There are successful self-publishers in every niche, but authors of children’s books face more challenges than most – both on the publishing and marketing side. When I heard that Karen Inglis was releasing How To Self-Publish and Market A Children’s Book I invited her along to talk about the particular problems that self-publishers of children’s books face, as well as strategies for overcoming them. Here’s Karen with more:
When I discovered self-publishing back in 2010 it was, as for many, a dream come true after the familiar cycle of sending out manuscripts only to get a rejection six or seven weeks later. At last I would be able to get my children’s stories out and take the world by storm!
Except, of course, it doesn’t work like that…
As we all know, books don’t sell themselves and Amazon and the other platforms (not to mention bricks and mortar bookshops) won’t sell our books without our help. Of course, a great story, great cover, compelling blurb, appropriate metadata and category selection are all critical to get us off to the right start. However, to introduce and sell your title to your target market – and, crucially, keep it in their line of sight – you also need a robust marketing plan that includes a mix of social media, advertising, email marketing, traditional PR, and (for some more than others) live events.
For authors who just want to be writers, this is a tall order at the best of times. And, for children’s authors, it’s even taller…
Why? Because our readers are not book buyers. Oh and they’re not (supposed to be) online.
And we certainly can’t email them without gaining all sorts of permissions from an adult. (I have no problem with this by the way – but it’s important to know.) To boot, if under 13s are stalking us on Facebook or Instagram or Wattpad, which some will do, they certainly don’t hold the credit card that will facilitate the odd impulse purchase!
One more thing to note is that most children under age 12 read in print, which makes ‘ebook impulse purchases’ (somehow easier to commit to than for print) of children’s books few and far between. Add in the fact that most parents buy based on children’s nagging or other parents’ or school recommendations, then you see that the odds are stacked quite heavily against unknown authors marketing their children’s books, especially online…
Is all of this this the end of the world? No. Does it make marketing children’s book harder than marketing books for teens and adults? Yes – but it doesn’t make it impossible; you simply need to do a few things differently.
Below I share seven key marketing tips for children’s authors most of which I have tried and tested and most of which have worked well for me. The last is still a work-in-progress and on my list to get back to. Such is the life of a busy indie author!
If you write for children, or are considering doing so, I hope you’ll find these tips of use. They are just the tip of the iceberg, by the way – space is limited.
As for all authors this is a long-term game. There’s just more physical effort and thinking outside the box when it comes to selling children’s books.
1. Make your website easy to navigate
This will be your ‘calling card’ when you introduce yourself locally and farther afield. Make it easy for busy parents, book buyers and teachers to see the age range(s) for your books and what else you can offer.
Content to include (but not limited to):
- About you…
- An appealing info page for each book, with visual variety and buy links
- Links to any activity sheets, crosswords, word searches, teaching plans etc
- An email sign-up that’s clearly aimed at parents – as with adult book marketing, offer an incentive such as a short story, free chapters, character diary or other unique freebie.
- A school visits page (more on school visits below)
- Where to buy your books
- Blog page (optional)
See kareninglisauthor.com as an example. NB: this puts usability over aesthetics for busy teachers and parents. I doubt they mind. I will upgrade the look and feel when eventually I get time!
2. Plan For Most (Early) Sales To Be Offline
Don’t see this as a chore – meeting your readers is one of the most rewarding things about being a children’s author! And it’s the start of the process that will gradually get you known through word of mouth – one of the key ways that children’s books get discovered and recommended by parents, children, librarians and teachers. It’s also extremely helpful for getting early reviews, which you will need these once you get to online marketing. Pop a flyer or bookmark that asks for reviews inside each book that you sell. For those who don’t buy, offer the same signed flyer/bookmark on the day.
Key places to target:
- Your local library – offer to run a free event then help promote it by providing flyers at the desk, on noticeboards in local coffee shops frequented by parents, via your local community magazine, press and local schools. Use Canva and your original artwork for the flyers.
- Your local bookshop – offer to host a signing and reading if they have room. Provide ‘shelf talkers’ for your book, again made using Canva, and say you will promote the event locally.
- Local school/s – check online or call to get the name of the literacy coordinator or teacher for the children in your target age group. Tailor and send an email that includes: (i) a book(s) overview sheet with book jackets, sample interior illustrations, plot synopsis and early review quotes (ii) a summary of how you will run your sessions.
- Local playgroups or parenting groups if you have a picture book – offer to run a free session and take along books to sign and sell. Or, offer to host your own coffee morning and story time.
- Any local educational visitor centres / children’s farms / other venues that attract families with young children and have a connection with your book’s theme. They may be open to stocking your book in their shop and/or letting you run an event.
3. Contact local press and community websites
- Provide press releases or short articles about new books launches, event appearances, key milestones/significant achievements or anything else that is genuinely newsworthy.
- Emphasise any local inspiration or setting for the story, the fact that you are local, where parents can buy your book locally (ideally signed), your availability for local school visits etc. Include local setting /event photos where relevant.
- Include a book cover, headshot, short bio along with the press release.
4. Children’s book bloggers/individual reviewers
- See who’s posted reviews about children’s books that are similar to yours on Amazon, Goodreads or other sites. Can you track down their contact details? If they’ve made these public, drop them a line and ask if they or their children might like to review your book.
- Search Facebook groups, local community sites and Google for children’s book groups – usually adults who enjoy reading or discussing children’s books. Make contact with those that fit your niche to see if anyone would like a review copy. (Don’t pay for any review or for an expedited review.)
5. Children’s book review websites & giveaway programmes
The sites below offer free as well as paid options and are genuine. You won’t sell more books in the short-term but you will have a permanent place to point to reviews as part of a long-term marketing strategy. Only pay if you have budget to spare.
- Toppsta (UK)
- The Children’s Book Review (USA)
6. Experiment with AMS (Amazon Ads)
It’s best to do this once you have a number of good reviews.
- Search online (including this website) for tips on how to niche down and laser target for best results – thankfully the principles are the same for children’s books as for all other books.
- Start low, check and adjust regularly and never commit to more than you can afford to lose.
- Advertise both ebooks and print books – most Kindle book ads translate into print sales – and sometimes parents will buy for Kindle if it’s cheap, to ‘test read’ for suitability for a child before buying in print.
7. Make a plan for email marketing
This, in my experience, is the most problematic aspect of children’s book marketing and something I’ve yet to nail or test properly. Parents are extremely busy and I’m conscious of not wanting to add to their ‘to-do list’ unless I have something of genuine interest to share.
Moreover, as children grow older their tastes and needs change, making my mailing list a moving target.
For what it’s worth, my ‘dream’ regular email marketing plan is likely to include:
- Info on great books their children might enjoy (I read a lot of children’s books to keep up with the wider market)
- News about upcoming children’s literature events/festivals
- Children’s writing competitions
- What I’m currently working on – perhaps asking for feedback or input from their children
- Ideas for new stories I may have come across recently
- New book launches (in my case these come no more than once a year!)
- Insights into children’s reading habits/how to encourage reluctant readers etc
- Occasional offers on my books
- A reminder about how parents can buy signed copies of my books
- Reports from school visits and how they can request one.
I’d say that once a month is sufficient for sending emails.
As I mentioned earlier, there are many more way to reach your readers, both online and face-to-face, but hopefully the seven above will set you in the right direction.
I cover all of the above and much more in How To Self-Publish and Market A Children’s Book – a practical and in-depth guide based on my seven years of children’s self-publishing. Inside the book, there are links to download order forms and flyers to use when contacting schools. (Dave’s note: that link should take you to your local Amazon store, but it’s also available at Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.)
Back on long-tail marketing, you can read about the seven-year journey of The Secret Lake to Amazon UK bestseller on my blog. I hope you enjoy the ride!
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I’m so grateful to Karen for coming along today and sharing some of her hard-won wisdom on how to crack the ever-tricky children’s market. She has sold 20,000 books now and I think she’s about to sell a lot more too as the overwhelming majority of those sales have come in the last year. Right now, for example, she has a print book ranked at #926 on Amazon UK – after it was camped in the Top 500 for some time – one that was published way back in 2011 and has found a new life in 2018, and I urge you to read the story behind that on Karen’s blog.
Most of all though, I strongly recommend that you purchase How To Self-Publish and Market A Children’s Book if you are a children’s author or considering writing something in that category – it has great information for new and experienced writers alike.
Children’s authors have been crying out for a resource like this and please share this post, those book links, and Karen’s helpful site with any that you might know.
Those buy links again:
That’s it for today! Tomorrow, I’ve got a surprise for everyone signed up to my weekly marketing newsletter. If you haven’t signed up yet, do that here.