My book has been out nine months now. I dedicated much of 2017 to jumping in with both feet and trying every marketing opportunity I could think of to get the word out. Some things were surprisingly discouraging and some things worked much better than I expected. So it just goes to show that it’s worth trying everything at least until you get some data!
Here are the things I did:
I contacted bookstores in every town/city where I had family, and other places I go often. I was met with such strong disinterest that it took the wind out of my sails. In Asheville, which I travel through often, I contacted a bookstore that I had read about. The article said they were really interested in author visits, but they were extremely lukewarm. I even tried to bring in the local chapter of SCBWI to make a case for me. That registered a big, fat meh. Likewise Houston bookstores.
I did four school visits. In spite of being so nervous for my first talk that I almost barfed, it turns out I LOVE SCHOOL VISITS!! Third – sixth graders are so enthusiastic and so much fun to hang out with. I want to do more of these. I need to figure out what to charge. So far it’s only been about encouraging the schools to buy the books, but I need to start charging.
I went to the racetrack in Dallas, TX Props to the Texas Thoroughbred Association, for inviting me. Unfortunately their first choice, which was to invite me when they had their annual meeting, didn’t work out. That, I think, would have been amazing!! But they persevered and invited me to an event at the Lone Star Park racetrack in Dallas. I really thought these would have been my people, but for one reason or another, I sold only one or two books. Still, my friend Kathleen came up from Oklahoma City and we had a fun weekend together. Plus it was a direct flight from Champaign-Urbana, so that was fun!
I went to the Chicago Literary Festival event thanks to Esther Hershenhorn This was such a thrill to be invited by Esther Hershenhorn, the fairy godmother of the Illinois chapter of the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), to be part of a panel called “So You Want To Write a Children’s Book.” The session was very well attended and a ton of fun. I wouldn’t say I sold many books, but I made some new friends (my fellow panelists) and it’s been especially fun to see my fellow panelists, Patty Toht, Celia Perez, Wendy Brandt and Brittany Jacobs, find success as I follow them on social media.
I got very discouraged and gave up … for a while. I thought I understood and appreciated how hard it would be to get the word out about Rachel Alexandra but, it turns out, I still underestimated the situation. By about August I’d pretty much given up. Until I talked to a couple sailing friends, Bronson Bowling and Eric Bussell. Boy were they a help! Bronson, in particular, reminded me to be quantitative. So I focused on my goal of selling 4,000 books. By coming up with specific goals it takes the emotion away or at least minimizes it. The voice say “no one loves you,” etc, is quieted when I have a specific quantifiable goal. They really got me back on track, which, in turn helped me find Business Bakery, run by Julia Bickerstaff, which I stumbled on but which I was ready to find. I haven’t followed her guide exactly, but the idea of a 100-day goal and the concept of micro actions have really helped. More on that below.
I signed up for 100-day Challenge by Business Bakery I can’t remember how I found this, but I’ve been very happy to try some of Julia’s suggestions. I like her list of micro-actions and I have filled out 60 of them (still short of 100 but I continue to add to it). It really does make it feel doable and also every time I check one off it is a win. The only problem is things like tweeting. If you do that every day, then that counts as a daily microaction, I suppose. But you only need to do one micro-action a day, then you are not really moving forward…Not sure how to think about that, quite honestly!
I bid for and won a one-on-one consultation with a social media expert
Lisa Katzenberger is awesome and she gave me so much more confidence about social media. It’s really all about picking a couple platforms that you feel comfortable on and focusing your energy there. I have my notes from this consultation on my desk and I need to refer to them once a week to fully take advantage of everything she suggested.
I signed up for Twitter I still don’t feel all that comfortable on social media, but in anticipation of meeting with Lisa, I signed up for Twitter and tried it out for a bit. And, surprise, surprise, it turns out to be something I enjoy very much. I made a specific goal for 2018 to double my followers and this is something I will continue to keep track of.
I made a Facebook page This also came out of my chat with Bronson and Eric. I made a Rachel Alexandra Facebook page and have focused on following/friending more horse–related sites. That has definitely yielded some good connections, including the Exceller Fund, a non-profit retired Thoroughbred program.
I wrote a blog Well, here we are. I tried to write this regularly, but have stumbled quite a bit about it. I’m not sure people read blogs so much anymore. I try to drive people here by posting it on Twitter, etc, but if I could figure out how to send it as a newsletter I think I’d be more motivated to write more often. Still, one of my 2018 goals is to really post something weekly. Stay tuned!
I encouraged people to write an Amazon review I would like to get to 50 Amazon reviews and to that end, whenever anyone mentions how much they enjoyed my book, I ask them to review it. Hopefully that won’t become too annoying to them, but all I can do is ask!
I made a six-foot tall banner and sold my book at a farmers’ market This is an example of something I did as an experiment but was pretty sure would not result in anything. Surprise surprise!! I sold more than two dozen books and had so very much fun doing it. I know the banner helped and I’m very, very proud of it. Plus the banner will help when I go to Breyerfest!!
I contacted BreyerFest I have to say that I really worked hard before my book came out to brainstorm about unusual ways to market my book. Some things have not worked out. For example, I cannot get the Churchill Downs gift shop to respond to me at all, but the people at Breyerfest have been so supportive! Breyer, for those of you not in the know, manufacturers plastic horses that every horse-crazed child that I know collects. Breyerfest is an annual three-day horse extravaganza at Kentucky Horse Park. As soon as I learned about it, I knew that was the place for me and my book! So I was sorry to not get a spot at the Breyerfest of 2017, but since that theme was Gateway to India it was hard to see how Rachel’s story would fit in. So imagine my glee when they contacted me to say that 2018’s theme was Off to the Races and would I be a featured speaker at the three-day event in July!!!