Hi Elizabeth. Thank you for joining me today. before we get into marketing, tell me a little about yourself.
Hi Shelli - thanks for hosting me on Market My Words! I am an illustrator first with several award-winning picture books including Paco and the Giant Chile Plant (Raven Tree Press, 2008) and the ParentSmart KidHappy™ series (Free Spirit Publishing). I've also illustrated educational books for Harcourt, Houghton Mifflin, Scholastic, and McGraw-Hill, and did the cover of the December Highlights Magazine for which I just won the SCBWI 2008 Magazine Merit Award!
Forthcoming books include two more from the ParentSmart KidHappy™ series and The 12 Days of Christmas in Georgia (Sterling 2010). Best of all, my first picture book as author/illustrator comes out this Fall - Soap, soap, soap ~ Jabón, jabón, jabón (Raven Tree Press). As if this wasn't enough, my first novel is being shopped by my agent while I work on my second. I also teach "Creating Picture Books" at the John C. Campbell Folk School and speak at conferences, schools and festivals regularly.
*whew* I've been a busy girl.I'm agented by the awesome Courtney Miller-Callihan of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates - love her! With all this focus on creating books for children, you can probably guess most of my friends are in the biz too. Our lunches keep me sane and I love meeting up with friends from far away at out of town events. My awesome hubbie, Stan, is incredibly supportive, and my three fuzzies (2 dogs and a cat) are good cuddlers. (One of my dogs, Bernie, makes star appearances in all my books.) I'm working my bum off right now, but I'm also having a blast.
I know you used to be a graphic designer but I'll askt the question anyway :) Do you have a website/blog? When did you start it and who manages it?
I've had a website for years now and blog regularly where I offer a free coloring page every week. These days I think authors, and especially illustrators, must have a website. With my graphic design background I was lucky enough to know how to create my own, but there are inexpensive/easy alternatives to building a website too.
A lot of people have found my article, "Build an Easy Website (Using a Blog)" helpful
I know you do tons for your own marketing. I seem to see you everywhere! In your opinion , what are the top 3 things every author should andmust do to promote their book?
Marketing, networking and public speaking are three necessary parts of being a successful children's book creator. Ironically, people usually don't consider they'll have to do these things when they're trying to break into this business. A website is no longer optional, and a regularly updated website (like a blog) is ideal. The main thing is to build relationships with your readers and buzz around your name so people will say "Oh, I've heard of her," when your next book comes out. It's the old "see it seven times" rule of advertising. People generally don't notice an ad until they've seen it at least seven times. In other words, the more you and your name are out there, the more likely your work will stick in people's minds.
In your opinion, how important is social networking? Not including dinner and drinks :)
All forms of social networking fit into the larger picture of getting yourself out there. The more people can interact with you, the more they'll feel a kinship or loyalty to you, which of course spills over into book sales. But you can't be disingenuous about it - it's not about inundating people with ads. It's about building real relationships and giving back as much as you can. Give people good reasons to want to support you.
How important is technology to an author's marketing plan?These days the technology side of marketing is integral and growing. Nobody is really sure what it's going to mean to the book business, they just know it's coming - with blogs, book trailers, e-readers, etc. Our business is evolving into a much more technologically driven medium. The more in tune with that you can be, the more likely you are to succeed. Do your research. Subscribe to Publisher's Lunch, PW, SCBWI, etc. Stay educated about how things are moving forward so that you can position yourself to take advantage and be ahead of the curve. It will also be more attractive to publishers as they're looking for the next best way technology can help as well.
Did you think about marketing before your book was published? Did you start prior to getting an agent or selling your book?
If so, when andwhat did you do?I was in graphic design for 15 years before getting into illustrating children's books, so it's part of how my brain works. I had my website up and was already blogging long before my first book came out. It's like a pyramid - it takes time to build a following and the sooner you start, the better. Part of the reason to start early is so you can grow comfortable with digital medium and learn to create content that draws readers. I also started collecting information on reviewers, librarians, booksellers, etc. I have over 1,000 publishing-related contacts in my address book and they come in handy. I don't send out my promotional materials to a purchased list, I send them to a very targeted list of people I've collected from my research. It makes my promotional materials more effective and actually ends up being cheaper. It's all about that relationship-building thing I was talking about.
Do you feel it is beneficial for authors to team up and promotebooks as a group? Why?
Definitely! Several voices in unison will always have more strength than one. And I'm a firm believer in that we help ourselves most when we lift others up with us in our efforts. It's not about one person's career - it's about creating a passion for books and reading in society. Together, we have a better chance of creating passionate readers. And of course, when that happens book sales increase for everybody, and we make our society stronger too - bonus!
What other advice do you have for authors/writers regardingmarketing?
Expect that marketing will be a large chunk of what you do every day. I spend about 30-40% of my day on marketing. (My hubbie would claim more than that.) That includes blogging, reading blogs, social networking, mailers, etc. It all builds people's awareness of you and your work and is seldom wasted energy. Of course, you have to have the good works to back up your marketing, so writing and illustrating books readers will love should always remain the highest priority.
What creative things have you done to promote a book?
Probably the smartest thing I ever did was to create my Coloring Page Tuesdays . My stats went through the roof when I started creating them, and now that the collection has grown rather large (I've been doing this over a year) I have people referencing images on a regular basis (thousands every week).
I'm also asking them to sign up for my newsletter where I announce my latest book news - it all draws attention to my books!I always have my radar up for marketing opportunities. You'd be surprised how often they come up (such as your invitation for this interview) - be ready to take advantage.
Thanks for joining us today and sharing your marketing strategies.
Shelli, thanks again for interviewing me and for all the free advice you offer to book creators on your blog. It's enormously helpful! :)