Do you have a self-published children’s book to sell? If so, good for you! But promoting your own book can be tricky. Bookshops tend to play safe with official, paying publishers. But present your book to schools, and you’ll likely have kids and staff queuing up to buy it. That’s my experience (in the UK), so here are some tips I’ve gleaned in the process, to help you get started too.
– If feasible, wear your ‘Published Writer’ badge
If you’re officially published at all, title yourself ‘Published Writer’ and even more school doors will open. As a children’s poet with contributions to various anthologies, I’ve found the ‘published’ label helpful in selling my two self-published collections at schools, with about 1,000 sales of each. Yet few check the details of my published record. If my books get their children reading, they’re happy, and if they can tell parents I’m ‘published’, all the better. But if you’re not officially published, don’t let that stop you!
– Offer your expertise
Email local schools, and further ones if you’re prepared to travel, stating that you are the author of a children’s book – image and details attached – and asking if they would like a writing workshop or motivating talk for their students. Set a modest fee to start with: you can raise it as you gain technique.
– Present the book-buying opportunity in advance
On receiving an invitation, tell the school you will be bringing copies of your book to offer children and staff at a discount. Your reduced price will win you dividends, also helping families with tight budgets. Clarify the relevant age group, suggesting they notify parents so they can provide children with money on the day, and pre-arrange a time for signing. While not all schools are comfortable with book-selling on their premises, others are dead-keen. Agents for authors-in-schools will promote both book and bookings, I’ve found, so it’s worth applying for representation, especially if officially published.
– Prepare your session
Children like to be active, so whether you’re providing a talk, story-telling or writing workshop, offer opportunities for kids to get moving – through action rhymes or drama, perhaps. In workshops, they’ll enjoy standing up to read out their lines too. Whatever your input, link it to your book in some way, and read a short extract to whet appetites. If children enjoy the lesson, they’re likely to buy your book, and a happy teacher may buy one or two for the school library.
– Enthuse your audience in your book
Allow time at the end to present your book properly. Hold it up, show pictures, and read some snappy sound-bites. Remind your audience you’re offering a discount, and that you’re happy to sign and personalize their copies. But keep your promotion brief: you’re a writer, not a sales rep. Now take a deep breath, and a photo – it’s signing time! Finally, give your books a whirl in the staffroom – teachers may have families to buy for.
– Use feedback and photos
Record your visit on social media, with photos and passing book mentions. If you don’t have a website, set one up now, featuring both book and visits and displaying top reviews and feedback. Then contact more schools, with a link to your site. As bookings build, so will your double income from sales and services. Bookshops may look up too.
– Workshopping is rewarding
Children love having their imagination fired and their talents stretched, so you’ll find schools great places for your skills – and your books. As for the profits – invest them in Book 2!
Kate Williams is a children’s poet, living in the UK. She contributes to poetry anthologies and literary magazines for kids in Britain, the US and Australia. She also runs poetry workshops for schools and writes articles for educational publications. She has published two poetry collections, which she mostly sells at schools.
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