Planning Your Children's Book Series
By Hannah R. S. Hayes
When I wrote my first book, I wanted to create unique characters and a wide variety of them so that even though they were animals, it would reflect how we are all different as people. I picked out names and species for the animals to go based on how they sounded together, usually with a touch of alliteration (‘Marsalis the Monkey’, ‘Dover the Gopher’, ‘Zena the Zebra’).
Once I had completed the first book and I had all of the characters, I felt the need to continue the series and tackle other issues that children go through.
I wrote each book in such a way that you can pick up any one in the series and you won’t feel as though you needed to read the previous books for it to make sense. I also kept each book self-titled of the different characters in the series so it makes each issue a little bit more personal.
As soon as I heard that Word Alive Press wanted to publish my books, I started to spread the news and as the months went on, I continued to keep people posted and updated on the process. By doing this, it helps to keep people interested and it also prepares them to consider purchasing a copy/copies once your book(s) become available.
My first book became available December 2013 and the other six followed closely behind, all of them becoming available as of April 2014.
Since then, I have learned a lot about getting my books out there and I have added quite a bit more to my marketing game plan, which is what I am going to share with you today.
When Marketing Your Product You MUST Think Outside of the [Box]:
At first, when you think of children’s books, it is natural to think of all of the common places that you would find them: schools, day cares, Sunday schools, etc. but you also have to think beyond that. Look at the books themselves.
- What do the books talk about?
- What are the characters like? Are they animals? Are they children?
- Do they address certain issues?
After you take a look at that, you will notice that your avenues of getting your books out there broaden quite a bit.
Ways to Market and Promote Your Book(s)
First Things First
- Create a website for your book(s). (if you’re not tech savvy, I highly recommend getting someone else to!)
- Create an email specific for your book(s). This way people can contact you directly regarding them.
- Have business cards made with your name, your product, your website and your contact info on it. By doing this, it makes you look more professional and it will make it easier to network with people.
SOCIAL MEDIA: In this day and age, everyone has access to some form of social media. Whether that be Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Using social media (when done right) can be one of your best ways to market your product. Creating a Facebook page where you can post pictures of your books or illustrations, or events like book readings/signings are a great way to inform and update your readers. Instagram is also helpful for this since it focuses on visuals. Whichever form of social media that you use, just be sure to #hashtag it! #socialmediaworks #childrensbooksofCanada
NETWORKING: Your network only goes so far, which means that you need to expand it as much as possible. One way of doing this is by connecting with others who also have big networks. Look at your circle of people and see who has a big following or perhaps knows of some good connections for you. Get those that you know to help you out with promoting your book(s) as well. Perhaps strike a deal with them that for every 25 people that they tell, that you’ll give them 50 cents from every book sold. (Okay, maybe that’s a bit too generous-but you get the idea!) People generally don’t like to do things for free, so creating some kind of incentive will most likely reap a better result.
GET THEM INTO THE RIGHT HANDS:
On the note of networking, you want to think networking on a much bigger scale as well. For instance:
1) My parents went on a cruise with Bill and Gloria Gaither (of Gaither music) and my mom had me sign a copy of my first book to Gloria and Bill. Not too many months after their trip did I receive a hand written letter from Gloria herself, offering to carry copies of my series in their store!
2) Sacha is a singer that I know. She wrote a song about bullying and performs at schools, I write children’s books that tackle different issues—one of them happens to be bullying. I gave Sacha copies of my bullying book to give out at different schools when she performs. She also has a great relationship with principals at the schools where she performs, so has been able to connect me with them as well.
DONATE: Find silent or live charitable auctions and offer to autograph and donate your book(s). It will be another avenue for someone to “discover” them and it is always good to donate and give back. There are other places that you can do this as well. Perhaps orphanages, Ronald McDonald House, Children’s Hospitals, kid’s clubs at your local gym? Think of charities that fit with the message of your book(s) and get in touch with them.
ZOOS: A lot of zoos nowadays have a shop where you can purchase a stuffed animal and other “zoo memorabilia”. Since my books have animals as the characters, I felt that the zoo gift shops might be an ideal place for me to sell them. So far they are being sold in the Toronto and Calgary Zoos and I am in conversation with the other zoos across Canada as well.
LIBRARIES: Connect with your local libraries. See what process you need to go through in order to have your book(s) carried on the shelves and/or perhaps do a book signing/reading. Maybe your local library/libraries also have an author of the week or month? Maybe your book addresses a particular theme that they celebrate or tackle at some point through the year?
PROMOTIONS/DISCOUNTS: Everyone likes a good deal! Offering a special promotion/discount for the holidays or perhaps some other special date can be a good incentive for people to purchase your product. I recommend that if you are going to do something like this, that you start promoting it at least 2-3 weeks prior. You want to make sure that as many people are being informed about the upcoming sale as possible. If you do it only a few days before, chances are that you won’t receive a good response which is the total opposite of why you wanted to offer a discount in the first place!
PRESS: Contact the local newspapers; perhaps there is also a local television station who might be interested in having you on to talk about your book(s). The more press that you can get, the better!
YOUR COMMUNITY: Get involved in your community and stay posted on upcoming community events. Perhaps there is a children’s author week? An educational week? A special event dedicated to family and children? By keeping up to date on this, you will be able to either participate or get involved and either promote your product, or at least use the opportunity to network.
KIDS/BOOK CLUBS/ORGANIZATIONS: “Birds of a feather, flock together.” Getting involved in a book club or organization either related to your hobby of writing or perhaps what your books are about, will help you connect with like-minded people and maybe give you some new ideas about your product and/or how to get your product out there.
BOOK SIGNINGS/READINGS: By me publishing through Word Alive Press, I was so fortunate to be given that already established platform with Chapters/Indigo, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, etc. As soon as my first book became available, I started connecting with all of my local Chapters/Indigo to set up book readings and signings.
BEYOND YOUR BACKYARD: Children’s books are a common thing that you will find across the globe. Why couldn’t your book become a best seller in England, the United States or Australia, as well as in Canada? I encourage you to look into opportunities for your book(s) globally. You never know what might come of it.
THE “EXTRAS” (Other Avenues to promote and sell your book(s)):
- Any store that sells children’s books/kids stuff
- Gyms that have kids clubs
- Boys & Girls Clubs
- Summer Camps
THE FUTURE: Now that your books are published, don’t stop there. Think about where else you can take it or what else it can become. A movie? A TV show? Part of an educational curriculum? Do your absolute best to not fit yourself or your product into a box and the possibilities will be endless.
About this Contributor:
Hannah R.S. Hayes is the author/creator of The Betty the Polar Bear Series. She is from Toronto, Ontario, Canada and she has been writing children’s books for four years now. Her series is a compilation of seven books (so far); each book is self-titled of a different character that is in the series and each book focuses in on a different issue that children go through.
Facebook: Betty the Polar Bear Book Series