3 Creative Ways to Promote Your Book

How do you promote your books when buyers can’t come to events and you can’t do school visits?  Authors who have had books come out in 2020 have gotten creative.  Here are 5 of my favorites.

An Online Scavenger Hunt

To promote his book, Into the Clouds, about a 1953 attempt to reach the summit of K2, Tod Olson has created an online scanvenger hunt.  He gives the reader a bit of information about the story found in his book.  Then he asks a question.  Readers search for the answer and then key it in.  Answer by answer, in this interactive quiz, they make their way up the mountain.

This might not work for your book but you could do a visual scavenger hunt – identify these animals, find these art objects, and more.  Take a look at your book and you’re bound to come up with ideas.

A Giveaway

Olson has a giveaway for Into the Clouds on the last page of his scavenger hunt.  I’ve seen other giveaways for all of an author’s preceding books.  Last year, I won a copy of Sharon Mayhew’s Keep Calm and Carry On, Children with accompanying British snacks.

Get creative! If your main character is a knitter, give away the book and a knitting pattern and the yarn needed to make it.

Teach Them Something

Mo Willems has been doing a series of videos where he shows his viewers how to draw something specific, such as The Pigeon.  Debbie Ridpath Ohi has done similiar videos.  She also has a series of images she has made that feature found objects – a broken crayon, a flower petal and more.

Not an illustrator?  Neither am I.  But you can teach your readers to do things that are integral to your books such as draw a map, build a platform to feed birds, or make their own invisible ink.

What you do to promote your book will depend on your book itself.  Brainstorm some ideas and then see which ones you should tackle first.  There are young readers out there desperate to make a connection.


Book Promotion: Where Does Your Book Fit in the Library

I wish I could remember which editor gave us this piece of advice.  She said that when we submit a manuscript, we should be able to tell the editor what special B&N displays would include our book. If we can do that, we know that there is a market/interest in the subject.  I know she mentioned holidays, but she also discussed back to school and the seasons.

When I saw the above display at my local library, I got all excited. Not only can patrons check out books about music, they can check out instruments too. How cool is this for the authors who have books about music, musicians and song?

If you have the right book, a lending program like this is a dream come true.  Just think about it.  You can pitch a program based on your book, load the program with music or making a simple instrument, and then close with information about the instruments that patrons can borrow.

Throughout my library system, the St. Louis County Libraries, patrons can check out the usual things – books, audiobooks, ebooks, magazines, ezines, music, and movies.  But you can also check out wifi hot spots, telescopes, musical instruments and various science discovery sets. Authors with books on aliens, life on other planets, stars, or the moon could do programs full of astronomy activities and end with information on the telescopes.  Depending on what science kits are available, an author with a book on science or a particular scientist could promote use of the kits.

Show the library how your book and program can be used to promote library use.  Sure the people who come to a library program tend to be library patrons, but librarians love it when you help their numbers.  And, maybe its the nonfiction writer in me, but I get all happy when I see a teen walking out with a telescope.


Music and Video: Another way to connect with young readers

As writers, we are constantly on the lookout for ways to connect with young readers.  Even if we have a social media presence we may not be sure what to include on our web sites, blogs or Twitter feeds that might appeal to our readers themselves vs. their parents, teachers or librarians.  This can be especially tricky if you write for preschoolers or other young picture book readers.

Recently, my library system, the St. Louis County Library, included a piece in a newsletter about “Rhythm and Tunes” video. My being nosey – yes, I can say it – I clicked through and found a host of videos.  Each features a simple song, something rhythmic, and hand motions to bring the rhythm to life.

The video that I included above features Jennifer Ilardi, a librarian at the Florissant Valley branch.  That’s my branch.  Not only is it my branch now, it is the branch I grew up with so I’m admittedly biased.  Jennifer also still carries on over my son although he’s no longer a precious kindergartener and now towers over her at 6 feet.

But anyway, in this video, Jennifer uses simple hand puppets that she made from gloves.  In another she rhythmically waves a scarf.  You could so something similar with nursery rhymes and folk songs that somehow link to your book.  Truly the possibilities are endless.

I am currently working on a picture book about a patriotic theme.  That leaves out nursery rhymes but I could do Yankee Doodle or This Land Is Your Land.  Maybe You’re a Grand Old Flag.

Something that really struck me watching this and a few others.  The background is super simple.  So are the props.  If you click through and watch several you’ll note that everyone wears a similar shirt and they do a series of videos with each background – blue, red, green and orange.

Just a little food for thought as we all work on our various picture book manuscripts.


Book Spotting: Letting a Fellow Author Know You’ve Seen Her Book

Photo by Susan Ahearn

Last week I spent some time walking on air.  One of my students “sighted” Black Lives Matter at her local library and sent me a photo.  It’s great to know that my book is a part of special displays and librarians are working to put it in young reader’s hands.

Given how great this made me feel, I’m going to make a point to do this for other writers.  I’ll be taking photos of books and audio books at my local library.  We now have separate floors for adults and children but I spotted some of the children’s books upstairs in a “Check Me Out” display put together by the librarians.  Given that our phones double as cameras, this is going to be super easy to do.

But I’m also going to post book covers on Twitter whenever I check something out.  My planned tweet will be something like “Thanks to @SLCL for stocking books by Missouri authors! Checked out and on top of my TBR pile.”  Why tag my library system?  Because books that don’t circulate enough get remaindered.  With libraries serving so many functions they no longer have the space to act as long-term storage for books that may circulate once a year or so.  Checking it out helps but so does letting other readers know I’m excited about the book and where I got it.

I recently read an article that discussed the fact that millennial may well be the salvation of our library systems.  They are used to having free access to media online.  But they’ve also discovered that they can’t find everything they want online so they are turning to another free source of media – the public library.

Why not help get the word out about the great authors I know and the great books I am reading.  Thank you to Susan Ahearn who sparked this.  Check out my twitter feed (@SueBEdwardslater today to see what book/Missouri author I tweet.


SCBWI 2017 Reading List

Are you a PAL (Published and Listed) Member of SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators)?  If the answer is yes, SCBWI has a promotional opportunity for you might want to take advantage of.  
The Society isputting together a 2017 SCBWI Reading List to promote our PAL authors and illustrators.  As with previous lists this one will be shared with teachers, librarians, and booksellers. But this list offers another great opportunity.  SCBWI will have a booth at NCTE in November.  At this event, they will be handing out the list on flash drives!
Do you have a book on the SCBWI Winter 2016 Reading List?  They you are set and no action is needed (unless you want to add your website/see below). The Society is using the 2016 list as a basis for the new list.
Do you have a 2017 book you would like to see on the list?  You can even substitute it for your 2016 book. The important thing to remember is that there are a lot of us so each member can only contribute ONE BOOK.
To have a 2017 book listed or substituted for a 2016, send the following information to readinglist@scbwi.org:
25 Word (or Less) Book Description:
Your City and State of Residence:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:  (Use PreK-K, 1-2, 3-5, 6-8, or 9-12)
Your Website:
Including your website is a new feature of the list.  This means that if your book is from the 2016 listing, you can add your website to that listing.  Just send the following information to readinglist@scbwi.org:
The deadline for either a new entry or an addition is August 31, 2017.  
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an entry to update!

Book Trailer

Recently I came across the book trailer for Tara Lazar’s Way Past Bedtime.  

Lazar shared a funny story about her trailer.  She was fussing and fuming that she hadn’t gotten it together in time to have a trailer before her book launched.  She fussed and fumed enough that she got the attention of her teen who put together this trailer in one evening.

One.  Evening.

What did it take?  Clearly, she has a program that enabled her to do this.  In this case, it was iMovie.  She had a copy of the book.  And the appropriate music.  And her imagination.

Granted, this is the sort of trailer that is only going to work for a picture book.  Or maybe a graphic novel.

Young adult nonfiction?  Not really.

How could I adapt this approach for my books?  The Ancient Maya could feature images from Mayan ruins.  Spooky images.  Creepy music and prowling jaguar could set the tone.  “Who built these cities and where did they go?”

Honestly, that’s the easy one.  Black Lives Matter?  Maybe a newsroom set up.  Who is this group and where did it come from?

12 Incredible Facts about the Cuban Missile Crisis?  Audio could be news footage and images of kids practicing duck and cover.  “What brought us to this point?  What you need to know to understand the threat of the Cold War.”


What do you need to keep in mind when you put together a trailer?

The tone of your book.  Is your book silly or serious?  Upbeat?

Music.  If you are working with video, don’t forget the audio element.  What type of music can you use to capture the tone of your book?

Images.  A picture book is going to come with images.  But for older nonfiction you have to get creative.

The audience.  If your book is going to have school appeal, you want to create a trailer with visual impact because it may be playing in the background in a school library.

I’ve never made a trailer but this is tempting me to try my hand at creating this all important promotional tool.


Winter Reading List

 Are you an SCBWI Pal Member?  A Pal member is someone who has published a book with a recognized professional publisher. If so, take advantage of this Pal opportunity to promote one of your books.

The organization is pulling together a Winter Reading List for 2016.  Schools, libraries, bookstores and consumers will have access to the list via digital download. SCBWI will promote the list paid advertising, social media marketing and social media advertising.

I’ve already submitted my book for the list.  Have you?  If not, you have until September 30th to take advantage of this opportunity.  Send an e-mail to readinglist@scbwi.org with the following information for your book:

  • Title:
  • Author:
  • Illustrator:
  • Genre:
  • 25 Words (or Less) Book Description:
  • Your City and State of Residence:
  • Publisher:
  • Publication Date:
  • Grade Level (Choose the closest match from this list/PreK-K; 1-2; 3-5; 6-8; 9-12)
  • Also let them know if this is the same book you submitted for the Summer Reading List. That’s okay but they prefer that you take the opportunity to showcase another books.

Remember, this is due FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30.  Take advantage of this free opportunity to showcase your book.


Early Literacy: 1000 Books Before Kindergarten

reading boyThe St. Louis County Library system has an exciting new program — 1000 Books Before Kindergarten.  Studies show that children who have been read to since birth have an edge when it comes time to learn to read.  Why?  Because they have stronger language skills and vocabularies than children who have missed out on this experience.  Children who participate get prizes at 500 books and the full 1000 books.

  • What does this have to do with writing?  Think about the many ways that this program could be to your advantage if you write picture books. Ask to host a story time at your local library.  Read your books.  Read the books of other authors.  Simply watching kids react to books is great research for a picture book writer.
  • Offer various book related material as prizes.  Perhaps you could offer copies of your books or posters of your book cover.  Maybe you could even make a coloring page based on your book cover.  All of this gets word out about your book.
  • Does your church offer a preschool?  Offer a post-school story time for the kids and offer to speak to the parents about the importance of reading aloud to literacy.

I hope that you see where I’m going with this.  Even if you don’t live in St. Louis county, many libraries and humanities councils have early literacy programs.  Look for ways to hook into these programs, educate parents and turn kids on to reading.

It’s a great opportunity to experience your audience first hand.



Goodreads Author: Join the Author Program to Promote Your Books

Goodreads: Book reviews, recommendations, and discussionIf you have a book that is listed on Goodreads, market it by joining the Goodread Author Program.  If you have an author listing, a reader who clicks on your by-line will find a list of all of your books.  You can post events and videos and even quizes on your topic as well as hold contests.  I also have One Writer’s Journey posted on my profile.

Joining is easy.  First, sign in to Goodreads.  If you aren’t a Goodreads member, you’ll have to register first,  If you are, log in and then search for your book.

When you pull it up, you will see your by-line.  Click on it.

This takes you to your author profile page.  If you aren’t part of the Author Program, this page is going to be pretty scant but you can fix that.  Scroll to the bottom and click “is this you? let us know.”

This will let you send a request to join.  Easy peasy mac-n-cheesy.  They say it takes them a few days to process requests.  I think it took one day.

I’ve already removed my birthday from my listing, added a photo of my book cover, and linked my blog into my new profile.  There are tons of things that I can do, now I just need to decide what to do next.  Any suggestions?


Promotional Items

I hadn’t intended to write about promotional items this week but I saw a blog post about the most creative business cards and WOW some of these things are amazing.  You can see the entire line-up in the video below.  That said, I turned off the annoying sound track. Still some of the business cards really made me think.

I especially liked the ones that were interactive: the bike tool business card from the bike shop, the hair dresser card that you rolled into a little person with wacky hair, the photographer’s card that was a clear plastic view finder, and the adventure company’s card that was edible dried meat.  (Ick!)

So what would be interactive and clever for a writer in general or for a particular book?

A spider web on a clear plastic bookmark for Charlotte’s Web.

Blood red nail polish in a bottle with the title and author for Dracula.

A blue semi-transparent bookmark patterned with sea weed for a mermaid story.

My Maya story calls out for a stone knife book mark or a create-your-own stella bookmark.

Pearl Harbor?  A plane spotters guide?

What about your books?  Or your favorite classics?