SCBWI Michigan Q&A

It was a delight to speak to SCBWI in mighty Michigan via Skype.  As we had just a smidgen of time together, we took participant’s questions online and are answering them here.

As promised, I randomly drew the name of a bold inquirer to win a free one hour consult with Curious City.  That winner is Debbie Taylor!

PRE-PUBLICATION
Or What Should I Be Doing Before I Sell A Book?
A strong website and social media presence can be a selling factor for publishers.

Whether or not you are published or even have an agent, you should have a footprint online that states that you are a Writer for Children.  Hang out your sign, build the website – show the world that you have made a commitment to craft and to children.  Always choose a website that has a blog as a centerpiece.  We highly recommend building a website with the WordPress software/community.

The children’s literature (or kidlit) community is very welcoming.  You do not need to be published to be part of the community conversation.  Start to build your social media personality by choosing an angle or topic of kidlit that interests you and becoming an expert on it. Maybe you like fractured fairy tales or snakes or snickerdoodles.  Visit your local library and borrow kidlit on the topic and review the books on your blog and tweet about them.  You might even develop your own hashtag like #KidLitSnickerdoodle.  Or if you have a manuscript in process, pull a theme from that work to become an expert on that.  By the time you have released your snickerdoodle picture book, you will have built up a reputation as a #KidLitSnickerdoodle.

(This is also a great question for your agent once you land one.)

WEBSITE
Or What Needs To Be There?
A blog.  Always a blog.  And not a blog that your web designer “makes” for you.  Have your website built with a website/blog software that has blog functionality inherent to the structure.  Again, we highly recommend WordPress.  Squarespace is also good.

Know that the mysterious little bots that search your website for keywords to put into the search engines, may only search your static web pages once.  The bots, though, love your blog posts and will keep coming back there for new content.  Give those bots what they want -content.  Choose a topic within kidlit to review and/or blog the back matter of your work in progress.  Are you researching the constitution, cupcakes, or carnivals?  Blog that!  The posts will provide richness for your future readers and will help create ongoing discovery for you.  For example, if your book is about a carnival, you want to have built enough content on your blog for the search results of “carnival + kid’s book” to feature your website.

As for the rest of the website?  Assign yourself to look at at least 20 websites of authors that you admire.  Look at their content and navigation and decide from there what you would like your website to say about you.

Curious City highly recommends the web design firm Websy Daisy.  Not only are they very cooperative and creative, but they specialize in children’s book creator websites.  You will save time and money with Websy Daisy because you do not have to explain your profession or mission to them.

SOCIAL MEDIA
Or Do I Have To Do It All?
I encourage you to do your work determining the mission of your marketing before you concentrate on where you need to be and how often.  Download our “Creating Discovery” worksheet here.

We will assume most of you are on Facebook and comfortable there.  Is a comfy place to be most of the time.  Dogs, cats, babies, politics and the like all celebrated within your circle of friends.  And, yes, you can drop your book milestones there and you will get lots of support.  Does being on Facebook and posting about your books and career grow your community?  A smidgen.

I encourage you strongly to step out of your comfort zone and explore Twitter.  If you are new to Twitter or do not feel at home there, take children’s book author/speaker Katie’s Davis course on Twitter.  Twitter is where you can connect with kidlit people, where you can start to build your community of readers and advocates.  Twitter (while very crowded and fast-paced) allows you to connect with people you don’t know based on shared interests and ideas.  What could be better?

This is a rerun of an an answer from a previous question in case you missed it:

The children’s literature (or kidlit) community is very welcoming.  Start to build your social media personality by choosing an angle or topic of kidlit that interests you and becoming an expert on it. Maybe you like fractured fairy tales or snakes or snickerdoodles.  Visit your local library and borrow kidlit on the topic and review the books on your blog and tweet about them.  You might even develop your own hashtag like #KidLitSnickerdoodle.  Or if you have a manuscript in process or book about to be released, pull a theme from that work to become an expert on that.  By the time your have released your snickerdoodle picture book, you will have built up a reputation as a #KidLitSnickerdoodle.

How long should you spend on social media?  That is like asking how long should you spend with someone to build a friendship.  Come at it each day with your mission in mind and joy intact and make connections.  If you need to segment your time, build a daily schedule of 20 minutes for yourself.

ADVERTISING ONLINE
Or Is it Worth It and Where?
Without knowing where you are considering online ads, it is difficult to advise.  We will say, however, ads on extremely targeted sites can be of great benefit.  A current client, for example, has a picture book about a dog becoming a reading dog.  The client has an ad that will appear on the national reader dog resource website.  Everyone that visits that website should be interested in reader dogs and thus her book.  The audience is highly qualified and the price is worth the exposure.

REACHING AN AUDIENCE
Or Where Do I Find My Advocates?
Many of you were excited with how Curious City has connected books with certain cultural and special interest groups. Many of you asked how that could be done for your particular books.

Again, I encourage you to download our “Creating Discovery” worksheet here and start to explore that very question.  This is a great exercise to do with your critique group also.  Brainstorm together.

Test your idea out locally.  Find an advocate that is involved locally or regionally.  If you can get that person  interested in your book, find a way to work together.  That person, if your book truly meets the mission, will be able (often) to spread it to other like-minded people.

NATIONAL SHARING
Or How Can My Local Event or Activity Become National?
Have you created successful engagement with your book?  What does successful engagement look like?  If you have worked with an advocate to get kids to sing, play, or learn with your book and then  taken the step to record that event/engagement in a way that it can be replicated, you are ready for national sharing.  Librarians are great partners for national sharing.  Make a librarian your advocate by being her programming ally and she may connect you locally, state-wide, and nationwide.

Curious City has spent 14 years building that network of advocates and out projects go to every corner of the country.  It works, my friends.

AUDIOBOOKS
Or How Do I Get Audiobooks Made and
Can Audiobooks Enhance My Marketing?

The audiobook format continues to grow every year.  As we get busier, many of us are keeping up on our reading by listening.  If you are a listener, you know that Audible is the best source for audiobooks.  Audible offers ACX, a resource to turn your stories into audiobooks.

If you are lucky enough to have an audiobook produced, sound clips are an amazing way to create discovery.  They can be embedded into your site and shared on social media.

SELF PUBLICATION
Or How Does Discovery Work and Can Curious City Help?
Sadly, Curious City does not work with self-published authors or authors that have started their own small presses.  We have all respect for the decision and commitment of self-publication, but do not have the experience to deal with the distribution questions that often accompany self-publication marketing.  Our discovery exercises, however, work just as well for the mighty self-published.

MARKETING CAREERS RATHER THAN BOOKS
Or Does Curious City Promote a Body of Work?
Curious City’s strength is in promoting story rather than the creator herself.  In general, we do not work on a body of work, but individual titles.

REBOOTING MARKETING
Or When Is It Too Late to Market a Book?
Think about how people outside of the business talk about books.  You often hear, “I just discovered this great new author” or “I just found this new series I love.”  There may be nothing “new” about that author and book, but the connection is new to the reader.

Consider also that outside of the educators, librarians and booksellers that read kidlit, the rest of your readers are constantly aging out and being replenished by a new set.  Your audience is ever changing!

So as long as your book is in print, you have both the opportunity and responsibility to create discovery for your title.

Thank you for the opportunity to answer your questions!  Go forth and discover!

4 Comments

  1. Wow. What generous answers! Although I couldn’t attend the mighty Michigan Marketing Boot Camp, I heard many accolades about your presentation, Kirsten. Thank you for participating and for this post. We are grateful. Carrie Pearson, co-Regional Advisor SCBWI MI

    • Thank you, Carrie! My only regret was not being there in person to meet the fine creators of Michigan!

  2. Your presentation via Skype was very good and I appreciated your answer to my question, and the resources you provided. I’m working on my website and hope to have it updated to Squarespace soon. Thank you again. You were wonderful!

  3. Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!

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