Using Pinterest to Market Children’s Picture Books

21 July 2015

From author Darcy Pattison via Jane Friedman:

Two years ago, I committed to indie publishing of my children’s picture books and middle grade to YA novels. As I wrote here, the first eighteen months were devoted to production, distribution and accounting. The last six months, my focus has switched to marketing.

Often for indie books, people will say that the book’s quality—or lack of quality—is the reason marketing efforts for a title won’t work. So, let me start by explaining that my marketing process includes sending the books out for review in major review journals for children’s literature. My books have been reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal—all favorable reviews. One book, Wisdom, The Midway Albatross received a starred PW review. Another book, Abayomi, The Brazilian Puma was named a 2015 National Science Teacher’s Association Outstanding Science Trade Book. Starting from that basis, I wanted to see what I could accomplish through online marketing.

. . . .

I knew that indie authors who focus on adult writing had already figured out many ways to succeed. However, I didn’t know if the same advertising and promotional activities would work for children’s picture books or novels. It made sense to try these things, even if I suspected they worked best for romance writers.

Another piece of advice is to maximize a particular channel by creating a sequence of iterations. Often writers give up too early when they should tweak copy, photos, offers, and so on. However, I decided that my criteria would be sales; if no sales resulted from an effort, then I wouldn’t pursue it. Limited sales would be evaluated as I went to determine if extra tweaking might result in reasonable results.

Here are online ads I’ve tried without any sales:

  • Facebook fan page promoted post
  • Facebook ads
  • Facebook video ads for mobile only
  • Google Adwords
  • Giving away review copies of iBooks.

I targeted various demographics to try to get results, but nothing worked.

Here are things I’ve tried that have minimal sales, less than 100 copies:

  • mailing/newsletter list
  • setting a first book in a series as free on Kindle and iBookstore
  • Bookbub ad for the first picture book in series.

The recent Bookbub ad was successful according to their terms. For a free book in the children’s category, they email to 500,000 customers and expect between 2,450 and 10,350 downloads. My book had 12,000 free downloads across all platforms, beating their top predictions. However, sales in the month since then have been less than 100 copies for the promoted book, never mind the other books in the series.

. . . .

I was startled that over 10% of the traffic to my website for the past year came from Pinterest. Organic traffic from Google search engines pulls the most traffic, followed by those accessing the pages directly. From social media, though, Pinterest was the winner by a huge margin. Here’s my Pinterest account.

I saw the power of Pinterest in action on my own website. One post, 39 Villain Motivations had received over 10,000 repins from July 2014 to April 2015. Even with a mediocre image, it was popular. Advice from Pinterest experts said that for popular posts, you should create an improved image and repin that. The post has now been repined over 19,000 times!

. . . .

As a marketing channel, Pinterest isn’t often considered, even though Promoted Pins have been available for a while. After looking deeper at the platform, I realized it might be a good place to try something for children’s books. Here are some reasons:

  1. Demographics. Pinterest demographics are 80% women; children’s book buyers are overwhelmingly female, whether classroom teachers or parents.
  2. Longevity of a Promotion. In rough terms, the half-life of a tweet is about 5 minutes; a Facebook post lasts 15 minutes; the half-life of a Pin, however, is three months. For the amount of effort, the longevity of a pin makes Pinterest a winner.
  3. Success of others. Even a casual glance at the education category on Pinterest showed many lesson plans from the Teachers-Pay-Teachers platform. Others were clearly reaching teachers on this platform.

One thing struck me: I’d only casually played at Pinterest. What if I really paid attention to the details?

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

Here’s a link to Darcy Pattison’s books

Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’: Read the First Chapter

10 July 2015

From The Wall Street Journal:

In 1957, when she was 31 years old, Harper Lee submitted her first attempt at a novel to the publisher J.B. Lippincott.

Titled ‘Go Set a Watchman,’ it was set in the ’50s and opened with a woman named Jean Louise Finch returning home to Alabama. Ms. Lee’s editor found the story lacking but, seizing on flashback scenes, suggested that she write instead about her protagonist as a young girl. The result was a Pulitzer Prize-winning classic: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’

‘Go Set a Watchman’ will be published on Tuesday. It has undergone very little editing. “It was made clear to us that Harper Lee wanted it published as it was,” Jonathan Burnham, publisher of HarperCollins’s Harper imprint, said in a statement. “We gave the book a very light copy edit.”

The first chapter of ‘Go Set a Watchman’ introduces Ms. Lee’s beloved character, Scout, as a sexually liberated woman in her twenties, traveling from New York to Alabama to visit her ailing father and weigh a marriage proposal from a childhood friend. It also includes a bombshell about Scout’s brother.

–Jennifer Maloney

Below, the first chapter:

Since Atlanta, she had looked out the dining-car window with a delight almost physical. Over her breakfast coffee, she watched the last of Georgia’s hills recede and the red earth appear, and with it tin-roofed houses set in the middle of swept yards, and in the yards the inevitable verbena grew, surrounded by whitewashed tires. She grinned when she saw her first TV antenna atop an unpainted Negro house; as they multiplied, her joy rose.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

E.L. James event backfires when ‘Grey’ critics air grievances using #AskELJames

30 June 2015

From The Los Angeles Times:

E.L. James was thrown a curve ball on Monday when critics of her “Fifty Shades of Grey” erotica series crashed her social media event, using the hashtag #AskELJames to challenge the author for writing books they allege perpetuate rape culture and sanction domestic violence.

The social media event was planned after the release of “Grey,” a follow-up to her novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” that retells the story from Christian Grey’s point of view.

A sampling of the backlash:

. . . .

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Times and thanks to Shelly and several others for the tip.

Email Newsletters for Authors: Get Started Guide

30 June 2015

From Jane Friedman:

Early in actor Bryan Cranston’s career, when his gigs were primarily composed of guest-starring TV roles in Matlockand Murder, She Wrote, he sent postcards to casting directors about his upcoming appearances. He told the New Yorker, “I knew 99 percent of them wouldn’t watch, but my face and name would get in front of them, and it would plant the subliminal message ‘He works a lot, this guy!’”

Later on, when he received three Emmy nominations for his role as the dad in Malcolm in the Middle, he took out “for your consideration” ads promoting his work. He said, “The whole idea is to put yourself in a position to be recognized for your work so opportunities increase. False humility or even laziness could prevent that.”

If Cranston’s career had begun in the Internet era, his communication tool of choice might have been the email newsletter rather than the postcard. While email lists have many uses (from selling your books to delivering paid subscription content), their most immediate use for freelance writers and authors is to keep readers and professional connections informed about what you’re doing.

Regular email contact with your readers creates a long string of impressions, so that your name stays at the forefront of their mind. When an opportunity arises—a book club needs a new book to read, a publication is searching for a freelancer to hire, a journalist is looking for a good interview subject, or a conference needs speakers—people are far more likely to think of you if they frequently see your name.

Because most people are overwhelmed with unwanted email, it may seem counterintuitive to categorize the email newsletter as one of the more effective, even intimate, forms of digital communication. However, email has so far proven to be a more long-term and stable tool than social media, which is constantly shifting. Emails can’t be missed like a social media post that disappears in readers’ feeds as more posts follow it. You truly own your email list, unlike Facebook or Twitter accounts. And if you use people’s email addresses with respect (more on that in a minute), those addresses can become resources that grow more valuable over time.

. . . .

Decide on your frequency and stick to it. Your efforts will be doubly successful if you’re consistent with your timing. For example, freelance journalist Ann Friedman (no relation) sends an email newsletter that reliably arrives on Friday afternoons. Weekly is a common frequency, as is monthly, but the most important criterion is what you can commit to. If you choose a low frequency (bimonthly or quarterly), you run the risk of people forgetting they signed up, which then leads to unsubscribes. The more familiar with your work your subscribers are (or the bigger fans they are), the less likely you’ll encounter this problem. High frequency is associated with list fatigue, when people unsubscribe or stop opening your messages. Fatigue is higher with weekly or daily sends, so daily sends tend to be more appropriate for news- or trend-driven content. For example, Alexis Madrigal does a daily send called 5 Intriguing Things.

Keep it short, sweet, and structured. Hardly anyone will complain that your emails are too short; the more frequently you send, the shorter your emails should probably be. It can also help to deliver the same structure every time. Every newsletter Ann Friedman sends has links to what she’s recently published and what she’s been reading, plus an animated GIF of the week. I send a 2x/month newsletter Electric Speed that focuses on specific digital media tools and news of interest to writers.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

Author Warns U.S. Military to Focus on China

29 June 2015

From The Wall Street Journal:

Peter Singer, one of Washington’s pre-eminent futurists, is walking the Pentagon halls with an ominous warning for America’s military leaders: World War III with China is coming.

In meeting after meeting with anyone who will listen, this modern-day soothsayer wearing a skinny tie says America’s most advanced fighter jets might be blown from the sky by their Chinese-made microchips and Chinese hackers easily could worm their way into the military’s secretive intelligence service, and the Chinese Army may one day occupy Hawaii.

The ideas might seem outlandish, but Pentagon officials are listening to the 40-year-old senior fellow at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank.

In hours of briefings, Mr. Singer has outlined his grim vision for intelligence officials, Air Force officers and Navy commanders. What makes his scenarios more remarkable is that they are based on a work of fiction: Mr. Singer’s soon-to-be-released, 400-page techno thriller, “Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War.”

. . . .

Pentagon officials typically don’t listen to the doom-and-gloom predictions of fiction writers. But Mr. Singer comes to the table with an unusual track record. He has written authoritative books on America’s reliance on private military contractors, cybersecurity and the Defense Department’s growing dependence on robots, drones and technology.

The Army, Navy and Air Force already have included two of his books on their official reading lists. And he often briefs military leaders on his research.

“Ghost Fleet,” co-written with former Wall Street Journal reporter August Cole is based on interviews, military research and years of experience working with the Defense Department.

“He’s the premier futurist in the national-security environment,” said Mark Jacobson, a special assistant to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who made sure his boss read the book. “Peter’s always where the ball is going to be. And people in the Pentagon listen to what he has to say.”

Release of the book by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on Tuesday comes during a new period of soul-searching for the U.S. military.

. . . .

“Ghost Fleet,” which includes hundreds of endnotes, challenges conventional military doctrine and relies on real events to warn that the U.S. military is vulnerable to cyberattacks that could cripple its ability to win a war with China.

The time has come, Mr. Singer tells military officials in his briefings, for the Pentagon to consider the possibility that Americans could face real dog fights in the sky and deadly naval battles unlike anything the U.S. has seen since World War II.

“It may not be politic, but it is, in my belief, no longer useful to avoid talking about the great power rivalries of the 21st century and the real dangers of them getting out of control,” he told Air Force officers at the Pentagon. “Indeed, only by acknowledging the real trends and real risks that loom can we take the mutual steps to avoid the kind of mistakes that would set up such an epic fail in both deterrence and diplomacy.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

Here’s a link to Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War

While not making light of the security issues Mr. Singer raises as a consultant/researcher, PG does think this is a potent way of generating publicity for a new novel.

Pre-promotion or not?

29 June 2015

From author Patricia C. Wrede:

I was at a book signing recently and admitted to the person in line behind me that I was about a quarter of the way through writing my book. I should note here, she is also a writer. She immediately asked me what writing conferences I had attended, if I was on Facebook, if I had a blog, etc., and began overwhelming me with all the things I was not doing to sell myself that I ‘should be doing’ in her opinion….

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of pre-promoting yourself in the manner this person suggested?

First off, let me point out that when I was getting started, computers were room-sized boxes of blinking lights that required lots of esoteric knowledge before you could persuade them to add two numbers together. The Internet didn’t exist at all. I wrote my first novel on a typewriter. Consequently, I don’t exactly have much experience in “pre-promotion” of the sort you describe.

This does not, however, stop me from having opinions. Quite strong opinions, in fact.

I will begin with a question: What, exactly, is it that you hope to sell? Yourself? Or your books?

While you think about that, I will point out that every writing career is different. Not only that, but the way into a writing career is different for every writer. If you want some control over it (you will never have total control, but you can have some), it is worth thinking about different possibilities.

. . . .

But fundamentally, the only thing that every writer has to do is write.

There is no one best route to the top. Furthermore, “the top” has almost as many definitions as there are writers, and every definition has a multitude of different ways to reach it. The successful writers I know are successful by their own definitions, not someone else’s, and have gotten to that success by routes that suit them, not somebody else.

Back to that first question. I can name several writers for whom their writing is in large degree secondary; what they are selling is themselves. They make as much (and in some cases a lot more) money from their blogs, courses, speeches, workshops, movie rights, radio programs, podcasts, and so on, as they do from their actual writing. There is nothing wrong with this. They are all having a blast doing stuff they love doing. Most of them took to social media like dolphins take to water. They are in their element. Their definition of “the top” has to do with personal appearances and being out there in public and well-known and respected, whether or not their books are bestsellers (some are; others have only modest sales).

. . . .

There may also be some use to “pre-promoting” yourself if you are planning to skip the world of traditional publishing and go straight to self-published ebooks. To make this worth doing, though, you have to catch a large audience and maintain it until you finish your book. Given how quickly Internet buzz comes and goes, this is often best left until a week before the book goes live, even if one is planning to self-publish.

In both cases, far too many would-be writers end up promising far more than they can deliver. I know a couple of folks who have been writing about their writing for a couple of decades now, without ever producing an actual story. Their social media accounts don’t attract as much attention as they expected, because they don’t have anything to talk about but themselves (and frankly, they aren’t all that interesting). And their desperate struggles to “build an audience” soak up whatever time and energy they might have used to actually write fiction.

If what you want is to write and/or to sell your books rather than yourself, then there’s not a lot of point in doing social media until you have something to sell.

Link to the rest at Patricia C. Wrede and thanks to Suzie for the tip.

Here’s a link to Patricia C. Wrede’s books

Talking Advertising Again

23 June 2015

From author B.E. Sanderson:

[H]ere’s how the advertising has panned out so far:

3/3 – Paid ad for Dying Embers – Kboards – no noticeable sales – $15
5/8 – Cover reveal ad for Accidental Death – Omnimystery News – hard to tell since the book wasn’t available yet – Free
5/20 – Book Excerpt for Accidental Death – Omnimystery News – 28 sales with a jump two days after the excerpt – Free
5/25 – Paid ad for Dying Embers – Ereader News Today – 298 sales over 10 days – $30
6/15 – Paid ad for Dying Embers – Indie Author News – no noticeable sales – $30
6/16 – Paid ad for Accidental Death – Every Writer Resource – no noticeable sales – $10

. . . .

I advertised with Kboards because I’d heard from other writers and in books on the subject that they’d had great success with that.  :shrug:  Also, please note that I am getting the cheapest ads offered on those paid sites.  Maybe if I shelled out more money, I’d see better results.  Only time will tell.

What I mean by ‘no noticeable sales’ is that if I did get any sales, they were so miniscule I couldn’t tell for certain that someone bought that one book because of the ad or because of something I tweeted.

Speaking of which, I have seen some interesting effects from the Twittersphere.  Sometimes I tweet and then shortly thereafter a book sells.  But since correlation is not causation, I have no way of tying those together definitively.

. . . .

Of course, I’m doing other things – like postcard mailings – but I haven’t kept track of that yet.  I’m pretty sure I got at least three sales off the last mailing.  Not huge numbers, but I only sent out like 20 postcards and some of that was family.

. . . .

Anyway, this all comes down to the experimental first year. Seeing what works and what doesn’t.  Keeping track so the next book might have a better chance.

Link to the rest at B.E. Sanderson and thanks to Deb for the tip.

Here’s a link to B.E. Sanderson’s books

How to Work with Influencers to Drive Book Discovery

22 June 2015

From Digital Book World:

Ask authors and publishers about the biggest challenge they face, and chances are the top answer you’ll get is book discovery.

Yes, it’s been the No. 1 issue in the industry for years, but it’s getting increasingly difficult. Millions of books are now published every year. Mass media, already the preserve of the rarified best-selling book and author, is scaling back its book coverage. Doom and gloom reports are coming from all sides.

But from our vantage point, the book industry is alive and kicking. Every month on Goodreads, our members discover another 14 million books they want to read and write one million book reviews. The excitement about books in our community of 40 million readers is palpable.

Looking at our data, the key change authors and publishers need to embrace—and it’s a change that’s both an opportunity and a challenge—is that the book discovery landscape is fracturing.

If you’re just focused on getting a review in the New York Times or on NPR (still very worthy goals for many titles), then you’re missing out on a wealth of new ways to help your book break out. As the number of media outlets covering books becomes more and more limited, the smartest authors and publishers are now looking to build relationships with what we call “mini influencers.”

. . . .

Here at Goodreads, the three types of mini influencers we see having an impact on book discovery are:

  • notable readers
  • authors
  • influential readers

. . . .

Fans are also looking to their favorite authors to shape trends and ideas in their genres of choice. This goes beyond the well-established tradition of book blurbs. More and more authors are starting to realize the opportunity to maintain an ongoing relationship with their fans by sharing regular book recommendations. Gretchin Rubin does this very effectively with her three monthly picks; Ryan Holiday has attracted a following of 40,000 for his monthly reading recommendation email; and Daniel Pink features interviews with authors of new books in his irregular emails to 83,000 fans.

Of course, readers want to hear great fiction recommendations, too. Patrick Rothfuss writes hugely popular reviews on Goodreads that his 58,000 followers love to read. As an example of how his reviews work both as a way of introducing a new book to readers and of reinforcing Rothfuss’s relationship with his fans, check out his well-liked review of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

. . . .

Influential readers are ground zero for building awareness and anticipation for key titles. They differ from what I’ve called notable readers in that you and I won’t have heard of the majority of them and probably never will. But they are influencers in their respective genres, and are incredibly focused on the types of books they love, which makes them powerful rallying-points for certain audiences that publishers otherwise might struggle to reach.

Book bloggers, BookTubers (many of whom cross-post on Goodreads) and popular Goodreads reviewers are often the first spark in igniting conversation around a book. When they really love a certain title, they practically hand-sell it to their friends, who in turn rave about it to their own friends.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

How A Simple Metadata Fix Can Double Book Sales

18 June 2015

From Publishing Perspectives:

“I’m evangelizing for metadata, currently I’m trying to create awareness among publishers about metadata for marketing,” says Ronald Schild, CEO of MVB Marketing- und Verlagsservice des Buchhandels GmbH, which is the technical and digital subsidiary of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association. “There is a saying in the market that metadata is the new bookseller. I wouldn’t say that is 100% true, but if you look at the online catalogs with millions and millions of books it becomes increasingly difficult for a publisher to market the one book they want to market. The only way to achieve that is to spend a lot of money on advertising or to get the metadata right.”

. . . .

He continues, “Metadata for many publishers is an open field. It starts with the basic information…if a book doesn’t have a title, doesn’t have an author, it cannot be found. Then we now have a multitude of research proving the richer the metadata, the more extensive the metadata, the better the sales results.

“You can even break it down by field.  If the metadata set contains the language alone, that field will double the probability of selling that book. Good rich metadata dramatically increases the sales of the book.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives and thanks to Dana for the tip.

Book Marketing Results

13 June 2015

From author Nicholas C. Rossis:

Following my Call to Arms, a number of you responded by sharing with me your book marketing experience. I now have about a hundred responses by some fifty authors.

. . . .

To compare the various ad media, I came up with a number that represents the ratio between number of sales and cost of advertising. In other word, if you spent $1 and had one sale, then this number would be one. If you spent $1 and had two sales, the number would be two, etc.

Essentially, this represents your value for money. The greater this number, the more effective the campaign. Naturally, websites offering free ads come out pretty well (to avoid dividing by zero, I gave them a nominal value of $1).

The Best Place to Advertise your Full-Priced Book


The first observation is that the best place to advertise is through an author newsletter. This is because it is free, yet effective.

The second one concerns Facebook. This can be a hit-and-miss affair. The above results fail to reveal that someone advertising for free in author groups had nine sales, whereas someone who spent $500 only had three.

Goodreads included another kind of outlier. An author who spent $5,000 had zero sales as a result, whereas someone who only spent $15 had 50 sales. This leads me to believe that things like genre, book cover, blurb etc play an important role.

. . . .

The Best Place to Advertise your Discounted Book


The Midlist comes first here, because it’s free. Its great success has led to the point where you need to submit your book four weeks before the discount date.

Bookbub came third, although this hides the sheer volume of books sold. In one instance, an author who spent $210 had 2,773 book sales as a result. This is the sort of number that can generate a lot of interest in a book.

Link to the rest at Call to Arms

Here’s a link to Nicholas C. Rossis books

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