Let’s face it. A lot of people decide to write children’s books because they seem easier. I mean, it’s a 32-page book for 5-year-old kids. There are lots of 5-year-olds in the world, how hard could it be right?
The thing is, you don’t realize just how hard it is because when you Google “How to market a book”, you get 2 billion results. The problem is that the majority of the book marketing strategies online focus nearly entirely on the adult market.
It’s not until you become a children’s author that you realize that children’s books are an entirely different beast.
So what exactly makes marketing children’s books different?
There are three things that make marketing children’s books so different from other genres:
First, children’s books are the only type of book where you aren’t marketing to your ideal reader.
Since children don’t buy books, you have to market to adults. That means that your book marketing campaigns must be created with the adult in mind, not the child.
Second, although you are marketing to adults, your book must still appeal to the actual children you wrote the book for.
That means your job as an author is to write a book that appeals to two different audiences: the child (your ideal reader) and the adult book purchaser (your ideal customer).
Finally, the children’s book industry distribution channels that are unique to publishing, such as schools and children’s libraries.
Despite the differences, marketing a children’s book doesn’t have to be hard. I have personally tried a lot of different techniques to sell over 100,000 copies of my own books, and in the process, I have discovered three keys to marketing a children’s book.
Three Keys to Marketing a Children's Book
- Identify Your Ideal Customer
- Grow Your Brand
- Build Your Following
Key 1: Identify Your Ideal Customer
One of the biggest problems I see other children’s book authors make is that they don’t spend any time identifying their ideal reader. Or rather, their ideal customer. As I mentioned, since children don’t typically purchase their own books, you have to target their parents in your marketing.
My first question for authors who reach out to me for help with their marketing is simple: “Who is your book for”?
Too often, authors are unable to articulate who their book is for. Sometimes they say something generic like “all kids” or “everyone”.
Here’s the thing: If your book is for everyone, it’s for no one.
In order to be able to successfully market your book, you have to know who you are marketing it to. And unless you have an unlimited budget, you won’t be able to market your book to everyone in the world. That’s why it’s so important to get clear on who your ideal reader is.
This one step is skipped by many authors, and it’s one of the most important building blocks of developing your marketing strategy.
Close your eyes and picture yourself at a book reading. Imagine that one of the adult attendees is head over heels in love with your book and can’t wait to tell other parents about it.
- What does that raving fan look like?
- How old are they?
- Why did they purchase your book?
- What problem did your book help them solve?
Once you have the basic demographics of your ideal customer, develop a deeper profile of them.
- Where do they spend time online?
- What are their favorite blogs?
- What groups are they in on Facebook?
- What Instagram pages do they follow?
- What conferences, festival, and expos do they go to?
Yes, there’s some footwork involved in developing a profile of your ideal reader, but guess what? Without knowing who you’re selling your book to, your marketing efforts will be ineffective.
Don’t worry about making mistakes or having an incomplete profile. It will change over time as you learn more about your ideal customer. You just want to make sure you have a general sense of who they are.
Here’s an example of an ideal customer profile:
My ideal customer is an adoptive mother between 28-35 years of age, who is raising a child between 3 and 5 years old, and is searching for books to explain adoption to her child. She spends her time online in the Parents of Adopted Kids Facebook group, reads the Adoptive Parents Unite blog, and attends AdoptionCon every year.
I made those names up for illustrative purposes, but you get the idea right?
After you develop the profile, you can use it to develop your marketing plan. The key is that you want to be wherever your ideal customer is, both online and in person.
Here are some of the ways you can use the information in their profile to market your children’s book:
1. Using the list of conferences and festivals your ideal customer attends, reach out to the event hosts to find out if there are opportunities for you to get a booth to sell your book. In my experience, this is one of the best ways to market your children’s book. By positioning yourself at events that your ideal customer is most likely to attend, you can sell a lot of books, build your author brand, and grow your following. To this day, I still run into people that met me at events I vended at 4 or 5 years ago. It’s not every day that people meet authors so when they do, they’ll remember you and support your work for years to come. Connection and engagement is really key when it comes to marketing your book, so get out and meet your ideal customers where they are.
2. Using the list of blogs your ideal customer reads, visit each blog to find out if they have guest blogging opportunities and what their requirements are. Then, write a useful post their audience will like and give your book a shout out or highlight your book in your bio. For example, if your book is a bedtime story to help kids remember to brush their teeth, you could write a guest blog post titled “10 Ways to Help Your Kids Remember to Brush Their Teeth”. Number 5 could be “Reinforce tooth brushing with books” and you could recommend your book as well as a few others. There are a lot of parenting blogs that would love to share your content with their readers, so it’s a win-win situation. They get content, your book gets visibility.
3. Using the list of Instagram pages your ideal customer follows, send a message to the page owner and ask for their rates to advertise on their page. Often, for less than $100, the page owner will share a post about your book, putting it front and center for their thousands of followers to see.
Key 2: Grow Your Brand
One of the best things about writing children’s books is that if you own the copyright to your illustrations, you can build an entire product line featuring the characters from your books. These characters can be used to grow your brand by creating coloring books, educational materials, and merchandise from illustrations that you already have!
Shortly after I started publishing my children’s books, parents began asking me what other products I had.
You see, their children were so in love with my books that the parents were looking for complimentary materials with my characters on them. So, I created an entire online store full of products like t-shirts, posters, party supplies, and more.
Most of what I created was fulfilled using print-on-demand technology. The same way print-on-demand exists for books, there are numerous companies who print t-shirts and other products on demand. Since you only pay for the product after a customer places an order, there’s no upfront cost involved. The print-on-demand company ships the products so you don’t have to worry about fulfillment.
It’s the perfect way to build an entire brand about your children’s book.
From a financial perspective, instead of only making $10 from selling your book, you can double or triple your revenue by bundling your book with a $20 t-shirt.
The bonus is that these products, especially apparel, become walking advertisements for your book. In fact, many customers bought my books after discovering them through my other products. By growing your brand, you can get more sales of your books while making additional income from bundling your products.
Key 3: Build Your Following
No following? No problem. You don’t have to have thousands of followers before you ever publish your children’s book. You just need to make building your following a part of your marketing plan.
When you have a following, you have access to a group of people who are interested in your work and in you as an author. Don’t hide behind your book. Step out from behind the scenes and engage with your ideal customer and your books will sell themselves.
Here are a few ways you can build your email list, grow a social media following, and get your children’s book seen:
- Create a website where you offer free coloring and activity pages to go along with your books. Make sure you require an email address to download the free materials, in exchange for the person being added to your email list. If you have this ready before you publish your book, include a link to your website on the copyright page of your book with a reference to the bonus content. This will help you build an email list using an incentive that’s much more exciting than simply receiving your weekly newsletter.
- Create a Facebook Group that’s related to the topic of your children’s book. People that join the group will very likely be your ideal customer and you can use your group to spread awareness of your book, learn more about your ideal customer, and maybe even get new ideas for future books.
- Embrace video as a tool to build your following and market your book. People want to see what they’re buying and since children’s books are so visual, video is the perfect way to showcase your work. You don’t have to have professional video equipment, these days many cell phones can record video with HD quality. Record a short video of yourself talking about your book, explaining what it’s about and what inspired you to write it. Don’t worry about the length, one of my videos has over 4,000 views and it’s only 2 minutes long. Upload your video to YouTube and watch the views come rolling in. Make sure you tell viewers how they can purchase your book and leave a clickable link in the description. The amazing thing is that YouTube is a search engine so if you give your video a relevant title, people searching for videos on the topic of your book will have a chance of landing on yours. It’s free to use YouTube so don’t let your fear of video keep you from leveraging such a powerful tool for marketing your children’s books.
Marketing a children’s book doesn’t have to be complicated.
It’s not about implementing a list of 1000 ways to market your book—it’s about picking a few things and mastering them.
By developing a profile of your ideal customer and making your book visible wherever they are, growing your brand by expanding your product line, and building your email list and social media following, you can set your book up for success from day one, no matter what your budget is.