Well, not just yet, but soon . . . soon.
I have a new picture book coming out April 1 with Holiday House, Crinkle, Crackle, Crack . . . It’s Spring, wonderfully illustrated by John Shelley who also illustrated another of my picture books, Halloween Forest.
Having a new book out these days prompts some careful questions. How much do I invest in marketing? And what kinds? If I do decide to use my funds for marketing, will doing so make a difference in sales?
In the old days—I won’t call them the good old days because they were and they weren’t—no one really did much of anything that could be called marketing. Your publisher sent your book to various review sources. The primary buyers being professional ones—schools and libraries accounted for eighty percent of children’s book sales when I first came into the field—the great majority of purchases were based on these professional reviews.
If your book began to generate attention and sales, your publisher’s marketing department might push a little harder to get it out there. If the first sales didn’t come through in response to reviews, that was pretty much the end of any effort.
This isn’t really marketing, getting buyers to notice a new product. It is promotion, pushing a product once it has proven itself. And in defense of publishers, their funds are limited as funds usually are, so, of course, they concentrate what they have where they can expect the most return.
An author could make herself available to speak in schools, and speaking for professional organizations for teachers or librarians brought attention to your books. That was another success-breeds-success situation, though. You were only invited to speak once your book or books had received a lot of attention. Otherwise, no one had much interest.
These days institutional sales are way down as a proportion of sales, closer to twenty percent than eighty. Schools and libraries have more and more limited funds and the funds they have must, of necessity, be divided between books and electronic equipment and software. We who write for children and young adults have entered a world adult writers have been in for a long time. Our books need to be able to sell off a supermarket rack or, at the very least, call out to customers from a crowded shelf in a book store.
And the author is expected to be the marketing engine to make that happen. That’s not entirely bad, because we do have the Internet now. And having access to the Internet gives us a variety of opportunities for making our books known. I do this blog, for instance, partly for the pure pleasure of communicating with other adults without leaving home and partly to keep my name out there, to let the world know that I’m still here and still writing and that, by the way, from time to time I have a new book.
One reason for all this work is that publishers pay attention to our Internet presence. I know a longtime young-adult author whose latest novel was turned down by her publisher because she didn’t have enough of a following on Facebook. (She went on, incidentally, to self-publish the novel successfully, a whole new world.) So despite the fact that at age 76 I am inevitably approaching the end of my career, I’m still working at building an Internet following. And frankly, at this time of my life, sitting home and writing a blog is a whole lot more fun than climbing onto another plane.
But now, with a new book on the horizon, I have decisions to make. What can I do to help bring Crinkle, Crackle, Crack . . . It’s Spring! to the world’s attention? Winding Oak, the folks who manage my website, will do a fine and professional job of whatever I ask them to do. A trailer, perhaps? An interview to be published in Bookology, their new online publication? But whatever I choose will call for funds, my funds. And the real kicker, even if I do invest in promoting my new book, how will I know whether my investment has made a difference?
It’s a new world out there, and if I want my books to be part of it, I can no longer sit back and wait for the reviews to roll in and for the buyers to leap on the reviews.
But—confession time here—I would so much rather be working on my new book than supporting one long-since completed, a song just about every writer I know could sing.
I’d also rather keep paying my rent and buying my groceries than not, so . . . to market, to market I go!