Children’s Book Launch on a Budget

Here are my suggestions to plan a book launch party on a budget.
Choose a location with plenty of parking for easy customer access. Freestanding stores or shopping mall locations generally have plenty of parking.
Also choose a location where the author will make money on the book sales. Barnes & Noble, Indie Bookstores, or a book consignment location generally take 50% of the retail price. Authors may choose to a launch their book at a kid friendly, non-bookstore location. If the target audience will be mature adults, a winery or local brewery is an option.
If the location has a coffee shop or bakery like Barnes & Noble, notify the bookstore additional staff may be required during the launch party. Many parents will purchase a coffee while the kids are quietly sitting during your reading.
Choose a time that is parent friendly, before or after nap time. I like the 2:00 to 4:00 window because attendees are fed and rested.
Try to call the “book launch” a “launch party” or celebration.  By calling the event a “Launch Party,” the message to attendees is come celebrate, relieving the pressure of purchasing a book.
I’ve seen launch parties over 300 attendees. That launch was for the third book in a popular series. I like to invite children, parents, teachers, librarians, and potential attendees with a postcard. Postcards look like a birthday party invite with: the book cover image and website on the front; date, time, and location on the back. People who don’t attend the party have the information to purchase the book.
Serve prepackaged snacks. Cake, cookies, punch, and sodas are traditional, however a designated server is required to serve and confirm food allergies. Cake, cookies, and punch are perishable and must be thrown away. They also require plates, silverware, and cups. Prepackaged snacks are clearly labeled, portable, and quantifiable for parents. Unopened prepackaged snacks can be returned or used for another event.
Giveaways entice attendance. Don’t give away more than you expect to earn at the launch. If planning to giveaway $500 at the book launch, consider donating $500 in books to a school. The donation may reach more readers than planning a launch party.
Set a budget and stick to it! The budget may be $2 per attendee. Bag of cookies ($.25), juice box ($.25), helium balloon ($.10), goody bag (bookmark, candy, stickers, notepad, coloring page, activities) ($1.00), party hat ($.40). For under $2 each child goes away with something entertaining. Be sure candy isn’t a choke hazard and goodies are age appropriate. If 1/4 of the attendees buy a book at full retail, an author should make a reasonable profit.
Advertise in free outlets in the area where the launch party will be hosted. Mention it’s a book birthday party full of fun events to celebrate the new book. Also mention readings or giveaways. Avoid saying: “buy my book,” “purchase my book,” or “bring your wallet.” The vibe should be “celebrate with us.”
  • Libraries: patrons check out the library’s free copy, don’t focus must time there
  • Preschools, Daycares, Mommy and Me groups, and schools: are your best customers and attendees
  • Newsletters: community, work, professional, and book newsletters
  • Radio: The Authors Show, local radio, public radio, etc.
  • Social Media: Create a Facebook Event on the Author’s Facebook Page
  • Family/Friends: family and friends will have probably purchased your book, include them to boost attendance numbers
  • Use banners, tablecloths, bookmarks, etc. during the launch party.
During a Skype School Visit, I invited a teacher and her class to attend my launch party. Her school allowed her to bring a small school bus of students to participate!
How many:
Personally invite three times the people you want to attend. If the goal is 300, personally hand out 900 postcards in your neighborhood: restaurants, hair salons, grocery, kids sporting events, church, etc. Be selective. Invite people you want to attend: children, parents, grandparents, teachers, and family.
Personal invites show you want people to attend. Invites left on windshields in a store parking lot show people they are a number.

3, 6, 9, 12 Month Author Marketing Plan

Publishers follow a proven book marketing formula based on their past successes. Don’t rely solely upon a publisher’s marketing goals!

I’ve found the best sales person is the book creator. How’s that possible? Before the book releases, create a 3, 6, 9, 12 month author marketing plan. Commit to these goals. Share the list with the publisher to avoid scheduling conflicts.

Below are ideas for each three month phase:

3 Month Goal: (Do these things for 3 months. Longer if successful or as time allows.)

  • Commit two weekends a month for book signings.
  • Attend 3 BOOK festivals. Choose genre appropriate festivals with at least 5,000 readers. If authors out number the readers, steer clear.
  • Write one book related blog post a week. Choose a reader experience, an event, or excerpt from the book.

6 Month Goal: (Do these things for 3 months. Longer if successful or as time allows.)

  • Submit for 12 book reviews. Choose reviewers who post to Amazon, GoodReads, or popular blogs.
  • Submit the book into 3 national book awards. Consult the publisher to avoid double entry.
  • Schedule at least 3 local newspaper, blog, or radio interviews to mention or feature the book.

9 Month Goal: (Do these things for 3 months. Longer if successful or as time allows.)

  • Shop bookstores, gift shops, or local retailers where the book can be sold. Example: A sea shell book would sell well in vacation beach. Personally gift a book to the store buyer along with purchasing information.
  • Speak at one professional event a month. Choose writers’ groups, schools, or professional organizations and sell books afterwards.
  • Offer one unique book giveaway a month. Example: Romance writers may offer a romantic gift basket giveaway. Include chocolates, an adult beverage, and the book.

12 Month Goal: (Do these things for 3 months. Longer if successful or as time allows.)

  • Write at least 12 blog posts about the past year. Schedule each post throughout the upcoming year. Fan mail, hand written book reviews, and accolades are personal and engage readers.
  • Personally write thank you letters to the book’s top 10 best promoters. Promoters continue to endorse the book when they feel appreciated.
  • List the top 10 most profitable events from the past year. Cultivate the top 3.

This 3, 6, 9, 12 Month Author Marketing Plan can be applied to future books. Enhance the publisher’s standard marketing by infusing a personal marketing strategy. Boost the book’s success and your royalty checks!

—Mark Wayne Adams, Award-winning Illustrator of Nicholas, that’s Ridiculous! A Story About Being a Boy

Best Times to Schedule School Visits

“When is the best time to schedule a school visit?” A very popular question from authors planning who plan to speak in schools. I book school visits from one month to a year in advance. The reason for a wide range is that most schools have limited budgets and a variety of time frames for scheduling. The best time for me to schedule is six months ahead.  

When planning spring visits, send contact emails starting December 1st. The holidays are a rushed time. Many educators are planners and respond immediately. Follow up emails can start after January 15th. This gives the staff time to settle in after the new year. Non planners will find an urgent need to book an author visit.  

If planning fall visits, send contact emails before May 1st. Emails after this date educators are in holiday mode mindset and ignore the email.  I don’t start emailing educators until a week before school starts in the fall. 

Booking schools means planning life one year in advance. Middle and high schools may be different. No matter what age group, get your official fingerprint ID done. You can register at the county courthouse.

A great resource for scheduling is Jane R. Wood’s Schools: A Niche Market for Authors.

— Mark Wayne Adams, Illustrator of Jilli, That’s Silly!: A Story About Being a Girl