Karen Ferreira’s creative agency specializes in providing high-quality, affordable illustration services for authors.
As a keynote speaker at her annual conference, Children’s Book Mastery, Karen interviewed me about the crucial basics of promoting your book.
We explored the following:
- What mindset should authors adopt when promoting their book?
- What are the most crucial elements of promoting your book?
- What are some creative and unusual ways to promote your book?
- How can authors come up with their own marketing ideas?
- How can an author create a promo kit for themselves?
Because book promotion is such an important – but challenging – topic, Karen generously provided a transcribed copy of our discussion to use here on the blog.
We wrapped up our chat with Karen asking me what my top tip is to help authors succeed. (You’ll have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the post to find my answer. ??)
Q1: What Mindset Should Authors Adopt When Promoting Their Book?
Karen: The first question I have for you is what mindset would you say that authors need to adopt about promoting their books?
Kimberley: Your mindset can have more to do with your progress and success as a writer than even your ideas, skills, or talent. A fixed mindset comes from the belief that your qualities are carved in stone, ‘Who you are is who you are period and characteristics like intelligence, personality, creativity, are fixed traits rather than something that can be developed’. And a growth mindset, on the other hand, comes from the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through effort, right?
Kimberley: So, yes, people will differ greatly in aptitude and talents, interests, or temperaments, but I believe everyone can change and grow through application and experience. Having a growth mindset means relishing opportunities for self-improvement. You can ask yourself, ‘Okay, what do I currently view as challenges that may instead be viewed as an opportunity?’ In the context of marketing, I often hear writers say things like, ‘Well, I’m a writer, not a marketer’. ‘I don’t have time to write and promote my work’, or ‘It’s easier for author A because of XYZ’, or ‘This kind of opportunity, or strategy, won’t work for my particular situation’.
Kimberley: Identifying this sort of negative internal dialogue can be tricky because you’ve been listening to it for so long. It’s gone from thought to belief, to fact. But in order to move forward, it’s vital that you throw out that negativity and take responsibility for your own actions and the present state of your writing career. So you’d focus on your strengths, but be open to marketing and promotion as just another way to stretch your creative muscles.
Kimberley: Ways to start… you want to master your mindset by identifying your negative internal dialogue and cultivating an attitude that moves you closer to your dreams, instead of holding you back.
Kimberley: So dig deeper to find your purpose or the reason for doing the work that you do and why it’s so important. What do you stand for? What do you really believe in? And when you boil it all down, what really matters to you both personally and professionally? And then you write down exactly why you wrote your book, what inspired you, who did you write it for? And why do you want people to read it? You want to be as clear as you can on that.
Kimberley: And then you can outline your vision, your mission, your core values, so that it’s not only clear to you but crystal clear to others what you’re promising your readers and the worldview that drives everything you do. Then once you clarify those goals, you can begin brainstorming the action steps you need to take to reach them.
Karen: That is such an amazingly good answer and I’m so, so happy you said that because it is so true and what you just said is so essential for authors to be able to succeed. We should listen to that a few times.
Kimberley: Yeah, and it is something that takes a little while to master and a lot of people tend to skip over this. I feel like a broken record, because I’m always talking about it, but it is something that, if you don’t nail that down, everything else is much harder later on.
Q2: What Are the Most Crucial Elements of Promoting Your Book?
Karen: Exactly, very, very true. Okay, and then what are a few of the crucial things to do to promote. The ones that you really should do?
Kimberley: Okay for this one, I’ll go into a bit of detail here, because just giving you a list of tactics isn’t all that helpful, and may or may not apply to everyone’s specific career objectives. So, when I consult with writers, I’m constantly reinforcing the idea that you have to lay a proper foundation first. Tips and tactics are the last things you incorporate because only after you’ve nailed down some basic business fundamentals can you successfully implement the tactics.
1 // Take Inventory
Kimberley: So, the first step, you would take inventory of your current assets—your skills, people, or any other resources—and determine what else you may need in your corner to accomplish your mission and the vision you set out for your writing career.
2 // Do a Brain Dump
Kimberley: Then, you do a brain dump to catch and organize your goals and projects. So, determine your business, marketing, personal, creative, and financial goals in terms of priority for, say, the next 6 to 12 months. Then brainstorm the tasks, the resources, and any key dates for each goal. What you’re trying to define here is exactly what requires your focus and what you can let go of, at least for now.
3 // Create Your Marketing Summary + Business Plan
Kimberley: Once you’ve worked through all that, then you can create your marketing summary and business plan. This will help you to clarify your target audience, your author brand, your market research, your content strategy – including your promotions and launches. Determine a publishing schedule, your pricing models, and so on, all those things. And the more detailed and thorough you can be, the better.
Resource: Launch Planning for Authors
Kimberley: It’s very important to keep demographics in mind when you’re drafting a promotion plan because it’ll help you decide what strategies to use in order to reach your target audience. And another example would be defining your author brand because it’s difficult to articulate to others who you are and what you have to offer if you haven’t clearly defined it for yourself first, right?
4 // Create Your Author Website
Kimberley: The next thing would be creating a website that acts as your home base. So it’s organized with sections on your books or other creative products, reviews of those books, an author bio, teaching or workshop activities, and any other services that you would offer.
Kimberley: Some tactics and some of the tips that you’ll hear about, although they might be successful for some authors, they may not actually fit with your author brand and your core values.
Kimberley: But for almost every online business, building a targeted and invested email list of subscribers is hands down one of the most important things you can do to ensure the long-term growth of your writing career.
5 // Start Networking
Kimberley: And the last thing I’ll mention, as it’s critical for promotion, is networking. Being mindful that most authors, and I understand this too, being an introvert, you don’t really want to network. But we all know how important networking can be. It allows you to extend your influence and receive valuable feedback. You gain more exposure for your writing.
Kimberley: Some ways you can put this to work is to build a street team or a launch team, they are sometimes called, or a VIP list. You could get your illustrator involved. So, perhaps they’ll share the book with their own network of professionals, friends, and followers. You want to maybe partner with other authors, or consider other kinds of collaborations.
Kimberley: Basically, be ready for any opportunity. Really just be prepared to represent yourself, your book, and your author business, in any situation. So that’s the list of the big primary points of how to promote and how each one builds on the other, and they all work together. You can’t really leave out any of those things.
Q3: What Are Some Creative + Unusual Ways to Promote Your Book?
Karen: Okay, brilliant. I hope people were making notes there for sure. And then, can you give us a few creative, unusual ways that you can promote your book?
Email List + Opt-In Incentives
Kimberley: Okay, some unusual ones. So, an email—I guess it’s not that unusual, but it’s definitely one of those critical ones that you have to have in there—is an email signup and opt-in incentive. You can offer resources and downloads. Or really any other book-themed content can work very well for that. How you entice people to join your community is where your creativity comes into play.
Leverage Themes and Local Tie-ins
Kimberley: Another idea might be to leverage your book’s themes and local tie-ins, and reach out to places like—depending on your book—zoos, museums, airports, travel and adventure shops, maybe professional offices like doctors, dentists, or optometrist offices, that kind of thing. You can look for local educational or visitor centers, children’s farms, souvenir shops, or other venues that attract families with young children. As long as it has some connection with your book’s theme. And they may be open to stocking your book in the shop, or they might even let you run an event. So that’s something to consider.
Take Pictures and Videos
Kimberley: And also remember to make sure to get pictures, and even videos, to post on your website and social media. Every time you’re doing these kinds of things, it’s always good to have. Either you take it or someone else is taking them.
Add a Link to Additional Resources
Kimberley: Let’s see… another one would be, to consider adding a link to resources and extra goodies for readers at the back of your book.
Create Box Sets, Bundles or Other Collaborations
Kimberley: You could consider creating box sets, depending on how many books you have, or consider collaborating with other authors. You could even include exclusive content in that box set.
Sell Themed Merchandise
Kimberley: You could sell themed merchandise on your website. So again, depending on the age group, depending on the book’s themes, all that kind of stuff, things like custom t-shirts, coffee mugs, candles, cell phone or eReader covers, jewelry, framed art… It’s really unlimited.
Kimberley: This is why knowing your target audience is so critical because you have to know what they’re going to find valuable and what’s just not going to be that interesting to them. But you can have these things available for sale on your website, or even at events that you attend.
Create + Send Digital Gift Packs to Readers
Kimberley: What else? You can send, this one’s kind of fun I think, send a digital gift pack to your readers. Sending anything through the mail can get really expensive, so digital gift packs can be a great alternative. This builds on the idea of having a link in the back of your book and offering additional value or bonuses to your readers. Surprising people by giving more than they expected, and having it be things like exclusive content, short stories, or it could be some author commentary, artwork, in-depth character sketches, posters, whatever… Something that’s digital, that won’t cost anything extra once it’s developed but can add a lot of value and enjoyment for your reader.
Sponsor Local or Charitable Events
Kimberley: And even, I guess if you want to look into sponsoring some local events, or maybe support a charity that aligns with your mission and your brand values. If you know where you’re going with it, you can really make it a distinct and uniquely valuable experience for the reader.
Q4: How Can Authors Come Up With Their Own Marketing Ideas?
Karen: Awesome, nice, so many good ideas in there, and while it’s definitely a good idea to model what already works, how would you suggest that authors can come up with some of their own ideas? Whether it’s something kind of new, or whether it’s modeling, but it’s their own idea? How would you suggest they do that?
Kimberley: Well, the critical thing, and I can’t stress this enough, and so many people just gloss over it, because it seems like it’s not that important—but you have to do the work we talked about for mindset, vision, mission, and goals. You must have that nailed down, and what I’m talking about essentially is your author brand. You’ve got to develop your author brand, so you know exactly where you want to go with your career and why. What the relevance is, because it’s the heart of it, it’s the essence of it, that actually speaks to people. It’s the emotional part of it, that people will be drawn to.
Kimberley: Once you have that figured out, it’s much easier to develop these promotional plans that fit with what you want, and will actually move you in the direction that you’re looking to go, as opposed to just applying a bunch of little things—some might work, some might not. It’s the spaghetti against the wall kind of idea. It might work, but you won’t really know when you do a scatter of things, which one is actually moving the needle, which one is actually moving you in the direction you want to go…
Kimberley: Here’s an example, I’ve had people—when I do a consult—where they’ve built an email list of probably lovely people, but they’re not anything like the audience they were actually intending to build. It doesn’t help you.
Kimberley: Second, obviously, as you said, you’re going to be researching other successful authors and brands—but you don’t have to just stick to authors, this is the thing. It’s brands and businesses and organizations – as well as things like movie-makers, clothing and product designers, other influencers – what are they doing to develop deeper connections with their customers and grow loyalty?
Kimberley: Analyze what’s working and capturing attention, and develop marketing plans that align with your brand and objectives. So, you’re going to be examining, you know, the age, gender, and interests of your audience. You’re going to look at any trends, or any shared interests, or beliefs that you can include in your marketing. All those kinds of things, including your own creativity and instincts about your market. And again, it’s an overlap between your brand, your objectives, and then what interests and experiences the people you’re trying to reach are going to be looking for.
Kimberley: So, you want to take the time to really understand what motivates and moves your audience, and then create a content and brand marketing plan accordingly. Stay confident and genuine in your message, and then share it with your audience in a relatable way.
Kimberley: All of this, though, is what makes your brand unique. The better you can get at this, the easier it is for people to determine why you, instead of somebody else. That’s the key.
Q5: How Can An Author Create a Promo Kit for Themselves?
Karen: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense and it’s true. Okay, and then how can an author create a promo kit for themselves?
Kimberley: Okay, so anytime you’re doing anything public, as I said before, to market your book, make sure you’re taking pictures or have someone do it for you. You can use tools like Canva.com and Picmonkey.com to create many of your marketing and your visual graphics.
Kimberley: You’re going to want to start with things like your author bio, and you can have a short, medium, and long version of it. Some fun facts, maybe. You’re going to have a book synopsis, and you can do that in the third person.
Kimberley: You can add a press release, a sample chapter, maybe. A good thing to have on there is interview questions, or a Q & A tip sheet.
Kimberley: So again, when you’re aware of branding, you take the time to move that conversation in the direction you’d like it to go. So, things like interview questions, Q & A’s, tips and stuff, are all good things to have available. It saves people time and it makes it more likely that they’ll offer to give you an interview.
Karen: When you say ‘Q & A tips’, can you give an example?
Kimberley: Let’s say for example if it’s a children’s book, and there’s a theme in there that you think is specifically something that you want to focus on in this particular interview… let’s say it’s a podcast, and it’s for new moms… so you want to try and have questions or tips that would speak to that particular audience. If you’ve got more general ones in your media kit, you can also create ones more tailored to the interviewer’s audience but are still in line with your book content.
Kimberley: So maybe it’s a book for bedtime for kids… you can provide the questions for the interviewer about your recommendations for sleep time routines. Or you can talk about the struggles that you’ve had with getting your own kids to bed on time. If your book is humorous, and your brand is also a bit cheeky, then questions that lead you to tell funny anecdotes will reinforce your author brand image. You want to make it relatable, and you want to direct it to this specific audience.
Kimberley: So again, if you know your target audience well, even the interviewer when he’s looking at the questions, is going to be able to judge whether this is a good fit for his podcast and listeners, as well. It’s always better for everybody if you can make it a good fit for all sides, as opposed to forcing or coercing. You don’t want to push anything on anybody. You want it to be a good fit, otherwise, it’s a waste of time because the interest won’t be there.
Kimberley: So let’s see what else… your contact info. You’re definitely going to want that. Do not play hard to get. I find this too on author websites. It’s so hard sometimes to find contact information for authors and it’s like, ‘But you want to be reached’. You definitely want to be reached. So, full name, email address, links to any of your other professional online platforms, your social media. If applicable, you can include your agent’s name, or any other representatives, or anybody else who people might have to go through to get to you.
Kimberley: You may want to add a sell sheet for retailers and book bloggers. What else? Book review excerpts. You don’t want to overdo it, you don’t need 50 of them, but you want to have those key reviews and testimonials, so people can know right away, ‘Okay, this book is for me, or this is what I’m going to like about it’.
Kimberley: Photos, of course. So, you’d want high-resolution headshots. Obviously your book covers, so people can access and download them because you don’t really want anybody off scraping the internet for random pictures of you, or your books, or whatever other info might be lurking out there online about you… best to control that kind of thing, again, because of branding.
Kimberley: You don’t want to overdo it, because you want it to be succinct. You want people to get the information that they need without being overwhelmed with a bunch of material. You want to be careful about that as well.
Resource: Author Media Kit Templates
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Q6: What is Your Top Tip to Help Children’s Book Authors – or Any Author – Succeed?
Karen: Brilliant, that is a comprehensive answer, which is excellent. And then what would be your top tip to help children’s book authors – or any author – succeed?
Kimberley: It would have to be, ‘Focus on developing your author brand.’ And when I say ‘author brand’, I’m not talking just logos and colors and fonts and stuff like that. To me, a brand is, as I mentioned, the heart of your business – why you’re doing what you do. The vision, the mission, the whole thing. So it’s not enough just to be good at what you write. You have to be able to easily and clearly communicate your vision, or the purpose behind your work—coherently voice it to others—the importance of it, so that they understand. This is to me why effective author branding is such a big and significant part of developing and growing your writer platform.
Kimberley: If you don’t have that nailed down, everything becomes much more difficult. Knowing who you are, what you’re about, and how it relates to the people you’re trying to reach, that’s, I think, probably the biggest thing you can do for yourself and your writing career.
Karen: You gave so many specifics and such a good overview of what’s needed, and I really appreciate—well—everything you said, but specifically, as well, as you were speaking about the mindset and how certain things come before anything else can really work. Thank you so much for joining me.
Kimberley: My pleasure.
Karen Ferreira is an illustrator, award-winning creative director and owner of Get Your Book Illustrations. She helps self-publishing authors get amazing, affordable illustrations. She has spent many hours learning about self-publishing and enjoys helping others succeed in this field.