When most writers think of school book sales, they envision elementary students clustered around a book fair in the library. While children’s authors can capitalize on that setting, schools consist of more than munchkins seeking pop-up books.
Educational facilities range from kindergartens to high schools, technical colleges to universities, trade schools to adult education venues. Seas of students equate to captured audiences of potential buyers. Teachers buy a lot, too.
Know Your Territory
Make a list of schools and their contacts within a sixty-mile radius. You can expand later, once you’ve saturated your home turf. You’ll be amazed at the huge number of schools in that small range. Whether you emphasize children, teens or adults, identify all the educational institutions. Learn the school district lines, because you might shortcut school-to-school by going through the district office.
Become knowledgeable about school activities. Obtain their calendars. Most schools maintain the year’s planned events online. If not, call and ask for a copy. Sit down with a calendar and plan a proposed marketing path for the year, noting book fairs, school carnivals, library celebrations, career days and special emphasis months.
Public School Workshops
If your book’s content is appropriate, offer to do thirty-minute to one-hour workshops for young students. If you’ve written a book about gold mining in Zimbabwe, it might be a stretch to captivate the local kindergarteners, but you certainly could talk about the importance of books and reading as well as how books are written, edited and published. Teach the children how to compose a book review and include online sites and local publications that might accept them. Give flyers, postcards, magnets or trinkets to those eager young listeners. You could print out labels for them to wear proudly, saying, “I Met an Author Today!” Labels that come six to a sheet make the ideal size, big enough to make the wearer look proud, small enough to not cost an arm and a leg.
High School and Adult Workshops
An older audience gives you more latitude. Not only can you teach about writing books, but you can launch into lectures about your research and experiences. Motivational presentations are popular, too. At adult education centers, if you teach a class for a fee, include the price of the book when determining the amount to make everyone’s life easier.
School Book Fairs
Keep your ears peeled for book fairs in your local schools. They often are held during conference week when the parents have to come to school. These tend to be fundraisers for the school library, so be ready to offer the librarian cold hard cash (maybe $20 or perhaps even a percentage of each copy sold) to set up your instant shop and sell your book with your lightweight table, chair and tasteful table covering. Donate a free copy. Take your notebook to capture names, addresses or e-mails for follow-up contact since most schools are prohibited from divulging information about students and parents.
PTA or PTO, Sports or Clubs
PTAs/PTOs are nonprofit entities with budgets of their own. They can feature you as a speaker with post-talk sales. Better yet, they can use your book as a fundraiser. So can the Band Booster Club, the Chess Club, the Soccer Team and the Cheerleading Squad. If the retail price is $20, offer them a $5 profit. If the band is building a fund to travel to a big game, offer your book at a premium. Books beat chocolate because they don’t melt, and they top magazines because the purchaser receives his goodies right away.
Homeschoolers are relentless networkers, and often have two or more shindigs each year to swap curriculum materials. Connecting to them is always idiosyncratically interesting because a lot of them try to fly under the radar. Regardless, they are eager for books, speakers, workshops for kids about writing and publishing, and are usually very nice people. To learn more about connections with homeschoolers, go to http://www.homeschool.com, where they have a current list of regional conferences and local homeschooling support groups.
Each state in the U.S. has an artist-in-education program in which schools obtain state grants to acquire artists (to include writers) for presentations. Artists-in-Residence can present a one-time, two-hour talk, or work within the school’s curriculum for a course lasting for months. Go to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies to find your state commission. http://www.nasaa-arts.org
Also, teachers can write grants for school programs, to include you, your lesson and your books. If you can befriend a teacher, principal or guidance counselor, you’re ahead of the game. If you know how to write grants, you’re a winner for sure.
Alumni associations are some of the most organized groups in the world. They follow each other around the globe, keeping up with newsletters, magazines and periodic mailings. They are local, national and international. Some invite speakers. Others welcome feature stories about graduates, touting their achievements. As a minimum they accept inexpensive advertising in their publications.
Reunions work especially well. After all, you already have something in common. Conversation and connections are in place.
Don’t forget the infamous http://www.ClassMates.com where you’ll rediscover old classmates, and become amazed at who you can network with for mutual benefit.
C. Hope Clark is editor of FundsforWriters.com, and co-wrote Ferocious Promotion for the Timid Writer, an ebook geared toward marketing concepts for the self-published and independent author.
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