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One day I’m not home. ONE. DAY.

Ah, the glamorous life of a kidlit author!

Truth be told, that sink is almost always full of dirty dishes…and the day was somewhat glamorous…as I appeared at an Eastern PA SCBWI event.

During the “squibby” shindig at the Bethlehem Area Public Library, an attendee asked me what the best book marketing methods were. I answered honestly: I DO NOT KNOW. (I wish I did.)

There are a multitude of things I do to promote my work, but I really have no way to gauge the effectiveness of any of it. Sometimes I will show up to a book reading and stare at this…

…and think it has been a total disaster. I go home to a pile of dirty dishes and cry.

But I forget the efforts to market the event—my books that sat in the window display for weeks, the mentions in the paper, the little things that helped to promote the unfortunate empty-seat syndrome. It was just dumb luck that the event occurred on the first sunny weekend in October and everyone went pumpkin picking instead. (Hey, can you blame them?) So I do not know how all that publicity actually fared in the long run. I may never know. And so, I keep plugging away.

So today, I have for you WAY PAST BEDTIME Pre-Order Prize Packs.

WAY PAST BEDTIME features a precocious hero who’s determined to stay up late. Joseph imagines a party of epic proportions going on and he doesn’t want to miss all the frivolous fun.

Kirkus Reviews says, “It’s not all DJ dance parties and hot-fudge fountains when parents stay up late…or is it? Forget staying up to wait for Santa Claus. After reading this, kids will clamor to investigate someone a little closer to home.”

If you pre-order WAY PAST BEDTIME before the release on April 25, leave a comment below stating so. (This is on the honor system. No need to send me a receipt. I will believe you.)

You will then be entered to win one of THREE PRIZE PACKS.

Grand Prize Pack:

  • Edu Science 3D Night-Sight Goggles
  • Sleeping Emoji Pillow
  • Superhero cape
  • Three Signed & Personalized Books
  • 45-minute SKYPE visit (with your child’s class or your class if you teach)

Two Runner-Up Prize Packs:

  • Two Signed & Personalized Books
  • 45-minute SKYPE visit (with your child’s class or your class if you teach)

You can preorder a signed copy by calling my local indie, The Bookworm at 908-766-4599.

Or you can order via your favorite local or online bookseller. The choice is yours.

Leave your comment below confirming your order—with one comment per pre-order made—and you will be entered to win.

Winners announced on release day, April 25!

GOOD LUCK!

sharonchriscoeby Sharon Chriscoe

Ready, Set, Events!

Hooray! Your book is about to release! You’re geared up and ready for some super fun book events. But what happens when you live in an area that has very few bookstores?

Answer: You think outside the bookstore!

The first thing any author thinks of when planning their book launch is bookstore . . . bookstore . . . bookstore. After all, you have a BOOK! Books belong in bookstores. Your book events need to take place in a bookstore. However, as I soon discovered while planning RACE CAR DREAMS’ book launch, not all events have to be inside a brick and mortar bookstore. In fact, they don’t have to take place inside a store at all.

signWhat? Yes, that’s right. My second book event took place at our local Chick-Fil-A! And we had a vrooming good time! Check out the sign they even displayed weeks in advance!

Why Chick-Fil-A?

One of the things that drew me to my local Chick-Fil-A was that they are always hosting events for kid related themes. They host a Kids Club, School Spirit contests, and many other fun-filled events that support the community and provide a wonderful experience for kids. Plus, it didn’t hurt that I already knew the owner (my husband and I deliver their buns on our bread route! Connections are good, right?).

Start your engines!

Once, I secured the only two bookstores in our community for events, I called up the owner of Chick-Fil-A to see if they would be interested in hosting an event. And he was! He connected me with the Marketing Director who not only was fantastic to work with but was phenomenal in creating an action-packed afternoon! She even secured TWO real live race cars to coincide with the race car theme of my book!

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Doesn’t RACE CAR DREAMS look happy to be featured alongside real live race cars?

Plan, plan, plan! And let the good times roll!

Incorporating as many kid activities as possible (but stick to a budget!) will ensure a crowd pleasing event.

The happier the crowd, the longer they will stick around. Try to start planning for these events as far in advance as you can. My husband and I started a fun project in early spring that featured a battery powered toy car replica of my main character. He was tiny, so only the littlest of kids would be able to fit inside. For the older kids, I picked up a Hot Wheels race track during the Holiday season (at half price!) for the events. Both were huge successes! If possible, decorate your event with theme related items that tie into your book. I used racing banners, racing flags, a checkered rug, race tracks, and goodie bags with all sorts of racing themed items inside for giveaways. All of which I found on Amazon at great prices! And my publisher was kind enough to send me bookmarks and posters for the little ones to enjoy!

collage-pic-3

Vrooming into first place!

On the day of the event, show up early because setting up in a non-bookstore will take extra time, especially if you hold it outdoors. Thankfully, mother nature was on our side and it was a beautiful day, but it’s best to have a backup plan for a not-so-friendly mother nature because well, she does as she pleases. We were prepared to move the event indoors if needed.

As kids and their families arrive, chat with them, show them around, point out the fun activities for the kids to enjoy, talk about your book, and mention when story time will take place (decide this in advance and stick to a schedule). Also, include your own family and friends as much as possible in your events. This always makes for an extra special day not only for you but for them as well.

And throughout the day, be sure lots of pictures are being taken. You don’t get re-do’s on events, and capturing the day will make for great memories.

Now, it’s your time to rev up your own creative engines!

So, as you can see, bookstores are not the only places to have a successful book event. If you have a release coming up, or a book already out in the world, rev up your creative engine and see what happens. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a non-bookstore and ask if they’d like to host a book event for you — you just never know . . . it could lead to a vrooming good time!

Thank you, Sharon! Looks like you had a fun and memorable event!

Leave a comment below to be entered into the RACE CAR DREAMS Giveaway. The random winner will receive an autographed book, a poster, bookmarks, and a goodie bag stuffed with all sorts of racing themed items. Good luck!

race-car-dreams-high-resolution-picture

sharon-chriscoe-photoSharon Chriscoe may not vroom around a race track, but she does zip and zoom around in a bread truck with her husband, Ricky. Fueled with fresh bread, snacks, and writing tools, Sharon has made this her mobile office! She and her husband live in Pilot Mountain, North Carolina. They have three children and one grandchild on the way, as well as an assortment of dogs, cats, bunnies and occasionally a groundhog. In addition to RACE CAR DREAMS, she is the author of BULLDOZER DREAMS (a companion book to RACE CAR DREAMS, Running Press Kids, 2017), and THE SPARROW AND THE TREES (Arbordale Publishing, 2015). She is also a contributor to several magazines such as Highlights High Five, Highlights Hello, and The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids. She is a member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and is a graduate of The Institute of Children’s Literature. She is represented by Jessica Sinsheimer of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency. To learn more about Sharon, her books, and future events, visit her website: SharonChriscoeBooks.com.

I’ve done several dozen classroom Skype visits and I keep refining my techniques. (Yes, I have actual techniques!) I found that many author friends were nervous about doing Skype visits and I’m here to tell you—they’re the best thing since sliced smoked-meat knishes from Caplansky’s! (What can I say, I’m hungry and I just saw them on Food Network.)

Skype visits allow you to stay at home while spreading the joy of reading all over the world! I’ve visited Sicily, Brazil, Kuala Lumpur, and yes—even Canada—from the comfort of my laptop.

Here are my best tips for planning a fun and memorable author Skype visit…

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FOR AUTHORS

Create anticipation.
I love Skype visits because I don’t have to get dressed up. I can stay in my jammies all day! I tell the kids as a children’s book author, pajamas are my “office uniform.” No suit and tie or fancy-schmancy pearl necklace for me!

I have several pairs of cute themed jammies and I let the class predict which ones I’ll be wearing for their visit. Some teachers use this as a math exercise, plotting the results on a chart, like this Kindergarten:

jammiechart

And I wore purple owls that day!

Other classes have even worn jammies to school on the day of my visit!

Sometimes a teacher will read one of my other books prior to the Skype. Suggest something the class can do in advance to create anticipation! Goodie, goodie gumdrops!

Add magic and secrets.
Besides reading my book, I perform a magic trick during the visit, but I won’t tell you what that is. A magician never reveals her secrets.

But, I promise to tell the children a secret about the book once we’ve read it. Every book has at least one. Mine typically have to do with the book’s creation. For instance, I let the illustrator choose what kind of animal NORMAL NORMAN should be. I was giddy with glee when S.britt made Norman a purple orangutan! And the character “Mr. Scruffles” is named after my daughter’s favorite stuffed animal. Speaking of stuffed animals…

Norman with Merideth and Meredith 2

Sterling Children’s Art Director Merideth Harte and Executive Editor Meredith Mundy with NORMAL NORMAN. He’ll be joining me for Skypes soon.

Be spontaneous.
When I visited a school in Florida, it was snowing here and most of those children had never seen the fluffy white stuff. So guess what? I took my laptop outside! I threw a few snowballs at my husband’s car. They loved it! (Husband, not so much.)

I’ve showed the kids my bookshelves, made popcorn and even interviewed my own children. There are a ton of fun things to do—you’re only limited by your imagination. And if I know you, you have one outrageous imagination!

I do Skype visits in my jammies--whichever kind the kids pick. This time it was ice skate jammies!

Ensure the teacher/class has the book you’re reading.
It’s difficult to hold up your book for the webcam. And if you display an electronic copy from your screen share, the kids aren’t seeing YOU. (I make tons of funny faces while I read dramatically.)

It’s preferable for the teacher to have a copy (or two or three for a large group) to show to the kids as you read aloud. Do character voices! Comment on the illustrations!

Back in the 70’s when we viewed slide shows at school, the recording beeped, signaling the teacher to forward the slide. Now I beep for the teacher when it’s time to turn the page! (Because sometimes I comment A LOT on the illustrations.) Plus, the kids get a kick out of it.

monstoreopening

How could I NOT comment on this page?

Have the kids participate.
I prompt the kids to knock when reading THE MONSTORE at the “knock five times fast” part, which happens twice. I also ask them to read the repetitive refrain with me. With LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD, I ask students to listen for the other nursery rhymes and fairy tales and count how many there are. Other authors have kids act out character parts. Create some way for the kids to interact with your story.

Have the class develop author questions prior to the visit.
I used to open the floor to questions at the end of the visit, but then I might have kids asking repetitive questions, or, with the preschool and Kinder-crowd, just making statements. (My favorite: “My grandpa has hair in his ears!”) It works best for the class to arrange questions ahead of time. I ask them to come up with about 4-5. The teacher can pick students to ask the questions.

Reading my book, performing my schtick and answering five questions usually takes up the entire 20-minute time slot. (I’ve been known to go over!)

Provide a follow-up activity.
Email the teacher afterwards with a thank you and an activity sheet for the class to do following the visit. (Or you can email the activity in advance.) Some authors also send bookplates, bookmarks or other SWAG to the class.

skypecontestsierrav

Coordinate your visit with special days.
Is your book about doughnuts? Well, promote Skype visits on National Doughnut Day! Ninjas? International Ninja Day! Of course, there’s also World Read Aloud Day and International Literacy Day for non-doughnut-and-ninja books. (“The Doughnut Ninja” should be my next project.)

Don’t limit yourself to an age group or group size.
I write picture books but I’ve done Skype visits for middle schools and high schools. With older students, I share writing tips and talk about life as a children’s book author. I adjust my presentation for the age group.

Many schools display the Skype session on a large screen or Smartboard, so you’re really not limited to the size of group you can accommodate. All the kids can see you well. I’ve Skyped with over a hundred students at once and it’s been no different from a class of 18.

Ask the teacher to share your info with parents and other teachers.
You’d like the parents to know that you visited, right? Ask the teacher to provide that info in their class newsletter or other missive. Some teachers will even send home a book flyer so the parents can purchase your books. Create one to have ready should they request it.

 

FOR TEACHERS AND LIBRARIANS

I’m not the only author who will do Skype visits for free. Check out Kate Messner’s list and education.microsoft.com for the Skype Education site. Subject matter experts are also available.

Have the book ready the day of the Skype visit.
Ask the author if you should read the book with the class in advance or not. I often have the teacher read one of my other books prior to the visit.

Test out your Skype connection in advance.
Many authors will visit via alternative services, like Facetime or Google Hangout. Just ask.

Create an activity the students can do prior to the visit and/or afterwards.
Ask the author if they have ready-made activities or suggestions.

If you enjoyed the visit, let others know.
Tell teacher friends, suggest that author for an in-person visit or a paid Skype seminar, write a testimonial or tell the parents about the visit. Do whatever feels right. Authors are taking time out of their day to do these visits and they appreciate the support.

So, do you want to Skype with me for free on World Read Aloud Day on February 24th? I’m available for any grade or preschool and can adjust my content to meet your needs.

Just email me at tarakidlit at gmail dot com to schedule it! Should I run out of slots on the 24th, I’ll gladly do a Skype visit another day that week.

I also do more in-depth Skype sessions to teach writing concepts, for a nominal fee.

If you have questions, suggestions or knish recommendations to add, please leave them in the comments.

SKYPE ON!

When I was a debut author in 2013, I joined a group of other debuts called The Lucky 13s. But the group consisted mostly of MG and YA authors; the picture bookish among us were only Pat Zietlow Miller, Jessica Young and me. I thought there should be a debut group for picture book authors only…and now there finally is!

Let me introduce Wendy BooydeGraaff, who is pulling this all together…and recruiting members.

wendybThere is a community for everything, and now there’s also one for picture book authors and/or illustrators who will debut in 2016. With the encouragement and online group expertise of the gracious Tara Lazar and the noble Sylvia Liu, 2016 Picture Book Debut Authors and/or Illustrators was born. It’s open for anyone who has a picture book coming out in 2016, and it’s meant to be a space for us to share our debut journey, to support, market, discuss, share new ideas and enable each other. It will be a space to connect with and promote each other, to celebrate this achievement, and to find out about the great new books that are coming into the world.

So far we have members whose books are coming out with a variety of publishers, including Lee and LowLittle Bee Books, Sky Pony Press, Peachtree Publishers, Bloomsbury, Harper Collins, Ripple Grove Press, and more.

Join us, and help shape our brand new community of 2016 Picture Book Debut Authors and/or Illustrators.

Wendy BooydeGraaff’s picture book debut, SALAD PIE, illustrated by Bryan Langdo, is coming out with Ripple Grove Press in late summer/early fall of 2016.

Thank you, Wendy! There’s so much to do and learn and experience with your debut, and it’s great to have others to share the wild ride!

Congratulations to you all, and we’ll see you in the bookstores!

“With over 3 million books being published every year, competition in the marketplace is enormously stiff. In fact, over 78% of all published books fail, and the average book, today, sells just 250 copies.”

Ouch! A sobering fact from book promotion guru Patricia Fry.

What’s an author to do?

You’ve got to be a book promotion machine.

bookmachine

But you’re not a machine, are you? No, you’re an author.

So that’s why I invited Patricia here today. After reading her book TALK UP YOUR BOOK, I realized even though I’m doing a lot to promote my book, I could be doing more. I SHOULD be doing more.

talkupyourbookPatricia, that 78% statistic is scary. Can you tell us what you mean by “fail”, and is there a difference in these stats between traditionally published and self-published titles?

By “fail,” they mean the books sell fewer than 100 copies. There are no statistics that I know of that indicates how many self-published authors versus traditionally published authors “fail.” However, I can tell you that around 78 percent of all books published today are produced by pay-to-publish “self-publishing” companies.

Why are so many books failing in the marketplace? Because most new authors neglect to study the publishing industry before getting involved. They don’t know the importance of writing the right book for the right audience and they don’t understand that it is up to the author to promote the book. Many new authors who do take the initiative and time to learn something about book promotion, find themselves in over their heads once they are faced with the huge responsibilities involved with marketing their books. They don’t realize how much time, energy and effort it takes. They become overwhelmed and disillusioned and they either never start a marketing program or they quit before they’ve gone very far with it.

Competition is another reason why some books fail in the marketplace. There are more books than ever before and statistics show there are actually fewer readers. But even in the face of competition, there are some books that do much better than others and the key is always–write a book that is needed/wanted by a segment of people, know who your audience is and write for that audience, have your book edited by a good book editor and, when it comes time to promote that book, it is vital that you know how to promote to your particular audience. No one will buy a book they don’t know about. It is up to the author to reach his/her audience. Something else authors often lose sight of is that once they stop promoting their book, it will die.

OK, so about 22% of all books are with traditional houses. Traditional houses will promote your book (right?), but the author still needs to do as much as they can. What do you say to the authors who think they can just sit back and watch sales roll in? And what do you say to those authors who complain, “But I’m not a natural promoter. I’m an introverted writer!”

I don’t know much about the statistics. That isn’t my strength. But I can tell you that in today’s publishing climate, all authors MUST be prepared to and expect to do the majority of the promoting and marketing for their books. There are hundreds of traditional publishers and they each have different ways of working with authors, but most are more interested in the author’s platform and what the author can and will do to spread the word about their books than almost anything else. Most of them want to work with authors who have a following, a reach—a ready-made audience for promoting their particular book and an understanding of book promotion.

By way of promotion from the publisher’s side—generally, a publisher will put the book in their catalog and on their website. They might send out press releases to their list of reviewers, newspapers, etc. They may give an author 3 months with an on-staff publicist. But, yes, the author is expected to be the main marketing agent for his/her book.

What do I say to authors who do not want to promote? I would hope to talk to them before they ever write that book. I would ask them to study the publishing industry and to learn what is expected of them—what their responsibilities are as a published author. I would urge them to learn what book promotion entails—to gain an understanding of this huge responsibility before ever deciding to write a book for publication. If they don’t want to do the promotion, they should seriously reconsider producing a book.

For those who have already written and published a book, I would recommend that they engage in the same study asap. There are hundreds of ways to promote a book. An author can find his/her level of expertise and comfort among them. They can pick and choose—but they must be realistic about what it’s going to take in order to reach their particular audience.

This means, they must know who their audience is, write the book with that audience in mind, know where their readers are and how to approach them. They must understand that it’s all about exposure. No one will buy a book that they don’t know about. Someone (in this publishing climate it is the author) must get word out to their particular audience.

With so many avenues of promotion available now, it can be overwhelming. And so part of an author’s job is to become familiar with those avenues and determine which ones are best for their book. There is usually no one or two activities that will help an author reach his or her audience. Authors must use a variety of activities, skills, methods, mediums toward getting exposure—getting their books noticed by their readers. And those methods, skills, etc. may differ from author to author and book to book.

Is there any particular promotional tool or event that is easiest for a new author to jump into? Is there anything you recommend doing first and foremost?

promoteyourbookFirst and foremost, the author must know who his audience is and where they are—what do they read, where do they hang out—on the Internet, around town, throughout the universe? Where do they go for the sort of information you provide in your book or for entertaining reading material? Then the author must find ways to reach his or her readers through these means.

Remembering that it is all about exposure, as an author, you must make sure your book is front and center where your readers are. This might mean having it for sale at specific specialty shops related to the theme or topic of your book. It might mean announcing your book in appropriate newsletters (members of organizations can usually place announcements in organization newsletters, for example), having it reviewed at appropriate blog sites and so forth. So the primary promotional activities might differ from author to author, depending on the genre and theme of the book and the nature and needs of the audience.

However, as for the basics for most authors, I would recommend building a website related to the genre/theme of your book. I can’t tell you how many authors miss out on opportunities because they don’t have a website that can be easily located and accessed. They rely on their publisher—even their self-publishing company—to get word out about their book through the company website. Bad idea!! If someone is looking for a good mystery involving horses, a handbook for beginning surfers, a guide to gardening in the northwest or a children’s book on hygiene, for example, and this is the nature of your book, you want them to find you first. A website is a good place to start making this happen.

The second thing you need to do is to advertise that website. Put it in your email signature, on your promo material, in your bio at the bottom of your articles, and so forth.

A good place to start introducing just about any book is locally. I urge authors to speak locally, reserve booths at local flea markets and book festivals, offer it as an auction item for charity and visit independent bookstores and appropriate specialty stores and other venues where you can sell the book. You’ll get an idea of the reader interest in your book. You’ll learn tips and techniques that will help you with future promotion. You’ll learn whether or not it would be a good idea for you to travel and speak about your book and whether to sign up at larger book festivals, for example. In other words, you can test your market locally without much expense.

This is a good starting place for many authors. There are hundreds and hundreds of additional promotional tools and ideas–I have over 250 in my book, PROMOTE YOUR BOOK. John Kremer lists 1001 in one of his early books on book marketing.

Thank you, Patricia! I think we’ve got a lot to think about and a lot to do! I can’t thank you enough for your wisdom and your terrific books.

patriciafryConsidered “a maven when it comes to counseling authors in the art of publishing and selling their books” and “one of the most well-known writing gurus,” Patricia Fry has been working with other freelance writers and authors for over two decades. Currently, she has 39 books to her credit, representing an eclectic mix of subjects including several writing/publishing-related books. She is a literary and manuscript consultant, an editor and a teacher. She can help you write a book with more publishing potential, professionally edit your book manuscript, guide you in preparing a more effective book proposal and coach you in more successfully promoting your book. You can find promotional tips and free ebooks at PatriciaFry.com.

Remember my video about the nightmare book signing?

Well, bad signings make frequent appearances in author circles.

Recently a friend set up a table at a “free” outdoor event for parents and toddlers. She thought it would be a good opportunity to showcase her picture book and sell some copies.

No one approached her all morning. She was getting very discouraged.

Finally, a woman who had been manning another table walked up. “I’d like one for my son,” she said. “His name is [very unusual name].”

My friend picked up her pen, personalized the book to the woman’s son, wrote a special note, and autographed it. “That will be $15, please.”

The woman stared. “Oh, I thought it was free.”

My friend was taken aback. “Free? This is a picture book from [Big 6 Publisher].”

“But everyone here is giving away free stuff,” the woman said.

My friend then felt bad. SHE FELT BAD?! “Well, since you didn’t know, I will let you have it at cost. I paid $10 for it.”

“Never mind,” the woman said. “I don’t want it.” And she turned back to her table.

My friend was near tears. She hadn’t sold a single book and now she was stuck with one signed to “Jakellen.” What were the odds that another “Jakellen” would come to a future book signing? About a Jakellen-to-one!

This serves as a cautionary tale for both readers and authors.

Authors do not get their own books for free.

They are offered a very limited quantity upon publication, usually somewhere between 5 and 15 copies, most of which they use for promotional purposes. The rest they have to pay for themselves, typically at 30-40% off the retail price. Sometimes they do better purchasing from Amazon and not the publisher-direct! Free books are very rare.

And remember, that author has worked years to publish that book. And authors do not get paid while they are writing it. A lot has been sacrificed to get that book onto shelves. So please don’t expect a book for free. And don’t walk away from a book that has already been personalized. That author has now lost whatever they paid for the book, and the royalty they earned doesn’t even cover 10% of it.

While tempting, it may not be the best idea to do signings at advertised “free” events. People arrive with the expectation that they’ll never have to dip into their wallets. (And considering the economy, that’s the kind of feeling they want to experience often!) They are not in the mood to buy, and therefore may avoid you, even if what you’re selling looks good. They have not arrived with the mindset (or the money) to make a purchase.

And finally, it may be proper to let the reader know the price before you sign a book. Or else you might get stuck with a lot of “Jakellen” copies. And frankly, “Jakellen” isn’t even on the Social Security Administration’s List of Top 1000 Names. FOR ANY YEAR.

But who knows, maybe like “Splash” I’ve inadvertently begun a Madison-like name craze?!

My friend may be Jakellen-sellin’ after all!

.

Book and pen photo courtesy of Flickr user Jain Basil Aliyah.

I fell asleep earlier and dreamt about my first book signing for THE MONSTORE. It was so glitzy and glamorous, I wanted to reenact it for you. Unfortunately, my makeup smeared onto my pillow and my hair got all matted, plus I lost my Jane Jetson mask, so these cartoon characters offered to be my cast.

But I don’t think they got it quite right. Especially that dude with the camera.

My debut book is still 9 months away, but what I’m hearing from friends is that the promotion process is fraught with dilemmas and doubts. Yes, we managed to write a book, submit it and get it accepted for publication, BUT WILL ANYONE BUY IT? And what if some bookstores don’t even carry it?

Well, don’t worry. Ryan Gosling is here again today to calm your fears.

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 bubblegumday@gmail.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.

rowanofthewoodPublishing a book can be an adventure, and that’s especially true for Christine and Ethan Rose. Authors of Rowan of the Wood, the husband-and-wife team take to the road in their “Geekalicious Gypsy Caravan” to promote their book.

Released with Austin-based Dalton Publishing last November, Rowan of the Wood became a finalist in USA Book News’ National Book Award for Young Adult Fiction. Even with this recognition, Christine and Ethan knew they would have to take on much of the promotion responsibilites for the book to get noticed.

“We knew that promoting both on and offline was essential in getting our book ‘out there.’ First time authors, especially with a small, independent publisher, have a difficult time getting into bookstores. By visiting bookstores for signings, it forces books onto the shelves and creates an interesting event. We get to go out and talk to our readers face-to-face, so it establishes a connection that we hope will last throughout the series.”

Their first tour lasted three weeks as they visited Louisiana, Texas and Florida, appearing at Renaissance Faires and Celtic Festivals on weekends and at bookstores during the week. Their next planned tour, May to July, will feature stops from Mississippi to Missouri with eight weekend events and 20 bookstores on the schedule. They’re also adding libraries to the intinerary and will tell tales in the ancient Bardic Tradition, with a lyre that Ethan crafted. Ambitious? You bet. These folks are passionate about their book–and promoting it.

I asked Christine about the best part of being on tour.

“The best experience is just being on the road! I guess the highlight is when a guy stopped us in a Safeway parking lot (because of the Gypsy Caravan) and bought a book. Another highlight was when we totally sold out of books!”

I was curious about their travels, so Christine offered a tour of the Geekalicious Gypsy Caravan:

Here’s the video on How to Make a Geekalicious Gypsy Caravan with cover artist Ia Layadi. The first coat of green paint peeled right off, and one of the signs printed too short, so lessons were learned along the way.

Indeed, publishing a book can be an adventure. Never were it more true for the Roses. They are a small publisher’s dream come true–artists who are as creative with promotion as they are with their stories.

You can find the Rowan of the Wood intinerary at BookTour.com. Follow Christine on Twitter, or check out her videos from the road by subscribing to her YouTube channel.

As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the path to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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