Self-published children's author Karen Inglis, with three children's books and a new children's book app to her name, shares her top tips for marketing books for a young audience. (More news on her app to follow soon!)
When I first published The Secret Lake, I felt envious of authors of books aimed at teens and adults as I watched them tweeting and sharing away with their target audience. How lucky they were! I had no such opportunity as my target audience of 8-12 year olds aren’t supposed to be on Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites. Even if they were, they wouldn’t be holding the debit or credit card!
So just how does a children’s author reach out to his or her readers? I think there are two key ways – and while we children’s authors may be at a disadvantage in the online world by not having direct access to our readers, we are at huge advantage in the ‘face to face’ world. What I’m about to share isn’t rocket science, but I hope this will be of help for anyone just starting out trying to market their children’s book. Here are six ways to reach your readers – three online, and three face-to-face.
Reaching readers online
- Seek out places that parents of children in your target age range hang out online – such as your local community’s parents' website, the local branch of parenting blogs and other parenting blogs farther afield. You can find many of these via Twitter using hashtags such as #parentng, and via Google. First check the rules about self-promotion (the British parenting website Mumsnet once locked me out for mentioning The Secret Lake once too often!) Then get involved in an appropriate way. That may mean anything from joining in discussions about children’s books and literacy, to volunteering yourself for an interview, to donating signed copies of your books for party bags, to offering to do a local reading and signing. Make sure that any profile you set up mentions that you write for children and, if allowed, include a link to your blog or website.
- Google to find children’s book review sites at home and abroad, and offer yourself up for interview. Again, it’s the parents of your readers you’ll be reaching out to – but as they have the purse strings, this is how you will get your books into children’s hands. Once the interview is up, you can tweet and share it using #childrensbooks #kidsbooks #parents and similar hashtags to help raise your profile even more widely. A good quality site that I have used in the USA is The Children's Book Review, which has an Author Showcase area with a range of interview options from free to $50 or more. They tweet the interviews, and their articles seem to get re-blogged/syndicated. Search for my name and you’ll see how they covered me. Librarians often read these sites too. There are plenty of other blogs offering free interview spaces – just search online!
- Create a place on your blog or website (you do have one, don’t you?!) where children can leave reviews of your books or ask you questions. Tell them at the end of your print or e-book how to find it. You need to ensure that their details remain private. Ask them for parents’ permission to post. See my children’s reviews page on The Secret Lake website for an example. You don’t need a website for every book by the way – I do at present, but I may bring then all under my more recent ‘catch-all’ author site.
- Send an email to your nearby schools and offer to go in and do a reading of your book(s). Be sure to say what age range the book is aimed at, and therefore which classes you would envisage visiting, and attach or embed in your email a thumbnail copy of the book cover, a plot synopsis and links out to reviews on Amazon or your website. Follow the email up with a phone call, and take it from there. Say that you visit local schools for free in return for the school sending slips home offering the chance to buy signed copies of the book. If the school goes ahead, offer to send a summary sheet and tear-off slip that the school can use if they wish. The more control you have of the message, the more likely you are to get the sales you would like! If travelling father afield, you’ll need to work out travel time and costs, and decide whether you wish to charge a fee. Top tip: give a really professional look by including links to your books/blog & tiny thumbnails of you book covers as part of your sign-off.
- Offer to do a reading in your local library one weekend and provide signed books in return. Help promote it by putting up simple posters locally where parents hang out.
- Offer to do a book signing in your local bookshop if it stocks your book. Again, put up posters or do mail-drops locally in areas with lots of young families, or hand out leaflets at school gates. If your book is also available online, you could mention this if you want to, for those who don’t make it face to face. If there’s no nearby bookshop, consider offering signed copies for collection from your home.
Above all, enjoy!
Don’t be nervous about meeting your readers – children love author visits! But be sure to plan what you’ll say before your reading, and leave time to take questions afterwards. I ask schools to send me an advance list of orders to enable me to pre-sign and dedicate books. If you don’t do this, it can take up a lot of time at the end of the session. I find that around 50% of a class tends to buy (sometimes a lot more). Where numbers are low, it’s usually because the school hasn’t been very efficient at sending slips home. Good luck!