How to Promote Your First Picture Book, or try to...
Or how *I* promoted my first book, which may not be how you (or anyone else) would promote anything, but just in case you're an author with a book releases looming and you're thinking, "What the heck do I do?" you can glean inspiration from me.
Things I Can't Control: Reviews and "Best Books" Lists:
I was delighted beyond measure by my very first ever review from Publishers Weekly. Not only because it was a starred review, but wow, a starred review! Other reviews have appeared since, and not just on Amazon or Goodreads. Kirkus, School Library Journal, Horn Book, and a handful of blogs. Halloween Good Night has also made an appearance in a number of "Best Halloween Books" lists, linked along with the reviews below. I'll go on record saying Good Reads with Ronna is among my favorites because the reviewer, Christine Van Zandt, fully gets what I'm doing in the book! So exciting when it happens, just like the chuckles I get at readings over the dumpster-diving/bacon-loving goblins - from those who get the joke.
And likely more to come!
Things I've Made:
There's something about pregnancy, stress and anxiety that make me crafty. The whole "going and doing" (below) has been exceptionally draining, so what do I do with my zombie-like free time? I sew stuff, and glue stuff, and blog. Here on my site you'll find coloring pages, a globster craft, finger puppet patterns, more printables... Enough crafts and activities to keep a little one busy for WEEKS.
And since crafts and papers aren't enough, I also put together a book trailer and wrote a series of posts for the Ten Nights of Halloween! Find them all linked below.
The Ten Nights of Halloween
Things I've Done:
I answered what felt like a thousand interview questions. One interview you can see here at Karlin Gray's website!
A Young Artist's Gallery is now a feature of my site! I'd love to see your artwork!!!
I started a quarterly newsletter. Sign up here!
I also went places. Lots of places. An apple orchard, a children's museum, three bookstores...
My final two events are passed: Books & Mortar and Hopscotch Children's Store Halloween Party. Halloween is officially over!
Saturday marked another release event for my first book, Halloween Good Night, and once again, we had amazing fun. Schuler Books in Grand Rapids set up everything from tables with crafts to treat bags to a cup of water for the visiting author (what, for me?!?).
Way back in July I was arranging events to welcome Halloween Good Night into the world, but it didn't occur to me then that all the great plans I made meant I'd actually have to do things and go places. At 32 weeks pregnant, as a homeschooling mama of five already, this doing and going get complicated.
My first book release included another first: the first piece of fan art I've received! After the reading and food and crafts, one sweet girl came to get her book signed, and to show me the ADORABLE picture she'd colored and decorated (one of the coloring pages available here). She agreed to allow me to share it (her mom, too), so here it is!
The release party for my first book happened just over a week ago now, and it was crazy! Crazy busy, crazy fun, crazy full of awesome people. A week (and a bit) later, I'm still glowing.
Here's the official full event list. Share it all. With ALL the people. I want to pack out every venue!
For Immediate Release (This is my press release!)
Counting With Globsters: Halloween Good Night is A Sweet and Not-So-Scary Educational Picture Book
July 25, 2017 Atheneum Books releases Halloween Good Night by Rebecca Grabill of Ada, Michigan
I was in a rush, running up north to pick up our farm share, running back to get dinner made before karate. And all day I'd been checking for updates on a delivery...
Today my happiness came in the form of an email from my editor at Atheneum Books. My first review for Halloween Good Night from Publishers' Weekly. Seriously?!? A starred review!
Things I've Purchased:
I had postcards made via Instaprint. The cost wasn't tiny ($100-ish), but I have a good number left for next year, and I handed out many, many, many postcards. As with most things, not sure what the end result will be. But it's nice to have something to give someone who asks, "Oh, you write books? Anything I've heard of?" I also did an in-depth post on author postcards.
I purchased advertising by boosting a post on Facebook. Which post? My video trailer. Did it do any good? I don't know. It supposedly "reached" 600+ people in the weeks before Halloween, and it only cost me $10. I may try more of this for future books, though I can say I've never bought anything from a Facebook advertisement. I could probably count on one hand the number of times I've even clicked a FB ad. Though I'm a total advertising skeptic, so...
I commissioned a friend who is a costume GENIUS to design several costumes and write a how-to article. She did an amazing job, and while the article didn't get out this season except for one print publication in Australia, we plan to get it on the list for 2018. A little sampling of one of the costumes...
Plans for Next Year:
With the release of Violet and the Woof in October of 2018 I plan to hit bookstores once again, and hopefully add some school visits. If the illustrator provides permission, I'll also publish coloring pages and crafts. Thankfully since this is not a seasonal book, promotion doesn't have a "deadline" (get it, Halloween, DEADline? Haha!). For Halloween Good Night I plan to pick one or two key events, publish another craft (already in the queue!), and of course the costume article mentioned above.
Authors, what have you done that has impacted your book's success? And readers, what would make you most interested in picking up a book?
Making a book trailer can be as easy or as complicated as you want. I’ve made all of mine with nothing but iMovie, photo editing software, and an internet connection. I’m not a video expert by any means, but here’s a brain-dump of everything I know about creating a video trailer yourself, for free!
I first started thinking about tension when I heard Donald Maass speak at a conference some years ago. He described how the simple scene of a man looking at his watch while waiting for a bus can go from bland to Bang in a matter of words. Since then I have often noticed the varying levels of tension, both in books I have enjoyed and in those I haven’t. Here I'll discuss the ten levels of tension, and what they mean to the writer.
How *I* promoted my first book, which may not be how you (or anyone else) would promote anything, but just in case you're an author with a book releases looming and you're thinking, "What the heck do I do?" you can glean inspiration from me.
I did a lot of googling, considering, wondering before I decided to make postcards to go along with my first book's release. I needed to think about time it would take to design, expense to print, ultimate usefulness. Ultimately I decided in favor of postcards, and I'm glad I did. Below discover why!
I’m going to tell you exactly how I made Halloween Good Night’s promo trailer. I promise, this will be a thoroughly unhelpful tutorial—unless you know: Photoshop, iMovie, and scriptwriting—or are willing to learn a lot … fast. It also helps if Google is your BFF. Ready? Let’s begin!
I've been doing this writing thing for more than fifteen years. You'd think I would have an airtight process by now. You'd think I could write a book like “how to write a book.” Right? You'd think I wouldn't flounder with each new project as if I were the first one to wonder if a round stone could roll. Because really, this isn’t my first rodeo.
I started the first semester of graduate school knowing just a little more about picture books than I do about worms. Children love them, they come out on rainy days, and if you cut them in half, they really do die.
13 Must-Have Mobile Apps for Writers. Writing has changed since the days of typewriter and correction fluid (remember the little bottle of white-out with the brush, remember how strong it smelled, how fast it dried, how fun it was?). Pen and paper have been replaced in many fields by smartphones, mobile devices and laptops. But until recently it never occurred to me that more than just writing could be aided by technology.
The 3 Act structure provides a perfect framework for any genre of picture book, about any subject. Plus thinking of it in terms of the grid we drew together, it can help immeasurable with pacing and troubleshooting a story that just isn’t working.
I believe four key elements unite the best of the best rhyming picture book texts: Structure, Speech, Surprise, and Story. Books that fail will be lacking in one (or more) of these key areas; those that succeed will demonstrate at least passing-grade competence in all four. Now to examine these elements more closely.