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Picture Book Author Seeks Help

JulieBallard3JulieBallard3 Member Posts: 8 Listener
Hello everyone. I'm new on here today and still trying to navigate my way around so please forgive me if this isn't the place to post my thread. Perhaps you could point me in the right direction and help me out if this isn't where I should be seeking advice?

Last summer my debut picture book "The Dinosaur Who Lost Her Voice" was published by mainstream publisher EGMONT. It's a rhyming story for children aged 3-5 years and features a magnificent singing Brontosaurus called Milly Jo who loses her voice in an accident.

Rather than miraculously re-gaining it, with courage and the help of her friends, she learns a new way to shine. It's a positive and uplifting tale of resilience with a message about focussing not on what you can't do, but on all the things you CAN.

My youngest son was the inspiration for the story because he had a severe speech disorder in his early years. Although he did eventually learn to speak (but not without years of speech therapy, learning MAKATON sign language, allergy tests, dietary modifications etc), I was acutely aware that some children do not acquire speech or find it difficult to express themselves.

As a result, it didn't feel right to pen a tale where the protagonist miraculously recovers her voice. I wrote the ending I felt was most appropriate to the story and never, if truth be told, believed a mainstream publisher would print a story which didn't have a traditionally 'happy ever after' ending. How wrong I was!

Although my dinosaur remains disabled, I believe it's an inspirational story for all children to demonstrate that while life doesn't go according to plan, with resilience and effort there are ways around most things and more than one way to showcase our talents and achieve what we want.

While I am making steady progress trying to publicise my book, I don't necessarily believe it is reaching differently-abled children and their parents. I am not Julia Donaldson. I don't have squillions of followers who will shout about my book from the rooftops like her lovely "Freddie and the Fairy" (a super tale about a hard of hearing fairy). Julia deserves all her success, without doubt, but it is far harder to try and launch a book when you don't have a 'personality' platform to stand on.

I would be extremely grateful, therefore, if anyone in this coffee lounge chatroom has ideas on how I can raise the profile of my book so it reaches children who might benefit from it. I have contacted 'Living Paintings' which produces raised images of picture book stories and other stories for blind people to experience pictures in a tactile way. I don't know if they would even consider "The Dinosaur Who Lost Her Voice" as an appropriate book to choose?

I phoned SCOPE this afternoon to see if someone might be prepared to review the book or post an image on Pinterest (there's a link to a Pinterest page for stories featuring disabled children and characters when you click on a SCOPE link about story books for children) but was informed SCOPE would be unable to endorse it. Instead, it was suggested I join your community.

Can YOU think of different ways I can publicise this book or groups (local/national) I should be contacting who might be able to raise its profile? I am happy to provide some free copies but have limited funds. Since picture book authors only earn about 20p or less from each £6.99 book sold, I'm sure you can imagine there's not much cash sloshing about!

I hope you don't mind me picking your brains but if anyone is in a position to be able to point me in the right direction, I'm sure it's you guys. Thank you, in advance, for your help.

Julie Ballard
(PS. I am on Twitter under JulieBallard3. There may be a few political posts. If you are Conservative voter, please be warned.)

Replies

  • woodbinewoodbine Member Posts: 2,105 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi and welcome and well done you (love your PS). The only idea I can think of is selling the book on Amazon, I'm not even sure how that would work for you ?
    But I wish you luck.
  • AilsAils Community champion Posts: 2,268 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi @JulieBallard3 and welcome to the Community.  It is nice to meet you.  Congratulations on the publication of your book.  It sounds wonderful and great that you are highlighting disability in it.  

    I would agree with @Woodbine to contact Amazon and sell your book on there.  I totally get how frustrating selling/promoting your books can be as my husband writes books too and has had a couple of children's books published, "Martin and the Pigeon" and a sequel to this.  He also writes adult fiction and poetry, but hasn't managed to get these published.  Unfortunately, my husband faces the same situation as you in that he struggles to sell and promote his books and any promotion for them that he does do is done solely by himself as he hasn't got the best publishers.  If your publishers are good and credible they should be promoting/selling your books via their websites and book shops and they should be keeping you up-top-date with what they are doing.  Sadly this does not happen with my husband's books, hence he has to do this himself.  

    Do you have a website or blog for your books or even a section of your publisher's website that can promote your book?  My husband isn't unfortunately allowed to set up his own book website due to having awful publishers, but he does have a section on their website - Austin MacAuley.  If you are able to set up your own website or blog to promote your books then I would suggest doing that.  Even if you have a Facebook page or could set one up specifically for your book then that is a good way to publicise also.  You mention that you have some books, I would suggest giving them out to friends and family who can promote your book to their friends also as word of mouth is very good.  My husband did this also when he first started out with his books 5 years ago.  Ask people to give you a review of your book on Amazon and join other book websites such as Good Reads and put your book on there too where people can see it and review it.

    Have you got any flyers for your books?  These should be provided by your publisher, but if not, maybe try to make some up if you can on your computer.  My husband got some from the publisher and handed these out to friends/family/work colleagues, etc and also left them in public libraries, community centres, GP practices, some shops, basically anywhere where the public are going to go and see them and hopefully pick one up.  Also my husband and I used to go around our local area and pop flyers through people's doors, especially if they had children to get the word out about his books too.  You can also post flyers to relevant libraries, community centres further afield too and it is also a good idea to scan in your flyer and save a digital copy to your computer so you can email it to people too as this saves the cost of posting.  You may want to think about sending your flyers to children's charities, nurseries, schools in the area and further afield.

    From time-to-time my husband and I go around primary schools and nurseries giving readings to groups of children and they have gone down quite well so far with the children enjoying the sessions. Again your publisher should be contacting nurseries/schools in your area and setting up readings for you, but if they are not doing that then it is best to phone/email schools yourself to set readings up.  You will find the majority of schools/nurseries will jump at the chance of this and will show an interest as it is something different for the children.  If you do get readings then take along some flyers to leave at the school and even some freebies for the children such as sweets or making up some colouring books or activity books for them to complete after you have left, but of course this can be costly so is fine to leave it also.  When you go to readings just read a chapter or two to the children and maybe pick out the most exciting bits of your book that you think the children will really remember and focus on.  For example, my husband's book has a chapter surrounding Martin and the Pigeon visiting the zoo and the children love to hear about all the different animals there and want to ask about them, look at their pictures and tell you their own stories about them.  If you make a child remember a part of your book then chances are that at the end of the day they will tell their parents about it and it may mean a sale of your book.  We go to readings also with printed pictures of the characters in the book and show the pictures to the children as we are reading from the book.  We also have a toy pigeon which I fly as it helps to make the story more real for the children so maybe you could get a toy dinosaur if you were doing readings?  Just a thought.

    It can be really frustrating and expensive trying to promote your book and I believe children's fiction is the hardest genre to break into so very well done in getting your book published in the first place as that is an achievement alone.  You could go down the route of putting an advert in a paper or magazine or advertising on tv/radio, but this is obviously quite expensive and doesn't always work as my husband took out a newspaper ad once, but it wasn't very successful and was pricey.

    Finally, you could contact book shops yourself or go to see them with your flyers and see if you can get your foot in the door and maybe get some of your books sold there, but again, it is very competitive and you will be told that they will sometimes keep with the more well know authors on their shelves, but don't be disheartened and keep pestering them with flyers.  It took a couple of years before one shop agreed to stock some of my husband's books.  Go to book fairs and get a feel for how they work and then if you like the atmosphere then arrange to have a stall there where you can sell your books, you can also do this with craft fayres or even Christmas Markets as it is getting your name out there, but again, don't expect to earn a fortune as it will take a number of years before you will get there with this.  We go along to a lot of book fairs and just did our first Christmas Market last Christmas which we enjoyed.  Another idea for promotion is YouTube as my husband has made videos and posted them on there about his book, but I believe sometimes the publisher can do this for you and maybe put their videos on their website.

    I hope this helps somewhat as I have tried to put as many ideas as I can remember, but will speak to my husband and if he suggests anything else then I will post.  Please don't give up as you have a fantastic book there and I like the fact that it is in rhyme.  My husband's book is in rhyme too.  It makes it a bit different, but it isn't easy trying to get a book out there, but you sound really enthusiastic and want to promote your book well so will be prepared to put in the work, I'm sure.  It will be a long journey, and we are still on it with my husband's book, but you will get there.  Believe me, promoting the book can be fun, especially all the readings!

    Good luck in whichever way you decide to promote your book and I look forward to seeing it on the shelves one day.  If you need any other help/advice then just give me a shout.  All the best.  :smiley:
    Winner of the Scope New Volunteer Award 2019.   :)
  • SeanchaiSeanchai Member Posts: 365 Pioneering
    Hi Julie ...and welcome . I have a 16 year old grandson who does not speak , he is brilliant at signing and does makaton , he even has a tablet that speaks for him , and he uses it when he cannot get across what he is trying to say , his face drops when we cannot understand him but he is soon happy with a smily face , he is known as smiler at his special school . Even after all he has been through , he can smile 🙂
    I had a friend who got a book published , she was a very learned woman who wrote a history book about a terrible tragedy that happened in the middle of the 19,th century . I was hoping to follow in her footsteps and she was going to coach me , I was writing a book about my growing up in a mining village ...and the rascism and bigotry that is still alive and kicking today . Even in the 21st century in Scotland , we have people turned away from job because of what school they went to ....my coach has passed away and left me in limbo . 
    All I can suggest is doing what other members have suggested ....keep going and I,m sure you will get there ....good luck Julie 👍
  • JulieBallard3JulieBallard3 Member Posts: 8 Listener
    woodbine said:
    Hi and welcome and well done you (love your PS). The only idea I can think of is selling the book on Amazon, I'm not even sure how that would work for you ?
    But I wish you luck.
    Hi Woodbine. Thanks for your reply. It is on Amazon already but it's competing with thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of other books. Someone told me that if you can get 50 people to review your book it changes the algorithms and pushes your book higher up their 'list' so Amazon starts to publicise it. Sadly, I'm only at 15 (all five star which is fantastic) but nowhere near the number needed to begin to make real inroads. Not to worry, though. Hopefully it will get there over time? Thanks for your suggestion. I appreciate you taking the time to reply! (delighted you like the PS!)
  • laura222laura222 Member Posts: 84 Pioneering
    Hi @JulieBallard3

    I love this so much!!!!! Your book sounds fantastic.

    Please excuse my over-enthusiasm about this - it's right in my cow shed (that's not really a saying, but never mind!). I'm always going on about representation for kids (and adults), am an aspiring illustrator with an interest in children's editorial illustration and my professional experience is in marketing and PR. So this has got my brain whirring!

    Have you contacted organisations such as https://radld.org/ and others that might be able to work with you or have useful contacts for you?

    Awareness days and national events are always a great excuse to promote, this page might give you some good ideas: https://www.booktrust.org.uk/books-and-reading/events/

    Are there any local libraries that you could work with? For example my local library has 'explore a story' sessions where I'm sure they'd be made up to have the author come in and read to the kids and answer questions.

    How about mummy/parent-bloggers? You could ask them to review your book if you're happy to send a sample. Particularly any who blog about speech disorders/delay as they'll have a really relevant audience.

    Facebook groups might give you some good ideas too https://www.facebook.com/groups/1472540006348054/
  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,680 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi @JulieBallard3, this book sounds amazing! Please do let us know how you get on. :)
    Community Partner
    Scope

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  • woodbinewoodbine Member Posts: 2,105 Disability Gamechanger
    woodbine said:
    Hi and welcome and well done you (love your PS). The only idea I can think of is selling the book on Amazon, I'm not even sure how that would work for you ?
    But I wish you luck.
    Hi Woodbine. Thanks for your reply. It is on Amazon already but it's competing with thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of other books. Someone told me that if you can get 50 people to review your book it changes the algorithms and pushes your book higher up their 'list' so Amazon starts to publicise it. Sadly, I'm only at 15 (all five star which is fantastic) but nowhere near the number needed to begin to make real inroads. Not to worry, though. Hopefully it will get there over time? Thanks for your suggestion. I appreciate you taking the time to reply! (delighted you like the PS!)
    Julie am I correct in thinking you have to buy the book on Amazon before you can review it?
  • JulieBallard3JulieBallard3 Member Posts: 8 Listener
    You don't need to buy books on Amazon in order to review them. However it's always worth stating, at the end of the review, where the book WAS purchased, ie independent book store, Waterstones etc because I've heard some stories within the author community of reviews being deleted by Amazon. I tend to write something like 'Book purchased from '.....' but wished to leave a review on Amazon nonetheless.

  • JulieBallard3JulieBallard3 Member Posts: 8 Listener
    Hi Ails, Apologies for the late response to your wonderfully comprehensive answer but I became bogged down organising my son's birthday party and have only just stopped self-isolating after (what I assume was..but who knows?) a stinking cold. I didn't want to just write a brief thank you after you took so much time to help and advise. 
    First and foremost, congratulations to your husband for getting his book out there...and in rhyme too, like my own. When done properly, rhyme is such a wonderful medium for children in terms of text predictability, pattern and flow. Are you permitted to say what your husband's surname is so I can look up his book? It sounds adorable.
    You touched on Amazon as a suggested method of publicity. My book is already available via Amazon but, unless an author receives 50 reviews (readers don't have to buy books on Amazon to leave reviews there; they can be bought from independent or high street book stores), books largely remain invisible due to the algorithms Amazon uses. Fifty reviews seems to be the 'magic number' at which Amazon starts to publicise a book.
    Thank you for suggesting setting up a Facebook author page. This is something I haven't done but probably need to. It's a great idea!
    I'm less sure about the flyers. I had 1,500 flyers printed for the launch of my book in Southampton's West Quay Waterstones and delivered them to GP surgeries, nurseries, schools etc but didn't find it was a particularly cost effective way to publicise the book...even with cupcakes and dinosaur crafting activities. Most of those who attended the launch were friends with children or passing customers lured in by my family in dinosaur costumes. I think the cost, benefit, analysis showed it didn't work for me. It might for others but I felt it wasn't necessarily money well spent especially, as you rightly point out, it is expensive to promote a book. Before I was published, I (wrongly) assumed authors earned at least £1 or £2 on a book sold at £6.99. In reality, picture book authors earn about 20 pence per book and illustrators earn the other 20 pence. If you write a children's novel, and don't have to share royalties with illustrators, then an author might earn 40 pence or 50 pence per book if they are lucky. This is fabulous for the David Walliams, JK Rowlings and Julia Donaldsons of the world who can shift millions of books. But most picture book authors never earn out their advance (the small sum given before a book is published, which needs to be re-paid in sales before an author can start earning any money at all).
    You mentioned YOU TUBE. Again, this is a super idea and something I have been contemplating. I really DO need to get onto this ASAP. I think this could be a low cost but high impact method of publicity. I'm sure my teenage son will be happy to help me with this.
    As far as school/library visits are concerned this, again, is an area, I should explore more fully. Thanks for suggesting this. I'd love to say I'll get onto this immediately but I fear this deadly Coronavirus (Covid-19) will be impacting visits for some time.
    Thank you, once again, for all your wonderful insights and some of the more successful strategies you and your husband have used to promote his books. You've been a mine of information and I wish him well selling his books too.
  • JulieBallard3JulieBallard3 Member Posts: 8 Listener
    Hi Seanchai, Thanks for your supportive words. Like my main character, Milly Brontosaurus, I have no intention of giving up! I trust you won't give up on your  historical writing ambitions too, despite the sad death of your mentor? It's not my genre but I'm sure there must be groups of likeminded historical writers out there who can help? Perhaps there's a historical writers' society you can join? It might be worth a Google?
    I'm delighted to hear that your 16-year-old non-verbal grandson still manages to make himself understood through signing and his tablet. Hasn't technology come on leaps and bounds over the years? How wonderful that it can be such an asset to so many people these days! It's also heartening to hear about your grandson's sunny and smiley disposition. While my dinosaur never regains the power of speech or song in my story she, too, is left beaming at the end of the tale. She re-writes her own story and plays to all her strengths, as I'm sure your grandson does! Thank you for connecting. (Apologies for the late reply, btw. I was busy organising my son's birthday party and then became ill. I wasn't ignoring you).
  • JulieBallard3JulieBallard3 Member Posts: 8 Listener
    Hi @Laura222/ Laura 222
    You are an absolute superstar! (Apologies for the delayed response but I became super busy organising my son's birthday party after which I was struck down with a horrendous 'cold'? I've been self-isolating because I couldn't be sure and haven't wanted to risk either the health of my family or the wider public).
    Your links are BRILLIANT! Thank you. I will certainly get in contact with the RADLD organisation (Raising Awareness of Developmental Language Disorder). Although my book can be enjoyed by everyone - I don't think Waterstones would be stocking it if they didn't think so - I think RADLD would be a brilliant fit in terms of theme. I can't wait to start browsing their site and am so pleased you posted their link. I hope someone there might be willing to give it some exposure?
    I am very aware of the BookTrust and believe my publishers have entered my book in for one of its awards. Fingers crossed! They do great work.
    In terms of libraries - two great minds think alike, as they say. I've recently been in touch with my local library and they invited me to come in, read my book and do some crafting with the children. They've been wonderfully helpful but I fear with the march of Coronavirus, gatherings like these may have to be temporarily postponed. What a shame! Rest assured, I will back into this when Covid-19 eventually burns itself out.
    Mummy/parent-bloggers is an avenue I have explored a little. I've received some wonderful reviews in exchange for providing bloggers with review copies, but it's costly. I can't really afford to send out lots of books. Not only do I have to pay for the book, but the postage too. My publisher doesn't provide any financial help with this.
    Good luck with your children's illustrating. I assume you've heard of SCBWI (The Society of Childrens' Book Writers and Illustrators)? I'm a member and it's a really friendly bunch of talented writers and illustrators.
    Thank you, once again, for your enthusiasm for my book and the great links. I'm a great believer that all children deserve to see themselves and their stories represented in the books they pick up. Julie.
  • MegkMegk Member Posts: 4 Listener
    Libraries. Give copies to a few local ones and offer to do readings.

  • JulieBallard3JulieBallard3 Member Posts: 8 Listener
    Hi @MegK,
    I've already given 10 free copies away to local libraries and offered to do readings and craft activities with children. But, due to the Coronavirus, I think social gatherings are (rightly) being curtailed at the moment. Thanks for the suggestion, though. Hopefully, when everything blows over, I can get out and about locally and a bit further afield?
  • MegkMegk Member Posts: 4 Listener
    So set it up online and publicise madly.
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