Make sure all your marketing and promotional material, such as websites, posters, and trailers, are professional, whether made by you or someone else. It would be extremely worthwhile, if your technical skills are not of the highest order, to employ someone who is proficient in web design, or desktop publishing and layout and design, to build your website or prepare your other promotional material.
If you are concerned about giving out personal email and phone numbers, set up a separate email address on your website to use professionally, but remember to check it regularly and respond promptly. Most people are happy to make an initial inquiry via email so you don’t have to give out a telephone number.
The first thing you need is a presence on the web. Teachers and students will expect to be able to search and find you. If your publisher has a website make sure you have a page in the author section and include your contact email for bookings and enquiries.
Better still is having your own website. It doesn’t need to be an expensive, interactive site but it does need to look professional. It should have a well-designed one-page resume to download that includes your photo, a description of your books with images of book covers, a short catchy biography and contact details. Another excellent aid to planning and negotiating your visits is to use your website and or promotional pamphlets to publicise a ‘menu’ of potential sessions you could deliver. Kate Veitch suggests giving each of these sessions:
- A title (for example, Creating memorable characters; How a picture book is made …)
- A brief description
- A duration (30 minutes; 2–3 hours; half day, etc)
- Suggested age range the session is suitable for
- Suitable audience numbers, including strict maximum
- Any equipment needed …’ (Veitch, Kate 1995. Real live writers, National Book Council, Melbourne, page 48)
Also include the fees you charge, if you are prepared to travel and how to make a booking.
The information on your website should also be turned into a double-sided flyer that you can post out to local schools, put on a noticeboard at the public library, leave on the desk at a local bookshop, give out at meetings, conferences etc.
You can’t carry flyers with you everywhere but you can take business cards. You can produce your own business cards on the computer, using sheets of the appropriate-sized cards available at office supply shops. These can be given to teachers and librarians at meetings, conferences, etc, without seeming pushy.
Join and attend events organised by groups such as the Australian Society of Authors, the Children’s Book Council of Australia, the Writers Centre in your area Fellowship of Australian Writers, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators or any local writers groups. Authors, especially children’s authors, are incredibly generous in sharing ideas and information with fellow writers.
See Useful resources and organisations below.
The Children’s Book Council in most states organises a range of talks, dinners and other events. Go along and meet other people who are passionate about children’s books and learn from their experience.
Visit your local public library and introduce yourself to the children’s librarian. You may be asked to judge a writing competition or be invited to participate in an event — it all helps to raise your profile in the local area. Children’s librarians often attend network meetings where author visits to schools are discussed, so if you are interested in visiting schools in other areas ask the librarian to mention your name or give out your flyer. There may even be an opportunity for you to give a short presentation at one of these meetings.
Adopt a local school and volunteer to give free writing workshops to their gifted and talented students. Working with a small number of students over a few weeks or a term can be very rewarding as you really get to see the outcome of your work. You will also gain some valuable experience and, like the children’s librarian at the public library, many teacher librarians attend network meetings and may be prepared to pass out flyers for you or arrange for you to speak at a meeting.
Visit local bookshops, especially if they are specialist children’s bookshops, and introduce yourself to the staff. They have regular contact with teachers and librarians and are often asked to suggest authors to visit local schools.
Subscribe to Buzz Words an online professional monthly magazine targeted at writers, illustrators, librarians, teachers, editors and children’s book lovers, and/or PASS IT ON a weekly, online, interactive, networking newsletter for those involved with or interested in the children’s writing industry. They both contain wonderful information for new and experienced authors.