Wednesday, September 26, 2018

After the Debut: Strategies for Marketing Subsequent Books with Guest Author Laura Sassi + Giveaway, posted by Tina Cho

Author Laura Sassi is no stranger to the Grog Blog. You can see past interviews of her here and here. Today Laura shares how she markets her books #2, #3, and her latest #4 Love Is Kind, by ZonderKidz, August 2018.

There are many posts about marketing your debut book. But what do you do when it’s your second, or third… or tenth book?  Is your strategy the same?  If not, what’s different?  Well, the big difference is that as soon as book #2 is published, you are no longer a debut author so your marketing/promotion efforts should keep that new reality in mind. In my opinion, your new goal - with every new release - should be to generate interest in your new book along with renewed interest in all your titles.

With that in mind, here are 8 strategies I have found for effectively marketing - not just your debut book - but all the books that follow. I hope they generate even more ideas from your readers so we can work together to build a great list!

1.Keep your BIO updated. This should be obvious, but with each new release, be sure to update your bio, book info, and keep your headshots up-to-date on all your various platforms. And don’t forget to update your author page on Amazon, SCBWI, Goodreads and other sites that you don’t necessarily consider “your platform” but which include bios about you.

2. Go on blog tour, yes STILL. They’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but I find blog tours to be a wonderful way to make a splash with even post-debut books.  I know, for example, that if I hadn’t set up my own blog tours for books #3 and #4, I wouldn’t have had many blog appearances, and each one of those blog visits, in my view, has been a great opportunity to let people know that I have new books out. My goal with each blog tour has been to make stops at a cross-section of readerships so that I get the chance to interact with folks in all those sectors.  For me that has meant visits to writing blogs, library blogs, and mommy/daddy blogs. 

3. Set up guest blog appearances (or write articles for publications) - as an expert.  Now that you have more than one book, it’s time to market yourself - not as the debut author - but as the expert. Writing posts from this perspective will give you a chance to reference your books in the context of a bigger topic which is a great way to get your name and your books out there in an interesting way. But even if you don’t reference your own books, and sometimes that won’t fit the topic you are writing about, you’ll still be on people’s radar as a seasoned author and your books will still be included in the bio at the end of the piece.

4. Maximize the Sales Impact at School/Library Visits. When arranging signings and school events, request that all your books be available for purchase on their order forms or on their shelves, rather than just the newest one. I’ve been pleasantly surprised how having this option at signings actually increases sales. Instead of buying just the newest release, folks often decide to get one or more of my other titles as well!  

5. Think outside the box when it comes to visits. For my first book, most of my events were your typical library and bookstore story times. I also did readings at local preschools. With my subsequent books, I still do a lot of those, but I’ve also broadened my visit opportunities by thinking outside the box. For example, instead of just having a book reading at my local library, next month I will present a workshop for ages 5+ where we’ll delve into the world of book jackets - using my latest release LOVE IS KIND as the jumpstart.  I did similar workshop-style events for previous books and they all had a waitlist! I’ve also spoken at MOPS groups, led a rhyming picture book workshop at my local SCBWI June conference, been the keynote speaker at a college women’s club scholarship luncheon, and was even the featured guest on a local faith-themed tv show - all events that provided opportunities to creatively promote my books. My publisher also asked if I’d be interested in doing a few radio interviews. Of course I said yes, and thus was open to even more out of the box opportunities. If this sounds interesting, the first step is to brainstorm creative presentation ideas that you’d enjoy in lieu of - or, better yet, in addition to - the typical author event readings and signings.

6. Network, network, network!  None of the above would have been possible, had I not first stepped out of my comfort zone, to gather and then reach out to contacts. The children’s author community is a great place to start networking and places like the SCBWI blue boards can be wonderful resources. I’ve also had success networking through social media and through chatting with parents, teachers, librarians etc. who often then offer to introduce me to the contact. Even if you’re shy, as I am, be sure to follow through on every contact because, as I’ve discovered over the course of four years and four books, reaching out often leads not only to that event, but it also open the doors to other opportunities. I call this the snow ball effect and I wrote a whole post about it. (link: And be sure to loop back to each and every contact with each subsequent book. You might just be invited for a return visit with your newest release!

7. Develop extension materials for each book.  Educators and parents LOVE when they can extend a story with fun activities and/or learning-based follow up materials, so I think it’s well worth your time and effort to put together either a teacher kit or a series of activities for each book which are then available on your blog. Be sure to share these via social media  - and make them easy and eye-catching so others will share them as well.

8. Be smart about swag, book trailers etc. Different houses handle promo materials like posters, bookmarks and book trailers differently. I’ve been fortunate that Zonderkidz, the publisher of three of my books, has generously provided me with book trailers, bookmarks, event posters and coloring pages for each of my titles with them.   I’ve found the bookmarks and book trailers to be especially invaluable.The bookmarks are a hit because they are eye catching, useful, and promo-smart because they include my social media contact info etc. They, in essence, have become my business cards! The book trailer has also been a fun addition to blog tours and a visually effective way to introduce the book to potential venues for book engagements.

If you have to create these yourself, they can be expensive, so definitely decide how much you can spend and then decide which will have the most impact for your promo plans. My top four choices are bookmarks, event posters, coloring pages and, if possible, a book trailer.  Having a trailer professionally made can be expensive, but I just learned how to make a book trailer from a friend and the final clip is cute as can be!  I’m still waiting to hear back from the publisher on it, but I hope I’ll  soon be able to use it as yet another visual way to pitch bloggers, bookstores, libraries etc. about possible visits.  

YOUR TURN!  This list is just the beginning.  What would you add -either as a newbie starting out, or as a veteran.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!  And happy book promoting, all!

Wow, Laura. Thank you for all of these tips! I'm certainly going to bookmark this post so I can try these marketing tips for my forthcoming books. Please check the reviews for Love Is Kind here. It's a gorgeous FALL-looking book that can be used any time of the year. If you'd like a chance to win LOVE IS KIND, please leave a comment below how Laura's tips will help you or any questions for her. We'll choose a winner October 3rd.
To enter, you must be 18 years or older and have a U.S. street address to which Zonderkidz will send you the book. 

BIO: Laura Sassi has a passion for telling stories in prose and rhyme.  A graduate of Princeton University and UCLA, she had a successful teaching career before becoming a children’s author. She is the author of four picture books including the best-selling GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014) which was a Christian Book Award Finalist, GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015), DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, 2018) which was featured on BBC’s Cbeebies Bedtime Stories, and LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018).  She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie.

Children's book author and poet
GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, August ’14)
GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, October ’15)
LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, Fall  ’18)

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Writing from an Osprey's Point of View

by Sue Heavenrich

Osprey are hawks. Big hawks who thrive on fish. Over the past 18 years, they've been moving onto platforms erected around Cayuga Lake, in the Finger Lakes of New York. When summer comes to an end, they head to parts south.... some flying more than 3,000 miles to winter in Brazil.

Dr. B releases an osprey. photo by Craig Gibson
A lot of what we know about ospreys comes from researchers like Rob Bierregaard, who has been tagging young ospreys with radiotransmitters and following their migratory paths. One of the cool things he discovered is that young ospreys - at least those on the east coast - tend to make their initial southbound journey over the ocean.

Five years ago Dr. B (as his students call him) was waiting for a young osprey to return to its nest so he could fit it with a backpack radio transmitter. A neighbor, seeing him there, suggested he write a book. So he did.

His book, Belle's Journey, An Osprey Takes Flight, illustrated by Kate Garchinsky was released in May. Divided into 19 short chapters, it tells the story of Belle, hatched into a fine family on Martha's Vineyard.

By the middle of July, Belle and her siblings are nearly as big as their parents, and they're stretching their wings. Dr. B captures the young osprey, secures a backpack radio transmitter harness around her wings, and then follows the signals to map her flights.

Here's the thing about a young osprey's first migratory flight: they don't have maps. Not only that, osprey moms head south when their job is done. Dads hang around until the youngest demonstrates some proficiency in survival skills, then he heads for warmer weather. So young ospreys are heading out on a grand adventure on a wing and a prayer.

Here's the thing about Belle's Journey: The story is written from Belle's point of view. So I gave Dr. B a call and we chatted about osprey, migration, and the secret life of this book.

Dr. B: After that incident, the neighbor suggesting I write a book, I went home and brainstormed a storyboard. We'd been following Belle - she was one of the young osprey who flew the farthest out over the Atlantic, and went the farthest south. By that time she had two migrations under her wings. But I wanted to include some of the adventures of the other young ospreys, so Belle became a composite character. That way I could more fully show some of the dangers they faced in migrations. Things like hurricanes, or being shot at, or narrowly escaping attack by an eagle.

GROG: Why did you choose to write from Belle's point of view?

Dr. B: I wanted young readers to see the things Belle saw on her journey, and to experience the things she experienced. I want kids to get a feel for flying over a rainforest, to feel the adventure of migration. But I had to be very careful not to anthropomorphize - to make sure Belle didn't express human sentiments. So early on, when she's learning to fly, she makes a clumsy landing and ends up hanging by one foot, upside down. So I wrote, "If she were a human, she probably would have been pretty embarrassed." In alternating scenes, or chapters I write about the scientists using a third-person point of view.

GROG: There are a couple of children who get involved in tracking Belle's journey. Was that based on an experience?

Dr. B: We always had kids who visited us when we were putting the backpack radios on the osprey. None of them worked with us, but several teachers got their classrooms to follow the data that came back from the transmitters. They mapped the migration paths of individual osprey. (you can find interactive maps here

GROG: Writing a children's book is a lot different from writing an article about your research for a scientific journal. Tell us about your book journey.

Dr. B: It was fun to write! I started writing in August of 2013, and by December I had a first draft - though the entire process took nearly five years. This was my first book and I had no idea what to expect. A friend who knows Kate [Garchinsky] helped us connect at an ornithology meeting. Kate looked at the manuscript and wanted to illustrate the story. She connected me with Harold Underdown who helped put a package together to submit to Charlesbridge. I think we were unusual in that we were an author-and-illustrator combo. Of course there were revisions. In an earlier draft I'd written the scientist chapters in first person, but then switched point of view. They flowed better that way.

GROG: Now that you've got your talons wet in kid's publishing, do you have another book in the works?

Dr. B: Yes, one about Barred owls from the work my graduate students and I did in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Thanks to Dr. Rob Bierregaard for sharing his journey - and Belle's Journey - with us.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Back to School with An Inconvenient Alphabet Written by Beth Anderson, Interviewed by Tina Cho

As a kindergarten teacher, I love ABC books. When I heard about Beth Anderson's An Inconvenient Alphabet, I had to find out more! She & I are part of the Epic 18 Debut Picture Book group, where I've gotten to know her. She's also a former educator. Welcome, Beth!
Photo by Tina Wood

1. How did you come up with this idea?

First, thank you so much for sharing AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET with your readers!
As a writer who loves narrative nonfiction, I’m always on the lookout for interesting tidbits from history or science or maybe a combo. When I saw an article on Ben Franklin’s alphabet, it caught my eye. And then, as I read Ben’s words, “Those people spell best who do not know how to spell,” it hit me in the heart – my teacher, parent, language-loving heart. But it still required lots of digging to find the premise and shape the story.

2. What was your research like? Did you travel anywhere special to find golden nuggets of info? How long did it take to research?

My research started with scouring the internet to get an overview as I considered the potential of the topic and gathered a list of sources. Then I turned to the library and began requesting books about Ben and Noah and language history. I am so grateful for all the historical texts that have been digitized and are shared on a number of databases – such incredible resources! I reached out to historical societies, the Library on Congress, museums, and other institutions.
The first round of gathering information took a few weeks. Then as I drafted and revised, I continued to get more books as one source led to more and more, a dribble of ongoing research for a few months. As I’ve found with every manuscript, I needed to do another dive into the research, rereading my notes and searching out more resources, to reframe or hone a special thread of the story after receiving critiques.  

3. What was your favorite bit of information that you uncovered?

ISH. Ben had me at “ish,” his letter for the SH sound. That along with the quote I mentioned above were my favorites. Oh, but then there was the fact that Noah and Ben were opposites, Noah being a tad pushy and wanting to legislate his ideas. And I have to admit to liking the point that Ben, Super Founding Father, didn’t hit it out of the park every time he had a new idea. He let his ideas “take their chance in the world,” which is great advice for me as a writer. So basically, I kept finding more to love. :)

4. How many drafts before this sold?

I did about 40 drafts of this manuscript.

5. What have you learned about marketing? Any tips to newbies?

I’m still a newbie at marketing, learning as I go. I’m trying to take advantage of any opportunities, learn from other authors’ experiences, keep records for the future, and have fun with it. 

6. I see you have two more picture book biographies coming in 2020 from Calkins Creek. Would you like to share anything about those?

Although these two picture books both deal with transportation in New York City, they are very different.
LIZZIE DEMANDS A SEAT: ELIZABETH JENNINGS FIGHTS FOR STREETCAR RIGHTS, illustrated by the phenomenal E.B. Lewis, is a civil rights story about a woman who won the first court case for desegregation of public transportation. She’s an amazing woman, much like Rosa Parks but a century earlier. To me, her story shows how we are links in time, standing on the shoulders of those who came before us and inspiring those who follow, as well as how we all need to find the courage to step up and play a role in establishing social justice.
“SMELLY” KELLY AND HIS SUPER SENSES: THE MOSTLY TRUE STORY OF AN ORDINARY MAN AND HIS EXTRAORDINARY NOSE, illustrated by Jenn Harney, is set in the fascinating underground world of the 1930’s New York City subway. There, James Kelly, a humble immigrant learns to use his natural talents for the benefit of all—and also finds out what it takes to be a true hero.
7. What are you working on now?

At the moment I’m working on editor revisions for a third Calkins Creek title that hasn’t been announced. I’m also revising a new manuscript on a bit of revolutionary history that I’d never heard of before that seems incredibly relevant in today’s world. And then there’s pile of research and a few ideas that keep swirling in my head…

Wow, Beth, Congratulations, on these additional forthcoming titles! You've been busy with research. I hope you all get to read An Inconvenient Alphabet! 

Beth Anderson, a former English as a Second Language teacher, has always marveled at the power of books. Armed with linguistics and reading degrees, a fascination with language, and penchant for untold tales, she strives for accidental learning in the midst of a great story. Beth lives in Colorado where she laughs, wonders, ponders, and questions; and hopes to inspire kids to do the same.
Beth blogs at
An Educator’s Guide will be available on 9/25 HERE

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Highlights of Nuts & Bolts of Science Writing 2018 by Kathy Halsey

What did I do on my summer vacation? One of the biggest highlights was my first Highlights workshop. In this post I'll share newbie tips along with writerly tidbits from our fab faculty. 

Newbie News
  • Plan when you invest in your writing. I waited five years before I signed up for a Highlights workshop. I wanted to be better at my craft and have some projects that could benefit from being workshopped. I also looked for specific faculty and topics that would stretch me as a writer. I found the perfect fit with Nuts & Bolts Science. I knew Jen Swanson and Miranda Paul were excellent teachers since I've attended conferences where they'd been speakers. 
  • Although I've read and studied nonfiction for children, I'd never written science, so I plunged into writing an informational picture book about gardens using a child's POV. My critique group and writer friends helped me revise and polish my WIP before I sent it to Highlights. My advice? Take a manuscript that you can't make any better on your own to a workshop. ( Be prepared with a second manuscript, too, just in case the opportunity arises for a second critique.)
  • Although it's comforting to attend conferences/workshops with a writer buddy, sometimes going alone will push you to meet new people and network. Now I have a "tribe" of 20 new science writer friends: a snail scientist, an entrepreneur who created a STEM magazine for children, an Ohio writer who is now a contributing editor for Cricket Media, and the amazing author Sarah Aronson. (She gave advice about creativity, the writing doldrums, and shared pieces of her newest book JUST LIKE RUBE GOLDBERG.) Be open to meeting new people who will enrich your life. 
Sarah and Kathy

Fab Faculty TidBits
Take four wonderful professionals (Jen, Miranda, editor Sam Gentry, and Ohio author Tracy Vonder Brink ) together for almost five days, and soon you've had a master class in writing nonfiction, pitching, and a how-to on cracking the magazine market. There was so much insight from these women who generously shared time, knowledge, and books with us. I'll share a chunk of knowledge from all these super stars. (Newbie note - very dark skies in Honesdale PA, so you should plan to star gaze.)

Tracy Vonder Brink  
Jen Swanson, Miranda Paul, Samantha Gentry

  • All lucky attendees received a critique from Samantha, plus we had our choice of two more critiques - one with Jen and one with Miranda, depending on whether we wrote middle grade or picture books. (This is why you bring several solid pieces.)
  • Back matter REALLY matters to Miranda Paul. She had us do a useful exercise that helps writers get an overview of back matter. Take a stack of picture books, fiction and nonfiction, and read them quickly but study the back matter and make a list that includes type of back matter (author note, charts, fun facts, etc), how many pages of back matter, audience for the back matter (educators, parents, children) and if the tone/style fits the front matter.  
  • Jen Swanson swoons for research to make science sing. She begins by going to the library to actually browse the nonfiction section. Serendipity is the name of the game. Jen enjoys hunt, finding both adult and children's books on her topic. For internet research she begins her working bibliography by adding raw links, footnotes at bottom, and then uses Citation Machine or another service. 
  • Many of Jen's National Geographic middle grade books rely on interviewing experts. She has  many tips regarding experts (a person working in the field or a PhD.) You'll find them at universities or by googling your topic. Then email them to see if they have interest in  helping you and indicate what publisher you are pursuing. She recommends an email subject line like this, "children’s author working w/Nat Geo looking for an interview." Add your experts in the acknowledgements and give them a book. Best advice from Jen? Don't skimp on research
Attendees taking notes and absorbing information
  • Samantha Gentry, Assistant Editor at Crown Books for Young Readers, Random House and PRH, engaged attendees by throwing a pitch party. We recreated a twitter pitch party in real life after Sam shared pitch strategies. Sam thinks having a social media presence is helpful for a writer. She suggests picking two options from what she labeled "the trifecta," Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Follow folks who do SM well, such as Josh Funk, Sarah Albee, and Jess Keating. She stressed creating a community network with local booksellers, libraries, schools, and your local writing community.
  • Finally, Tracy Vonder Brink gave us a solid background in writing for children's magazines. She has a stellar acceptance rate. She's sold eleven stories and is now employed by Cricket Media. Writers can dig through manuscripts that didn't "work" as books or write a story with research that didn’t go into a book. Writers should analyze magazine issues in detail. Look for ratio of simple sentence to compound/complex sentences,  if questions to the reader are common, and if the reader is addressed as "you." Aim to mimic style, voice, tone, content as much as possible with your submission. Tracy feels she's been most successful when she takes a issue's main topic and thinks outside the box for a story. Her boss, Elizabeth Huyck at ASK, looks for magazine pieces that open out to larger questions or fundamentals. 
    Happy scientists and writers on the trail