Saturday, February 15, 2020

What the Marketing Department Wishes Nonfiction Writers Knew

By Kerry McManus, Marketing Manager, Boyds Mills & Kane

Congratulations -- your book is finally finished and about to be released into the world!  But, now what? Promotion, publicity, and marketing are all essential to your title’s success, but what’s the best way to get attention?  How can you effectively work with your publisher’s marketing department – and produce results? 

Here are some tried and tested tips from my years as a children’s books marketer that will make your book marketing experience a positive one – for you, and for your publisher, too.

Keep your working hat on!
Most marketing and publicity departments are lean – even at big publishing houses. It’s unrealistic to expect your publisher to do everything from A to Z to promote your book, so it’s imperative that you continue your work to get the word out.  To start, make good use of your personal connections and contacts.  Let teachers at nearby schools and librarians at your local library know about you and your book.  Contact area bookstores and media.  Send a note to your college or graduate school’s alumni publications.  All of these efforts will begin to pave the way to recognition and sales.

Know your audience (a.k.a. people who will actually buy your book)
While kids are your reading audience and end users, they rarely have the “purchasing power” to buy books.  Adults buy books – specifically teachers, librarians, parents, and grandparents.  Focus on promoting your book to these buyers. Work with your marketing department to reach out to bloggers who write about nonfiction books.  Be willing to write original content for guest posts on blogs.  Maintain a robust  and easy to navigate website with up-to-date information and content. Discuss a VIP mailing of your book to key influencers with your marketing department. Start engaging on social media.

And speaking of social media…
Whether you’re a fan or not, social media is here to stay.  The good news is that social media channels provide an excellent place for authors and illustrators to have a conversation with their followers.  It’s important that every author and illustrator maintain a social media presence, preferably on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram – teachers and librarians especially want to hear from authors and illustrators!  Provide tidbits on how you wrote your book.  Tell a story about your subject matter.  Consider a giveaway of your book to create excitement.

Collaborate with your fellow nonfiction authors and illustrators
Many authors and illustrators join forces to promote each other’s books, especially on social media.  Seek out other nonfiction authors and illustrators and offer to promote their titles to your followers, and ask them to do the same.  This “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” approach works – and also introduces you to contacts you may not be familiar with.
 
And the award goes to…
Awards can help sell nonfiction books.  Talk to your publisher about submitting your book to various awards committees that align with the content of your book. For example, the Children’s Book Council facilitates awards in conjunction with the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS).  If your book is fortunate enough to be chosen for awards such as these, you’ll be reaching educators and librarians who will purchase your books for their classrooms or libraries.   

Be reasonable and understanding with your marketing department (please!)
Know that your marketing department staffers have the best intentions and your overall success in mind at all times.  That being said, children’s books marketers are really busy folks with many behind-the-scenes responsibilities and tasks that may not seem obvious to you, but are imperative to a book’s success (metadata, anyone?)

And while I’m on this topic, authors and illustrators should always be aware that marketing budgets are usually tight.  Promotional materials and trips to conferences are costly and not every book or author/illustrator will receive this type of push.  For example, it’s always a good idea to talk to your marketing department before you accept a conference invitation (and never assume that your publisher will pay for your trip!)

Consider outside help
Hiring a freelance publicist is a great choice for those authors and illustrators who want that extra “boost” for their book.  These publicists can help you craft an effective plan for your book and will happily work in conjunction with your publisher’s marketing department.  Ask your publisher for recommendations.

Keep the bottom line in mind
The ultimate goal of any children’s book marketing effort is to SELL BOOKS.  Focus on opportunities that will lead you to this goal, and you’ll be well on your way to success. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kerry McManus has worked in children’s books marketing for almost twenty years.  She is currently the marketing manager at Boyds Mills & Kane, where she works closely with nonfiction authors who publish under their Calkins Creek and Boyds Mills Press imprints, and has previously held marketing positions in the book division at Highlights for Children and at Random House Children’s Books. 


ABOUT THE PRIZE

A selection of recent Calkins Creek and Boyds Mills Press nonfiction titles.

Leave one comment below about what struck you in the post.

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered NF Fest participant and you have contributed one comment below.

158 comments:

  1. Kerry, thanks for your post. It’s good to know what’s expected of the author after a book is published.

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  2. Thanks Kerry. This is great advice to keep in mind.

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  3. Thanks for sharing your advice about marketing. -Sara Ackerman

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  4. Thank you for sharing the marketing tips! It's important to understand expectations and how to work in partnership with a publisher.

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  5. Thanks for your insights and advice.

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  6. Thank you for this great marketing advice.

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  7. Thank you for all the tips, Kerry. My nonfiction title is about to be released and your post is exactly what I needed to read. It's hard to put myself out there with my first book but I'm going to do it!

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  8. What stood out: "...social media is here to stay. The good news is that social media channels provide an excellent place for authors and illustrators to have a conversation with their followers." I still have a ways to go with this.

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  9. I so needed to read Kerry's article to kick-start my media presence. My confidence is lacing in the media area. I love Kerry's plan outlined for publicity, which was mindboggling but now seems doable.
    Melanie Vickers

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  10. A strong partnership with your publisher is a huge plus. Working in concert is essential and leads to recognition and ultimately to sales. Thanks for a wonderful post from a marketing professional.

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  11. Ty for this information, Kerry. As a pre-published writer, I am already doing many the things you have suggested. Promotion is a team sport. We writers need to understand this and begin working towards our goal of being successfully published now.

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  12. Kerry, This a great post especially to let authors know that publishing houses need our help to promote a book. Thank you for emphasizing the importance of being our own advocates, with your help of course!

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  13. Thank you for a great post. In a little over a year my debut NF book comes out and this offers a lot of great info. "Social media is here to stay." That is definitely true. I'm still trying to figure out Instagram, or "Insta" as my 13 y/o calls it. :-)

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  14. Thank you for the reminder of the important part authors play in marketing their own books.

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  15. Terrific advice--I've followed it all, except for hiring outside help (I'm my own best publicist)!

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  16. You are the best advocate for your books. That is why it is so important to stay engaged in the process of marketing your book(s). Easier said than done. So much good advice here.

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  17. Thank you for filling us in.
    I do understand how important the author is in getting the book in the libraries, bookstore hands, as many small publishers have no marketing budget.
    With my debut , Crow Spirit, I have become a make -your -own -marketeer!



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  18. Thank you, Kerry. Great marketing advice!

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  19. Thank you for the practical tips. I hope I get the chance to put them to good use soon.

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  20. Great tips, Kerry. I'm going to add: Kerry has been so responsive whenever I've requested ARCs and review copies so I can help promote (what I think are) cool new nonfiction books! She is truly dedicated to helping BMK authors gain exposure to parents, teachers, librarians, homeschoolers, and even lowly bloggers.

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  21. Thank you for all your great ideas for marketing. These can also work for fiction titles as well.

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  22. And if your local library doesn't have your book, ask them to carry it! Our system--and it's huge--will carry at least one book of any local author (trade or self-pubbed). And they're mandated to serve the public so they love author visits! (They may not be able to pay you but they will allow you to sell your books and for self-pubbed authors, this is a real bonus.)

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  23. Thank you for the marketing tips, Kerry! I'll keep this info for future use.

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  24. Thanks for the insider information! It’s good to hear it from a pro! It’s reassuring to know that social media really is important!

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  25. Such good advice here from someone who knows the business. Thanks for the timely tips.

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  26. This is a great post! I take the business side of books very seriously.

    I have a question - there's a group in my city that gives book awards. But you have to PAY to submit your book. Is this typical?

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  27. I'm so far from having anything to market it's almost daunting, but this is still so helpful. This gives me great insight into the relationships and skills I can start working on now so they are ready when I do get there. Thank you!

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  28. Lovely to imagine any book of mine winning an award and being selected around the country for libraries! Thanks for the ability to dream of the work of marketing.

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  29. I recently watched a webinar that emphasized the importance of considering marketing and promotion even when you are querying agents. It's not an area I had really considered before.

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  30. Thanks for your post! I actually run a brand strategy boutique--interesting area for me to consider offering my services! Thanks for your suggestions!

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  31. Thanks for the post! I'll look at the idea of hiring a freelance publicist differently now.

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  32. Thank you, Kerry, for all the excellent ideas on how to promote one's book.

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  33. Thank you, Kerry, for such a practical and important post. Marketing is a whole different world to many of us, so it's nice to get some inside insight.

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  34. These are wonderful suggestions and I've found it helps to think less about "marketing" per se and more about sharing your passions with a broader audience. What made you excited about your topic? What cool facts are you eager to share with others? Focus on that and it feels much more natural to add *by the way here is my book on this very topic if you want to learn more!"

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  35. Kerry thanks for the tips. It is always about the personal/face to face connections.

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  36. Great post with valuable information. I actually took good notes on this one! Thanks for sharing ideas and suggestions with us today.

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  37. For some reason, most authors shy away from marketing and "putting themselves out there." Thanks for some very sound advice for all of us to follow. This post makes sense and give us a road map to follow. Very much appreciated!

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  38. I think new authors have a hard time with marketing because they might be creative introverts. But it is clearly essential to promoting your book.

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  39. Thank you, Kerry, for this trip behind the marketing process. I'm saving your post of timely tips.

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  40. Thanks! I liked the "Keep your working hat on" tip!

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  41. I was a "marketeer" for over 15 years yet I find it difficult to market myself!One question I do have regarding book marketing/author branding, is how much does purchasing & using swag really help in sales? For instance, many authors pay to make bookmarks, book plates, other chotchkies--is the financial input worth it for PR or book sales? Thx for your insight!

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  42. Thank you for reminding me to focus!!!

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  43. Thanks Kerry, I appreciate your behind the scenes advice. I am, as many writers are, an introvert so this "marketing" of oneself is not easy. I'll take every tip and suggestion I can get.

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  44. Thanks for the good advice from an insider. Marketing is a mystery to so many of us, it was good to have some plain talking about it. Love Calkins Creek!

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  45. Great post, Kerry! Thank you for sharing your information about an area that most authors do not think about before they are published. I, like many authors, am not at ease with "putting myself out there" but realize that marketing ones book is vital to its success.

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  46. Thank you for sharing reminding us to be kind❤️

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  47. Thanks for sharing this helpful and practical information on marketing. It does not always come easy to introverted writers!

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  48. I'm adding this info to my folder on book promotion. Thanks so much for this detailed description of all the things an author could, and should, do to help promote their book!

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  49. Printed out and memorizing this post! I especially like "Let...librarians at your local library know about your book." One of the activities on the grid was to introduce yourself to your children's librarian. I almost checked it off because I had already done that months ago when a light bulb went off. There are at least five public libraries in nearby communities. I need to go visit those, too! Thank you for the great ideas.

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  50. Thank you for all these marketing tips!! 🙂🙂🙂

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  51. This lays it out nicely. I thought that the awards committees found the books, so it's helpful to know that publishers can submit for those. Thanks!

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  52. The key words for me are "never assume." Never assume the publisher will pay for conferences or travel, never assume you can write things off on your taxes, always check. I was sad when Highlights sold their book division, but I'm so pleased to read your post. I feel like Boyds Mills and Calkins Creek books are in very capable hands with you!

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  53. Know your audience and who will buying your book. I think this is so important.
    -Ashley Congdon

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  54. It's funny that I'd not considered grandparents before. I think I'll look up my local Probus and U3A groups (I'm in Australia) to see if they'd like a presentation by a local children's author. :)

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  55. Thanks for these tips, good to have practical, behind the scenes advice!

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  56. That is a good list of to-do; thanks! Re CBC, I was under the impression that only publishers who are members of CBC get books promoted by them. My publisher isn't a member so my book won't be put forth for the NSTA and NCSS awards. Fortunately, there are other awards out there that don't involve membership and my publisher did put the book up for those. People might want to check if their publisher is a CBC member.

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    1. That is a good tip Teresa. I wonder why a publisher would NOT want to be a member of the CBC?

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  57. I was surprised to learn that even large publishing houses have small marketing departments. Interesting article with some great advice.

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  58. It's so helpful for authors to start thinking about marketing way in advance of publication--thanks for sharing so many thoughts about how we can do that in a productive way!

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  59. Thank you for these tips! I now have several avenues for publicity that I hadn't thought of.

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  60. Very helpful tips. I appreciated the list of Twitter, FB and Instagram as places to start. Thanks!

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  61. Great advice and useful tips! One of the key points I picked up is to always know your audience and who the buyers are = how to target your marketing. Thank you - Priscilla

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  62. Thanks for the helpful advice, especially the crucial point: Know your audience. This strikes me as a critical element for every writer.

    I appreciate your insight.

    Celia Viramontes

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  63. Even if publishing houses had more marketing money, it's in the authors best interest to promote their book. Great advice here!

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  64. Thanks for all the great suggestions, Kerry! What a good idea to collaborate with fellow authors on promotion.

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  65. Kerry! So nice to put a face to the name. Thank you for a wonderfully post and so many great ideas.

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  66. Great advice - thank you. I've found that doing school talks, library visits and reading festival appearances have been great ways to engage with my readers. I'm learning the ropes of social media - my teenagers have had a few laughs at some of my learning mistakes along the way!

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  67. Thank you Kerry. Your advice is wonderful. Marketing is an important step in a book's journey.

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  68. We can forget that the work continues even after the writing is done - got to get that book into the hands of readers! Thanks for all the tips!

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  69. I'm still in the "pre-published" group, but this is a great list to keep in mind for WHEN my book is debuting. I'm already building up my social media contacts and networking with other writers to help promote their books so I can learn from what they are doing too.

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  70. It's a lot of work, but It you loved you book enough to get it this far, why not keep working.

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  71. As a prepublished author, I look forward to the day when I’ll be able to put all this advice into action! Thanks for giving insight into marketing -it is vital to a book’s success.

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  72. Kerry, I especially like the idea of joining forces with other authors to write about (or do events to publicize) their books. Great way to help get your own and each other's books into the hands of not only readers, but also those who advocate books for them: parents, grandparents, teachers, and librarians!

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  73. Thanks for breaking this down for us. It's nice to hear these tips from a marketing manager's perspective.

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  74. Thanks for the ideas! I never thought about hiring a freelance publicist. I’ll have to keep these in my file as I’m prepublished :)

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  75. Thanks for these great tips and ideas! It’s wonderful to hear from a book marketing professional about how authors can help promote their books!

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  76. Great advice on the necessary and valuable partnership to get your stories to your readers. Thanks!

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  77. Thank you for sharing valuable information from your perspective as a marketing manager, Kerry.

    Suzy Leopold

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  78. Thanks, Kerry, this is great advice!

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  79. Thanks for the tip about hiring a freelance publicist. It's good to know there is help for debut authors.

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  80. Great post! As an author whose pb debuted in 2019, you've answered some lingering questions I had about marketing.

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  81. Thank you Kerry! Lots of useful ideas. Be Inspired, Nicki Jacobsmeyer

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  82. Great advice, Kerry! Thank you for sharing.

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  83. Excellent information to keep in mind. This post is very useful and I never thought about working with other authors to promote each others' books.

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  84. I sell my books at local artist/craft markets. I’m lucky I’m in a tourist area so I have the full demographic of visiting parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians. People also take my business card or book promotional material which takes my branding a little further afield, I’m hoping. I also use social media but I can’t assess how far that takes me beyond my ‘friendship’ base

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  85. Thanks for such a timely topic, well delivered. I took it all in, but felt exhausted when I read about keeping up with social media. This feels like another full time job, aside from the writing. I was happy again when you made the suggestion of hiring a freelance publicist. Sounds like a great idea to me!

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  86. Great advice. I picked one form of social media and dove in. It's worked out well for me, but I also developed relationships with the independent booksellers in town. We're lucky to have more than one!

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  87. "The first time a critique partner suggested I rewrite a manuscript, I was mortified. It’s already written, it’s done, I thought. But no. It did need more work. Thirty revisions of more work." Ha, ha! Made me laugh -- yes, I've done that.

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  88. For me, knowing your audience is key. As a teacher, I'm always thinking about making connections and relationships with people who work with children.

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  89. Kerry, I like how you explained which audience we need to remember and focus on in addition to the kids - teachers and librarians and other adults important too. Thanks for sharing your insightful advice.

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  90. Great advice here on how to market your book, every little bit helps.

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  91. Filing this away for the future. Thank you for these helpful tips, Kerry!

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  92. Very informative. Thank you for sharing!

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  93. This is amazing insight! Thank you.

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  94. I hope I will soon be able to use these greta tips!

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  95. Thank you for all of these fabulous marketing tips. I greatly appreciate the info!

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  96. Great list of marketing tips. Thank you so much for sharing them with us.

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  97. I've really got to do better at this. Thankyou.

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  98. I'm so interested in learning more about metadata and book sales, but where does my time go? This is a great post to drive home that there are some very important behind-the-scenes work going on with marketing. Thank you!

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  99. Great advice. A lot I didn't know. Thank you

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  100. Great post, a broad range of marketing advice to consider, a valuable checklist.

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  101. Great insight to marketing books. The work never stops. Thank you for your tips.

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  102. I guess I need to finally give in to the pressure and use Instagram. :/ My website definitely needs updating too.

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  103. Thanks for this post. It's timely for me.

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  104. Thanks for the tips. I've been working on the social media aspect and have some thoughts on marketing, but I hadn't considered the awards possibilities.

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  105. Thank you for your in-depth look at the marketing process for nonfiction books. Great post, Kerry!

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  106. Thank you, Kerry, for your insights into the marketing process for nonfiction. It's a topic that is often omitted from kid lit info.

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  107. Notifying college alumni publications is a great idea. I'm hoping most publishers have a list of successful publicists they can recommend. I'd hate to navigate that road by myself--trying to find ones who have experience and excel at it. Thanks for the post.

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  109. Thanks for the tip on working with a freelance publicist!

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  110. Never thought of co-promoting of books. Good one. And can't wait until I am there ; )

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  111. I appreciate your tips for marketing. The publisher will appreciate an author who is willing to do marketing.

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  112. Marketing is one of the toughest aspects of being an author for me. Love the researching! Enjoy the writing! But selling and marketing . . . they're tough! Thanks for the tips. Will try to hold up my end of the promotional work. : )

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  113. Such good tips in this post! I am in the process of marketing my third book, and I can say that one of the things that I found super helpful was connecting with other authors. For all three of my books I banned together with a group of 20-30 authors who also had books coming out that year. (This year's group is called 2020 Book Look.) The "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" approach has worked well, and I've made some great new friends in the process.

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  114. I love the social media ideas to generate interest in a book, especially sharing additional tidbits or stories about the subject matter.

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  115. Thanks for the tips, which I hope to put in action one day soon(ish)!

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  116. Thanks for the advice. I belong to a cross promotional group of authors & illustrators and it helps a great deal!

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  117. It's interesting that the target audience for the marketing is different from the target audience for the writing.

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  118. Thank you for the tips and reminders.

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  119. Great tips. Guess I better get busy setting up a website etc. before my manuscript is sold so I can hit the ground running if and when.

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  120. This is incredibly helpful insight. Thanks for sharing your experience on the business side of things! I really appreciate it.

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  121. Copied and pasted your post. Thanks. We needed that!

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  122. Reality check! I didn't realize how much marketing effort is required by average authors once the book is published. Thanks for honest look at this important end game.

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  123. We've all heard about being active on social media and, yes, social media is here to stay. What surprised me was the suggestion of hiring a freelance publicist. I have seen a few established authors mention they have one, but I wonder how cost-effective this is for a "newbie".

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  124. Thank you for the tips! I definitely need to be reminded at times to reach out and talk to people.

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  125. Great information to keep on hand for reference! Thank you!

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  126. I like your advice to join forces and support other writers. Thank you for this post!

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  127. Thank you for posting this! Most writers I talk to HATE marketing -- but it's simply because they don't know how to do it. I love how the kidlit community pools together to market books and share ideas. It makes the idea of marketing much less intimidating!

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  128. As a writer who also covers nonfiction books, I've noticed that some authors are more media-savvy than others. For instance, if you're going to use a publicist, it's best to loop them in from the beginning of the conversation so the reporter knows the publicist can handle requests for headshots, book cover images, etc. (better yet: have high-res images that are available for download from your website). And be prepared to answer follow-up questions so that the reporter can cover you and your book accurately!

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  129. Lots of great marketing advice. Thank you!

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  130. Such important considerations. Thanks for sharing!

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  131. This is a great, marketing review to help authors keep it real and focused on selling books.

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  132. Interesting information. It had never occurred to me to think about hiring a marketing consultant. Do authors and illustrators ever work together on book promos? Thank you for the post and for the giveaway.

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  133. Such great advice--thank you for sharing your expertise!

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  134. Thank you for your words of wisdom! I never thought that I'd need to understand business and marketing to succeed as a writer!

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  135. Thank you for all the tips! I would not have thought to “Send a note to your college or graduate school’s alumni publications” or “Discuss a VIP mailing of your book to key influencers with your marketing department.”

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  136. Thank you, Kerry, for the tips... important to network and keep our marketeer hat on!

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  137. GREAT advice. Thanks. Maria Johnson

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  138. Marketing is tough and time consuming. Thanks for the post and ideas.

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  139. So helpful...thank you for sharing these insights!

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  140. Such great advice! Thank you.

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  141. Great marketing tips! Thanks!

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  142. Invaluable information! I would love to know if there are books or courses out there on how to keep an eye on promotion while writing and submitting the book, and how much to budget for trips and websites etc. once it’s accepted.

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  143. A great look at this business from the marketing side! Thanks for many practical and useful tips.

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  144. This sounds like a lot to balance against writing time, but laying the groundwork with social media in advance will help. I had not thought about building a following among teachers and librarians. That makes sense. Thank you.

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  145. "The ultimate goal of any children’s book marketing effort is to SELL BOOKS. Focus on opportunities that will lead you to this goal, and you’ll be well on your way to success." Thank you!

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  146. Thanks for adding the marketing side! Excellent information.

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  147. Thank you for this glimpse into your side of this book making journey, Kerry. Such important information to consider as a venture closer to the release of m6 debut PB.

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  148. Great information!! Thank you.

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  149. I must admit that I find the marketing part of publishing to be exciting! Thank you for such a great post about it!

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