By Carolyn Howard-Johnson,
Author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers
In a discussion I had with one of the longtime subscribers to my SharingwithWriters newsletter, Wanda Luthmam, author of The Lilac Princess, she said, “Of course the thing that is different for children’s authors is that the product is for children yet the purchaser is an adult.”
Because Wanda is absolutely right, one of the best kinds of promotion is one where children’s authors cross promote. That means partnering with other others, sharing lists. Forming groups where you cross-tweet one another’s tweets that point out benefits of each children’s book to the parents cause kids won’t be on Twitter, not yet at least.
One of my favorite promotions—the one that lasted longer and was more “keepable” than any other I’ve done—utilized cross promotion. Here is a case study of that promotion straight from my multi award-winning The Frugal Book Promoter. I have adapted it slightly to be more meaningful for children’s authors.
The anatomy of a free e-book might be just what you need to make one work for you. The free e-book I published as a cross promotion with other authors was one of best, most long-lasting promotions I’ve done. Let’s call it the new math for free publicity. It is: E-book + E-gift = Promotion. Oops. Error. Make the answer FREE promotion. However, it would be better if we slotted in another element: + Cross Promotion.
I met Kathleen Walls in an online group. She asked more than two dozen authors from several countries to contribute to an e-book that would be given away. Her idea, Cooking by the Book could be used as a gift of appreciation to the support teams it takes to edit and market a book and to the legions of readers who cook but had never read any of our other books. Children’s authors could use exactly the same idea (or adapt the basic steps to another theme). Here’s why.
Authors who had at least one kitchen scene in their books (children’s authors might have a household cooking scene or just something foody going on in the plot like lollipops, ice cream cones—even apple trees!) were invited to contribute to Cooking. Each author’s segment begins with an excerpt from that scene. The recipe comes next, and then a short blurb about the author with links so the reader can learn more about the authors and their books. When children’s authors adapt the them, they might adapt the recipe segment to something else that would appeal to parents like the psychological benefit their child will get from reading the book.
This e-tool was a cross-pollinator. Contributing authors publicized it any way they chose as long as they gave it away. Here are some of the ways we used to distribute Cooking by the Book:
- Some offered a free e-book as part of a promotion and let people e-mail them for a copy. This is the least techy approach and it allows personal contact with readers. It also allowed us to collect and categorize our readers’ e-mails to use in later promotions.
- Some set up an autoresponder that sent our e-book directly to our readers’ e-mail boxes when they sent requests to an address we provided. This automated approach requires little but promotion from you after you’ve once set up the responder. I sent the first chapter of my novel using SendFree.com, but it could as easily been a full e-book.
- Some contributors sent readers to their Web sites where they found a link to download a .pdf file of our free e-book. E-books distributed like this are more effective if they include an offer or call-to-action—perhaps a discount on a series of your books—within its pages. If I did a promotion like this again, I’d include a contributor page in the backmatter that listed each contributor, her book’s title, and a direct link to an Amazon Kindle edition. The side-benefit for this is that traffic to your site soars and that helps your search engine optimization (SEO).
- Some contributors let others distribute our e-book as a gift to their clients, subscribers, or Web site visitors—either with a purchase or as an outright gift. When you use this method, you get to set the guidelines for its distribution because you provide the free e-book.
- If we were doing this promotion today, we could offer our free e-book through Smashwords.com. To make free e-book editions work for you, your book must include ads, links in the text, or both to entice readers to your Web site or to buy your other books.
- You may find other ways to distribute your e-book or alter these processes to meet your needs. You could even give out business cards or bookmarks at children’s bookfairs that give the links to the free e-book you are offering.
Contributors to our Cooking by the Book benefited from their efforts and from contacts with other authors. It turned out that we had some superior promoters among us:
- Most of us set up a promotional page for the cookbook on our Web sites.
- One promoted it in her newsletter.
- Mary Emma Allen writes novels, but she also featured the cookbook in the columns she writes for New Hampshire dailies The Citizen and The Union Leader.
- David Leonhardt incorporated the cookbook into a Happiness Game Show speech he delivered over a dozen times.
- We all gave away coupons offering this gift at book signings. Because e-books cost nothing to produce, they can be given to everyone, not just those who purchase a book. Some made bookmarks featuring this offer.
- I put an “e-gift” offer for Cookbook on the back of my business cards.
- If we were doing this promotion today, we’d all blog about it and use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social networks.
- We treated the promotional book like a real book. We got blurbs and reviews. Reviewer JayCe Crawford said, “For a foodie-cum-fiction-freak like me, this cookbook is a dream come true.” That review popped up in places we didn’t know existed.
- We used them as e-gifts to thank editors, producers, or others online.
Our most startling successes came from sources we had no connection to at all. The idea for using a promotional e-book like this was featured in Joan Stewart’s The Publicity Hound, in Writer’s Weekly, in the iUniverse newsletter and more. They probably found it especially newsworthy because it worked so well for writers of fiction. Your book themed for the parents of children might appeal to popular psychology Web sites or others—depending on the theme.
When I queried radio stations for interviews with angles related to this cookbook, I had the highest rate of response I’d ever had, and that was in competition with a pitch for my novel This Is the Place just before the Salt Lake City 2002 games and an intolerance angle on the same novel right after 9/11.
Each year Mother’s Day beckons us to repeat our publicity blitzes, because, if you haven’t noticed, mothers tend to do lots of cooking. Almost any e-book that appeals to mothers of young children could also benefit from Mother’s Day promotions.
Hint: I love services like Createspace.com and Bookbaby.com for publishing both e-books and paperbacks, whether or not they are to be used as promotions. You can probably do everything yourself and absolutely free except for the copies you buy and the extra services, if you prefer to have that help. I also like that you can put your own publishing company’s name on the book—in other words, develop your own imprint. There are even templates for covers there. If this feels kind of publishing feels scary at first, I can coach you through the first one and you’ll be set forever more. Contact me through the contact page on my Web site.
Special E-Book Offer: I offer a free e-book for subscribing to my Sharing with Writers newsletter. Find the offer on most pages of my HowToDoItFrugally Web site, upper right corner. Everyone is your cross-promotion pool could do the same thing.
Here’s another idea from Wanda. She says “At my events, I invite children to my table to make a free craft that is book-theme related. While they are working, I talk to the parent about the benefits of the book and reading.”
Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. All her books for writers are multi award winners including both the first and second editions of The Frugal Book Promoter and her multi award-winning The Frugal Editor won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award.
Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts.
The author loves to travel. She has visited eighty-nine countries and has studied writing at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom; Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Charles University, Prague. She admits to carrying a pen and journal wherever she goes. Her Web site is www.howtodoitfrugally.com