next Monday! Be sure to come back and join us.
Today we have Harold Underdown, Author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books
Hi Harold, before we pick your brain for your marketing wisdom, tell me a little about yourself.
I'm a children's book editor. At present, I work freelance and in educational publishing. I've worked as an in-house publisher for such publishers as Orchard and Charlesbridge, and hope to again, perhaps when the economy improves!
I am also the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books.
From a teaching side, I'm about to start teaching the third session of a children's book revision class with Eileen Robinson--information at http://www.kidsbookrevisions.com
Do you/your agency/your house have a website/blog ? When did you start it and who manages it ?
I started a web site, The Purple Crayon, in1996 and still manage it myself. I provide a variety of information on children's publishing, and speak and give workshops at conferences.
In your opinion , what are the top 3 things every author should and must do to promote their book ? (web sites, blogs, tours etc)
I don't think there are just three things that every author should and must do to promote their book, because different books need to be promoted in different ways!
My book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books, has a niche audience, for example. What I've done to promote it is not what I would have done if I had written a picture book, and what I would have done for a PB is different from what I would have done if I had written a young adult novel.
But for all types of books, I do believe that there a few fundamental principles that should be kept in mind. You need to know your audience (or at least have a guess as to who your audience is), and then you need to figure out how you can most efficiently reach them. This is complicated for authors of children's books, since many aren't purchased by children, and since their audience is national but limited.
For my book, I had a clear niche market to reach, and it was one I knew pretty well already, since when I was signed up to do the first edition of my book I already had been working as an editor for several years, had my web site, and had years of conference speaking under my belt. (I had a "platform," in the current language, which I suspect was one reason the publisher approached me to do the book in the first place).
I have had limited time to promote my book and so I have made sure I focused on the best ways to reach my audience of aspiring writers and illustrators (and many published authors and illustrators too, but of course that's a smaller group).
For my book, my top 3 were:
- To get reviews in writer's magazines and web sites. My publisher sent out some review copies and I've done some work on my own, down to making sure that there were reviews on Amazon.
- To speak at conferences, mostly organized by SCBWI. From early 2008 to the end of 2009, I will have been to 8 weekend conferences and 2 retreats, not only to promote the book, but I made sure that I did at all of them.
- And to utilize the web by having sample materials and blurbs on my web site as well as taking part in online discussion groups.
This really depends on the book. For some books it can make a huge difference. For most books, it doesn't.
However, if your audience uses social networking heavily, this is an area to look at, but carefully--authors should keep in mind the principle of efficiency. It's possible to put a lot of time into social networking and have little in the way of results to show for it.
As an Editor, when you were evaluating whether to take on an author or book, did you ever Google them to see if they already had a web presence or platform ?
I didn't do this when I was at Charlesbridge, my most recent in-house job. I might do this today, though it would depend on the type of book. I doubt that I would for picture books or most kinds of fiction, for example. I might for YA or nonfiction for bookstores.
Having a platform is still a relatively new concept in children's books. Being able to support one's backlist through school visits and other ways of connecting with one's audience (such as a web site) are more common.
In your experience as as Editor, what things do Publishers offer in contracts in terms of Marketing ? What does the average author receive or is it different, depending on the book ?
Publishers put as little as possible into the contract about marketing. There are certainly things that one can expect--being in the catalog, review copies being sent out, etc.--but unless one has considerable pull they won't be in the contract.
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 and what did you do ?
I thought about marketing before my book was published, but not before it was signed up, simply because I was solicited to write it, as I mentioned above. But I did have ideas in mind from the time I started writing--thought I don't think that his is necessary for all writers. Some books can be effectively and efficiently promoted by their authors, while others can't. Some authors aren't good promoters. There are times when writing is a better use of your time, and writers shouldn't feel guilty about that.
Now, if you could put on your author hat. For your book, do you have a formal marketing plan or is your marketing more random ? If not, why ? Would you like to ?
My plan wasn't written down, but I did have a pretty good idea of it all along. If I had had more time, I might have written up a plan, but I don't feel that the lack of a written plan has been a problem.
And lastly, what creative things have you done to promote a book?
I haven't been creative! I've done the obvious things and I've tried to do them well.
Thank you Harold for your time and knowledge!