belong to. Yuck. Can you tell I'm not very tolerant of telemarketers, either?
Yeah, 'nuff said.
Spammy Blog Comments:
Speaking of spam, one of the newest forms is blog spam disguised as a blog comment.  On listservs it's generally okay to include promotional bits in a subtle sigfile, but not so much for blog comments.  Many bloggers now delete promotional material of any kind left in blog comments by people they don't know.  Drive-by blog comments with the express purpose of promoting yourself and your books is not okay. It does way more harm than good.
I've actually noticed a few more Deleted Comments on the blogs I read regularly. Perhaps this is why. I hope this doesn't increase. I really don't want to have to moderate and approve comments on my own blog (I've only had 2-3 of these ever). So many of these overpromotion techniques make your intended audience feel inconvenienced. Why on earth would you even do that? So dumb.

Too frequent contact: 

Sometimes I sign up for an author's "email notification of special events" only to end up getting weekly notices of nothingness with a blatant promo tag for "the book".  Just because email is easier and you can send newsletters more often doesn't mean you should.  Such a turn off.
That would be too annoying. I think authors need to be very clear, like "no more than one email per month" or something. I don't sign up for these, so I haven't run into this. Fiona, you're clearly in contact with more writers than me! I really haven't seen much overpromotion! 
Being a border straddler, I've got Canadian groups in the mix, too.  I'm very particular about signing up for email notifications, now.


And I'll include overuse of Facebook newsfeeds for promo purposes in this category, too.  There are a few authors whose every status update, link, comment, photo, etc, is directly linked to promo for "the book".  Multiples per day is overkill.  As part of the audience, I feel used.
OK, here's one I can comment on. I joined LinkedIn, and on it, I joined several groups related to children's writing. I get weekly updates for each group. So far, it appears that most "discussions" or questions are really thinly-veiled pitches for products/services. Many of them are from people "eager to be part of the group" but who really just want to sell their self-published books--or have someone tell them where they can sell them.

And I guess that's what it comes down to for me---feeling used.  Are these authors spending time with me and talking to me because they like to do that, or simply because I'm a means to an end---the audience for their marketing efforts. I'm not interested in the latter. It sure turns me off from buying their books.

I think it comes down to respecting boundaries and purposes. If you're part of a how-to group, you offer useful info/resources/links, and of course you hope that increasing your name recognition and credibility might help sell books, too. But you don't pitch your book directly. In person, I can't believe people who try to sell their books constantly in social situations. I remember other moms who would come to a social/support group and try to sell Mary Kay, fashion scarves, and all sorts of other crap. Put a display on a table or set out catalogs--fine! Actually approach people and give them a sales pitch--rude!
Exactly.  Well said. 


So, have you ever had an author go over the top in marketing their book to you?  Any slimey sales pitches? We'd love to hear your stories.

A Little Something to Remember Me By

Laura is blue. Fiona is green.
As book release date approaches---eek! that's just around the corner, Laura!---one of the things I'm thinking about is giveaways.  Freebies to give to people I meet so they'll remember my book, and hopefully, one day, they'll look at the freebie and think, "Oh, yeah, that was a really cool book. I meant to buy a copy. I'm going to do that right now."  or they'll see the book in the children's book store, remember it from the freebie or the visuals on the freebie, and buy a book.  Well, that's the marketing theory, anyway!
Have you thought about printed or promotional items for Stampede!?
This is a great question, Fiona. The truth is, I've thought about it, but only in a distant way--as in, someday I'll do something like that. Bad Laura! I really need to get moving on this, especially on the printed part that I could order right now.



The first thing that comes to mind is bookmarks printed with book cover, title, author, ISBN etc. It's an item related to books, easy to carry, and does the job.  The problem is it's done so often, it seems like the default.  So many authors give them out, I wonder if mine won't just get lost in the bunch.  And then, I tend to think of bookmarks as more suited to novels, so is it really a good fit for picture book readers? I'm leaning away from doing bookmarks.
I love getting author bookmarks. I know what you mean about the picture book aspect and do bookmarks "fit." But...I think bookmarks are great to give to adults who might buy picture books for their kids, students, libraries, etc. And those people read books...longer books, usually, that would need bookmarks. So for me, I think bookmarks work well as something to promote your book, but not necessarily as the best giveaway with your book, if you see what I mean.
[nodding] I understand what you're saying about the usefulness, but I still worry about mine getting lost in a sea of bookmarks. What about something like a bookmark that could be used as a bookmark but is a little more unusual than a bookmark, so it stands out a little more? Keep reading. :^)
Poet J. Patrick Lewis had the great idea of writing a skinny poem just for bookmarks and making it downloadable on your website, so schools can print them out. I love that idea and might even do a poem that didn't get used in Stampede, so it can be The One That Got Away (from the zoo or the classroom).


Love the poem idea. That would be a perfect match for your poetry book. And adding something to the bookmark that folks won't find anywhere else turns the bookmark into a keepsake. Smart.
I also really like the downloadable aspect.  Chris Crutcher has a page of bookmarks for teachers to download, cut apart and distribute to students. I've heard of other authors doing this, too. Someone once told me that if you sign the master copy with a felt pen, it looks like a signature on the finished bookmark. That would sure cut down on bookmark costs for school visits.
Definitely the whole sheet at a time works great. I know teachers love that.
So, how about postcards?
For a conference last spring, I did a small print run of postcards that had the same info as a bookmark.  Since then, I've kept my purse stocked with the leftovers.  Whenever anyone asks about my writing, I pull out a postcard and give it to them. Because they asked first, it's not me being pushy. In fact, the reception has always been great. People are glad to have the book information to take away with them. When the book launch dates were set, I printed address labels with the launch dates and details and added them to the back of the postcards, so now that information is there, too. The postcards are running out, though, so now I have to decide whether to print more or try something different.

Something different?

The postcards worked so well, I think I'd always like to carry something printed to hand out, but I'm not sure I'll do postcards again.  They're pretty big, and pricier than bookmarks.  At one writing fair I attended I noticed an author had printed up cards that were something between a bookmark and a postcard—more like a trading card size.  It can hold more information than a business card, and I like the idea of having something that's a little unusual (works like a bookmark, but isn't a bookmark) so I may go that route.
I definitely plan to do postcards or something the size of Artist Trading Cards. And I need to get cracking. I'd like to order something in January so that I'll have them to hand out several months before my pub date (which is early April).
Shouldn't be a problem...printing turnaround time is surprisingly quick.
Of course I want book info on the printed piece, but I'd like to do something a little different than just the book cover. Something to make it stand out from the hordes of other postcards, as you said. So...that might be a poem, either from the book or something written just for the piece.
I don't know.  We want it to stand out and be different, but on the other hand, having the cover on the card serves as a visual reminder of the plants the cover image in people's heads, so when they come across the book elsewhere, like in the book store or online, the cover seems familiar.  That's pretty powerful from a marketing standpoint.  I wonder if including the cover might be a good choice for new authors until they've built a name for themselves. J.Patrick Lewis, for example, is established enough that we look for and are sold by his name, rather than one specific book he's written. That only works because we know his name from his body of past work, which you and I don't have yet, at least in the trade field.  But maybe there's a happy middle ground...for instance, including a small cover image somewhere on the card, while being creative and thinking outside the box for the rest.'ve got me thinking.
Excellent point. And I don't want text only. What I really enjoy are postcards or whatever that incorporate the look of the book, the art of the book, but aren't simply a reproduction of the cover. But, as you pointed out, the cover has a real functional value. Now I'm going to have to think more.

What about promotional items?

This would be for limited giveaways, say at signings and launches rather than school visits. To go along with Bubble Homes and Fish Farts, I want something related to bubbles, and because of the numbers, it has to be cheap.


At first I thought of those mini bottles of bubbles they give away at weddings.  It would be possible to print book info on the bottle instead of the happy couple's names. Then I thought about book signing venues—book stores, libraries, aquariums—and thought about spillage, mess, and distraction, and stroked it off as a possibility.
Oh, that's too bad, because that would be fabulously popular! But of course you don't want to tick off your hosts. I guess bubble gum is out, too, for the same reason. 
LOL! Yup, for sure.
Is there a possibility of little baggies of dry soap of some kind that can be mixed to make bubble solution?
Now that's something I hadn't thought of, but since kids would have to wait until later to mix up the solution, it would certainly solve the mess problem.  And I could do it in small one-person quantities and include it in some kind of paper sleeve on which I could print the book info.  What a great idea!  Thanks, Laura!  Oh, I hope there's a soap powder/flake that'll work. 
I have a folder of promotional materials I've picked up and liked over the years. Here are a couple of very cool printed variations:
Sunflower Seed Packs - Susan Marie Swanson, for her picture book To Be Like the Sun, had sunflower seed packets printed up. They say "These seeds want to be like the sun!" on the front. On the back is all the book info, plus brief planting directions. Brilliant! Something kids would like to do, and then maybe they'd also want to get the book.
Cute. Sounds like the same packaging idea as your bubble powder idea above.  I may have to talk to Susan to see who did her printing. :^)
Pyramid Hat - This goes with John Grandits' book, Technically, It's Not My Fault (a fantastic poetry collection). I assume Clarion made these for him. It's an 11x17 piece of cardstock with the poem "My Sister Is Crazy" on it. The sister in the poem wears a pyramid hat. And the poem is printed in a way that you can cut it out and tape it together to make your very own pyramid hat. I'm sure this is pricey. But I love the idea of something to do!
Me too!  These are wonderful ideas.  It's the fun, creative efforts like these that people remember...that's what we're after. 
For Stampede!, I'm wondering about something like a glossy piece of paper printed with book cover and info but also with some kind of animal mask related to one of the poems. Something the kids could cut out and tape together and wear...Hmm. I'm going to have to read through my galleys again soon with an eye just toward this kind of thing. I do want a basic bookmark or postcard, too, though.
The mask idea is great, and it would do double duty if you go ahead with the readers theatre idea we talked about a while back. And your masks and Grandits' hats would make great downloads for teachers to print off copies for each student to make one. That would cut down on your costs.
Something else I've thought about is temporary tattoos, which are inexpensive, but they're small and limited in what they can display, so I'm not sure how well it would work to keep book info in someone's mind.  And, they're designed to be "temporary", so they don't last very long.
I'm currently considering making up small buttons with something like "Got bubbles?" and the book title or my URL on it in a more subtle ink colour. Buttons would be more closely tied to the book and have longer staying power than tattoos.  As something that's worn, it would also be more visible to others, so could mean more exposure, especially if the fact that they're advertising isn't blatant.
I think having an incredibly cool design would be really important for a button. Something the kids say, "Look at this!" to other kids, so they want to wear it beyond the one day they get it.
Yeah, that would be the key.
For book launches and signings, I'm also exploring ideas for bubble blowers kids could create.  This would involve shaping a length of wire and poking the ends into a handle of some kind, which would be printed with the book title and URL. 
Love the idea of making bubble blowers. I think kids would totally get into this.
I'm trying to think about bubbles and what other giveaways might be fun. Balloons look like bubbles. I wonder how pricey it would be to have book info or fun facts printed on balloons.
It's cheap.  I love balloons...they're so festive, but...trying to stay green and be environmentally conscious, I gave balloons a pass.
Plus many schools now have latex-free environments...Just remembered that.
Bubble wrap is one of my favorite things in the world, and kids (ok, adults, too) love to pop it. Any way to use it in a simple craft/promo item?
LOL!  Yes, yes, who doesn't like bubble wrap? [grin]  Oh, if I could think of a way to incorporate it somehow. I've been pondering, but so far no great ideas.  More thinking to do.
Maybe one of our brilliant, imaginative readers will have a good idea (hint, hint).
Hee hee...yes, what a clever bunch they are!  It would be great to get some comments with ideas.
I'm thinking your book must be so full of cool facts, and that maybe some kind of activity sheet for kids to take with them. Like a straw that's attached to a printed sheet with book info, activities for blowing bubbles into various things using that straw, and nifty facts about bubbles.
That's a great idea, too. Thanks!  I'm going to work on that. So, what about your book?  All those animals...the zoo connection...
I know! And the whole theme of the book is comparing kids to animals, so some kind of craft or project where the kids can become animals...I guess that's where the mask would be good. I'm in the process of trying to come up with a couple of very simple, not too expensive crafts that could go along with my book for library and zoo presentations and stuff like that. For promo giveaway things, I wasn't really thinking of stuff with my book info on it. More like stuff to entice people to come to the table. Mine would all be animal related, and there are tons of cheap little things to choose from, like mini-plastic animals, tiny animal puzzles, animal stretchies, etc. I do need to start doing research on that.
Maybe this is where tattoos would fit candy, the temporariness wouldn't matter.
Exactly. They draw the crowd, and then you get them looking at the book, wanting the book, buying the book...
Treats are always good, and I thought chocolate animals would be fun, but then I read something (probably in Shrinking Violet Promotions) about not giving out messy treats that will leave kids with sticky fingers in a library or bookstore. Duh. Good point. So, now I'm thinking gummy animals might be fun. Or animal crackers. It would be really cute to have little cardboard boxes for the animal treats that would be printed up with the book info, but I'm guessing that would be WAY out my price range.
Mmm...treats.  Always a good magnet at a book table.
Other promotional giveaways I've thought about:
A printed piece that the kids color or decorate in some way and cut out to make a cool Zookeeper or Safari Leader badge they can wear.
Pencils in animal prints that have the name of the book on them.
An animal-related "board game" that can be color-printed on one piece of paper. Something that ties into the book and of course would have book info printed on it, too. Something fun enough for kids to play that they keep it around for a few days:>)
Pencils is another one of those done-to-death ideas, around here, anyway.  But the game and badge have definite possibilties both for in-person giveaways and downloadables.
At book fairs I've been to, it's nice when there's a giveaway for everyone, but something a little extra special for people who actually buy the book. I think it would be cool to build a plywood animal frame that the kid sticks their head through an opening and gets a picture taken. Then a helper would take the pic with a digital camera and print out a picture of the kid as the animal right there onsite with a portable photo printer. Of course, if the kid wasn't there, only the grown-up, that's not as fun. But I do like the idea of something a tiny bit more substantial to give away with the purchase of the book.
Neat idea.  Sounds a little pricey, though, unless one was planning a book tour, a lot of signings, or maybe a series of books for which the same board could be used.
True. And it would be hard to have to tell kids, "No, I'm sorry, I can't take your picture unless you buy the book." Much easier to have a basket of a special giveaway that comes with a purchase of the book. So I've got to sort stuff out. Lots of chaotic possibilities whirling around my brain.
Yeah, lots of great ideas rattling around. Love the exchange of ideas.  Now comes decision time. 


So, what promotional giveaways have worked for you?  Which ones were duds?  We'd love to hear about them. And, oh, and if anyone has suggestions for bubble powder or flakes for Fiona's bubble packets, let us know that too.

Turning the Promo Heat Back On

Laura and I took the last week off to spend time with our families during the holiday.  But the promo heat's back on.  We're busy chatting again and will be back next Monday with a new Bubble Stampede post. 

We wish you all the very best for the coming New Year.