Lesson Week One—Make Your Online Presence Sparkle
Hello! I'm so glad you’re here and that I'll get to work with you for the next six weeks! I'm excited to share what I've learned in my thirty-year experience in the children's book world—so thank you and welcome to Marketing Books for Children! I hope this course inspires and supports you in creating your children's book campaign. Email your progress and questions to for feedback! Please don't share the course content. I worked hard to put this together. Thank you!
So, marketing is a wonderful tool to use but it's not as important as your creative work. Make sure that remains your priority. After my first few books were published, I became so disappointed in the marketing that I decided to get a job at Random House to figure out what this marketing was all about. After three years at Random House, I saw that the author/illustrator was indeed disconnected from the marketing process, but the most important work, after all, is for the author/illustrator is to produce their next book. So let this be a side obsession and keep to your creative work as your main focus.
Get a notebook! There are some exercises for writing in this lesson and, if a glimpse of an idea sparks, write it down so you don't lose it. If a blog or local newspaper comes to mind which might feature your book—write it down. As a prep to your mind space around marketing, I would like you to make a list of your top five goals. Then write your goals in affirmation form. For example, I would love to have a Caldecott. My affirmation would read: "I have a Caldecott Awarded Book. And if you have any pesky naysaying thoughts that creep into your mind, write them down. You can see clearly what you are telling yourself—and you can replace it with a positive thought. When you begin your marketing work for this course each day, read through those goals and belief-changing affirmations as a sort of mind primer. I find that keeping your goals focused activates a problem-solving part of the mind that creates solutions and action steps to get you to your goals. Your path lays down in front of you and becomes easier to follow.
What Makes You—You
Children's Books is an industry filled with people who make books for the love of it. The reason that drives you is what sets you apart in the market. What are you already bringing to the market or what do you want to bring to the market? List five to ten reasons you make books. List five to 10 qualities you bring to the market.
Who is Your Reader
What do you hope to bring to your reader?
How old is your reader? Or the person who buys the books for your reader?
What are they looking to add to their life by buying your book?
What are you hoping reading your book will bring to them? Below is a downloadable pdf to help you explore your favorite reader. You can fill this out based on one of the favorite readers that you actually know, or you can fill out several pdf's and then make a mash-up of a favorite reader. You can also find a photo to represent them. This pdf explores your reader and your reader's grownup buyer since we are focusing on picture books. If you create middle grade or young adult books, your reader may also be the buyer and you can modify accordingly.
Serving Your Reader
Defining who you serve and why you serve is an important aspect to keep in mind.
Today, marketing perspectives have shifted from trying to sell somebody something to how does your something (your book) serve your audience/reader? We want to create something of value for our reader. Marketing your book is a way to bring more content, connection, and insight to your reader.
Marketing to a Small Group
Being the best in the market to a small community creates a solid platform for your marketing campaign. Seth Godin (marketing expert) makes a comparison: if you pour a cup of dye into a pool it will change the pool's color. However, the same cup of dye poured into the ocean will be absorbed by the ocean. To find your small community to serve, look for the crossover between your passion to make books and your passion to serve your reader. That is your sweet spot. That is where you can position yourself to be the best in the market. Seth Godin also recommends finding two extremes of service—not just one. For example, you could make the most beautiful, visually sophisticated books and with few or no words. Your book could then serve extremes in the market—those looking for the most beautiful books as well as those containing the least number of words. You may become the best at creating engaging books for sophisticated thinkers but under average readers. That community will love you for what you do and you will charm and serve them. The word about you will spread and your audience/readership will grow. Look for the reason you make books, what drives your passion, and how to serve your community. Highlight those reasons in your marketing, and your audience gets the chance to admire your work, recommend you, and a larger audience can grow from there.
Part of serving your audience is how you communicate. I encourage you to slow down and make sure that you respond to people in a calm and thoughtful manner. I remember when my kids were little. I would run around the house doing things when they really wanted me to be still. They wouldn't necessarily need me, but they wanted to know where I was and know I was available if they needed me. So, be a steady presence to your audience and reader. That means being consistent and staying focused.
Write down all those adjectives that make you, you. Start with a short bio that describes you, shows your personality, and is only a couple of lines. You can create a few bios for different occasions. What do you like? What do you dislike? What awards or honors have you received? What makes you the right person to create the book you are creating? Read through some of these bios at Enchanted Lion Books—which, if you ask me, does a great job at everything. Call me Claudia, let's have coffee. xo
Create a likable photo of yourself or, if you are an illustrator, you could illustrate your headshot. This image should be something that your readers will feel connected to. Generally, a close up will create a better connection to your reader. You can also use an illustrated character from an upcoming book in preparation for a book release.
I happened to notice that Jon Klassen publicity photo brands himself with his work.. Take a look at his headshot here. He looks quiet, understated, and subdued—like his humor. He looks like a character from one of his books. I imagine all these decisions are intentional.
Create accounts for all social media platforms. Some accounts you can be active on, others can just serve as a landing page and can direct readers to connect by visiting your website. Make sure all the platforms are cohesive by using the same:
1. handle name—use your name if possible. This way you are easily recognizable and taggable. If your name is common, you can add something descriptive to it—such as books, or illustrator and so on.
2. your simple bio describing at minimum Children's Book Author & Illustrator, a short bio, or add a charming detail that best describes your personality.
3. headshot (a clear photo of you, an illustrated image of you, or an illustration of one of your characters).
4. banner that reinforces your brand and identity.
5. contact info—ideally, your website.
You can change these identifying items and fine-tune them for each book release, but, when you do, change it across all the platforms: Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, for Young Adult books: Goodreads, Tumblr
Have fun and show your personality!
Below is a random sampling of Instagram accounts from a few children's bookmakers. Hover to see the arrow to scroll through the images. Click on the image for a link to each artist's website.
Yuyi—is very casual. You would have to know more about her to be able to recognize her as a children's bookmaker but her photo looks playful and good-natured.
Bethan—known for a dry sense of humor. She uses her most well-known character from Little Red as her profile picture. She writes "queen of the side eye glance" which reoccurs again and again in all of her books—perfectly representing her brand. Her profile also mentions where she is from. You could use your character's image as a profile picture when a new release comes out.
Candace—describes what she does, so we know we have the right person. She has only 29 posts, so she is not active, but she maintains a presence so that she can be located, tagged, and can direct readers/audience to her website. She has also added the word books to her handle name.
Kadir—describes his specialty and directs his audience to his shop.
Mac—is to the point—no fuss—a little dry—a little snappy.
Julie—just lists herself as an artist. She could update this around a book launch and say "Illustrator of her upcoming book".
Carson—leads with her passion—drawing. You can see beautiful work in her feed and she lists her website.
Jessica—just published her first book and clearly names it in her profile. She also added "draws" to her handle name.
Melissa—describes herself as an artist and writer from Maine with a link to her website.
Isabelle—describes herself as an illustrator with a link to her website.
JooHee—Only shows images of her work. We would have to know a little about whom we are looking for in order to identify her.
Christian—states his philosophy and shows he is on a school visiting circuit. It's recommended to use your name as your handle, but Christian has made ART OF FUN work for him and it's also his website.
Mo—is not going to engage you at all here, but big promises if you will go to his website. This is a good example as using a not-in-use account as a pointer.
Email is Queen
Social media allows others to own content—content that YOU are creating. Social media is good for reaching out and finding new readers/audiences(that is why it is so important to clearly state who you are), but the most valuable connector for marketing is email. Ideally, your online presence will point to your website to collect emails from your readers. Engage with your readers on the platforms you enjoy using and set up "pointer" accounts on the platforms you don't enjoy using. If you have already set up a MailChimp account or another email marketing provider, then great! If not, you can set up your website to automatically subscribe users to your account.
Your website works if it is easy to navigate easily and clearly gives the impression of what makes you, you. Marketers say that you have a few seconds to grab your reader. I know that is true for me. My attention span is minute. So, I like to have a clear landing page of an image that wows or one that features my new book release. It is important that you can easily update your website and have control over it.
The most basic website can show your books, artwork, about you, contact info, and it can collect emails from your readers. You can set up this email collection to automatically add subscribers to an email list. I HATE pop-ups though everyone swears by them. I refuse to use them. I decided to use a sign-up bar in the footer on every page of my website. That way it is obvious but not obnoxious. If you want to be more bold—I suggest creating an extremely enticing gift for those that sign up. Maria Papova Brain Pickings, for example, has the least offensive pop-up that I have come across.
The flow to the website can be treated as a sales funnel. Use social media to direct readers to your website, keep readers on your website, to enjoy your content. Be sure not to add flash that directs them off of your website. You can add your social media contact icons, but don't direct your readers away from your website except to a link that allows them to buy your book. Amazon, of course, is the easiest, but it's always good to have another option. You can offer signed copies but this will require you to add a shopping cart with shipping and mailing included. Alternatively, you can also add links to buy your books where you have had events or back to your publisher if they offer a retail outlet.
What else can you use your website for?
How can your website create an experience and an added connection for your readers?
How can your website highlight what you have to offer?
How can you create a community with your website?
How can you give your reader a sense of who you are?
Here are some additional items that can be added to your website:
Teaching downloads related to your book.
Art or craft projects related to your book.
Cooking projects related to your book.
School visit information and programs.
Talks and presentations offered.
Here are a few samples of children's book maker's websites.
One of my favorite artists, but her website is from ages ago. For that time, this was a great website, but from a marketing standpoint, it's not that immediate in navigations since there is a lot of clicking to windows of images.
Always smart, efficient, and generous with lots of resources in this functional site.
Her website launches with a front page featuring current news before it goes into her website. One recommended format is to splash your big news on the homepage and then go on to your menu. Beatrice wows us on the first page with a beautiful, rich illustration from her new book.
A very functional, immediate, practical site. The images are large and easy to read. If you click on the menu you can go into the other pages that are equally easy to read.
How clever is this? How many things can Laura make out of a yellow dot?
So well organized and pretty!
Charm your email subscribers by sending out interesting and thoughtful yet simple content on a light basis. You can decide what would be comfortable for you. I suggest once a month or quarterly—other marketers recommend more often. You want to be visible to your readers and make their day even more pleasant by opening your email. Your email content can include news about events, new work, your process, or art or craft how-to activities, animations, book trailers, links to podcasts. Be generous!
Once you have your online presence set—you are ready to reach out on other marketing venues.