Children’s authors face some unique challenges. While authors of books about religion or history — or even a romance novelist — have a ready-made audience of people interested in that genre, children’s authors have more of an uphill battle. They need to identify their target audience and convince them that this book is the right one for their kids.
So how should children’s authors get their books out there and in the hands (and minds) of the right people? Here are six strategies to try.
Children’s Authors: 6 Things to Keep in Mind When Marketing Your Books
1. Word of mouth is key. There’s no one out there searching Google for “great kids books.” It just doesn’t happen. So how does a children’s book make it onto the bestseller list? The key is usually word of mouth. In other words, one child reads the book and loves it. Her mom is sitting at the playground the next day and starts talking to her friend about the great book that her daughter read the night before. That’s the beginning of what is ultimately a long chain of conversations about this “book my child loves.” So start by getting your book into the hands of as many parents as possible. Give out free copies. Offer a special deal for your e-book. The more kids that can read it, the more parents that can talk about it.
2. Talk to multiple audiences. Who buys children’s books? Well, parents buy children’s books. Teachers add children’s books to their curriculum. Librarians make children’s book purchases. And, of course, you’ve got the kid who comes home from school and says, “Mommy … will you PLEASE buy me that book that little Timmy was reading?” In other words, children’s authors need to sell their books to multiple audiences. You, of course, want kids to love it. You also want to convince parents that it includes a good lesson for their child. And you want teachers and librarians to know that it’s a great book that will help their kids read (and maybe learn other things along the way). In other words, you need to position your book to each of these audiences uniquely, and possibly even dedicate specific flyers, social media messages, or pages on your website accordingly.
3. Think about events. An event can be many things. It can be a speaking engagement at the public library or local school. It can be a book reading and signing at a bookstore. Or an event can be a fun gathering at the local park or rec center. Maybe you invite kids there with lots of food, snacks and activities. Maybe you create life-like versions of your characters and have the kids interact with them. You can think as big or as small as possible, but actually having the opportunity to interact with parents and children will help you build a loyal fan following. You can find examples of great children’s authors’ events on the Children’s Book Council “Kid Lit” page.
4. Join a children’s book community. There are various organizations out there full of children’s authors (and sellers!) For example, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) boasts more than 22,000 members, and has various regional chapters that hold conferences throughout the year. Conferences like these — and others — allow writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, and agents to meet and get to know one another. Connect with professionals in the industry, and get a chance to schmooze with top children’s book publishers.
5. Make the online experience fun and interactive. Remember: your book is for kids. That means it needs to be fun. So make your children’s author website or social media presence just that. Examples of ways to do this can include:
- A social media campaign in which you ask users to submit cute photos of kids reading your book
- An online poll in which you allow readers (parents and kids alike) to choose the name of a character in your next book
- A fun crossword puzzle that uses the names of characters/places in your book
- A kids’ writing contest, in which kids can submit their own book reviews, recommended additions to your story, etc…
These are just a few ideas of ways to bring your story into an interactive online experience. Get creative and come up with your own.
6. Think big (and yes, I know that’s the name of a popular children’s book). What makes your book different and unique? How can you market it to your audience? Publishers Weekly recently cited a few good examples of authors who did just that. In promoting his children’s book about little league baseball, The Hometown All Stars, Kevin Christofora sold copies of it in bulk to a local little league team, which they could then re-sell to parents at full price as part of a fundraising effort. Laura Barta, author of My China Travel Journal, actually founded a toy company and included the book as a learning tool in a larger set of educational materials about China that also includes “color story cards for reading comprehension, a fabric play mat, and standup puzzle pieces.”
Get your book in front of as many kids, parents and teachers as possible, and let the word spread!