Sunday, April 23, 2006

Children's and YA Book Promotion

The following thoughts are drawn from my recent post to childrenswriterstoday, "For writers, poets, illustrators, editors and publishers of all genres in the juvenile to teen market to announce their latest news, reviews, columns, books and publication works."

Promotion is a major responsibility. I liken it to a second job. You were a writer (maybe one with a day job who's also a parent and who knows what else). Now, you're a writer and an author. It's not a better job; it's an additional one.

The author hat demands promotion, a certain projected personality, keeping up with new media and contacts, etc., which, among other things, compete with your writer-self for time and energy. At the same time, nobody cares more about your book than you do, and no one will do a better job as its ambassador.

When I got started, the wonderous Jane Kurtz (author interview), told me to try to do one thing a week to spread the word about my books in print. She referred to it as "sprinkling seeds." You never know which will grow, but you keep the faith and keep planting.

So, what do I do? I host this blog and an extensive website, one that features my own titles (including teacher support information) as well as writer resources and children's/YA literature as a whole. I speak at schools, teacher and librarian conferences, museums, book festivals, universities and so forth. I also reach some long-distance audiences via online chats. In additional, I write the occasional article or do an interview for either a professional or mainstream periodical. I've also mailed out postcards to announce new titles and, every once in a great while, taken out an advertisement. Sometimes, I promote on my own, sometimes with my author-husband, and sometimes with my local SCBWI chapter.

It's not the only formula. Everyone will have their own approach. It's important to decide what works best in each individual case, taking into account one's own personality, predispositions, skills, competing responsibilities, and of course writing time.

For example, with the exception of state or national conferences, I take a months-on, months-off approach. I schedule more events in mid September to early December and early April through June. I try hard to set aside my other time for writing and teaching (a Vermont College M.F.A. residency in January and in July). I've found that I can pick up and put down shorter projects--picture books, short stories, and articles--or already drafted novels while traveling. However, to get down my two first drafts of a novel manuscript (I always toss the very first one), I need extended uninterrupted time to concentrate. This approach evolved after experimentation and a couple of years in which I wasn't nearly as productive as I am now. It's fluid, and I'll change it if and when need be, always putting the writing itself first.

Promotion can be a bottomless well. Yes, it's important, but it is not the writing. It is not the craft. While promotion certainly helps, those authors who are most successful are those who have written steadly and deeply committed themselves to improving. This of course also includes staying well read in the field.

Cynsational Notes

See my promotion-related resources.

Cynsational News & Links

Penny from Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm (Random House, 2006): a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.

The Toni Trent Parker Multicultural Children's Book Festival will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 29 at Cathedral of St. John the Divine at 110th Street & Amsterdam Avenue in New York City. Featured authors and illustrators include: Michelle Meadows (author interview), Irene Smalls, Gloria Pinkney, Rita Williams-Garcia, Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (illustrator interview with Neil and Ying, who did the art for Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Morrow, 2000)). The event is free. Partial Proceeds will benefit low-income schools in the NYC area through Donors Choose.

The entry form (PDF file) for the Writers' League of Texas Teddy (Children's) Book Awards are now available. The deadline is May 31. Books must have been published between June 1, 2005 and May 31, 2006. The awards ceremony is scheduled for Oct. 28, 2006. Last year's winners were Tammar Stein for Light Years (Knopf, 2005) in the long-works division and Kathi Appelt for Miss Lady Bird's Flowers: How a First Lady Changed America (HarperCollins, 2005)(author interview) in the short-works division. Learn more about the 2005 awards. Note: Greg Leitich Smith is a past winner for Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo (Little Brown, 2003)(author interview).

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