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Let Them See Your Title: Publicizing Your Children's Book
by Noelle Sterne

Return to Book Promotion Tips · Print/Mobile-Friendly Version

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 (http://www.scbwi.org).

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 (http://www.kidsmusicplanet.com/).

  • 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).

  • Ads. 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. 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).

  • Excerpts. 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 treasure.

  • 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 course, Writing-World.com.

  • 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 copies.

    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 older.

    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 http://www.trustyourlifenow.com.


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