Ask Not What Your Publisher Can Do For You...Actually, Go Ahead and Ask!


  Laura is blue. Fiona is green.
 

Something we hear often is that authors should take an active part in the marketing and promotion of their books…we can't expect publishers to do it all.  Wise words, to be sure, and much of the reason behind this blog, but the tough economic years ahead (ouch!), will likely see publishers changing the ways they promote and market, as editorial staff cuts and general belt-tightening also mean cutbacks to promotion and marketing budgets.

 

In these times, I'm just thrilled Stampede! is still being published. And hoping for the best for my next book.

 

Yeah, me too.

 

But...there is good news...

 

Publishers want to sell our books and they want our books to do well.  So although the days may be over or numbered for new authors to automatically receive individual publisher-funded promotion, the folks in the promotion & marketing department are eager to support authors.  And they can get very creative when their budgetary hands are tied.

 

Here are some successful ideas from my experience or authors I know.  Since times are a-changing, and what was possible last week may not be next week, I'll keep names out of it:

 

Review Copies

Find out your publisher's plan for sending out review copies and ask how you can support that. Your publisher may be open to good review leads specific to your location, contacts, or book, or to sending out books for specific promotional efforts such as to blog tour hosts for review/discussion and prizes.  Advance copies to your "Just One Thing" folks last week is a perfect example, Laura.

 

And several folks from my Just One Thing adventure talked about how important those advance copies are.

 

The publicist at HMH is happy to send to established bloggers, too, as long as I contact them first to make sure they are open to receiving it, which seems fair enough. I'll be contacting blogger/reviewers early next year to start putting together a list.

 

Ditto for the C-bridge folks.

  

Has your publisher already issued invitations?

For example, some publishers automatically send out a "New Author Package" in which ideas for working with the publisher are embedded. My Bubble Homes and Fish Farts publisher included a few suggestions in its regular author/illustrator newsletter: for example, if authors supply postcards, the publisher would pay to send it out to its contact list.

 

That's a nice offer--better than nothing!

 

It's nice to see. Not all publishers make blanket offers to their authors.

 

So true. I have a writer friend having her first trade book published by a major publishing house. She has had no contact with her editor (in more than 6 months), her illustrator (ever), or a publicist (she can't even find out the name of her publicist, in fact), and her book comes out soon. She can't get replies from anyone...and this was true many months before recent shakeups. Did I mention this was a house that's part of a major publishing group. Well respected, not some fly-by-night house. 

 

[gulp]  You and I are lucky to have such supportive publishers.

 

What are your publisher's in-house capabilities?

--- Some publishers can print materials at low cost and are more than happy to supply bookmarks or postcards, if you'll take care of the postage.  One author's publisher took care of printing up a couple of big signs for a splashy launch signing.

--- Some art departments are willing to take on layout and "making things look pretty" if authors supply content for things such as teacher guides and downloadable activities, especially if the finished product can be linked from the publisher's website.

--- Some publishers will issue official press releases upon request for author events.

 

I guess I always thought of these things as being done mainly for established authors or for titles expected to really break out.

 

Not necessarily. The above examples were all for first-time authors. Of course, it'll vary from publisher to publisher.

 

I supplied the publicist with my planned promotional tasks, and she thought the list looked good, but the publisher certainly didn't offer to pick up the tab on anything. Darn!

 

Same here. I got "your plans look great" but that was it. But...it pays to ask your publicist/marketing guru what the publisher can do. The answer may be surprising. (hint: some of the above is me :^) 

 

I think publishers have been doing less and less promotion for writers over the past five years, especially, and I only expect that trend to continue. As they struggle to stay in business, I'm guessing stuff like postcards and banners for unknown authors is not a high priority in the budget!

 

Exactly.  Things have changed even in the last six months. 

 

But, the publicist at HMH I'm working with did offer to do something online--something new they're trying out. It's not any huge thing, and it hasn't happened yet, so I'll hold off on sharing. But I was grateful that they wanted to try it with me! It's something that doesn't cost them anything but time--hopefully less than hour, maybe less than 15 minutes. So it's not a big investment. But it's something that's different, that isn't done for every book in the spring line, so it's exciting to me.

 

That sounds intriguing.  I look forward to hearing more about it when you're able to share. 

 

And that's the crux of what we'll see in the future: publishers less willing to do things that involve a dollar cost, but much more willing to undertake promotional ideas that involve only time or resources already budgeted and available.

   

What about your publisher's website? 

If your publisher website has a web page for each author and/or book, make sure you've supplied a web-ready author photo, bio, and any other necessary info to make as much of this web presence as possible.  Some publishers post author interviews, behind-the-book stories such as How this Book Came to Be, blurbs, reviews, teacher guides, activity ideas, links to the author's website, etc. Ask your publisher what you can do.

 

Good point. Another way your online press kit comes in handy.

 

Definitely. You can pluck elements from your online press kit for that. Love being able to get mileage out of these things!

 

I did mine, by the way. Here it is. I still hate my photo, and this is a real basic setup, but it'll do.

 

Cool. Good for you for getting it up ahead of schedule! My online press kit is still in progress.

 

I'm going to put on my to-do list to peruse Clarion's site and see what kind of extended material they use, if any, and offer up some of my stuff. I hadn't thought of this before. Thanks, Fiona!

 

You're welcome! 

 

So...pick up the phone and talk to the marketing & promotion guru at your publisher. Ask how you can dovetail with their efforts, share your ideas, and see what they can do for your book. Taking that initiative shows them you're an author who is willing to take an active role in promotion, and you may find it reveals more opportunities.  It did for me!

 

What? Surely you jest! Pick up the phone and call the publicist? No way. Can't do it. I did do this by email and got an enthusiastic response. They seem very happy that as an author, I'm interesting in and willing to promote my book.

 

LOL...  Okay, okay...I hear ya. Email can work, too, but tone of voice and immediate feedback and back-and-forth conversation can be valuable when establishing this kind of relationship. I decided to bite the bullet and call because I wanted to gauge receptiveness from tone of voice, and I wanted my publisher to hear my tone of voice, too, so they know I'm interested in dovetailing with their efforts and not being demanding or high maintenance.  The main idea is to establish a dialogue. 

 

I totally agree that a phone call would be much better (exactly for the reasons you mentioned), if the idea doesn't make you ill. I wish I had the guts to do it. Maybe next book (she says, optimistically).

 

[grin] 

 

So...what creative ideas have you and your publisher worked on to promote your book?  Leave us a comment!

When the Press Comes A-callin': Online Press Kits


Laura is blue. Fiona is green.

Like a lot of things to do with promotion, the press kit has found a place online. Before I put one together for my website, I checked to see what ideas I could steal other children's authors had done. Time for a Bubble Stampede Mini Press Kit Tour!

Oh, good. Because the term "press kit" is just kind of intimidating to me. Making a press kit, and putting it online, is definitely on my list of promotional tasks to do...but it's one I've been scooting farther and farther down the list! 

Yeah, [giggle] it is a rather official-sounding title, isn't it? But, it's actually not that bad once you get into it. Here's what I found:

All of the press kits included an author photo, book cover photo, and bio, but several kits also included other types of information and details that got me saying, "Now that's a good idea." For example:

Karen Hokanson Miller offers an author photo and cover shot in two forms in her press kit: a "webready photo" and a downloadable hi-res version labeled 300 dpi, for use in print materials. Photos are ready to roll for both print and screen, nice and convenient for the media.

I love the web-ready pix. Marion Dane Bauer does this and so does Gennifer Choldenko and probably many others. I've long thought about adding something like this to my site, but there's, um, that dang Author Photo to take care of first.

Hee hee...

Grace Lin does something similar in her press kit, but she has several author photos to choose from—Choice! Yea!—and she's got them set up as thumbnails, which gives a cleaner look than text links...nice if the page has lots of other material on it.

It's also really smart to have both vertical and horizontal choices. Something I hadn't really thought about, even though I know journalists are often looking for a specific orientation based on their page layout. So I'm going to do some Author Photos in both vertical and horizontal. I always tend to do just vertical.

Great point. I hadn't thought of that. 

I like Grace's prop in the horizontal one, too.

Yeah, remember last week we talked about having an author photo that had something to do with your book? I can really see where that would be great thing to have in a press kit. I mean, journalists must see "the author photo" over and over and over, right? So if you (general anybody "you") can make yours different, make it stand out somehow by adding something interesting---like Grace's stone statue or Kelly Milner Halls' dino---your author photo becomes more interesting to readers and viewers, and therefore more likely to make it into the media...and probably in a larger size, too. Hmm...sounds like a little thing that could make a big difference.

Grace also includes two bios: "the long version" and "the short and serious" version. Again, really convenient for journalists and others to have a choice of starting point.

Great idea!

She also includes links to essays, past media interviews and a Quicktime movie, which got me thinking about other types of materials I might include in my press kit. Sheryl McFarlane includes a list of awards her books have won as well as past interviews and an invitation to interview her, for which she includes contact information. All great ideas, IMHO.

IMHO2! One thing, though. She has so much great info and resources, but I don't think it's as immediately appealing as, say, Grace Lin's, just because it's an all-text page. I think in this multimedia world, it makes a stronger impact to have some visual stuff on your For the Press page.

Good food for thought. I wonder if it matters, though. When looking for media content, people are pretty goal-oriented. I know when I'm researching and checking out media info for scientists and organizations, the visual presentation on the press kit page isn't important to me. What counts is that it's arranged logically so I can easily find what I'm looking for. But...that could just be me!

Movin' on to our next stop...
Cynthia Leitich Smith does many of these same successful things in her "Media Kit": a choice of author photos, lo-res/hi-res pics, short and long bio, etc., but since she writes for a range of age groups and sometimes co-authors with her husband, she's included a "Young Adult author" bio and a "His and Hers" bio as well.

I really like the idea of having images of your biggest books or most recent books on your Press page.

It's a great idea for authors who have a body of work, where putting everything on the Press page would make it overwhelming. And often, it's the most recent work that's of interest to the media, anyway.

Now, a question. One thing I noticed in my quick breeze through these pages (and I have family in town right now, so maybe I'm just distracted) is that I was surprised at the lack of press releases on these pages. It seems to me that it would be good to always have a great press release about your latest book right there on your Press page. Don't you think?

I hadn't noticed that, but you're right. That does seem like an odd omission. I would include one, and now that you've mentioned it, it's on my list. :^) It's all about convenience—collecting in one place the information about you and your books to make it as easy as possible for the media. Press releases with liftable text sure qualifies.

OK, as usual, this column helped me clarify what I want to do.  
My goal for my press kit is to create an online one by the end of January.

If you've got other ideas for what to include in a press kit, or know of a children's author with a fabuloso online press kit, we'd love to hear about it. Leave us a comment!

 

Book Touring in Pajamas

Laura is in blue. Fiona is in green.

 
As new not-so-well-known authors, the chances of our publishers footing the bill for an author book signing tour are, as they say, Slim and None, and Slim just left town.
 
Ha! Love that!
 
Which probably isn't a bad thing at this point in our careers. We aren't Big Name Authors who will be greeted by lineups of folks wanting a book signed wherever we go. And we both know authors who've had next to no one show up at a signing. [shudder shudder]
 
So...what about doing a virtual book tour? I've already had two blog owners ask about interviewing me for their blog when my book comes out, so what if I string them together with a few more and turn it into a blog tour? (For anyone who's not familiar with blog tours, illustrator Elizabeth Dulemba has written a nifty blog tour primer that also contains a brief history of the blog tour and links to several tours.)

Great article! I've participated in a couple of blog tours, for Tracie Vaughn Zimmer and Nancy Sanders.
 
Are blog tours effective? Felicia Sullivan, the senior online marketing manager of Collins, an imprint of HarperCollins, thinks the Internet exposes authors to a broader audience than most bookstore readings. In a New York Times article, she said, “You can reach at least a few hundred people on a blog, and save time, money and the fear of being a loser when no one shows up to your reading." 
 
No travel costs, no great chunks of time away from home, and a much greater possibility of creating buzz farther afield...sounds promising. It's also a more introvert-friendly way to "get out there", and interviews can fit into busy schedules.  And because blogs are archived, the tour is available for online reading long after the tour has "ended". You can collect the links together and post the tour on your website. PR that keeps on giving.
 
Well, you have to love that idea. I'm feeling more excited about this!

Choosing the right blogs for the tour is key. Of course, the larger the readership, the better. That's pretty obvious. But as I went through a few tours, I noticed most writers visit the blogs of other writers, and I wonder if that's such a good idea. People create blogs around all kinds of topics. I would think a blog tour would be a perfect time to think outside the writing community to the wider audience of folks who would be interested in the book. In that vein, I'm plunking keywords into blog search engines to explore specialty blogs related to the themes of my book---marine animals, bubbles, science teachers, etc.

Fantastic idea! I think that's a big part of my hesitation. I read my circle of blogs, and many of the same people read those same blogs. So in order to reach the maximum number of new people, I need to not focus exclusively on writing blogs.

Exactly.  Reaching new people at each stop gets the word to a wider audience, which is what a blog tour is all about. If the readerships of the tour blogs overlap too much, what's the point of a tour, right?  I think this is something a lot of authors miss when planning a blog tour.

Another thing I noticed following several tours one after the other, is that the most successful tours were ones that offered something new at each stop. That means---gulp---coming up with new content for each visit. 

Before this, I hadn't really considered trying to put one together for myself. I think that's largely because my impression is that the posts become repetitive very quickly. I tried to ask some different questions when I interviewed both Tracie and Nancy. But it seems so much of the same ground is covered from day to day. So I agree with you in that sense.
 
But, DING! DING! DING! Here's my revelation. The point, I guess, isn't to get any one reader to read all your blog tour stops. It's to reach new people at each stop. So I guess the repetition isn't that big of a deal? I do think it would be even cooler if different posts focused on different aspects of the book (the writing process, a specific excerpt, the research, etc.), but that would be a bear to coordinate! Besides, if I'm speaking to a kindergarten or preschool blog one day, a poetry blog for adults another, a librarian blog another, and children's writers blogs another...maybe it's not as big of a deal? I don't know. Just a thought I'm throwing out there.

LOL!  I like your logic. Take it just a bit further and I think you've found the answer: Let's say your blog tour included blogs with a broad range of audiences---preschool instructors, poets, librarians, and children's writers, etc.  Each blog owner will be interested in different aspects of the book because their readers are too, so the questions for each blog should automatically vary, and ta da! ...a nice mix of non-repetitive content. At least that's the theory!

Oh, you're good
 
[mischievous grin]
 
So by targeting different audiences, the variety in content will happen automatically? Makes so much sense!
 
At first, coming up with so much content sounds like it would be very time consuming, but if the number of interview questions is kept small, say five, the time preparing each visit should still work out to be less than what it would take to organize, travel to, and do a book signing in a bricks-and-mortar store. Spending a couple of hours on a well-targeted blog visit might be a better time investment.
 
Good point. I'm going to give this some more thought. My book release month is April, and I'm already going to be out of town 1-2 weeks that month because of a school visit tour. So I'm trying to figure out how to do this but keep it do-able, schedule-wise.
 
But here's another beautiful thing about blog tours: it doesn't happen in real time. As long as the visits are posted on the right day, they can be completed weeks in advance.  So, if you're busy in April, you can arrange to do the interviews weeks before, when you've got more time.

Oh, right! Another good point. But if you want them to have read the book, it does have to be after your release date so that they can get ahold of a copy. 
 
Yes.  I haven't picked dates yet, but I'm thinking of giving at least a few weeks leeway, maybe even a whole month, to make sure the book is available.
 
I like that you or e (Elizabeth Dulemba) mentioned 5 days. A couple of tours I've seen were spread out much longer than that, and that prospect overwhelmed me. But 5 days. I think I could do that!
 
That was Elizabeth (love her "e"!), and I agree, having a tour contained within a week makes it very do-able...keeps it from dragging on and on and on. It's short enough for tour followers to commit to it but not lose interest in it.
 
Another thing that popped up...  several book tours included a book giveaway to encourage readers to read and leave comments at tour stops. I won't have enough copies to devote one book per blog, but having one big draw from all of the tour blogs would be do-able.
 
I wonder about giving away some kind of promotional item at each blog, and then a free book from the week overall.
 
I like that idea.  Gonna give some thought to that.  Did you have something specific in mind?
 
Uh...no (sheepish grin). 
 
LOL!   :^)
 
But I'm thinking something that helps spread the word more wouldn't hurt. Stampede! t-shirt, anyone? Seriously, I haven't gotten to the promo item ideas yet, other than tiny animal-related things and candies to give away at booksignings. But actual "prize-worthy" promo items...no. You never let me get away with vague promises of anything, Fiona! :>) 
 
[irresistible toothy smile] Hey, what are friends for? :^)
 
And, really, giving away 5 copies of the book might be the best investment anyway. Because maybe those 5 bloggers who win it will review it on their own blogs? So I might be tempted to bite the bullet and give away 5 copies. And the promise of that might get more readers to the blogs in the first place.
 
That's a really good point.  Maybe I can squeeze out the copies.  I'm going to double check the number of author copies I'm due (man, that contract was signed oh-so-long-ago!), and also check with my publisher. Who knows? Maybe they're willing to send additional copies for that sort of promotional thing.
 
OK, my next task is going to be to identify some possible blogs to approach that aren't children's lit blogs. I have one interview agreed to on a great (children's lit) blog already, so if I could find four more, I'd be in business!
 
Ditto.
 
For practical hints on how to create a blog tour, check out The Dabbling Mum.
 
We'd love to hear your thoughts and "DING! DING! DING!" revelations about blog tours.  What would you be sure to do again?  What would you definitely do differently or not do at all next time? 
 
 

Buddy Up at the Book Signin' Corral!

Laura is blue.  Fiona is green.
 
Laura, have you ever had something hit you from different angles all at once, almost forming a "Hey, look at this!" message from the cosmos?  This week, for me, that something is book signings. 
---My local children's librarian called about scheduling signings next June. June!?  (will I ever get used to the time scale of this biz???)
---I moved through another department on my quest for an Aquarium book launch.
---I found out that Chapters (Canada's big box, big influence, book store chain) has picked up Bubble Homes and Fish Farts to include in its store system. Yea! That means it'll be a regularly stocked item, so I won't have to arrange a special order for each of the dozen or so store signings in my local area.
 
Fabulous! Congratulations!   Thanks. 
 
And then you mentioned book signings as something you were working on this week, too.
 
Zammo!  Message from the cosmos.
 
Okay. Book signings.  Um...  Now I love doing school visits and speaking about writing, but I must confess I have some hesitation about arranging "signings".  I have this vision of me sitting at a table for hours in the middle of a book store or library, and a recurring nightmare about no one showing up!
 
Exactly. And I don't think it's just a nightmare. It's the reality, much of the time. Even for some big-name authors, let alone for those of us without a big following!
 
One of the many useful ideas that Shrinking Violet Promotions put into my head was buddying up for booksignings and other promotional tasks.
 
I'm an introvert and am socially awkward. I hate, hate, hate trying to sell things. But I've definitely noticed this kind of thing is easier in a group or a pair. So the idea of partnering up with someone sounds perfect for me. Because frankly, the idea of a booksigning...me behind a long empty table with a stack of books, customers scurrying by trying not to meet my eyes...shudder! But by having someone to sit and chat with and perhaps have a conversation going in a very non-closed-off, approachable way--I think that would help. And I wouldn't be quite as shy about saying good things about someone else's book as I would my own.  And if it's someone whose book complements my own, even better!
 
That sounds like a great idea.  Too bad Minnesota and BC are so far apart or we could get together! 
 
I know!
 
A couple of local children's authors kc dyer and James McCann recently buddied up for a successful tour of the Kootenays (an area in the interior of BC), but I hadn't thought about doing that locally. Duh. 
 
So, Thursday I met for lunch (a loooong lunch--sorry, server at Applebee's! hee hee ) with a member of my local group, Dara Dokas. She's got a book coming out from Dutton in February, an adorable, funny, animal-based picture book called Muriel's Red Sweater. Dara is extremely outgoing--she's even a former drama teacher for primary kids!
 
That sounds like the perfect match. 
 
The challenge for me was to find out 1) whether Dara's even interested; and 2) if she is, what kinds of things we could do in tandem. So I brainstormed ideas for booksignings, materials we could offer teachers, joint mailings we might do, etc. If we can make pairing up work, we might be able to bring down the cost factor for both of us and the discomfort level for me. We had a terrific lunch, and 1) she is!; and 2) tons of things, though we concentrated on brainstorming bookstore/library/animal-event presentations and also some press contact tasks we could share. We need to do more brainstorming, but we both left lunch with a list of tasks to get started on. Yea! I'm very excited about this.
 
Woohoo! That's wonderful! I wonder if I can find a "Dara" in my my local writers' group. Hmm...signings might not be so bad after all. 
 
Good luck! Yeah, I feel the same way. Signings in general do not appeal to me, but I think this could make it better, definitely!

So, tell us...have you ever buddied up for book signings?  What did you do together? How did it go?  Any tips or tricks you'd like to share?
 

Flittering and Twittering

                                                                      Laura is blue. Fiona is green.

As Laura packs her suitcase for a much deserved writer's retreat (read all about it in her blog post today), our mini-conversation this week is about our baby steps into the realm of social networking.  

Updating JacketFlap:
Laura: Did you get to that?

Fiona: Sure did. They only list 2 of my 15 books, though. Don't know how that works, so I decided to upload my Bubble Homes and Fish Farts cover into the gallery. Weirdness of weirdness...an automatic copyright notice appears below it saying the copyright is mine.  Now...I have the rights to use the cover image, but I don't own the copyright, so I may have to take it down. 

JacketFlap had most of my books, but not all, so I spent about an hour adding my other books and updating my profile.

So there's a way to manually add books? Thanks. I'll have to look into that.

My question is: Can I be notified by email when a Friend messages me? I'll never go to networking sites just to see if I have any messages, so the only way it works for me is to be able to get notified via email. I sent the question to customer service on Wednesday or so, but no answer yet. Hopefully by the time I get back from my retreat...

Good question. Yeah, that's how it would have to work for me, too.  I hope it's possible.

Facebook
I know you were hammered with deadlines last week, Laura, so were leaving the other networking sites for another time, but I managed to set up a "fan page" in Facebook. Small steps, right? :^)  It was quick and easy to do. I haven't "published" it yet, because my website got hacked this week, which meant the time I'd planned to spend adding Facebook content got taken up dealing with the hacker's mess. (ick)  But it's on my list for next week. 

Glad to hear the fan page on Facebook was easy. Maybe that will be my next SN task. Not this week, since I won't be home, but next week!

Have a great time at your writers' retreat!

And if, like us, you're still trying to get your head around Twitter, check out this fabulous article Jenn Bailey pointed us to this week: "Still Trying to Understand Twitter?  Think of Post-It Notes" by Jennifer Laycock.  A brilliant analogy.  Thanks, Jenn!

We'll be back next week with one of our deeper conversations about where we should aim our marketing efforts...we'll get into nodes and hubs and talk about skydivers and bowlers...and all that typical publicity turf.
 

Social Networking Sites...just how social does an author have to be?


Laura is blue. Fiona is green.
 

Things are rolling along on the marketing front.  My publisher recently sent me the "Self Promotion: A How-to Guide" they send to all their new authors. I've been going through it like a checklist.  Right after "fill out the author questionnaire" (done!) is a long section on web presence, so I've been thinking about my "presence" lately. 

  

It used to be that web presence = website and then later that morphed into web presence = website + blog  but in the last few years a myriad of other social networking sites have popped onto the scene: MySpace, Facebook, JacketFlap, Twitter, Goodreads, etc.  Do we need them to have a decent web presence? 

  

Laura, I think you and I are in pretty good shape.  We have established websites and blogs and we get involved in online book communities in a number of ways (Poetry Friday, Cybils, Nonfiction Monday, listservs etc).  Do we really need to expand that to include all these social networking sites, too?  I confess the idea of spending even more time online makes me twitchy, but if it's an effective marketing tool maybe it's worth a look. 

 

I'm twitching right along with you! But...I think it's a good idea, if at all possible, to be in some of these networks. Especially if you don't plan to be a reclusive author but want to get out there and talk to other authors, to editors, educators, conference organizers, and just plain people who might buy your book.

 

I guess the question I have is how much more will these sites do for me than my website and blog and other web presences are already doing? 

 

Let's look at a few...

  

JacketFlap –

I have a JacketFlap ID, but haven't taken it any further than that.  I don't use it in any meaningful way.  How about you, Laura? 

 

I'm a member, and I use its resources occasionally to look up publishers, etc. But I don't use it to network. I occasionally get friended there, but I don't manually check messages or anything, so I'm probably rudely ignoring people? Not really sure how it works! But at a minimum, I know I need to go in and update my profile, make sure all my poetry books are there, add a link to my microsite, etc.

  

Good idea. It's been a while since I joined. My profile's probably in need of updating, too. 

 

MySpace and Facebook -

The authors I know who think Facebook and MySpace are worth it, are overwhelmingly young adult novelists, whose teen audience frequents those sites, so spending time in Facebook and MySpace puts them in touch with their readers. I'm not sure picture book writers would realize that same connection.  Have you heard anything to support this?

 

I agree. We're not going to reach our readers here. But...perhaps the teachers and parents that might be sharing our books with their kids? I know from reading the NCTE Inbox blog that teachers use tons of these kinds of social networking tools, and they sometimes use them to find material. Here's a link that will show some of its recent posts on social networking sites/tools.

  

Excellent point.  I keep thinking of kids as my audience, but I really need to keep in mind that it's the parents, teachers and other adults who will be buying the book.  Marketing and connections need to be aimed at them, too. 

 

I don't really understand *how* they use these sites, because my eyes start to glaze over eventually. But they are apparently using them.

 

LOL!  I hear ya.  I think I'm going to conduct an informal poll among the educators and parents at my upcoming school visits and talks to see how much they use these sites and which ones.  Hopefully that'll give an idea as to which sites are worth putting effort into.

 

I'll give MySpace a pass, though, just because I can't get over the garish graphics that assault the eyes.  

 

Ditto. I go in to check my daughters' pages every so often, and I stagger away from the computer after.

  

For Facebook, I understand you can set up a public "fan page" that gets information out, but keeps your privacy.   I'm really conscious about keeping my private life and connections private.   

 

That's what I've heard, too. And it's what I meant when I made a comment in the past about a "billboard" presence. I'm probably not even using the term correctly! But I just meant a fairly static page that tells about my work and whatever I care to share. I wonder if MySpace lets you do that too. If I could set up something fairly static that I would truly only change when I announce new books, I'd be up for that. It would still be a way for a few folks to find me.

 

Now, that I could do, too...set up a fairly static "billboard" type presence that would act like a poster or promo postcard, as well as be a vector for people to contact me if they found me there.  Another way to get one's name "out there".  All it would cost is the initial set-up time---which shouldn't be too heavy---and minimal updating and follow-up from time to time.  I really want to avoid adding more "internet things to check daily". ...and [grin] I could probably stand the garishness of MySpace to set up something, as long as I wouldn't have to see it on a daily basis.

 

Yes! That contact thing is key. So, what I need are things that create a presence that's fairly static, but that I can get email notifications of whenever someone leaves me a message. Without that, I couldn't even keep up with my blog! So I need to find out if that option's available for the various things I wouldn't mind trying.

  

GoodReads

I don't have time to write about everything I read. I just don't. And, I might be unusual, but I don't need software to tell me what good books my friends have read lately.  My friends are the sort who gush about good reads, so I hear about them the old-fashioned way---via word of mouth.  Hmm...I guess I just don't see the promotion possibilities of this site.   

 

I actually probably should use this just to keep track! Since I don't remember the books I read well enough. But who has time to enter 30 books a week? Not me! I'm passing on this one, too. 

  

Twitter –
Microblogging, they call it.  Sending short "tweets" to those who "follow you". I don't think my every move is interesting enough to warrant minute by minute updates. Seems kind of urgent to me, and sometimes instant isn't always better, ya know?  I could see Twittering for special events such as a book tour or something, but I have enough trouble keeping up with regular blogging, so I can't see Twittering on a regular basis. 
 
Me neither. Call me crotchety, but I have no desire to communicate constantly. This just isn't my thing.
 
Can you think of others, Laura?
 
LinkedIn -
I have an account, fairly new, on LinkedIn. But I haven't used it at all or set up my profile or anything. It's a business networking site, mainly. Not a way to reach fans, but perhaps a good online presence for a professional writer. For many of these, as you said, they're not going to reach readers themselves, because our audience is so young. But when reporters are writing about something and looking for experts, they might hit these kind of sites. Or when conference organizers want speakers. Or...or...or...

  

That's a new one on me. I'll check it out.

 

I don't know...  the more I think about these social networking sites the more "Time Sucker" flashes before my eyes.  I think I'm going to look into the fan pages of Facebook, and a fairly static page on MySpace as you suggested, and see if I can make those work for me in a limited way, but otherwise, I think I'm pretty happy with my web presence as is. It's pretty solid. We can't do *everything*. 

 

That is so true. And there's nothing sadder than an out-of-date, neglected online presence. So much worse than no presence at all!

 

Here's what appeals to me about using these in a limited way. It's a way to market to people beyond other writers. It's a chance to create a page that everyday people might see, not just other writers or people entrenched in the children's literature world.  

 

[Nodding]

 

I'll be taking this very slowly. I don't want to get in over my head. My first step will be to update my JacketFlap profile and books. That's my goal this coming (extremely hectic) week.

 

Yeah, slowly's the way for me, too.  And, ahem, my dear..."extremely hectic" is a bit of an understatement.  Folks, Laura has four books due this week!  Let's schedule this for an update in a few weeks. 

 

Ack. If nobody hears from me in 5 days, send rescuers in after me:>)

 

Will do! :^D

 

So, dear readers, (hee hee, I've always wanted to say that ;^)  what are your experiences with social networking sites?  We hope you'll share your successes, tragedies and lessons learned. We'd love to see examples of authors---picture book authors in particular---with successful social networking presences, so be sure to include links. 
 

Promotion Gold in Them Thar Links

Okay, so we've been talkin' your ears off these past few weeks about book trailers and microsites and other good promo stuff, so this week we're going to give our jaws a bit of a break.  We've dug through our promotion files and pulled out our favorite links to promotion info.  And ooowheee, baby, is there ever golden info in them thar links. 

Happy Reading!

10 Ways to Promote a First Book

 

How to Market Your Book on the Internet

 

Susan Raab's "To Market" columns from the SCBWI Bulletin

Poke around a bit on this site...lots of promo goodies

Mitali Perkins' Pajama Promotion: Ten Tips for Writers

 

Getting the Word Out: Marketing Children's Books by Barbara Cohen

 

Harold Underdown's interview with author James Deem

  

Q&A on Promotion with Verla Kay

 Also on Verla's site, check out promotion-related transcripts, like this one

 

…and as usual, for an entertaining promotion read, check out the Shrinking Violet Promotions blog


Let us know about your promotion article fave!

Roll Them Credits! Book Trailer Wrap-up


Welcome to the last instalment of Book Trailer Week

WHAT LAURA & FIONA LEARNED ABOUT MAKING BOOK TRAILERS 
(with a few annotations)
  
--- Keep it short!  Laura likes 30 seconds, Fiona will aim for a minute. 
--- Pace: keep the trailer moving at a good clip; don't linger too long on any one frame; mix it up a bit. 
--- Voiceover: Don't...it's hard to do well, apparently 
--- Don't try to retell or summarize the whole story...think of a book trailer like jacket copy with an inside peek.
--- Fonts: as in print, keep the number of different fonts to a minimum. Two is fine. One is even better. 
--- Transitions: keep the number of different types to a minimum (they're like fonts on the page...too many is distracting and chaotic) 
 
Um...you might want to shield your eyes while watching my video!
 
LOL! A variety of transitions works in yours. Your construction method is quite different from any of the trailers we talked about here. "Mixing it up" seems to be part of the animoto way...an exception to this rule, methinks.
 
--- Type size: needs to be big enough to read on the tiny YouTube screen  
--- Text: keep to a minimum; keep it on-screen long enough for viewers to read. (I know, this seems like it should be obvious, but apparently it's not.)
 
I struggled with this. It makes sense to have it on there long enough to read. But I wanted to have a couple of poems to give people an idea, and I can't keep them on there long enough to read. However, it's easy to just pause the video to read them, so I'm hoping that's ok. I might end up using just one poem, the shorter of the two I currently have in the mix.
 
Hmm...finding 30 seconds a bit short, are we? [ducking and running]  Actually, to be honest, I don't know if I would pause it if I didn't know you.  I may just assume that since the creator didn't give it enough space to be read in its entirety, it's not important to get the whole thing...just the flavour.  Play with it and see what works for you.
 
--- Musts: book cover; author, illustrator & publisher names; available date; credits for the content; and a website URL. 
--- Proofread. Proofread. Proofread. Did we mention proofread?
--- Questions are good...makes it feel more interactive between book and viewer.
--- Music and sound effects contribute to the "feel" of the book. Choose carefully. Observe copyright laws...get permission to use others' work.

For more info on making a skookum book trailer check out what Terry Pierce and the Shrinking Violet Promotions folks have to say or Google make a book trailer...gotta love Google.
 
Book trailers! Definitely do-able.

Grab Your $7 Popcorn...It's Time for Book Trailers


Fiona is green; Laura is blue.
 
Today we're looking at book trailers...those short, short videos that do for books what movie trailers do for movies. So Laura, have you thought about book trailers at all?

My first thought was that they really only apply to novelists, because the trailers themselves seem to appeal just to teens/adults. But...I've been rethinking that thought! If they appeal to adults, and as picture book/children's writers, adults are mostly the people who buy our books to give to/share with kids, then why not try a trailer to appeal to those adults?

Excellent point. And a quick gander through YouTube bears that out. I searched picture book trailer and children's book trailer and went through the Children's Book Circle. Indeed, trailers do run the gamut--from very young picture books to edgy YA...including a little poetry and nonfiction! Hurray for poetry and nonfiction! (apparently we have our own cheering section ;^) Favourite picture book trailers include: Blackberry Banquet, Tales of the Cryptids, Lightship, Five Trucks, Chet Gecko - Hiss Me Deadly. Okay, Chet Gecko is more of a chapter book/early novel, but it's illustrated so I threw it in there. I thought they all made good use of the book illustrations and did a good job of including just enough, but not too much, text. Some trailers made the mistake of trying to fit too much of the book into the trailer...a few even tried to tell the whole story. Aaack...not a good idea. It never does justice to the book. The trailers I thought worked best just hit the main highlights and expressed the flavour of the book. Excellent use of sound effects in Lightship and Five Trucks, I thought. It got me thinking about what sound effects I might include. And I was struck with how important the music was to set the mood in the other three. As for older books, I thought Greetings From Nowhere and Cracked Up to Be were very effective.

I agree. I had found the Children's Book Circle because it was mentioned in a comment to a post about book trailers in Shrinking Violet Promotions. (Be sure to read all the comments to that post for great info on creating book trailers!)

Oooo, I somehow missed that one. Great article. Lots of good pointers there.

It's interesting to watch a bunch of trailers all in a row and see what you respond to. One of my favorites is How to Save Your Tail, and I also enjoyed Blackberry Banquet.

That's what I did, too. It sure gives you a good idea of what works and what doesn't...at least on a personal level. Interesting that you pointed out How to Save Your Tail. Although I liked the visuals well enough on that one, I didn't like the voice-over. At the end of my book trailer marathon, the voice-over stood out as something I didn't really care for...probably because it's so hard to do well if you're not a pro. I found it detracted more often than not.
 
I think the trailer for Tantalize is cool and has great mood-setting (the music and pacing are genius), and the trailer for Rock and Roll Never Forgets is slick, slick, slick. But...here's the thing.
 
I like short book trailers. Like, 30-seconds. The long ones might be slick and wonderful, but I'm not a huge online video watcher, so maybe I'm just the wrong audience for them. If someone wants to show me a "hysterical YouTube video," and they open it up and I see that it's four minutes, my first thought is, "Come on, people. Edit! I don't have time to stand here for four minutes."
 
LOL! I totally agree, and you know what? We're not alone. "Keep it short" was a theme echoed in the book trailer articles and discussions I've seen. And that was why Tantalize didn't make my faves list. It was good, well-made, and interesting---and yeah, music and pacing in the genius category, for sure (and I'll add choice and use of images to the list, too) ---but it was too long for me.
 
I guess my bottom line is this: A trailer is a commercial. And even if it's wonderfully done, I don't want to watch a 3-minute commercial. At movie theaters, I have no choice, but at home or work, on my computer, I do. So for me, short is magic.
 
"Short is magic." Well said! I wonder if teens think of it that way, too, or if they consider "book videos" to be an extension of the book. If that's the case, YA trailers could serve more as entertainment than a commercial--content enhancement rather than advertising. If so, the length might be just fine for a teen audience. You and I are both in picture book territory, though, so for us, your "short is magic" is probably a good mantra to adopt.
 
I wondered that, too...are there times where the trailer itself is entertainment, even standing apart from the book itself? And I agree, I think the answer is yes, if your trailer is amazingly cool, funny, or mind-boggling. But, really, how many fit that description?
 
[nodding] So, for the rest of us, how short is short? 30 seconds!? Yowsa, when you said "short" you really meant "short"! Although I found a few 30-seconders that worked well (Tales of the Cryptids being one), generally, for me, 30 seconds wasn't quite long enough to get everything in. Once time was spent on a cover shot, author/illustrator/publisher/release date info, and credits, there wasn't enough footage about the book for me to know whether I wanted to buy it. It's like fishing when you lose the fish because you pulled the rod before the hook was set. I so wanted just a little more footage for Me Hungry and Scribble, for example. In the end, trailers in the one minute ballpark (45 seconds - 1.5 minutes) seemed to work best for me. It all came down to the pacing, but anything longer than two minutes was w-a-y....t-o-o....l-o-n-g. ...tended to drag, and I lost interest.
 
You mentioned "slick"...
When I first began thinking about book trailers, I had it in my head that the most effective trailers would be like movie trailers...full of video footage. I lamented the fact that if I made a trailer, I couldn't include video footage (I don't have any means of getting or working with it), and instead, I would have to rely on still images strung together. Bummer, dude. But after watching a variety of trailers, I changed my tune. It turns out the more video footage a trailer contains, the more the line between book and movie becomes blurred and the more likely I am to lose track that the content is about a book. While watching trailers such as Cowboy and Octopus , Moonpowder , and Bloom, (all very well-made) for example, I wasn't sure if I was watching a trailer for a book or a movie/TV show. Having the bulk of the trailer made up of obviously still images keeps the trailer firmly anchored in bookland for me. To keep "book" in mind, I need to see a more static approach to book trailer construction. Trailers that used very brief snippets of video worked fine, though. Of course, now that I want to cite a few examples, I can't find them! But all-video didn't work for me. Did that make a difference for you, Laura?
 
I'm torn. As you pointed out, the ones that are all video clips seem to be drifting farther and farther away from the book as a form, as words on the page. Buuuuuuuuutttttttt, I like how dynamic they are. I like the sense of motion and the feeling of excitement that generates. And I don't have enough familiarity with them (I'm impressed with your research! LOL! No special research...just a visceral reaction from watching too many book trailers!) to have totally analyzed what works for me and what doesn't. I think lots of different kinds of trailers appeal to me because in very small doses, I think it's fun to see completely diverse approaches. I guess my bottom line is that I like lots of different kinds of book trailers (as long as they're short!).
 
Interesting. Room for all kinds of styles, that's for sure. (And there's that "short" motif again! :^)
 
You know, the fact that I feel like such an amateur even while just viewing book trailers reinforced my feeling that at first I wasn't sure whether I wanted to do one. I had no idea where to even begin, but beyond that, I was not totally convinced of book trailers' effectiveness.
 
That was my concern, too. Is a book trailer worthwhile? As a marketing tool, they're unproven--no one knows what impact, if any, they have on sales. People are talking about them, though, and they're yet another way to get information out about the book (which the marketing gurus keep telling us is a good thing in a cumulative big picture way), so it looks like there's a chance a book trailer could do some good, but if not, well, no harm, no fowl. Bottom line: with little expected return, creating a book trailer is clearly not a good use of my limited promotion funds, but if it can be done for cheapcheapcheap or free, it's a possibility.
 
Exactly. That was my conclusion too. What do I have to lose? Now that book trailers aren't "new," I don't think they're getting as much buzz as they did a year or two ago. But one can still be a fun marketing piece to have out there, to link to, etc. You just never know what might cause a little buzz.
 
...and who knows what other innovative uses we might find for book trailers? I know a few authors who include a CD with their author school visit package, and it would certainly add interest to a press kit, too.
 
Ooh, fun!
 
Tune in on Wednesday for Laura and Fiona's trailer-making adventure!

In the "Worth a Read" Department


"Don't Be a Couch Potato...Publicity for Your New Release"
written by Sylvan Dell publicity person, Sara Dobie. 

We don't have any couch potatoes here at Bubble Stampede--no yams, rutabagas or other root vegetables, either, in case anyone's taking inventory---but Dobie has some thoughtful advice about reviews, pitches, and (oh, Laaaaauuuuurraaaa :^) the importance of having 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."

 
You can find the rest of the article here.

 Thanks to Fuse#8 for the link.