How to Increase
the Exposure of
Your Children’s Book
by Helen Laycock
1. Visit schools and libraries
I taught at primary school level (for children aged 7 – 11) for many years, during which time I came to understand that many teachers lack confidence in instigating and following through creative writing lessons, yet being able to write creatively is something which children are expected to do. Although the nuts and bolts of grammar and spelling can be taught, the instinctive part that can create something unique and original, and communicate that effectively, is not always an area in which teachers feel comfortable. This is where you come in…
Call in a children’s author!
Author visits are popular for many reasons:
- The teachers benefit – they can sit in, ostensibly, to keep control whilst surreptitiously learning the tricks of creating dialogue, characterisation, beginnings, endings and plot twists. Alternatively, it’s an opportunity to have a free lesson to catch up with marking;
- The children love them – they’re a treat, time off from lessons where they don’t have to ‘work’ and they can lose themselves in a good story. Of course, author visits will be hugely inspirational to them and they will learn from them whether they realise it or not. More than anything, your talk should inspire or reignite a love of reading.
If you do a good job, this could be a regular event for you as new children pass through each year, and you need not restrict yourself to one school.
Big names can be expensive and schools regularly run on a deficit budget. You may get paid. You probably won’t. But it’s still a promotion opportunity. Get the children interested in you and your book/s and you have set in motion the beginnings of a following.
If you are willing to talk to the children about the writing process, as well as entertain them with extracts from your book, then you will be an absolute gift to the school.
If your talk is going to take place somewhere other than a school, promote it: put posters up in the area (bookshops, coffee shops, libraries, stationers, supermarkets), make the most of every bit of social media that you use (you can “Create an event” on FB, Tweet it regularly, give updates on LinkedIn and Goodreads), email those who might be interested, contact local newspapers and see if there is a local forum for the town or village you are in.
2. Book festivals
These are great places to visit, and are valuable to a writer whether there as an audience member, or as a contributor. Listen to well-known writers and take note of how they conduct and organise their talks. There are usually fans in the audience – children – so they will communicate in a child-friendly way. There is often a peppering of humour, sometimes an illustrator is drawing at the same time and there is always a book signing at the end. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to speak at one of the big festivals, although sometimes there’s an open-mike session – a great opportunity to pique the interest of professionals – but there are also lots of smaller festivals where they have an indie day or are actively looking for a local children’s author to speak. Contact the organisers in plenty of time beforehand so that you can book your place.
Everyone likes a freebie. Get bookmarks made, or make your own using a laminator (use a clipper to make sharp corners curved). Mine are two-sided, showing four book covers on each. I have separate bookmarks for the adult market. Whenever you speak, leave bookmarks on chairs. Wherever you sell a book, leave one inside. Drop them off at the libraries and at schools. You can also get business cards made with contact and website details shown; they are easy to carry around and can be left at coffee shops, etc. and can be handed out to interested parties.
If you write for adults and children, as I do, it’s a good idea to have separate websites. You don’t want to traumatize children who have looked you up, only to find a gory story you have penned at the midnight hour!
Children respond well to visual imagery. If possible, have a few animations or, at least, child-friendly pictures. It needs to be fun. You could also have a tab where children can interact with you. On my website, I offer children the chance to have their poems featured, and I encourage them to leave reviews about their favorite children’s books. You could write a blog by a character, set up competitions and have quizzes. At your talk (point 1!), mention that you have a website and invite the children to engage with you there.
Keep a look out for these (in writing magazines and online); they are another way of sticking your head above the parapet. If you get a win or a shortlisting, your book and bio may get mentioned. Keep a variety of up-to-date bios of different word counts, plus easy to access links to websites, author pages, Goodreads, Twitter, etc.
Also, keep a CV of all your successes; they might sway a potential publisher or agent into taking you on if you have a proven track record.
6. Give books as gifts
If you know the recipients, they might:
- share the news (and photo) on social media;
- take the book to school;
- lend to friends;
- buy for friends.
Also look into giveaway opportunities. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing allows you to give a kindle book free for five days within a limited period. This year, I am giving away one each month.
7. Writing forums
I think all writers should join a relevant group or two. You can pick up all sorts of tips and there is always the possibility that there will be someone who frequents the group who is looking for the type of material you write.
Reviews are the Holy Grail. We all love them. Sadly, not all readers realise how important they are to (a) our self-esteem and (b) our Amazon ranking!
Some writers use high pressure techniques to get them and bombard every living soul with requests to provide feedback on their wares. I can’t do that and, anyway, people don’t like it.
Instead, I have left a parting note on the last page of each book: “If you have enjoyed this story, please do let me know by leaving a review and lots of stars…”
But children don’t.
Thus, you need to appeal to adult readers, too.
There are two types of reviewers I avoid – those who charge for reviewing and those who offer reciprocal reviews. I believe that if you pay, the review will not be genuine. If you do a swap review, you can be put in a difficult situation. If what you are given is sub-standard and you say so, then there is the danger of retaliation where your own book will be marked down. If, on the other hand, you talk about the sub-standard book favorably, (a) this is dishonest and (b) you will get a reputation of being an unreliable reviewer.
There are many sites where reviewers review for the love of it. I have never pushed for reviews, but, this year, my plan is to contact those in it for the love of reading. One website I have come across is: The Indie View.
Another way to get known is by interacting with those who run blogs where you can be featured (thank you, Dan!). I have found that the more you engage in online discussions, the more you will be invited to take part in the writing activities of others.
9. Target local bookshops
This is a long shot. I tried my local one, but it was against policy. That doesn’t mean it’s the same in every bookshop. There’s no harm in asking.
10. Be original, Know Your Audience, and Leave Your Mark
There is no point writing a book similar to one that’s out there. Chances are, it will overshadow yours which will come out as a poor second, plus publishers and agents won’t take on something which has to compete for readership. They are looking for fresh voices, so be unique and original. You want your book to stand out. Leave extracts for feedback – and these should garner interest. The Book Bazaar on Kindleboards allows you to start a new thread for each book you have written and you can add to it weekly.
I don’t think that you can write for children in isolation. Take opportunities to spend time with them. I was lucky. As a teacher, I got to understand how they functioned, what entertained them, what interested them, what frightened them. Being a parent also gives a writer an insight. Unless it’s a historical story, avoid old-fashioned elements. Be in touch with kids of today so that you know a bit about modern life and what makes them tick. Read some of the books which are popular right now to get a sense of the voice that children respond to, the familiarity, the vocabulary, the humour… and remember that however good your book is, if it doesn’t get seen, the world has missed out on that nugget of brilliance.
Read Part 2 of 10 Marketing Tips for Children’s Authors–How to Organize Your Classroom Visit.
Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.
Despite what you might think, having a loud voice is not the number one requisite for promoting yourself as a children’s writer as M.G. author and short story writer, Helen Laycock, quietly points out.
Helen’s books and musings can be found on her Children’s Author website or her Fiction in a Flash website. You can follow Helen on Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, or her personal blog. Her book, The Secret of Pooks Wood, can be found at major book retailers.
The Secret of Pooks Wood
SOMETIMES MISTAKES CAN BE PUT RIGHT. SOMETIMES THEY CAN’T… When twins, Lily and Ollie, are stranded over Christmas at Great Hawkesden Manor with their mother, Stella, they have no idea what will happen when they find an old glass snow globe. Inside it, not only is there a miniature model of the manor house… there is magic. This is a time-shift adventure to be enjoyed by readers from 9—12, or beyond… who knows?