Following the recent post on using quizzes to promote your book, British indie author Karen Inglis, ALLi's advisor on writing for children, shares how she has used crossword puzzles to market her self-published books for children.
Crosswords as a Simple Marketing Tool
It struck me early on when taking my time travel mystery, The Secret Lake, into shop signings that having a free interactive activity sheet to accompany it would make sound marketing sense, not only to attract parents and children to my signing table but also to help market the book after a sale, or indeed after a non-sale!
Solving puzzles is fun. Without a doubt, it appeals to children’s detective-like curiosity, and often to their naturally competitive instinct. Even as adults we all know the sense of satisfaction and achievement we get solving the simplest of crossword clues, not to mention a whole crossword!
I’ll talk in a moment about the software I used (which is fun in itself) but first here are a couple of case studies.
Case study 1 – The Secret Lake
My crossword for The Secret Lake takes the form of a general knowledge quiz about the story. When wording the questions or clues, I took care to bring out exciting plot points,without giving anything away, and to allude to characters in a way that would intrigue and tempt the reader of the crossword – eg the child or parent picking it up in a bookshop – to want to find out more. Of course I could have created a simple quiz sheet, but I’m not sure it would have appealed. The crossword format somehow adds a fresher and more fun dimension.
While the software I used offers various background images that you can lay the puzzle onto, at various levels of transparency from 10%-90%, I chose a blank sheet and then added a large image of The Secret Lake book cover in one corner instead.
As well as offering the crossword with every face-to-face book sale, I also offer it as a freebie to take away where I don’t make a sale, on the pretext that the book’s details are on the sheet should the parent, grandparent or child want to track it down at a later date.
The answers are available to download or view on the book’s website, and this, of course, offers a further marketing opportunity as my website includes information about my other books. The crossword sheet itself is also available to download and print or share from my site which offers a further marketing or social media opportunity.
Case Study 2 – Eeek! The Runaway Alien
For Eeek! The Runaway Alien, in which a football-mad alien runs away from space to Earth for the World Cup, I used a crossword to pick up on the buzz of the 2014 World Cup. Thus most of the clues focused on simple general knowledge to do with the World Cup teams, matches and players. For the background images, I chose an alien spaceship from the site’s library of images rather than one of my own graphic novel images. I then tweeted links to the crossword, which can be downloaded in Word or as a PDF from my website, using #WorldCup2014 and other relevant hashtags being used for specific matches, targeting mainly soccer-loving dads! Because #WordCup2014 was trending at the time, this led to over 50 downloads over a short period. (This may not sound like much but in children’s publishing terms it really isn’t that bad – and all helps to spread the word about the book!) During that period I also provided handouts of the crossword with books to my local bookshop, which stocks all of my books.
You can see Eeek's puzzle download page here on my website. If you keep scrolling you’ll also see links to the answers sheet – shown as a screenshot here.
I used Puzzle-maker.com to create my crosswords. I can’t say they have the most fabulous looking website (!) and the user interface could do with improving, but bear with it. It’s great fun creating the puzzles, and you have the option to play around, preview and then rearrange the shape of the puzzle as many times as you wish if you don’t like the initial shape it comes up with. You start by entering the answer to your clue and then the question – and the program does the rest for you.
There are three levels of puzzle: ‘good,’ which comes free; or ‘better’ or ‘best puzzles’ for which there is a small charge – either a one-off cost for one puzzle or an annual subscription which allows unlimited puzzles. The free puzzles come in HTML type format for printing and may contain advertising – I wouldn’t recommend this. By contrast, ‘better’ or ‘best’ allow you to create downloadable PDFs that you can email out, print or share on your blog or website. The paid option also offers a range of background images that you can use to ‘theme’ your crossword if you wish! All three levels offer the blank crossword with clues underneath plus an answers page.
Having done a quick Google search, I can see that there are lots of sites that offer free crossword-making facilities, so do check them out and leave a note below of any that you rate. This one worked for me, and I’m signed up to its annual subscription service, which at under $15 didn’t feel too onerous.
OVER TO YOU If you have any tips for setting up puzzles to promote children's books, or any other great marketing ideas for this genre, please feel free to share them via the comments box.#Authors: top tips on creating puzzles to promote children's books - by @KarenInglis #bookmarketing Click To Tweet