The launch of my debut picture book, This Could Be You, started with a surreal zoom call with the publisher of Cardinal Rule Press (CRP), Maria Dismondy. After hearing her offer and all the steps CRP takes to support their authors during the launch process (and beyond), accepting their offer was a no-brainer. I have been grateful for them ever since.
After that meeting, the hard work was done, right? So very wrong. Though CRP provided lots of assistance and did a great deal of marketing on their own, my trek toward release day had just begun. Launching a book involves much more than getting it published and placing it in front of buyers. From website development, to strategic marketing techniques, and event planning, the areas of attack are infinite. Take my advice and don’t try to do it all. The key is to find those methods that make sense for you and your book.
Lucky for me, the growth mindset qualities that I highlight in my book are not just for kids – they have helped me immensely in my launch journey. Reminding myself to walk the walk and stay in a good headspace has been very effective. Growth mindset mantras like, “Not YET, but I’m still trying,” “Mistakes help me learn,” and “I’m encouraged by the success of others” are invaluable.
That being said, the launch process has been much more involved than I ever expected – stressful and intense, but educational and fun at the same time. Following CRP’s suggestions and timelines helped me to stay on track. Scouring the internet for webinars, podcasts, blogs, and YouTube videos on book marketing was enlightening, as well. The writing community is extremely generous – there is so much information out there for the taking. I also found that revisiting old classes, blog posts, and conference notes helped a great deal. Information speaks to you differently depending on where you are in the process.
My biggest struggles involved sharing news of my upcoming book. My husband always calls me ‘the world’s worst salesman’ and he’s probably right. I have never excelled in this area, especially when it feels like self-promotion. I worried about driving everyone crazy with posts about my book. The key to this journey, for me, required a mindshift – marketing is not selling – it is about fulfilling the needs of your audience. After more research, I decided, “I can do this,” and never turned back.
My number one piece of advice is this… know your audience. Who are you trying to reach? Kids, of course, but who will purchase your book? Who needs and/or wants it? Many authors do a good job promoting to other authors, but they are not your primary market. Unfortunately, we can’t buy every book our friends write. Because they all share my mission of empowering kids, I identified the following audiences to target…
- Teachers and Librarians
The next step is to decide HOW to reach your audience. The following strategies are all important…
- build authentic relationships
- offer valuable content
- increase visibility
More on these later. Remember to be flexible. New angles present themselves often. Don’t be afraid to pivot.
What content? What can I offer them? What will build credibility and connection? What do those relationships look like? The fact that my book has such a clear Growth Mindset theme for building relationships and compiling content gives me an advantage. However, with some creativity, every author can find an angle to work with.
Ask yourself these questions…
- “What can I offer these individuals?”
- What educational themes or bookstore categories does your book fall into? Maybe your
book has a holiday focus, a social cause, or a message like kindness. Dig deep.
- What National Days can you connect to?
- What keywords would someone use to search for your book?
- What hashtags would you use on social media posts?
- What is your elevator pitch?
Just start brainstorming – jot down everything that comes to mind – you might be surprised what you come up with.
Providing content that is valuable to your audience builds authentic relationships. Make them want to hear from you. Become a trusted source of information. In my case that information consists of parenting tips, activities, games, book lists, vocabulary banks, dinner discussion topics, etc. all centered around developing a growth mindset. I have made downloads available on my website and I share them on social media.
Building relationships and providing content help with visibility, of course. I have been able to get my book out there without yelling, “BUY MY BOOK,” because others have chosen to share my information. Every single time you or your book is mentioned, you gain more clout. I have developed relationships with influencers, bloggers, podcasters, etc.
The first place many authors turn to when launching a book is social media. Yes, the internet offers a world of possibilities, but don’t stop there. Reach out to local sources, as well. Groups and individuals that can help get the word out include media outlets, service groups, libraries, and businesses. One of my strongest relationships was formed when I began cheering on a new bookstore.
Yes, in-person interactions are hard sometimes. We feel all-powerful behind the computer, but face-to-face encounters are another story. Be vulnerable. Push yourself. You won’t regret it.
When you do turn to the internet, remember that the kidlit community is filled with generous people who want to help. But, don’t forget to give back. Again, it is all about relationships. I am a part of two debut author groups who support one another in marketing, strategy, and emotional support. Joining these groups was a crucial step. Other important practices include interacting with others online, and posting reviews for others as well as offering critiques and other prizes for contests, etc.
WHERE also applies to locating the support you need to carry out this campaign. One area in which I was a bit more successful involved compiling a “Street” or “Launch Team”. This is a group of people who are willing to step up and help you throughout the process. My team consisted of personal friends, online author friends, family, and local educators. I was careful to include as many people as possible from my target audiences (grandparents, parents, teachers, librarians). This strategy proved valuable as individuals from these groups were the most interested in my success. Your Street Team can be of assistance in many ways including, sharing your information on social media, attending your virtual and/or in-person events, spreading the word within their communities, providing you with blog posts or podcasts, and most importantly, posting the almighty reviews. Just remember, even the most well-intentioned people are busy. You will be lucky to receive help from 30% of your team.
Start early, but be strategic! Prioritize the WHO, HOW, and WHAT. It is easy to get ahead of yourself and concentrate on all the fun stuff like a launch party with hundreds of kids in a fun venue and push the less exciting stuff to the bottom of the list (yea, I did that).
One crucial tip from experts is… start growing your mailing list before you get published. Is this fun? No. Is it easy? Again, no. Am I good at it? Not even close. The truth has not eluded me, however – social media could disappear tomorrow and obliterate all my contacts, so I’m working on it. The key is to acquire an interested list of individuals that you can reach out to on a consistent basis. Figure out an effective way to interact with them. Offer that content in exchange for an internet address, become that expert they turn to for advice, speak on panels and do video workshops.
Lasty, but maybe most importantly, WHY are you doing all this? What is your goal? To sell a million books? To win awards? To be rich and famous? To further a cause? To prove something to yourself? Set specific goals – number of blog posts, specific media attention, etc. Whatever those targets are, be realistic and pace yourself.
One thing that has kept me from feeling burned out is allowing myself time to write and to stretch my creative wings in other ways (like making my own silly swag). Launching a book can be an overwhelming venture. Don’t let it consume you. I have learned a great deal in this past year – skills that will certainly help me in the future. Remember though, marketing doesn’t end on the day of release.
Just a few of the growth mindset views that helped me through are…
- Rejection doesn’t end when you get a book deal. Every ‘no’ from a bookstore, blog, or podcast is a learning process.
- I celebrate every step forward, every new skill learned, and every connection made.
- I’m no longer afraid of trying new things – the challenge is exhilarating.
- It never hurts to try. I secured my dream launch venue just because I asked.
- I can make a difference.
I hope this helps you rethink the launch process as I have. Enjoy it!
Cindy Williams Schrauben lives in Michigan where she writes books for kids that range from the truly serious to the seriously silly. Before embarking on this path, Cindy held positions as a teacher, administrator, and assistant director of a children’s museum — always striving to empower kids. She loves sharing the message that ‘It’s never too late to dream!’ Learn more at www.cindyschrauben.com.