In the second of three posts in this series, ALLi's Children's Author Advisor Karen Inglis shares valuable advice gained from The Bookseller's Children's Conference on how to sell books within the challenging market of children aged under 13, notoriously difficult to reach.
(Please note: while some the services and stats referred to are UK based, there are likely to be equivalents wherever in the world you are promoting your children's books.)
Being able to reach our readers direct is the holy grail for children’s publishers and authors. Of course the number one place we can do this is at school events – and this should and must be central to your marketing strategy – but what about online?
“Think like a broadcaster!”
This was the clear message that came out of the conference.
Only a few years ago reaching kids directly online felt impossible. Happily, times have changed and during the day we saw many case studies of publishers and their authors putting this into practice.
I’ve outlined the key routes below.
Kids are all over YouTube! Between 35% and 45% of UK children aged 4-7 year visit YouTube each week. From age 8 upwards, that jumps to 60%, increasing to around 80% by age 11. (Source: Egmont/Nielsen 2015 Children’s Deep Dive study)
A Smarty Pants ‘brand popularity’ survey of 6-12 year-olds in the USA found that YouTube beat the likes of Disney, Netflix for Kids, Nickelodeon and Lego.
Of particular note is YouTube Kids. designed to offer a safe environment for children to browse and watch videos. The videos available are determined by a mix of automated algorithmic filtering, user-generated content (ie kids creating and uploading) and human review. Parents register for the site then can set controls to limit browsing curated/human review content or allow kids to search for all YouTube Kids’ content. Kids strongly prefer the latter!
So Get Broadcasting!
If you can get kids viewing and sharing your YouTube content (readings/characters/cover reveals/kids’ reviews or other content that relates to your books or you as the author), it’s only a matter of time before they’ll be nagging their parents to buy your book. We saw how much kids love watching toys being unwrapped by young YouTubers, some of whom get millions of views each week. Is there something equivalent you could arrange for your book?!
If your content is appropriate and accurately tagged my assumption is that it will get picked up and included in YouTube kids.
Find out more in the small print on YouTube Kids’ website.
[Post conference observation – at school visits I’ve yet to meet one child who uses YouTube Kids – they are all just using YouTube – perhaps it’s the very little ones that use YouTube Kids?]
Live Online Events
Check out the Puffin Virtually Live or Scottish Booktrust websites to see how publishers and book charities regularly host live webcasts from authors to thousands of children simultaneously. Could you do something on a more discrete scale using Skype or YouTube Live with a school or a book club? There will be tech involved and data rules are certain to mean an adult will need to be present at the other end. This has been on my to-do list to research for some time and is something I’ll be looking at more closely now.
Fun Kids Radio is a UK digital station for the under 12s and their families. Children can also listen online with a free app or from the station’s website. I would have loved this as a child!
Around 200,000 children and 100,000 adults tune in each week for a mix of music, interviews, reviews, competitions and giveaways – a kind of CBBC for radio. There’s also a newsletter that goes out to 20,000 families each week and their YouTube channels, one of which reviews books, receive over 80,000 views a month. This is the only dedicated children’s radio in the UK that I can find. It looks as if much of the content is linked to sponsorship or brand advertising (eg competitions and quizzes centred around a brand or book character). But don’t let this put you off. If you can find a newsworthy angle to your new or not-so-new book why not see if you can secure an author interview or ask if they’ll review it on their YouTube channel? It’s worth a try!
If you’re outside the UK, check out kids’ radio stations in your country.
Popjam is a social media app and website that allows kids under age 13 to set up safe profiles, follow each other and engage safely with content, brands and YouTubers. The app is available in the US, UK, Canada and Ireland. It includes COPPA compliant sponsored content and branded ads. This means that no in-app purchases or data collection are allowed, just product awareness. From 2017 it will be introducing ‘Popjam Stories’ which will allow kids to scroll through up to 10 screens of sample book content in one post.
Popjam has over 1m registered accounts (many in the 7-11 year-age bracket, though I’m unclear as to whether this is mainly in the US) and a 45-minute daily dwell time, almost double that of Instagram. The children’s profiles comprise an avatar and nickname. No personal data is made available. However, they can (as I understand it) upload their own posts, images and creatives.
Given a limited marketing budget for most indie authors, I think our best bet with Popjam is to think about how children we meet at school events who use Popjam might be inspired to share information about our books on it eg by upload of illustrations or photos.
More food for thought and action!
[Update: at my last two school events I didn’t find anyone who knew about Popjam, so it may be largely a US thing at the moment, or I was simply at the wrong schools!]
Toppsta – Reaching Parents and Children Together
Toppsta has a more hybrid approach, offering authors and publishers a way to reach children alongside their parents online. Its colourful website runs author/publisher funded giveaways of children’s print books for ages 0-12. In order to leave reviews, adults register first then can add children aged under 13 to their ‘group’. The child then gets their own avatar and login for submitting reviews and these appear under the group’s profile and avatar. A list of the top ten reviewer groups appears in the right hand panel on the website’s home page, similar to the Amazon Vine programme.
Toppsta has 23,000 fans on Facebook and 2,700 Twitter followers. Over 80% of their members are based outside of London and, when buying books on the high street, typically do so from supermarkets over Waterstones. Parents are most active on Toppsta’s Facebook page where book reviews and finds are discussed. A newsletter goes out to parents of registered users once a week. If you can stretch to £100 + VAT, 12 free books plus postage this offers a good way to give your title exposure and, hopefully, some word of mouth recommendation.
But remember, reviews aren’t guaranteed.
[Update: since writing this piece I have run a Toppsta giveway and garnered five new 5-Star reviews for Eeek! The Runaway Alien. Whether this will lead to more book sales only time will tell, but at the very least this has offered me another bragging opportunity for marketing purposes and has raised Eeek’s profile to new audiences.]
OVER TO YOU If you've had experience of any of the services Karen's mentioned – or have others to add to her list – we'd love to hear about it!#Toptips for marketing children's books from #author @KarenInglis - #bookmarketing Click To Tweet
ANOTHER GREAT POST ABOUT MARKETING CHILDREN'S BOOKS: