There are many beautifully written books that have never seen the light of day. There are many wonderful books that have been published, but sell at most a few dozen copies. And there are many terribly written books that make it to bestseller status. What’s the difference? Marketing: the most dreaded word in an author’s vocabulary.
Indeed when I first published, marketing was the farthest thing from my mind. My books were published mass market paperback by an established publishing house which had built-in distribution and marketing.
Recently I signed with a small publishing house which does not have the elaborate distribution networks of my previous publishers. I quickly realized being an author goes way beyond writing and getting your books published. It requires marketing. So I designed a strategy: start small, start local and expand. But despite my aspirations, I didn’t want to spend money on marketing when I was not guaranteed returns.
But then an opportunity came my way that I found hard to pass up. It was the opportunity to expose thousands of kids and their parents to my children's novel by conducting a workshop at the Port Discovery Children’s Museum as part of the STEM in Spring Initiative. At the same time it was an opportunity to teach kids about Science in an unconventional way. So we discussed possible activities and I listened to my crazy co-author, at that time 11 years old, and decided on constructing a giant model of the cell to give kids the feeling of being shrunk and zapped into a cell as the characters of the book were.
It was an expensive venture. I raised funds using gofundme and harassed my local stores for donations of supplies. Then a week or two before the event, my husband, an engineer, looks at the plans and asks, “How are the structures going to stand up?” So back to the drawing board we went to fix the structural issues.
So how did it all work out? Opening day was chaotic. The first week we had to tweak the activity to make it flow, but the workshop was successful. I know you are going to ask what made it successful. If we measured success by the number of books sold at the event, then we failed miserably. But here are some of the reasons why I consider this a success.
1. We aimed to educate.
We succeeded in teaching much younger children about the cell. Kids enjoyed a scavenger hunt in the cell where they had to uncover clues to proceed to different organelles in order to rescue the characters of the book “Zapped! Danger in the Cell.” The clues in the end spelt out the name of the book.
2. We aimed to expose the book to as many children and their parents as possible
By tying in the activity to the book, we were able introduce it to many people. We handed out quite a bit of printed material at the event. We were interviewed by the local NPR affiliate WEAA and featured on the 5’oclock news on NBC affiliate WBAL, where our book was prominently displayed for thousands of viewers.
3. We aimed to have fun
This was fun for us and for the kids who visited.
4. We aimed to create a lasting impression
Well the impression was good enough that we were invited back to be part of the Book Bonanza and Port Discovery Children’s museum later this month
Agreeably the number of copies sold at the event was a lot lower than we hoped, however, a seed has been planted. Only time will tell if it will bear fruit. Many more people know about the book and its value as an educational tool as well as the pleasure it offers as a fun read.
The bottom line: marketing requires investment, whether it is time or money or both. It is a long term investment that may or may not see immediate returns, but the aim is to expose as many people to the book as possible and get increased sales.
There are many creative ways available for authors to market their books. What are some of your more unique/creative marketing strategies?