Let Them See Your Title: Publicizing Your Children's Book
by Noelle Sterne
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As a children's author, do you know you can use more resources to
publicize your book than mainstream authors? I discovered many of
these avenues after the publication of my children's book
Tyrannosaurus Wrecks: A Book of Dinosaur Riddles (HarperCollins).
This book, in print for eighteen years, was featured on the first
dinosaur show of PBS-TV's Reading Rainbow, which continues to air
and is now on DVD.
Possibilities for broadcasting your book and extending its life are
expansive, and the four categories that follow should help you
organize your own ideas.
1. You in the Flesh
Kids -- and adults -- love to meet a real, live author. So load up
copies of your book, polish your press release (see #2), and work
up some ideas for a presentation. These may include how you came to
write the book, what it's like to write a book, what you DO to
write a book. You can also tie the book to a school theme unit,
hold a writing workshop related to the book's subject, or do
role-plays with the audience on characters in the book. Decide too
on your conditions -- length of presentation, materials needed, how
far you'll travel, and fees.
To get a feel for the many methods and presenter requirements,
study the presentation descriptions of your favorite children's
authors. I admire the websites of Barbara Seuling, Peter Lourie,
Deborah Morrison, and Josephine Nobisso. Convenient links to these
authors and others are posted at Children's Book Council (http://www.cbcbooks.org/)
and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
You should also consider the following:
- Schools, teachers' groups, PTA groups.
Contact your local schools, matching grade levels with your book's
target age group. Start with the principal or president of the PTA
and work your way to individual teachers.
- Public libraries, school libraries, malls, bookstores.
Children's librarians are always enthusiastic and love tie-ins.
Connect your presentation to national themes (Columbus Day,
President's Day, Black History Month). For malls and bookstores,
emphasize to the managers how much traffic you'll bring in. Your
presentation could be keyed to a special promotion for holidays or
children's story hours.
- Church, synagogue, and other religions' children's groups.
These are naturals if you're a spiritual or religious writer. Your
collection of heroes of the Old Testament or book on the Christmas
story told by a donkey in the manger can bring lessons alive to
children. Offer to be a guest speaker at children's or family
occasions or Sunday School classes.
- Book fairs. Your publisher may want to feature your book at a big, fat book
fair (mine did with the New York City American Booksellers
Association and the special Tyrannosaurus balloons were flying
high). Offer to attend, babysit the table, and sign books.
Fair-weary editors may not only accept your offer but kiss you.
- Parent- and child-oriented talk radio and television shows.
Judicious listening and research will show you whom to contact and
when, locally and nationally. Timing to seasonal or current events
can ease your entry for reading excerpts or talking about your
book. For many kids' radio stations, browse Kids' Music Planet
- Donations. Give copies of your book to school and public libraries and
bookstores, specially autographed. The recipients will glow in your
instant celebrity status. And notify the local newspaper. When I
donated a copy of Tyrannosaurus Wrecks to a local library, the
community newspaper interviewed me and published a three-column
article and illustration from the book--compound publicity.
- Relatives, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, strangers.
Carry a few copies of your book and talk to everyone. Almost
everyone has a son, daughter, niece, nephew, or friend's kid whose
birthday is coming up, and maybe they don't want to shell out for a
pricey video game. You've just solved their dilemma.
2. You in Print (Actual and Virtual)
Print and online opportunities to publicize your work are limited
only by your imagination. Here are some.
- Press releases. Your publisher may create a press release, which of course you can
use. Don't be shy; offer to enhance it. Blanket your local
newspapers and magazines. Send releases to editors of writing
magazines you've published in -- they often have "Good News"
features on authors' successes. Send your release to alumni
newsletters, even though you hate school reunions, and professional
organizations you belong to. Get your release out to writing
colleagues for their blogs; they're generally happy to announce
your book and may offer to interview you (and you can return the
favor when their book finally gets published).
Your publisher should place at least one, and you can too. To write
a good ad, ask yourself: If I were a child (or parent), what
feature(s) of the book would make me order it on Amazon or request
it at Borders? Polish your ad as carefully as anything else you
write, and consider the same venues as for press releases, as well
as parents' and children's magazines.
- Book reviews.
Publishers send review copies prior to official publication to
industry publications, such as Publishers Weekly and Kirkus
Reviews. Invest in a little postage yourself. Send copies of your
book to local editors, children's editors, and book review editors
of newspapers and magazines. Reviews in one publication often get
picked up by another. Give copies to librarians too, and ask them
to recommend your book to Booklist, the definitive book reviewing
publication for librarians.
Check out online reviewing sites. Expore BookPage (http://bookpage.com/) and Booklist Online (http://www.booklistonline.com/). Book Reporter, part of The Book
Report, has separate sites for children's and teens' books
(http://www.bookreporter.com/). With your press release (see
above), offer your book for review to editors who've published you
and blogging writing colleagues and columnists.
- Textbook references.
Textbooks used in graduate programs for education include lists of
books for classroom use in many content areas. Search out some
graduate programs and get a course syllabus of required and
recommended books. Talk to graduate students and English teachers
you know (look up your old ones -- they'll be proud of you). Once
you locate some titles, send the textbook publishers your press
release and endorsements from these teachers. Tyrannosaurus Wrecks
has been cited in repeated editions of language arts texts in
sections on wordplay and puns.
Teachers use many children's books in classes, from
information-filled nonfiction to fiction to giggle-books. Boldly
approach local teachers with your book and point out its merits for
their children -- age group, instructional value, fun. Teachers may
also ask you to address their classes (see #1).
Send excerpts of your book to many publications, especially
children's magazines (see the latest edition of Children's Writers'
and Illustrator's Market) -- a chapter, episodes, some poems.
Choice riddles from the dinosaur book were excerpted in Cricket,
Ranger Rick, and Highlights for Children. In the Reading Rainbow
episode I mentioned earlier, a cartoon stand-up dino comic (voice
by Jerry Stiller) rattled off selected riddles, and the
dino-audience threw rotten fruit at him -- a tribute I still
- Articles about your book.
Almost any aspect of your book gives you great topics for articles
in writing magazines. For example, write about why your story takes
place in a certain region. Kate Decamillo confessed that, living in
Minnesota during the worst winter on record, she set Because of
Winn-Dixie (a Newbery Honor book) in Florida, where she'd grown up,
because she was "cold and lonely and homesick."
Other topics: choosing your subject and plot, researching and
creating your characters, problems and glitches along the way,
priceless feedback from children, after-publication
episodes/events/escapades, how the series idea hit you. Over the
years, I've published and reprinted nine articles (not including
this one) on different aspects of the dinosaur riddle book:
techniques for creating the riddles, livening up clichés for
punning riddles, wrestling with the use of she/he to avoid
stereotyping the dinosaurs. Some publications for your articles:
Children's Book Insider, Children's Writer, Institute of Children's
Writers Rx for Writers, Long Ridge Writers eNews, Society of
Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Bulletin, Women on
Writing, Writer's Digest, Writers' Journal, The Writer, and, of
- Websites, blogs, links.
Electronic possibilities grow more endless by the kb. You can
communicate with readers and sell books from your website. Look at
those of prominent children's authors (J. K. Rowling's is
fantastic.) You can also blog from your website and encourage
comments or respond to others on their sites or by email. To add
helpful information to your blog, study other authors' links to
organizations, newsletters, neighbor blogs, and books, and then
make your own list. Visitors will thank you for your generosity,
and they'll remember and buy your book.
- Advance publicity in organizational newsletters.
My presentations for Tyrannosaurus Wrecks at a New York City
bookstore were advertised four weeks in advance and packed the
house with eager little riddle-makers.
3. Your Stuff
Everyone loves free stuff. Your publisher will probably supply
some, but suggest other things. And consider investing; it's worth
it. Give out your stuff everywhere -- at presentations, other
events, and every holiday dinner with relatives.
- Announcements, postcards, bookmarks.
Distribute announcements in kids' stores, libraries, markets, and
schools (with permission). Send or give postcards to everyone, for
any reason or none. I prize a beautiful, evocative postcard from a
writer/editor friend, Audrey Baird, of her book of poems for
children, Storm Coming! (Boyds Mills Press). And I've bought and
given her book to several small friends.
- Balloons, buttons, book covers, t-shirts, mugs, stickers,
pencils, crayons, ad infinitems.
Other stuff has tremendous publicity value. When my publisher
produced the Tyrannosaurus balloons for the book fair I mentioned
earlier, as they floated above the table, not only did passers-by
crane and gawk but everyone at the table unashamedly grabbed
handfuls to give out to kids and adult-kids. For my puppet show
based on Wrecks (see #4), the producers had terrific buttons made.
We handed them out before, at, and after performances at schools
and regional malls in the Northeast--and sales increased.
When you see an item that could work for your book, copy the
t-shirt label, turn that mug upside down, read the fine print on
the zebra-striped pen. Some companies give package deals for many
types of stuff: study Zazzle (http://www.zazzle.com/) or Your
Logo Work (http://www.yourlogoworks.com/).
4. Your Next Act...
Spinoffs and sequels not only stretch your talents but broaden your
public. With one book done, you've probably already started
another, or at least dragged out your notes.
- Spinoffs and tie-ins.
What other venues can extend your book? A school play, a song, a CD
or DVD, a blog by a character (the latest thing)? My dinosaur
puppet show was first produced in a summer playhouse before going
"on tour" to schools and suburban malls (I even wrote a few songs
for it). For the initial run, the director tied in ads in local
papers featuring a half-page dinosaur for kids to color, winner to
be announced at a performance. Of course, at all performances, the
book was displayed for sale and I demurely offered to autograph
You may also spin off with related talents. Writing the dinosaur
riddles, I discovered I could write riddles on any topic (a dubious
gift). So, between geological ages, I sold riddles on hounds, fowl,
rats, pizza, bugs, and bathtubs to the late, magnificent Muppet
Magazine. Think about related aspects. Following your novel of a
pioneer teenage girl, you could consider a fictional series of
letters between her and the pal she left in Boston, the secret
diary of the Indian boy watching her wagon train, a nonfiction book
on pioneer settlements or poems on the astounding Old West.
- Sequels and series.
Sequels and series often follow naturally from your first book as
you extend the subject or picture your hero/heroine getting older
or getting into more scrapes. Margaret Wise Brown not only wrote
the classic Good Night, Moon but also A Child's Good Morning and A
Child's Good Night. Girl detective Nancy Drew, in the seventy years
since her birth in print, grew from age 16 to 18 and solved over
350 mysteries, written by several authors. In the most recent
books, she uses a cell phone and drives a hybrid car. And Rowling's
original ideas for Harry Potter included characters and situations
that peopled all seven novels of his wizardry journey as he grew
Taking my own advice, I'm working on a 21st-century sequel to
Tyrannosaurus Wrecks for computer-savvy dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus
Techs. A sample: "How does a dino communicate from her paw pilot?
By Rex messaging."
This long list should help you see the many possibilities for
publicizing your children's book. Choose any combination that fit
your resources, time, and inclinations. Whatever mix you select
will get your name around, increase your writing credits, give you
practice in promoting yourself, and boost your book sales.
Copyright © 2010 Noelle Sterne
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.
Author, editor, ghostwriter, writing coach, and spiritual
counselor, Noelle Sterne has published over 250 published fiction and
nonfiction pieces in print and online venues. She has contributed many guest
blogs and writes a column in Coffeehouse for Writers, "Bloom
Where You're Writing." With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, for
over 28 years Noelle has guided doctoral candidates to completion
of their dissertations. Based on this work, her latest
project-in-progress is a practical-psychological-spiritual
handbook, Grad U: Complete Your Dissertation -- Finally -- and Ease the Trip for
Yourself and Everyone Who Has to Live With You. In her current
book, Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams
(Unity Books), Noelle draws examples from her practice and other aspects
of life to help writers and others release regrets, relabel their
past, and reach their lifelong yearnings. Visit Noelle at
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