This month we released a charming new children’s book about the collegiate mascots of the Southeastern Conference written by Susan Carothers. While the SEC is preparing to wrap their season up this weekend, this is only the beginning for Twas the Night Before Gameday SEC. Susan is a first time author, but from our first conversation we knew her drive and determination, matched with our expertise, would lead to great things. We were right! By the time we got to the official release date for the book, we were entirely sold out from pre-orders alone! We asked Susan to share her tips and tricks to marketing your first book, read on to see how you can get her results for your book!
Hey guys! My name is Susan and I am the author of ‘Twas The Night Before Gameday SEC. I’ve never been an author before and in fact, as I type this, my book is only two weeks old. I feel like a new parent—I am the mom of two little boys (ages 5 & 3) and I’ve joked that this book is like my third child…which took much longer than 9 months to deliver! It actually took a year and three months to be exact, mostly because of the rigorous collegiate licensing process – times 14 schools plus the SEC. It felt like an eternity but as I waited, I tried to use my time to plan and prepare for the first few days and weeks of its arrival—much like a new parent would. That basically meant coming up with a marketing plan. We’ve garnered a good bit of media attention both locally and regionally including magazine, newspaper, radio and television. And I have more requests for book signings that I can realistically accept.
Now let me start off by saying, I have a marketing degree so maybe this comes more naturally to me but I promise I’m not that special and I didn’t work any magic. These are all steps that can be adapted and duplicated by any first-time authors.
My first suggestion is: do your own marketing. That’s not to take anything away from the awesome staff at Mascot Books–they do an amazing job by the way and I would be lost without them. Seriously, I am probably breaking records with my number of emails and phone calls. They are great at doing what they do, but don’t rely on someone else to market your book. It is your book…your baby. You care more about it and know more about it than anyone else. Don’t sit back and expect someone else to do the marketing for you. At Mascot, they are doing it…but pretend they aren’t.
The next thing I did was ask for advice from everyone I could think of. I actually knew of a couple of people locally who had written books (both self-published and traditional). I reached out to them and asked for their advice. In my experience, authors love to share their publishing stories and offer suggestions. I used their suggestions to frame my marketing plan.
I started with social media. I created a Facebook page along with Instagram and Twitter accounts for my book. I launched them as soon as I knew my book was through the licensing process and at the printer. This gave me a little time to build anticipation and to go ahead and deal with the “friends and family” rush. When I announced my book on my personal and private Facebook page, I offered a discount to my friends and family who commented on my post with a commitment to purchase a book. This helped me estimate how many books I wanted delivered to me versus the distribution warehouse and it helped me work through some of my personal contacts first. My next step with social media was to get people interested beyond just friends and family. I created a public Facebook page for my book and began sharing stories and information I thought people would be interested in. For example, I posted the story of how my book came to be. I also posted a short bio to introduce my fans to my illustrator. I try to include an interesting or engaging photograph with each post—it grabs people’s attention more than words alone.
Once my books had shipped, I got to work contacting media outlets. I had gotten a list from one of those local authors I contacted which included local newspapers, magazines as well as radio and television stations. Get online and start searching. It’s not very hard to find email addresses for local editors and production managers. These people are often looking to fill pages and TV time and would love to highlight a local author. I also began targeting and contacting local retailers and asked them if they would be interested in carrying my book. This led to book signings which I’ve learned are a win-win for both myself as an author and for retailers.
Once I feel like I have saturated my local media and retail markets, I plan to think bigger and more “outside the box.” My book is about the teams in the Southeastern Conference so I’m planning to contact the SEC Network and Southern Living Magazine to name a couple. I’m thinking BIG and though none of this may ever pan out, it can’t hurt to try. And just think of the sales that could come if something like that were to happen!
And while we’re talking about “thinking big”, it’s probably a good time to bring up some of the best advice that I was given by another one of those local authors I talked to…give your book away. Not all of them, but give books away to specifically targeted individuals who have either helped you along the way or who may be able to help you take your book to the next level. For example, I received a lot of help from someone who works at the SEC. He pointed me in the direction of more contacts and opportunities for my book. Did I leave it with a thank you email? No, I sent him one of my books with a thank you note written on the inside cover. And what about big media personalities or executives? Send them a book! It’s much easier to ignore an email or phone call than it is to ignore a book that arrives in their office. I promise, this tip will pay you back exponentially!
Finally, something that I had pounded into my head in my college marketing classes: know your target market. Think about it…this is different than knowing your audience. My book’s audience is children, but my target market is adults who buy books for children. That would mostly be young parents and grandparents. I think about them when I think about marketing. My book is not only in children’s stores, it is also selling in a home décor store and in an upscale men’s clothing store. These are the places that my target market shops. When I post on social media, I’m not posting for children—most children don’t use social media. I’m trying to catch the attention of parents and grandparents. I’m trying to engage them.
I have no idea where my book journey will take me but so far it has exceeded my wildest expectations. I’m hanging on for the ride of my life and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. There is certainly a lot of on-the-job-training that goes on when you publish your first book and there are probably things that I will do better next time but I hope my experiences have helped you.
If you have any questions for Susan please leave a comment below and we’ll have her answer in a future blog post. You can purchase ‘Twas the Night Before Gameday now at our online store.