Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Author Marketing From a School Librarian, Part 2

Yesterday I posted the interview with Mandy Watson, who gave us some great information about author marketing from a librarian's perspective.

Today I'll share what we learned from Mandy's presentation during the Houston SCBWI meeting. First, her "shopping list" to help you remember the marketing strategies:

Here's more about each item to explain what all that means:

Turkey: Don't be afraid to act like one (like during school visits).

Dressing: Do you have something you wear or carry that makes you or your business stand out? For school visits and author events it might be an item of clothing having to do with your book that people will recognize. Or, you may have a unique logo that identifies your business.

Passion fruit: You have to be passionate about the work you do.

Bread: Business cards are a staple to your business, like bread is a staple in most homes. (More about business cards later).

Pie crust: You might use pamphlets to advertise your upcoming book release or school visit program. The pamphlet should be filled with good things, like a pie crust. But don't throw in too many different things or it'll turn into a giant mess.

Cereal: Shopping for cereal can be overwhelming because there are so many choices. Same thing with websites--is there something about yours that will make it a more attractive choice than others? Offer something on your site that gives people a reason to visit it.

Ice cream: Not something for every day, but fun to shop for. Have some special novelty items or swag to hand out at events or signings that will promote your work. Oriental Trading Company is one good source.

Eggs: Eggs aren't usually sold individually, and we can't sell ourselves alone either. Have a good team of people around you for support.

Energy drink: Give it your best! A good quote from Nuno Bettencourt to keep in mind: "As much as you put into it is as much as you get out of it."

You can use a similar list to decide which items you already have and which you need to "shop" for.

Now, back to business cards. In yesterday's post Mandy talked about business cards she's more likely to keep--ones that can double as a bookmark or are unique in some other way.

A few inexpensive ways to turn your business card into something people want to keep:

- Punch a hole and tie a thin ribbon onto one end to make a bookmark. You can find inexpensive charms to add to the ribbon too.
- Apply Zig Two-Way glue to the back of the card so it can be used as a sticky note
- If ordering custom bookmarks, save space at one end to upload your business card design. After the bookmarks are printed, use a perforation tool to make a perforated line between the business card and the bookmark. People you give your bookmarks to can separate the bookmark from the business card (like a ticket stub and a ticket).

Some resources to help you create your own business cards:

- Find templates on sites like Microsoft Office or Avery
- Look for free images on digital scrapbooking sites or by Googling "free images." Some sites to try are Two Peas In a Bucket, Designer Digitals (once you register, you'll be able to look at the "Freebies" section under the "Communities" tab), and Jessica Sprague (click "Freebies" under the "Digital Products" heading).
- If you need just a few cards on short notice, you can get a page of twelve cards printed at stores like Office Depot for about 25 cents.
- Online stores like Vistaprint have fast service and inexpensive cards; you can upload your own design or create a design on the website.

Thanks again to Mandy for the interview and for passing along all the helpful advice for authors!

Have any of you used the ideas mentioned here, or do you have other good ideas for author marketing? Please share in the comments!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Author Marketing From a School Librarian, Part 1

Those of us who write for kids aren't able to reach our audience online as easily as writers for adults can. Our readers aren't usually looking at author websites and blogs, so it's important for us to connect with teachers and librarians, who are often the ones helping kids select the books they'll read.

So, I was really interested in what librarian Mandy Watson had to say about author marketing at last week's Houston SCBWI meeting.

The presentation was really informative, and I asked Mandy if she'd do a blog interview so I could pass along some of her advice. She kindly agreed, so here's the interview! (With more to come tomorrow.)

First, a little about Mandy so you'll know where she's coming from and how she got on the path the librarianhood:

I live in Magnolia, Texas with my sweet computer programming husband whom I have been married to for almost 15 years. Ever since I was a kindergartener, I had a passion to be a kindergarten teacher--and I happily pursued my dream! I taught kindergarten for six years in the Cypress Fairbanks school district outside of Houston until I became a proud mom. I have two sweet and active boys I chose to stay home with until they started school. I missed teaching, but I had a new dream to be a librarian that surfaced from my childhood of being unable to read, then being unable to stop reading. I started a library for my church where I serve as their librarian, but I still missed teaching. I went back for my master’s degree in library science at Sam Houston State University, and won several academic awards and scholarships for my achievements. Now I have the best career ever (in my opinion) of being the librarian at my boys’ elementary school where I get to teach and share my love for reading. In my spare time I read, scrapbook, and have fun being mom while getting to play Legos or Wii with my boys.

How did a librarian become interested in marketing?

If you asked me a few years ago if I had any interest in marketing, I would have laughed and said, “Not at all!” However, I quickly developed a passion for marketing and sharing marketing strategies with others shortly after I became interested in going back to work. When I started pursuing my dream to become a school librarian, I found that like many other job fields, it's a hard one to get into. I had to learn creative marketing strategies to promote myself and get others to notice me. As I did this, I found more and more that I was not alone. Many people settled for a job they were not very passionate about because they were content to just have a job. I didn’t want to settle and don’t want my children to someday settle for anything but their dream job/career. That is what sparked my interest in marketing and why I enjoy sharing my strategies with others. I feel that marketing should be presented especially to high school and college students so that they know how to creatively and passionately market themselves for the career they wish to someday pursue.

You mentioned some neat ways to make business cards and author bookmarks stand out-- when you get a stack of cards and bookmarks at an event, what are some features that make you want to keep them?

I especially like business cards that have their target audience in mind. For example, when I recently went to the Texas Library Association’s convention, I loved business cards that doubled as a bookmark because they were designed to promote their books to the librarians that attended. These bookmarks had clear pictures of their published or upcoming book’s cover, a brief summary (sometimes even a few words to describe the book), and a website link to learn more. The business cards/bookmarks were attractive in that they had use of complimentary color schemes, they were not too busy in text, images, or fonts, and the cards/bookmarks were durable. I have found that cards printed on a thick cardstock with a glossy finish have been extremely durable, professional-looking, and worth keeping because of this. I feel that business cards need to be durable if given at large events such as the one I just described because most likely they will be tossed into a bag along with the overwhelming amount of materials their recipients receive.

Another feature that would cause me to keep a business card is its uniqueness. If the business card is a unique one, I am going to show many of my peers, and that would be additional advertising for the person or business.

Favorite author swag? What makes you want to plow through the crowd, knocking librarians to the ground so you can grab what people are giving away at conference booths?

Now this is why I bring my husband along to library or book conventions--so he can do the plowing for me (just kidding!) As I walk around an event, I am constantly looking at what other people have in their hands. If they love an item they snagged, it is funny how it is clutched tightly in their hands (not stuffed into a bag) so everyone can see their “prize.” Things that have caught my attention and made me go ask where they got their “prizes” are: colorful bookbags with the book’s characters printed on them, silly bands, socks (these cracked me up this year--lots of schools have silly sock day, so I can’t wait to show mine off!), hats, and free advance reader copy books. The ARCs are the most common freebie at a librarian’s event, and the way they are greedily grabbed actually makes me embarrassed at the way some of my colleagues act.

As a librarian, what are some things you like or don't like to receive (via mail or email) about author visits or new books? What gets your attention and leads you to follow up?

There are a few things that frustrate me when I receive author information, like when an author does not share who the target audience is. I like to know that if an author is willing to speak to different grade levels how they will vary their presentation for each group so that it is age appropriate. Another bit of information I like to see is reviews of the book or presentation. Finally, I know it is hard to do, but I feel that librarians really want to know up front what the estimated cost would be for an author visit or new book. If I don’t find this information in an initial email, flier, etc., I often wonder if that means the cost is too high for me to look more into. Sadly, with more and more librarians being cut these days, more and more demands are placed upon those remaining. This means librarians will have less time to research more into things such as book and author visit reviews, costs, and so forth. So the more information shared upfront in a simple, clear-cut, and attractive way, the better.

Authors who are planning school visits want to offer programs that teachers will find valuable but that won't bore the kids. What kinds of author presentations have you seen that have a good mix of entertainment and educational content? Any advice about what to avoid in a school visit?

An author has the kids attention as soon as they make a connection with the kids. Usually this is done when an author shares a little bit about themselves. Kids will eagerly listen especially when this is shared using technology or in a fun way (such as with illustrations or acting out their bio). Both teachers and students LOVE it when authors read their books aloud. That is almost a requirement in my mind for any author visit. Often times when I hear a story read aloud by the author I get an “ah-ha” moment in which I realize their way of reading their story was perfect and one I want to duplicate in my future readings of the story.

During the visit, I would ask teachers to pick a student who has a question for the author rather than pick random students from the audience to ask the author questions. It saddens me when an author asks for questions (which is a great way to connect with the students), and then they get comments about Johnny’s new pet dog, etc. My last presenter shared her expertise about birds of the rainforest. When she asked for questions from the students, one student asked out of the blue how birds mate. It was a rather awkward moment for all as she felt she had to give some response to the student. I also feel that so much time is wasted by students who don’t have a good question thought ahead of time for the author. So I would ask for maybe each teacher to call on one of their students (since they know their personalities), or have the classes generate a list of questions beforehand (something I am going to do in my library lessons) and select from those questions.

Another author had stickers made for each student who attended her author visit. That way every child went home with something from the author (in case their parents didn’t purchase an autographed book), and the students became a helpful tool in marketing the author’s books. It was a brilliant marketing strategy in my mind and the students loved her for it too!

A question from a Twitter follower: How do libraries decide what books to order? Do librarians follow book bloggers for information, or stick to things like publishers' catalogs and reviews from ALA and Publishers Weekly?

It is hard to speak for all librarians, because each may have their own strategies. But school librarians should only use their book budget in purchasing books/materials that serve an educational purpose. Public librarians may have a different strategy, so be sure and ask them how they go about choosing what books to order. As a school librarian, I look for book reviews in the magazine Library Sparks, which targets librarians and teachers that service children in the elementary and middle schools. As I read this magazine, if I am “wowed” by a book’s review or if I see that it will be perfect for a grade level’s upcoming unit, I jot in on a list I have generated. I then refer to my list and look up each book’s review on a publisher or vendor’s site. The most popular resource is Follett’s Titlewave. I have found that just about every professional review of a title is posted on this site, so I only have to look up reviews on this one site rather than search around on many different sites. Librarians again are more and more limited on their time, so having one location versus many to refer to is preferred.

Authors may be wondering now how to get reviewed in magazines such as Library Sparks. I would look up the most common reviewers for the magazine, and contact them to see if they are interested in writing a review or creating lessons to go along with your book.

I will refer to blogs if they are advertised by an email, flier, or business card that catches my attention. I also look through publisher’s catalogs too. But again, I add books that interest me onto my growing list and look for reviews on Titlewave before I place my next order.

For a writer who doesn't have an online presence yet, what one thing would you recommend they do to get started?

I recommend that they start small, such as trying a blog, Facebook/Twitter account, or be a Goodreads or Shelfari author. If they are able to keep up with one of these choices (I believe that only one should be chosen initially for a few months), and if they are receiving feedback from their targeted group, they can then chose another option or focus on becoming more advanced in what they initially chose. I feel that whatever choice they do make in developing an online presence should be updated regularly and evaluated to see if it's an effective means of promotion. There is no use in wasting your precious time on a website if your targeted audience isn't looking at it. Ask for users’ feedback, comments, or even offer mini contests/sweepstakes to see how much your website or online presence is being utilized. If you find that there is hardly any response, try a different option.

While I think having a website is important, I do not think it should be an initial investment for a writer who is just getting started. My husband is a computer programmer and has helped me in creating my own website. However, I found that it was too time-consuming for me to update and not being utilized by my targeted audience. Although it was free and I had instant IT support, it was not an effective means of marketing at this point for me personally.

What are some good ways authors can market their books to teachers and librarians? A publication to advertise in or something they can do online to help get the word out?

One big marketing trend that librarians appreciate from children’s authors is a curriculum guide or lesson ideas that go along with their books. Again, I am a school librarian who may only purchase books that have an educational purpose. This purpose can even be something as simple as a fun book that will hook “reluctant readers” (a big buzz word lately that librarians and teachers look for in a book--will it get my reluctant readers to love reading?). Kids, teachers, and librarians also love websites listed in the back of a book that they can go to in order to learn more. An example is author Jan Brett. She has become such a huge success as an author in my opinion because her website is targeted to connect and be utilized by all her readers (students, teachers, librarians, parents, etc.).

Thank you so much to Mandy for taking the time to answer the interview questions!

In tomorrow's post I'll share Mandy's "shopping list" for author marketing and tips for making business cards unique and keep-worthy

Saturday, July 9, 2011

That's What (S)he said: Weekly Round-Up

Hi everyone! Here are a few sharable things I found around the interwebs this week:

This looks like something fun for writers on an agent search: Deana Barnhart is hosting a month-long Get An Agent Blogfest. See the weekly plan and more details here.

I love book trailers, and I'm sure I'll want to make my own when my publication date gets closer. Author Lena Coakely did a helpful two-part post about making a trailer for her novel, WITCHLANDERS. Here's part 1 and part 2.

Speaking of book trailers, author A.C. Gaughen launched her new website this week when she released the trailer for her debut novel SCARLET. It's gorgeous!

Another of my Apocalypsie-sisters, Lenore Appelhans, has donated a 10,000-word critique for a young adult novel to TLC auctions. There's still time to bid till tomorrow evening!

I'm not sure why I've just recently discovered Blake Snyder's Save the Cat!. It's not a new book, but for some reason I keep hearing about it lately. I think it was Nikki Loftin who told me that it's one of those books that makes you say, "Damn, I wish I had this three books ago." It offers do-able plotting for those of us who don't like to plot. I plan to use it to back up and plot out the YA novel I'm revising now, and will use it to plot the next book before I start writing it. I was going to fill in the "Beat Sheet" from the book (showing the different turns in a story) while watching E.T. to help me become more familiar with it, and I thought, "This is hard. I wonder if someone else has done it." Yes, someone has. I was thrilled to find these videos on the Mediajuice Saves the Cat! Blog. They put together video clips from several popular movies, indicating each beat along the way. Here's a post from another fan who doesn't like to plot--Charissa Weaks' Favorite Post Friday about Save the Cat!.

I just got onto Google+, but like most people on it, I'm still kind of flailing around not knowing what to do with it yet. Here's a post with some great tips by Debbie Ridpath Ohi (who somehow has it figured out already) about why she's loving Google+.

This week's book recommendation: THE REVENANT by Sonia Gensler, a young adult historical fiction with a ghost story that will keep you turning the pages.

And these friends are adorable, but I can't decide whether this bird is really brave or really dumb.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I Can Stop Anytime I Want, Really

I've mentioned before that I've always loved elephants, but I wasn't until I was writing CHAINED that I started hoarding collecting them. They sit on the writing desk as inspiration. Certainly I have enough, but it seems like I always find another one that really, really wants me to take it home.

Here's what the mailman brought yesterday, all the way from an Etsy seller in Greece:

Adorable, isn't he? Tara Lazar found him, actually, and thought I might like to adopt him. So let's blame her, shall we?

Doesn't he look great with the rest of the family?

I should introduce the rest of the herd:
- the dark wooden one I found on eBay
- Horton, of course
- In the back is a leather bank from Bookpeople in Austin
- the light-colored figure is from a shop in Hawaii where the little shop owner nearly tackled my mom when she tried to leave without buying anything
- The set in front are metal, from the Chautauqua bookstore when I was there for the Highlights Institute in 2008
- and the round metal thing is an elephant bell, also from eBay.

That's not even the entire collection--there's also a wooden mother and baby, and a wooden elephant bell I ordered when I was writing a scene for CHAINED in which a character carves one. (So that one was really necessary, wasn't it? It's research!)

And I have enablers. Sometimes people who know I love elephants will pick up elephant things for me...

A few examples

...which is awesome.

So, is there anything you collect that has to do with your writing? Tell me I'm not the only one.

If my behavior escalates, I'll be driving around in an elephant car, inspired by this sweet ride, the hippo car:

Cheerio in the Houston Art Car Parade
And at last night's SCBWI meeting. It pees and wags its tail!

I should probably find a sponsor to talk me down from this.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

That's What (S)he said: Weekly Round-Up

Here's the stuff I found this week that I want to pass along:

You may have seen the post by The Bloggess about the metal chicken since it went viral (or "bacterial," as she suggests), but you must check it out if you missed it. It's not often I'm laughing so hard I'm crying while reading a blog post.

Here's a great contest to pass along to teachers and librarians: in author Caroline Starr Rose's book club kit giveaway, one lucky school or reading group will win a kit containing ten copies of her debut novel MAY B., a discussion guide, lesson ideas, bookmarks, a Skype visit, and more. Everyone who enters will get a set of bookmarks, and the giveaway ends November 1st.

If you're wondering what should be on your author website, see agent Kathleen Ortiz's post, Author Websites: The Basics.

Other cool things I found about social media and websites and such:
If you like the new floating share button I have now on the left side of the page, you can go to these step-by-step instructions from Howbler to get one for your own Blogspot blog. There are several colors to choose from, and it took almost no time to add it.

I have a new email signature I love, with little icons people can click on for the different places I can be found online, and it updates with a link to my most recent blog post. Here, I'll show you:

Nice, isn't it? It's also really easy to set up (otherwise I wouldn't do it). You can make your own with Wisestamp, and customize different signatures for work and personal emails if you'd like, too. I found Wisestamp from this article on the Biztips Blog.

Wonder what you tweeted way back in 2007? Galleycat had an article this week about the TweetScan backup, which lets you archive your old Tweets.

Some good posts about writing:

Chuck Wendig's Terribleminds blog is educational and hilarious, so it's one worth bookmarking. They have a "25 Things" series for writers, which includes articles like "25 Things You Should Know About Character (AKA Anatomy of a Character)."

Yesterday's post from Veronica Roth was about why you should stop listening to advice. But listen to her, 'cause she's awesome and smart.

Fun stuff:
Whatever you're doing, it's not so important that you can't stop to watch penguins jumping on and off an iceberg.

And did everyone love The Voice as much as I did? All the finalists were so good, I'd have been happy with whoever won. Actually I felt like that the whole season-- I hated to see anyone go home. Here's one of my favorite performances, the coaches singing "Under Pressure." For one scary moment I thought it was going to be "Ice, Ice, Baby."

Have a safe and happy 4th of July weekend!