As an author, the most frequent complaint I hear from fellow authors about a publishing house is ‘nobody tells me anything’ so my first suggestion to any publisher is to send authors a list of where their book has been sent for review and what promotion has been planned for it.
The best, most proactive and communicative publisher I have ever worked with is Paul Collins (Ford Street) for my YA novel, Crossing the Line. We worked hard and productively as a team. First, Paul asked me to send my contracted but unpublished manuscript to two people who we hoped would give us quotes to help promote the book. I chose two high-profile authors whose work I admire – Margaret Clark, whose books are for the same demographic as mine, and Elizabeth Fensham because her Helicopter Man deals with mental illness, as does Crossing the Line. In the first few weeks that the book came out, thanks to publisher and author working as a pro-active team, I had at least 17 book reviews and 12 interviews/articles (radio and newspapers).
SUPPORT YOUR AUTHOR
Basically all PR comes from the author and so he/she must be motivated. Quite often an author, especially a new one, has no idea of how they can promote their latest title, so it behoves the marketing and publicity department to provide authors with a promotion pack. This could include the press release that is sent out to the media and a high resolution copy of the book cover. I use the press release Paul Collins prepared for my book again and again.
Publishers, ask your author to contact all of their local media with the press release and their contact details. Recently I contacted a number of other proactive children’s authors for their take on promotion in the educational market. Here is what they said:
Jan Latta (a highly successful self-published author) Today, for 5 hours, I have been emailing every principal, or librarian, about my books for my next visit to Hong Kong. If the timing is too tight for the school to book me for a presentation, I send a set of books for their approval. I've only had one book returned! In HK I never charge a speaker's fee as I have great success with book sales. Usually over 1,000 books sold a week.
Hazel Edwards: Offering discussion notes is a way of value adding to your book and publicising it long term by word of mouth.
Edel Wignell: One of her strategies is to write articles for a whole range of magazines in Australia and overseas that in some way link with her current publication.
Susanne Gervay, Tristan Bancks, Paul Collins (and numerous others): They make themselves available and actively promote themselves as being available for writers’ conferences and festivals all over Australia.
Sandy Fussell: For her Samurai series (Walker Books) she has created an interactive website. She offers competitions and continually updates the site. Her launch party, which she organised, was the best I’ve ever been to. She sold over 80 books on the night.
Patricia Bernard and DC Green: Both of them travel extensively around Australia offering author talks and writing workshops, and both sell many thousands of dollars worth of their self-published books during their travels. Patricia once paid to have an advertisement placed on Sydney buses!
On looking at some publishers’ websites nowhere did I see links to their authors’ and illustrators’ websites. Nor did I find any indication whether or not their book creators are available for school visits, festivals, etc. However, one publishing house which does this very well is Allen & Unwin: their website is very easy to navigate.
I would advise publishers’ marketing departments to make a clear distinction between their adult and the children’s authors. Teachers and teacher librarians don’t have the time to work their way through publishers’ websites: they want the information at their fingertips.
BOOK AS MARKETING TOOL
One way in which any book itself can be a marketing tool is for the publisher to print on the back inside pages website details where teachers can find teacher notes, or print the teacher notes in the book itself as well as printing the author’s website address and the publisher’s website address. DC Green of Barrel Books makes full use of his books to show the above details.
If the book’s content is linked in any way to the school curriculum, it is a good idea for publishers to provide teaching resources that are appropriate for immediate classroom use (e.g. web quest, worksheets, word searches). This can even go on the blank pages at the end of the book!
WHAT TEACHER-LIBRARIANS WANT
When I asked a group of primary teacher-librarians about how to make children’s books school-friendly, they said:
1. Publish portrait books, not landscape. (The latter stick out from the library shelf and are difficult to shelve)
2. Publish books that link with the HSIE
3. Offer free author talks to schools
4. Arrange pre-publication talks
One teacher-librarian wrote to me: “The thing that stands out for me above all others is someone who knows their books and knows (enough) about education to make connections and answer intelligent questions. If I get an email or flier that just has the publishers’ blurb about the product and the price, then the consultant rings and says “Hi did you receive….do you want to buy…” I always say NO. It’s been filed in the recycling long ago. I need to be able to TALK and LOOK and TOUCH (failing this, to return if unsuitable). There is a limited library budget and we need to take care that what we get is great not just OK or even good, for our educational purposes.”