by Ruth Spiro
In 2003, I sold my first picture book manuscript, Lester Fizz, Bubble Gum Artist, as the result of a contact made at the SCBWI Annual Conference. In the five years between the sale and my book’s release in 2008, I had plenty of time to think about innovative ways to promote it. Yes, my marketing plan included the tried-and-true mailings, signings and presentations, but I also wanted to do something a little different. That’s just me.
With a moderate investment of time and money, in 2006 I created my own holiday, “Bubble Gum Day.” Unsure of my publication date at the time, I chose the first Friday in February because aside from Groundhog Day, there’s little else going on. This year, Bubble Gum Day falls on Friday, February 4.
The premise is simple: On Bubble Gum Day, kids pay fifty cents to chew gum at school, with the proceeds used for any project or charity the school chooses. Kids have fun, schools benefit, and my name and book title get valuable publicity.
Six years later, it’s become a fun and effective promotional tool that has increased my visibility as an author and “Bubble Gum Expert.” It has also gained me exposure in both print and broadcast media, including The Washington Post Express, The New York Daily News online and Good Day Sacramento, as well as on radio stations in both large and small markets. This holiday with kid-appeal has been celebrated in countless schools, public libraries, children’s museums and community organizations.
Most importantly, schools and community groups have used Bubble Gum Day to do some wonderful things. One school raised enough money to buy a goat for a village in Africa through Heifer International. Another used their proceeds to purchase snacks, which they sent to soldiers in Iraq. Yet another school collected used books instead of money, and wound up with over one thousand books, which they donated to local women’s shelters.
Frankly, when emails with these stories began appearing in my mailbox, I stopped thinking about the holiday as a promotional tool—it’s become so much bigger than that.
This year, I’ll spend Bubble Gum Day with a group of second and third graders in Oak Brook, IL. The money they collect will go to Reading is Fundamental. They don’t know this, but I plan to chew lots of bubble gum too, for which I’ll also make the required donation!
Then, as in past years, I’ll eagerly anticipate the emails, photos and packages of letters I’ll receive over the coming weeks, as schools tally up their proceeds and continue to make Bubble Gum Day a sweet success!
Win a signed copy of Lester Fizz and a bubble gum prize pack! Send a photo of your most creative bubble gum bubble—in a group (like your class), individually, or like one of Lester’s unique bubbles. Email photos to email@example.com with the sujbect line “Tara Lazar contest” by February 7th. Ruth will select a winner and some bubble photos will be featured here. Good luck!
Ruth Spiro is the author of Lester Fizz, Bubble-Gum Artist, published by Dutton. Her essays and articles have appeared in FamilyFun, The Writer and Woman’s World, as well as The Right Words at the Right Time: Your Turn, edited by Marlo Thomas, and several Chicken Soup for the Soul titles. She frequently speaks at schools and conferences. Visit her online at www.ruthspiro.com. Learn more about Bubble Gum Day at www.bubblegumday.com.