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Marketing Self Published Children's Books
Marketing. It’s a buzz word; it’s a word that evokes strong emotions, both positive and negative.
We all know that publishing a great children’s book is just the beginning of the process of putting our books into the hands of readers. When we choose to bring a book to market, there’s the book, and then there’s the marketing. Wisely, you worry about the marketing.
Part of the problem is “today’s crowded market.” Each month on Amazon Kindle Publishing platform, 50,000+ books are published. How does a reader find your book in the midst of that clutter?
First, there’s passive marketing. These are things that you set up (so they take time initially), and they continue to work for you for a long time. As an introvert, I’m very good at these things, and always striving to be better. They don’t require me to come out of my writing cave and interact with folks.
I’m going to add links to each of the listed marketing strategies below for you to read more, see examples, or explore the topic. These are not the definitive articles about the topic, but just some that I liked for some reason. Always remember that we have to “translate” any advice to the children’s book world.
Branding - Author and/or company
If you have a publishing company, you should brand it with a logo, brand colors, etc.
Genre branding. Readers glance at a book cover and develop expectations about the story’s genre, its character, setting and plot. Instantly. In a single second. Don’t disappoint them. Give them a cover that screams your genre and sets up the right expectations. There are no good articles discussing the great covers for middle grade fantasy. But you can learn a lot from articles like this about adult fiction.
Choice of sales platforms - exclusive, wide, your website
Where will you sell books? Just listing a book doesn’t sell books, of course. But if you books aren’t on a platform, for sure you’ll sell nothing on that platform. I aggressively choose wide distribution, then use whatever tools are available to actively market (see below) on that platform. Much of my success if because I aggressively seek out new distributors. David Gaughran’s article on the way marketing differs when you are wide vs. exclusive to Kindle Unlimited is a foundational article for this mindset distinction.
IngramSpark has a free online course about metadata!
Website - Brochure type site. List of books, forthcoming, reading order of series.
Preorders - Upcoming/Forthcoming Titles
Frequency of Publication
How frequently you publish can affect everything! From income to marketing. Here’s one story. If you know of a children’s book writer releasing frequently, let me know!
Write the next book - build your bibliography/career side-by-side
WIBBOW Test - Would I Be Better Off Writing?
Author Scott William Carter came up with an acronym to describe your choices of what activities should take up your time. He asks, “Would I be better off writing?” Or, simply, “WIBBOW?”
Putting your efforts into honing your craft and writing and publishing the next book may be the best use of your time. The marketing activities that swirl around the indie community are many! And they all take time. If you work full time and write on the side, it’s an especially intense discussion.
It comes down to decisions like this: This week, should you write a newsletter or write a new chapter in your novel?
Usually, the answer is to write!
But it’s an individual decision, made one day at a time. Read the rest of these and do what makes sense for you, your situation, your books, and your readers. Answers will vary widely. That’s why we are indies, right?
Website/Blogging - Content marketing
Advertising - Amazon, Facebook, Bookbub - Premise: Give them $1, get $1.01+
Let me recommend a book to get you started. But you can find books and courses for any platform that interests you!
When someone asks to interview me, I say yes! But this could develop into a full-blown marketing strategy if you wanted. You could seek out interviews, eventually hoping for bigger publications, podcast, or even TV interviews.
Paid Newsletter promotions
Newsletter swaps with similar authors
Social Media -
Here’s one example of the type of demographics you can find that help you distinguish among the social media platforms. Look for updated stats in January.
Where do YOUR readers hang out? You should ask them! Do a survey of your audience if possible. Or read blogs, talk to folks and probe!
When you post on social media, you’re posting one of three things: text, image, or video. What can you produce consistently? What are you good at? Only commit to a social media site on which you can consistently post!
YOUR Marketing Choices
When someone claims to have the one and only answer to marketing, I get aggravated. Too often I see someone tout “THE WAY” to sell children’s books as one narrow channel. For example, the claim that you must set up a mailing list, or you must post consistently on Instagram (or the platform of their choice).
Yes, those things CAN work and DO work. But will they work for you?
Let me give you permission to ignore any and all of the opportunities that come your way. Don’t take that class. Don’t follow that blog. Don’t open that account on the new, flashy, shiny social media platform.
Instead, look at your options and build on your own choices. I offer you a series of questions:
YOU: What are your strengths? Are you an introvert or extrovert? Do you prefer passive or active marketing? Do you like creating text, images or videos?
YOUR READERS: Where are your readers? Do they gather on a certain social media platform? Is that a platform you can easily reach given your strengths?
YOUR DISTRIBUTION CHANNELS: Where do your readers read books? This answer will change drastically if you publish YA versus nonfiction picture books for the education market. You must FIND those channels that work for your book(s)!
PICK AND CHOOSE: Among all the options above (and those you think of yourself), what can you consistently do that will fit your strengths and reach your readers? How can you best bring your books to market and put books in readers hands?
Personally, I am an introvert. (Actually, I’m an omnivert, which means I’m an extravert-on-demand-when-I-teach. But that’s another story. For this purpose, I’m an introvert!)
I focus on passive marketing, especially the aggressive pursuit of distribution channels. Right now, my income from Amazon/Ingram combined is good, but it’s only about 30% of my six-figure income. The rest comes from special orders and from about 16 other distributors of children’s books. I am awful at most of the active marketing techniques described above. I’m mediocre on a few, such as advertising on Amazon’s platform. But I’m really great on metadata and finding distributors.
Do it your way. Listen to yourself. If you’re stressed out by doing XXX, stop it. If you love ZZZ, but only allow yourself to do it once in a while, well…give yourself permission to do it more!
Personally, I’m adding a new distributor (maybe two) in January, 2022. I’m also re-reading D.M. Potter’s book on Amazon ads to sharpen my skills on that platform.
What will you be doing to put more of your books in reader’s hands in 2022?