This week I spent some time with a colleague who wanted to publish a series of children's stories. I was presented with a lovely potential product - a range of stories about an arthropod, actually a cute spider which were supported by some interesting illustrations of said spider and his friends. But as publishers don't have time to speak directly to the thousands of aspiring children's writers - and Agents are like finding a needle in a haystack [apologies for the use of cliche], I could only offer some tips to get started and of course, my best wishes.
If you want to attract the attention of an agent - it is important to show that you can market yourself.
Create a blog - this is free and easy to start up - I suggested Blogger of course as I find it easy to use and there are lots of templates, colours etc to choose from.
Load your blog with images, samples, how to's, stories about the said spider, contact information etc.
Set up a Facebook page - invite your friends - this helps build confidence.
Search out other children's authors, interact and link as friends - or ask for followers.
Link your facebook page to your blog and vice-versa
Set up a Twitter account - follow other children's authors - agents - publishers
You can make a backdrop to show your product.
When you have written a blog post - post a message on Twitter and send people to your blog site.
* Make sure there is a theme / style / colour / font that is consistent throughout your internet media.
[oops - I should pay attention to this myself]
Contact local press and ask them to do a feature on you and your stories
Contact local radio
Expand this to national press and radio
Join SCBWI - Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators
This is a great group to join. Meetings with other authors - critique sessions - agent meet-ups - conference - socials
Network - it may not be the specific people at networking events who can help directly but most people would have a contact for you - ie a teacher / librarian / fundraiser / agent ?
Make or have made a large version of your protagonist to take to events with you
Do some voluntary work - Read your stories at fundraisers
Contact libraries - offer to do readings in school holidays or at creative workshops
Contact schools - offer to do a book reading
Be sure to include some learning or entertainment aspect
Ask a local bookshop if you can do a presentation / reading - invite the press
Use who you know - does anyone you know, know of someone connected to the literary, education, advertising, media, agency or publishing world?
If you intend to contact agents or publishers - try to get your material to the 'actual person' who is responsible for the type of material you wish to market - and your audience.
If you do contact agents or publishers - know your product inside-out
Know your target audience - Look at other authors' work / target market audience
Know where your book will be placed amongst other successful authors
Have some prospective customer evidence / feedback available
Know your product well enough to describe it in two sentences
Have a clear idea of your market age-range:
[Make a brief questionnaire for young children - Ask family, friends or school if their children can read your stories and answer the questions for you - chart this information]
Make sure your language, theme content is age appropriate [Ask teachers for opinions, notes or tips]
Choose your goal[s]
What are the reasons these goal[s]
Choose your main goal
List all the things you need to do to reach your goal
Focus on the most important and most realistically achievable tasks
Plot your achievable list on a 12 month diary
Follow your plan towards your goal
After all these tips, we still have online marketing to consider - ebooks - upload to Lulu - sell with Amazon - add to Kindle - ads on ebay - your own website with a shop to purchase your product[s]. All these routes to market will also require promotion. Just because a product is online doesn't always mean it will fly off shelves or wire itself to another person across the globe.
And so the coda; here is where we go back to the beginning - I began with your online presence and identity - marketing you, your brand, your product - this seems statutory nowadays. Last month I enjoyed an hour or two at a wonderful [annual] craft and vintage fair. One exhibitor displayed the most amazing, unique hand-made felt flowers and similar products. This exhibitor had no blog, website or place on the internet where I could review or purchase her products. Would she be at the fair next year? Where was she based? I had only been given her first name. The moral of my story: No sale.
Keep smiling and enjoy the process of finding a needle in a haystack.