Marketing on No Budget Part 2 - Author Days

A few months ago, I wrote a post called Marketing on No Budget. I was looking for cheap ways to promote my books. I came up with a few ideas, most of which were local events or options. By far, the most successful marketing idea was the Author Day. The author day is not a new idea, but a relatively new idea for me. Since I write children's and YA, author days are a natural fit. I contacted a few local elementary schools and asked if they were interested in hosting me for the day to talk to the students about being an author. I booked two schools for author days in May.

For one school, I spent the day with second graders. I met with six classes for 45 minutes each. I read from The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Tale, led a discussion about reading and pugs, and talked about the "author life." I had a blast.

For the other school, I spent the day with fifth graders. I met with five classes for 45 minutes each. I read from the Zelda book and also led a discussion about the origin of my stories and the writing process. Since the students were older, I left more time for Q&A. I was asked great questions. My favorite was "what is your world view as an author?"

Here are my takeaways from the experience.

1. Author days are fun.

I had a blast at the author days. I loved sharing my experience with the students and teaching them about writing. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I do realize some authors may not enjoy public speaking or teaching kids, but  I have a background in education and working with kids and teenagers, so it fits me well.

2. Author days are exhausting. 

I came home both days wiped. Although I enjoyed the days, all the time up front is exhausting for me. The preparation for the days wasn't bad, but it wouldn't be great to schedule days back to back.

3. Author days sell books. 

For both schools, students in the classes associated with the visit took home fliers about my books to pre-order signed copies. For one school, they simply brought in the order slip with the cash or check. The other school didn't do any cash transactions at school (interesting), so I set up an online ordering and payment option. I set a preorder deadline for a week before the scheduled author date, so I had time to get the books signed. The second grade classes sold more books, but it's hard to say whether it was the grade level, school, or teacher promotion. But the fifth grade still sold enough books to make the visit worthwhile. Both were successful mechanisms to sell books.

4. Author days are a great way to build your platform.

I sent all the students home with a Zelda bookmark with my website information. In addition, my name is more familiar with the teachers. I'm sure some students will read Zelda and enjoy the books. They may even tell their friends, and more kids and adults will know of a little pug named Zelda.

With school out for the summer, author days are on the back burner. I look forward to scheduling one to two author days a month next school year. If you are connected to a school in the greater Cincinnati or Cleveland area, I'd love to come visit!

I'm always looking for more marketing ideas, especially lower cost options.

Have you had any success marketing with no budget?

From One Writer to Another - Marketing on No Budget

I want to start off this post by telling you that life is good. I am happy. I love the move we made from Cleveland to Cincinnati. It was definitely the right move for us. I have no doubt. I say this because moving isn't easy and it isn't cheap. Neither is a quality editor or book cover designer. These facts have left me with nothing in the budget to spend on book marketing for the next few months. With no money to spend, I am forced to be creative and get out of my comfort zone to market and sell my books. I need to sell books so I can continue to pay for a quality editor and book cover designer. It's an endless cycle!! (At least until I get the next few books published) For indie authors, there are many paid opportunities to market your books. Bookbub is one of the most popular. If you are approved and pay the appropriate fee, your book is featured on a daily email that is sent to thousands of voracious readers. Bookbub is at the top right now for book promotion, but there are other options. The Fussy Librarian, Kindle Nation Daily, or Pixel of Ink are other options. You can buy twitter, facebook, or goodreads ads. All of these can help your book sell, especially in a hot genre. Of course, children's books don't do as well with these promotions because of the audience even if I had some money to spend.

So what if you need to market books on little or no budget? 

It's time to start hustling. No really it is. That means carrying your books everywhere you go and asking strangers to buy your books. Now, if you hate talking to strangers like me, this might be a terrifying option. But I think local marketing–working with people you can meet and see is a good option. Here are a few ideas:

Book Signings - Set up a book signing in your local coffee shop, bookstore, or ice cream shop. (Who doesn't want to eat ice cream while they get a book signed?) Spread the word to everyone you know. Print out postcards and hand out to strangers. (It's easier to hand someone a postcard then to ask them to buy your book) Use facebook events (perhaps the only useful function of facebook) to promote. Make sure you have plenty of books on hand, cash for change and a square reader for credit card payment. Then have fun! Even if you only sell ten books, the event only cost you minimal time and no money. And now you have ten new readers.

Author Days - Author Days consist of visiting a local school, usually an elementary school, reading to the kids, talking to them about being an author, and signing books. Kids can purchase copies of books in advance and you can have them signed ahead of time to save time. This is a great idea for fellow children's book authors. I also think YA authors should consider visiting middle and high schools. I am sure teachers and students would find value in the visit.

Local Events - Find out what is happening in your area and set up shop with a table to sell books. On my end, I am going to have a table at the Cincinnati Pug Fair (yes it is a real thing!) I am also looking into a table at a Farmer's Market and children's events in the area.

Workshops - I like teaching. My workshops are either writing or faith based. I've led the workshops at community centers, churches, and libraries. I always end up selling books in addition to my fee for teaching.

Those are a few ideas I am currently pursuing to market books and gain new readers. This type of marketing takes more time, but I believe the personal connection pays off in the long run.

What are your ideas to market books on no budget?

Also, I wanted to give a quick thank you to all of my wordpress followers. The number continues to increase. I hope you find value and some laughs here with my blog. If you want to join my street team, you can sign up here. The Street Team knows first (before the blog!) about new writing projects, promotions, and the opportunity for free advance review copies.

Marketing to Readers: A Book Launch Review

On January 2, I released the second book in my children’s series about a pug named Zelda. The launch of The Adventures of Zelda: A Second Saga was very successful and so I wanted to talk a little about what went right and what I could improve for the next book launch. But before I talk about any of the book launch, I wanted to thank you, my readers, for making this launch successful. You bought books and spread the word about Zelda and I am so thankful for your help. I hope you enjoyed the Zelda books!

What Went Right

The Pug Love - Prior to the release of the second Zelda book, I contacted a few pug celebrities and asked for their help in promoting the books. As a thank you, I sent them copies of the first or second Zelda book. Their social media presence was a tremendous boost in getting the word out to new people about The Adventures of Zelda.

The Social Media Blitz - During launch week, I hit social media hard with promotion. Facebook and Twitter are my primary social media networks so most of the activity was there. I tried to tie the promotion with fun pictures and facts about the book and Zelda. I also used a Facebook event on launch day to spread the word about the launch and post updates. I think the push went well and people generally enjoyed the posts because I posted creative content instead of telling them to buy my book every hour.

The Launch Page - I carefully crafted the launch page with information about the book, a fun picture of Zelda and the book, along with links to read the first chapter of the first book for free. It was a quick and easy look into the book for new readers.

The Zelda Photo Shoot - I took some pictures of Zelda (and Peach) with copies of the paperback books. Zelda was great- she is a photogenic dog. (Peach not so much). People love pictures of pugs and it was a big hit.

What to Improve

Book Launch Party - Originally, I planned to do a local book launch party at Sweetie Fry (the ice cream / french fry shop where I work). The launch party was going to be a couple hours and along with the opportunity for people to buy books and have them signed by me, I also was planning on doing a couple giveaways. I thought it would be fun and a great way for to engage with readers. However, my schedule ended up imploding on me and I couldn’t find a good time that worked with basketball. So I tabled the idea with the plan to do it for the next book release.

Marketing to Moms - Since the Zelda series is a children’s book, I wanted to find a good method to market to moms and families. I researched a few family sites and children’s book sites, but nothing fit in my time frame, budget and goals. Granted I didn’t spend enough time exploring this area. Future ideas include connecting with local schools, libraries, and book stores.

Reviews - My goal was to have five reviews up by launch day on Amazon by sending out some advance review copies. I completely failed at this one. I only have four as we sit right now. I didn’t get the books out in time or contact enough people to review my book which brings me to the last point. (PS If you read either Zelda book, I'd love your honest review at Amazon, Goodreads, or Barnes & Noble.)

Better Planning / More Time - I could improve the book launch if I planned better and gave myself enough time to set up promotions, reviews, and more. I wanted to get the book launched in early January because that time of year is great for book sales. People have Christmas money to spend and are loading up their kindles. But by pushing the deadline, I was strapped for time with Christmas and the holidays to get everything done in time.

Overall, I am happy with the launch. I sold almost as many first Zelda books as the second which means I have new readers and fans. Hopefully they enjoy the first book to pick up more in the series. I am really thankful for those that helped promote the launch and everyone who bought books the first week to push Zelda up the Amazon charts. It’s exciting to watch. And as always, I am learning more and more about this business and how to find new readers and make them happy with a good book.