School days. Those ghastly remembrances of how skinny, fat, awkward, embarrassed, untalented, shy, or uncool you were. Or maybe you have memories of football games, proms, pep rallies, protests, best friends, late night exams and Friday night parties.
Head back to school and let your comrades, alumni, and teachers know how you’ve become a writer. Your schools offer promotional coups for you. Most schools love to revisit old students and flaunt the successful as a reflection upon their ability to mold youngsters into triumphant adults.
Classmates love knowing someone special with whom they had a personal history. Imagine what people say who went to high school with Bill Cosby, Barbra Streisand, or J.K. Rowling? Why not feed that frenzy and offer your own material to bridge that connection to high school and college buddies? School-related avenues for your sales and promotional pitches are as simple to find as ABC.
Most classes, high school and college, have reunions every ten years and often every five. Ask to set up a table and offer autographs. Plan ahead and have an ample supply of books and some pretty classy souvenirs that classmates can carry home.
You might not have been popular way back then, but create a poster, postcards, and bookmarks with pictures of you then and now along with your book cover, and you’ll rate pretty high on the coolness scale. These printings cost very little at online places like Vistaprint.com or EarthlyCharms.com. Buttons, pins, and stickers will disappear like cigarettes in the boys’ bathroom when the teacher walks by.
Most colleges publish at least one magazine for alumni. They cry for information about travels, awards, promotions, and accomplishments and adore pictures to go with them.
I contacted my college publication, Clemson World, from Clemson University in the beautiful South Carolina upstate. I sent postcards, business cards, and a cover letter about my book, The Shy Writer ). I listed my credits and the success of my online business, FundsforWriters (http://www.fundsforwriters.com). The editor connected with my endeavors and asked for photographs and an edit on the write up. My picture appeared in the winter edition with contact information and two paragraphs of material.
Pockets of alumni publish newsletters. Your college has clubs of graduates in most states and some countries. Search your university and alumni organization websites for links, names and addresses. Phoenix, Arizona has a Clemson University club even though Clemson is a South Carolina school. Don’t forget to ask if they have a web site.
Universities list the clubs online for prospective students. Why not contact the presidents of those clubs and ask to speak or offer a book signing as a returning alumnus? Clubs advertise their guests on radio stations, bulletin boards and campus newspapers to attract new members. If you once belonged to that club, you possess a golden ticket to reenter the fold.
As a fraternity brother or sorority sister, you have another assurance of opportunity. Tight-knit organizations such as these take care of their own.
Offer your services as a guest speaker. This offer extends from elementary schools to universities. Kids love seeing the real thing, and if you can get permission to sell your books, you have a captive audience more than happy to take one or two off your hands.
A positive note on classroom appearances is the possibility of grants. Arts-in-education programs exist in every state with many offering stipends to visiting artists. Some offer residencies for multiple days and weeks. The school applies for the grant and compensates you for the time and commute you invest. Successful writers learn how to endear themselves to the teaching staff to receive repeat appearances.
In post-secondary education, you might convince a teacher to use your book in class, necessitating the bookstore to carry it. A book signing at a college bookstore or in a classroom as you answer questions about the subject attracts admirers with lots of word-of-mouth activity.
Parent-teacher organizations wield power. They hold functions for students, parents, and the public, often sponsoring guests. If you don’t mind speaking, a PTO meeting provides a wonderful forum for you and your book. They might entice a school to purchase your book, teach a class, or announce your book’s release in the school newsletter. This type of connection results in dozens of sales instead of a handful, and the thrill of entertaining children beats a bookstore signing any day of the week!
What yearbook does not have advertisements? As a previous yearbook editor, I remember begging for ads and financial support, and I usually settled for the dry cleaners, car dealerships and insurance salesmen. Purchase that ad and you reach not only the students, but their parents and teachers as well. Mention you are an alumnus.
Colleges and universities usually have a literary journal. Be a supporter. Place an ad. Better yet, contribute an article, poem or essay for consideration and receive free advertising through the byline and bio. These journals are great for poets who scramble for venues. If you are a graduate, flaunt it.
Advertising costs in college and high school papers beat the heck out of the city and state newspapers. Become a benefactor of these publications.
Who hasn’t heard of this online organization that ties scattered graduates together? This website surprisingly gathers thousands of high school and college graduates in one cyberspace location for conversation and reunion efforts. Classmate.com is a great networking tool and a grand start for a mailing list.
How quickly we forget. Here we are trying to break into new circles and find new ways to promote ourselves when we forget we have a family dying to hear from us! Regain those old school affiliations and be amazed at your sales, because everyone loves to support the hometown favorite.
RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE:
+ Classmates.com – http://www.classmates.com – A web site that connects high school and college alumni.
+ PTO Central – http://www.ptacentral.org/ – A central information resource for PTO groups, PTA groups and other school related parent teacher organizations.
+ National PTA – http://www.pta.org/ – Parents and teacher association with a mission to help educate youth in America.
+ New Pages – http://www.newpages.com/npguides/litmags.htm – List of collegiate and non-collegiate literary magazines.
+ American Society of Newspaper Editors High School Journalism – http://www.highschooljournalism.org/ – ASNE support site for high school newspapers, journals, and other publications.
+ Student Press – http://www.studentpress.org/ – The home of the National Scholastic Press and the Associated Collegiate Press.
+ Greek Pages – http://www.greekpages.com/ – The original fraternity and sorority web site.
C. Hope Clark is editor and founder of FundsforWriters.com and author of The Shy Writer: An Introvert’s Guide to Writing Success.