No matter how you publish your children's book—traditional or self-published—you will still need to market your books to increase awareness and drive sales of your books. Check out these twelve creative tips to get you started!
In this series on How to Write a Children's Book, we've covered everything from developing ideas to finding illustrators. You have your idea. You may even have your manuscript written. You've considered your target reader and the best publishing route. Now, it's time to market your book.
How Books Get Sold
I believe there's a bit of confusion on how books get sold in the two main publishing channels—traditional or self-published (see my full article on this here!). Without getting too detailed, I wanted to give you a brief recap:
The biggest traditional publishers often have their own in-house sales team that calls on big retailers as well as the wholesalers (such as Ingram and Baker & Taylor and Readerlink Services) who serve retailers.
Retailers can include big stores like Target and Walmart and also the smaller independent bookstores, online bookstores and gift stores. Often publishers work with independent sales rep groups that call specifically on book and gift stores.
The smaller and mid-sized traditional publishers without an inside sales force will often use a sales representation group such as Independent Publisher's Group that offers to retailers books from many publishers.
While having this stronger distribution muscle makes it easier for people to find your books in a store, you are still a large part of your book's marketing efforts and generating book sales.
If you recall from previous articles in this series, when you choose to self-publish, you are making the decision to own the marketing part of your project.
While publishing with Amazon's KDP, for example, you will get your book into Amazon's bookstore. However, you will still need to lead your customers there to purchase.
Industry expert Jane Friedman says this about hybrid publishers: “Most don’t sell at all. The selling is up to the author. Some hybrid publishers offer paid marketing packages, assist with the book launch, or offer paid promotional opportunities. They can get books distributed, but it’s rare that books are pitched to retailers.”
As the author, it's important for you to understand how your book is being published, so you know how to best tackle your role in the marketing effort.
12 Ways to Market Your Children's Books
The simplest definition of book marketing is getting your book into your target reader's hands. I covered this topic in depth in this previous article about defining your target reader where I offered many ideas on marketing your children's books.
Marketing is the ongoing job of every author, so I'm going to expand on my list here with ideas I have used, as well as ideas I've seen other authors employ with varying degrees of success. Because this is also true: Marketing is a trial and error game. What works well for one author may not work for another.
One other thing to keep in mind that is unique to children's books: your target audience for the book might be a child ages four to six, but the target market for getting your book to that reader needs to also appeal to the people who know and love them best: parents, grandparents, teachers, and other caring adults in their lives.
Hopefully this list will get your creativity flowing about ways that you can connect with your ideal reader, whether you are traditionally or self-published.
1. Ask yourself where people are already gathering.
This is something I have used with great success. Is there a moms group meeting in your area that welcomes speakers? A farmers market? Book festivals? Is there a Girls' Night Out already happening where you can purchase a table?
Perhaps you partner with someone selling a complimentary product to share costs. The bonus is how the event is already investing in marketing and outreach that can bring customers to you.
2. Offer yourself as a guest speaker.
In our post-Covid work, people are starting to gather again, which is good for authors! What venue can you speak at about an expertise related to your book? An entrepreneurs group? A moms group or a gathering about mental health for teens?
Create a list of two or three topics that can be your specialty, and include them on your website.
3. Creative partnerships and events.
Let's say you wrote a children's book that features a certain kind of food—pizza, ice cream or apple pie! Is there a local restaurant with whom you can partner to offer a story time and ice cream event?
One successful partnership I created was with a children's hospital where I taught kids how to draw (simply!), we read my books, and their families had a chance to purchase them!
4. Team up with non-profits close to your heart.
My book Be Brave Little One is a favorite of NICU families. I have partnered with several groups to help raise money for their organizations.
I also recently partnered with a Milwaukee organization that serves women and families dealing with domestic violence. They bought copies of one of my journals for every resident. What is meaningful to you?
5. Create a video trailer for your book.
A video trailer can be easily shared on social media. When I released a 20th anniversary edition of I Love You So…, I worked with a songwriter to create a custom song and video that now has over 57K views! Once you invest in this creative asset, you are able to use it on multiple platforms.
6. Plan school and public library visits.
Author visits are always going to be a popular suggestion, but I encourage you to figure out a way it can be a most successful school or library visit for you.
Often times an author will ask a teacher or librarian to send home a book order form which can get misplaced and never returned. Some teachers and librarians find it easier to share a link with parents to purchase—even from an author's website or a place like bookshop.org.
7. Create downloadable content.
I have activity guides/activity ideas for many of my books that teachers and parents can download free of charge!
8. Engage with book buyers in your local community.
I have my books in a few local coffee shops and a children's bookstore as my local friends like to know where they can stop in to support a local business and purchase a book!
Talk to these businesses about doing a book signing around special holidays or just because. And always offer to sign the stock so they have special autographed books in their stores.
9. Learn which social networks and online marketing appeal to you.
Do you like Instagram or TikTok? Want to learn about sponsored ads?
Learn best practices for the platforms you truly enjoy and start to cultivate connections with readers, book bloggers, and fellow authors! Supporting other people's work is a great way to grow your literary network.
Offer to review other authors' books and ask them to do the same for you.
10. Build a website and email list.
This one seems obvious, and it's still Marketing 101. (See Joe's step-by-step guide here.) Invest in a nice website. It can be as simple as a page or two that includes your author profile, a book description, and links where people can purchase your books!
Be sure to start an email list by collecting email addresses that you can reach out to when you have updates to share.
11. Carry books and business cards with you at all times!
I can't tell you how many books I have shared on airplanes, in airports and even with random moms I see at a local park. Potential buyers are everywhere.
The goodwill you can generate by gifting someone a copy of your book is priceless! They will be sure to tell their friends about “the wonderful author who gave me a copy of his or her book!”
If you make business cards, be sure to put a picture of your book title on it so people connect you with the book.
12. Think outside the traditional channels.
Two of my favorite marketing examples were shared by Lynda Bouchard, a public relations strategist who is known for her creativity. She once had a client who wrote a book about Charleston, South Carolina, and pitched this author to a cruise ship company docking in the local harbor.
Travelers could sign up for the “Welcome to Charleston” talk and book reading at which the author sold her books! Brilliant. Another author whose book featured sweet tea set up a table in the beverage aisle of a grocery store! Many, many books are sold outside grocery stores.
You will never, ever run out of new people with whom to share your books, so get used to talking about yourself! Just this week, I had coffee with a new acquaintance who, lo and behold, offered to do a book event with me to introduce my books to her network! Yes, please!
Make a Plan
Most writers dread the marketing component of being an author, but with a plan, it doesn't need to be so overwhelming. I hope these tips to help you market your books for children and get it into the hands of your little readers!
Which idea could you begin this week to get your stories into the hands of your audience? Tell us in the comments.
Today, take fifteen minutes to revisit your story intention. Then, in a paragraph, write a summary of your story, who will enjoy it (including references to specific titles if applicable), and what will appeal to adults who are buying it.
Share your marketing pitch in the practice box below and offer feedback on a couple other writers' work too.
Enter your practice here:
I'm Marianne Richmond—writer, artist and inspirationalist. My words have touched millions over the past two decades through my children's books and gift products.
Basically I put love into words and help you connect with the people + moments that matter. You can find me on my website, Facebook, and Twitter (@M_Richmond21).