Your publisher will work to make your book a success through visibility at book trade shows, utilizing social media vehicles, and by sending review copies to journals, newspapers and other outlets. But sales and impact will be much greater if you, the author (or illustrator) also devote time, energy - and creativity - to its promotion. This is something you can begin to plan for even before the book is published.
Elizabeth Verdick, author of SMALL WALT, SMALL WALT AND MO THE TOW and SMALL WALT SPOTS DOT (Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers) asked the publisher to work with her to create a colorful four-page booklet to bring to readings and events that she set up across the Midwest. She writes: "I said I was open to whatever they would provide. I mocked up some ideas myself, and Sylvie [Frank, editor of the SMALL WALT books] sent them along to the art department. The art department took my ideas and then made them much better! They added the maze and provided the booklet in printed form for me to use. They did the design, copy, and printing and then sent the materials to me in printed form. They also gave me the template so I can reprint in the future. Older children enjoy the maze and make-your-own-plow sections; younger kids like to color Walt. I bring snowflake-shaped stampers and a variety of inkpads so children can decorate the pages with fun snowflakes. This has been a great way to extend the story and invite children to participate."
Identifying its underlying themes will help give you ideas about where and how to promote your book. Elizabeth notes: "One of the themes in my Small Walt stories is taking pride in your work. Gus and Sue (the drivers), and Walt and Mo (their machines), are hardworking and determined, just like real-life drivers and their machines. I knew it was important to reach those drivers as part of my audience, because most of them probably have kids in their lives - and my books can perhaps serve as a connection. I contacted places like SnowPlowNews.com and Tow Times Magazine. The publishers [of those trade magazines] agreed to review my books, which turned out to be a great (and inexpensive) way to connect with a professional audience. SnowPlowNews even ran online contests in which my books were the prizes. This was publicity outreach I could do on my own, while the publisher continued promotions on their end. Simon & Schuster agreed to send copies of SMALL WALT AND MO THE TOW to towing associations across the country from a list I compiled. This was so helpful, because the cost of doing that type of mass mailing wouldn't be possible for me as the author. I also found the International Towing Museum in Chattanooga, TN and asked S & S if they would provide publicity materials and a book sample. I was so happy to learn that the museum now carries SMALL WALT AND MO THE TOW."
The collaborative efforts of the author and the publisher have propelled sales of the SMALL WALT books. Authors are often a bit shy and uncertain about asking their publishers for help, but identifying what you would like and clearly articulating it to the publisher - while also being willing to do your part in research and outreach - can make a huge difference, as Elizabeth Verdick's experiences demonstrate.