By Susan Wroble
I used to believe that writing came first, and marketing later. Big Mistake! It is easiest if you learn both simultaneously — they build on each other. Here are a few tips on starting your marketing journey long before your book is published…
Establish writing credentials.
An easy place to start is to write for newsletters. Many groups have regular on-line updates and are delighted to have a member feature or presentation review. For example, when I joined the Denver Rose Society, I knew nothing about growing roses, so I took notes at the meetings. It was easy to turn those presentation notes into short articles for their newsletter. Bonus — I didn’t know the national organization gave writing awards until I got three of them!
- Simple — Agents and editors want to see that you write.
Create a blog.
When my writing group, the Story Spinners, created this blog, our goal was simply to push ourselves to learn a new skill. By sharing, we each posted about once a quarter, and we split the costs.
- Blogging counts as writing credentials — even if your readership is close to zero!
- You have a platform that agents and editors can get a feel for your writing and commitment to the industry.
- A few of the posts have been expanded and been published in paying markets.
Read with purpose.
Read current books in your genre — the key word being “current.” There are blogs for every genre, but one of my favorite ways to find new kids’ books in general (after making friends with librarians!) is through IndieBound, a community of independent local bookstores. IndieBound puts out a quarterly newsletter called “Kids’ Next.” You can pick up a print copy at an independent bookseller, or find it on-line. As an added benefit, it is a fabulous resource for gifts for the kids in your life.
- By reading with purpose, you can start analyzing, and learn how other authors have created an arc, or added layers, or built tension…
- You learn what’s current and what is selling.
- You learn what is already out there for subjects you want to write about.
Keep a reading log.
Record the author, illustrator (if applicable), publisher, and whatever else is important to you. I find it helpful to snap a picture of the cover. Here’s an example:
- You learn the style of various publishing houses.
- You can track books that are mentor texts.
- You can track books that are comps for works in progress.
Study and track agents and publishers.
One easy way to research agents and editors is to subscribe to the free twice-weekly Publisher’s Weekly newsletter, Children’s Bookshelf. Other ways to study agents are through the sites Manuscript Wish List or QueryTracker. Here’s a Publisher’s Weekly rights announcement for my friend, author Jocelyn Rish:
Next, track the notices with agents or editors that seem like a good fit for your work. Like my reading log, I created a table in Word. For this table, I record the publishing house, editor, author and title, and the agent who represented the author.
- You end up with a perfectly tailored list of agents and editors who represent and publish the type of work that you do.
Author Beth Anderson (LIZZIE DEMANDS A SEAT) recently spoke at the Rocky Mountain Chapter of SCBWI’s Denver South Connect & Critique. “I didn’t want to get on Facebook,” she said, “and now I can’t imagine not using it.”
- The Groups feature. Instead of scrolling endlessly through a jumble of posts from assorted friends and distant relatives interspersed with ads, you can go directly to a group — think RMC-SCBWI, KidLit411, StoryStorm, 12×12, ReFoReMo, NF Fest…
- These groups are the easiest places to learn about upcoming events, celebrate successes, and build community. You’ll need that community when your book is ready to debut.
I hope there’s a nugget in this post you find useful. And for you — what are the marketing tips you wish you had known early in your writing journey?