7 Tips to Ace Your School Author Visit

April has seen Aussie Owned and Read talk about all things marketing. So far, the focus has been on online marketing strategies, but today I’d like to take a look at a face-to-face strategy particularly useful for YA authors – school visits.

IMG_3261 by Kian McKellar via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/qzBhBH

Image by Kian McKellar Flickr CC

“Word of mouth is the best kind of marketing there is”

In my role as a high-school teacher librarian I have been lucky enough to attend numerous school author visits. Authors LOVE to talk about their books, BUT there’s no quicker way to send a class of teens into a coma than to wax lyrical about every detail of your publication journey and current book baby. There’s a good chance most of your audience haven’t even read your book, so your mission is to make your story sparkle brighter than Edward Cullen on a cloudless midsummer scorcher and give them good reason to give up six to nine hours of watching funny cat videos on YouTube to want to read it.

So, how do you grab their attention, you ask?

Make connections. Establishing a relevant context for students by drawing connections between your experience and the students’ can leave them with a more rewarding experience. Try these ideas:

1. Tie into the syllabus content covered in class. Speak to the group’s teachers / teacher librarian before the visit and ask about the units the class is currently studying in different subjects. You’d be surprised where you can find crossover content to help make your novel’s subject matter relevant. English, yes, but also, History, Science, PDHPE.

2. Talk about your research. High school students are familiar with different research strategies for school assignments. Ask about their surprising / funny / unexpected research experiences then tell them about yours:

  • How did you go about your research?
  • Did you go anywhere special?
  • Did you meet / interview anyone in particular?

A visiting author I once saw had a hall of ninth graders in the palm of her hand when she told them about the time she was set on fire (under controlled conditions!) in the name of research.

3. Unpack the revision process. Talking about the evolution of your manuscript and all the challenges along the way can be effective if discussed in the context of the students’ creative writing.

  • Bring visuals of marked up pages – scrawls and scribbles of red by you and suggestions by your editor.
  • Show students the different stages of editing, allowing them to see all the work that goes into the finished product. If nothing else, the English staff will love you, because you’ve vindicated them in their constant mantra of ‘writing is re-writing’.

Image by Laura Ritchie via Flickr CC

Now, all this talking is fine and good, but to make your author visit a success you’ll need to balance your gabbing with something else, namely …

Less words, more action. One repeated negative piece of feedback I hear from students and teachers is that the author spent most of the session talking at them. To mitigate your audience tuning out, try the following:

4. Break up your presentation into segments. Five to ten minute segments are best, each with a different focus but with clear transitions linking one to the next.

5. ‘Activity’ is king. Involve your audience as much as possible!

  • Got a YA fantasy involving martial arts? Have students learn some basic martial arts moves.
  • Got a YA contemporary featuring dance? Get the kids grooving with a ten second dance routine.
  • No martial arts or dancing in your novel? No problem. Pick a bunch of students to act out a short scene from your book while you read out the excerpt.

Anything that involves the audience will make for a better experience. Even something as simple as …

Props and visuals. Everyone has a dominant learning style, be it visual, kinesthetic or auditory, so it’s good to include visual and hands-on material in your author talk, such as:

6. Slide-shows.

  • If you’re reading out a passage from your novel, have a slide-show ready to help set the mood or introduce the physical setting.
  • You could show pictures (hello Pinterest!) of your ‘cast’ of characters using actors.
  • Share images or video related to your research – people, places, activities.

7. Relevant props.

  • So your novel features martial arts, but your attempt at a roundhouse kick is likely to land you in emergency? Bring in a mannequin dressed in a dobok instead and show some video footage you came across during your research.
  • Is your novel a YA historical? Try to source some replica artefacts linked to your story that students can touch and examine.

The idea is to bring alive aspects of your story world to spark your audience’s interest.

Black Beauty by Carol VanHook

Image by Carol VanHook Flickr CC

If you include props and visual media, make sure your audience has plenty of opportunity to be involved, and you draw connections between your writing and their experience, you’re set for a successful author visit.

But how exactly is one successful author visit a marketing tool, you ask? Teachers and teacher librarians have wide reaching professional networks and word of mouth is the best kind of marketing there is. One successful author visit will likely result in invites from other schools.

Let us know what has and hasn’t worked for you when visiting schools. Leave your comments below.


Kat Colmer AuthorKat Colmer is a Young and New Adult author and high-school teacher librarian who writes coming-of-age stories with humour and heart. She lives with her husband and two children in Sydney, Australia. Her debut YA is due out with ENTANGLED TEEN in August 2017. Learn more on her website, or come say hi on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Marketing and the Potato

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As we’re talking about marketing this month, Rebecca and Heather are going to look at what different mediums have done to successfully gain viral attention. In doing so, we will break down what it was about these marketing ideas that we found so memorable, and look at how they would translate to literary world.

We’ve broken these marketing ploys down into four key areas.

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Curiosity

These were the ideas that piqued the interest of the target audience by withholding information. By only providing part of the picture, the consumers were left searching for more pieces of the puzzle which generated hype and global reach across social media.

Cards Against Humanity’s 30 second Super Bowl ad that was a single shot of a potato with the word ‘Advertisement’ etched into it. It sent Twitter into a frenzy as people tried to decipher what it was about.

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Yes this is the real ad

The Matrix and u: hygiene products used a similar concept. The Matrix advertising posed a single question–‘What is the Matrix?’ and had a site set up devoted to the furthering the riddle.

 

Every question needs an answer.

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The VIP Experience

Making your consumer feel extra special is a great promotional tool and can create lifetime loyal followers. Everyone loves exclusivity, we all want to be a part of that little club. As a whole, people have the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ mentality, we all want more, and when given the opportunity to get something extra that no one else has, we more often than not jump at that chance. So using this main trait to your marketing advantage would be wise.

For example, Skyrim offered up free games for life, but the catch was you had to name your baby that happened to be born on the games release day the main protagonists name… Dovahkiin. You didn’t need to be one of the two people who actually went ahead and won this prize to be drawn to the weirdness of it.

You don’t have to offer up anything this dramatic, limited editions, and VIP tickets are also great draws, with youtube unboxing a few simple extras thrown in with your advanced copy can be the star of the show.

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Interactive

Get people involved. Get them out looking, talking, generating excitement. Your audience are the ones who can get word of mouth happening in a big way and usually drive awareness the most.

A great example of this was Bioshock 2s launch when they created ten promotional images and hid them in wine bottles. These bottle were placed on ten random beaches worldwide with clues for their fandom on where to find them. Kind of like what Willie Wonka did with his golden tickets.

You could do something as simple as a blog post scavenger hunt with a prize for the winner. Facebook launch parties get the word out there, and Instagram is a good tool to get people taking pictures with your book on launch day.

Resident Evil utilised a gruesome scavenger hunt where the winner would receive a trip to Africa. Which leads us into our next point.

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Shock Value (Trigger Warning for extreme gore)

Resident Evil rules shock value. Shocking your consumer either works for or against you, but either way it generates conversation.

With the scavenger hunt, body parts were scattered around Trafalgar Square in London. This gained media attention, and freaked out the onlookers who weren’t involved in the stunt.

Resident Evil 6 went a step further with a butcher’s shop in London’s famous meat-market Smithfield, selling ‘human meat’. The proceeds of these sales went to the Limbless Associate, a U.K. charity for amputees and other who have lost limbs.

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Now, obviously you don’t need to go to these extremes, but pushing the envelope so your marketing ideas go against the grain of what society deems ‘acceptable’ or ‘expected’ is one way to get people talking.

The most important part of marketing is to be memorable.

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Self promo: do it right.

The third book in my college saga releases today, so it’s lucky I’m here instead of hiding in the corner while the book goes live. Well, at least that’s what I wish I could do. In reality I’ll be blasting social media with buy links and teasers and all those other things. I’ll probably also be feeling guilty about it and worrying that I might be annoying people. You know, the ones that like my page, are on my friends list, and may be a member of some of the same groups as me. We’re probably twitter friends too, and maybe follow each other on Instagram.

How much self promo is too much?

That is the golden question. I’ve heard people say self promotion makes me sick. It makes me defriend, unlike, or unfollow someone. Then I’ve heard the opposite camp say, it’s my page and if I don’t promote my book who will? Share that thing, baby.

No wonder there’s so much stress around promoting one’s own book.

I think…

Self promo works if it’s done with tact and moderation

There’s a general 80 / 20 rule floating around that says you should balance 20% self promo posts with 80% other posts. This is great, but not everyone has time to sit on social media everyday or long enough to balance out 1 self promo post with 4 non promo posts, especially on release day. You could always schedule posts, but that loses the interactive charm. Especially on twitter. I think the key to achieving balance isn’t so much in numbers as tact. Even the wittiest people who constantly post fun non-promo stuff on social media cane come unstuck if they’re not tactful. I try to follow these rules:

  • Don’t be pushy. Try to gain the audience’s interest without pulling them to you with a long-winded, this-is-why-I’m-great speech. They just need enough info to engage their interest.
  • Don’t go overboard. A new post every hour is probably a bit much. Two to three facebook posts a day or double that on twitter is probably okay. I wouldn’t suggest keeping this rate up after release though.
  • Don’t copy and paste the same post over and over. Keep your content fresh and engaging, then your followers won’t skip past it.
  • Don’t expect people to comment, share, like, retweet or whatever. But if they do, be grateful and ENGAGE. Engage. Engage.

And that’s it. Or at least that’s all of the pointers I can think of. Do you have any tips for self promo?

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Stacey NashStacey Nash is extremely nervous about her new release, Pretend…  If you feel like connecting with the young adult author on social media, where she tries to be engaging check out these places: www.stacey-nash.com, instagram, twitter, facebook.

Trumpets, fanfare, and new releases

Let’s talk about new releases and the way in which book babies arrive into the world.

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This is NOT a picture of how book babies are born. I think …

Some books arrive on the shelves in the middle of the night, when no one is looking or expecting them. Their arrival is like that of a baby dumped on a doorstep. While other books we hear whispers of months before their scheduled release. When they arrive it’s amidst a whirlwind of attention; their covers are recognised, their titles widely known, and sometimes even their opening pages have already been read.

I’ve noticed a trend … the latter tend to be from authors who are either widely known, or have a strong back list, while the former tend to be the newer authors, both traditionally, digital first, and self published. I’m not sure why this is. Perhaps the more established authors have a larger following who call for it, or perhaps it’s because as people we’re all different. Some like to jump up on the table, singing at the top of their lungs while dancing along to the music. While others (like me) prefer to blend into the crowd, quietly mingling with the people they feel comfortable with. As authors though, I think we need to push the introvert within us aside at times. Release day is one of those times that we should

 

Embrace the attention.

Make release day special, or no one else will see it that way. Click to Tweet.

 

I’ve noticed that some books don’t even have a release date. They arrive in the leading e-tailers with no lead up, or no expectation that they are coming. As someone with an event management background, I feel like this is a lost publicity opportunity for any author, established or not. Release day is one of the biggest days a book will experience … unless it wins a massive award. And there are so, so many things that can be done to celebrate a release. In fact we’ve blogged about that before, just here. It takes a little time and effort, but if you do something online or in person to celebrate the release, it brings more attention to your new book. And that attention, well most of the time it results in sales.

 

Sales on release day are like gold when it comes to rankings.

 

And with rankings come more sales. As authors, isn’t that what we all want? For people to read our books, to meet our imaginary friends, and fall in love with our words. I know we all get busy, and many of us like blending in with the crowd, but it really is in our best interest to set aside our fears and a little time to celebrate the big things.

Bear PartyThe trumpets will (hopefully) fanfare when my new book releases on Monday.

As readers and writers are you more likely to purchase a book that you’ve seen around a few times or does that make you shy away?

Stacey NashStacey’s debut new adult novel, Shh!, releases on Monday and she’s more nervous than Elvis the kitty when he’s caught chewing shoelaces, but she’s gone all out to celebrate in style. To find out more about Shh! or give a supportive smile, find her at www.stacey-nash.com, twitter or facebook.

Book Expo – the low down

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I got to spend last weekend with fellow Aussie Owneder K.A. Last at Book Expo Australia and boy did we have fun. There were moments we wanted to cry, moments when we laughed until we cried, and moments when we were so deliriously tired we said awesome a billion times which made us laugh and cry simultaneously. True story.

 

Saturday started out not so bright, but very early. We arrived at Sydney Exhibition Centre at 7.30am along with over 100 other exhibitors. The Expo officially opened at 9 and unfortunately I think the miserable weather kept people away. But there was a steady stream throughout the middle of the day which meant K.A and I always had someone to talk to. We met lots of lovely visitors and fellow exhibitors. Caught up with fellow Aussie YA authors such as Dionne Lister, Selena Fenech, and Kaz Delaney. We even handed out a bunch of AOR bookmarks and photo postcards. But the funniest part of Saturday…

Some dude took every last sherbie out of our bowl. I kid you not, he didn’t talk about books, ask us about swag ,or even say hello. Just silently stuffed every last one of our best lollies in his pocket then walked away.

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The almost empty bowl after our visitor left.

On Sunday we did it all again. Only this time we didn’t just sneak away to watch the sword fighters we snagged them for a photo opp as they paraded past us. They come from a group called Danelaw Medieval Fighting Society. We decided it might be in our best interest to watch them fight again… for research purposes.

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These guys make all their own armour in the club. How cool!

The funniest part of Sunday…

We both had our heads under the table digging in our food stash for some morning tea when someone came up to the table and spoke. I jumped, squealed, and said hi back. Then after our visitor left was still starving so went to grab the banana I’d had. Only I couldn’t find it. An hour later…

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Smeared on my butt. Yep, I sat on it.

Overall it was a fun weekend. We managed to sneak into a few panels / workshops, watch the medieval fights, hug Grug, wave to Peppa Pig, and chat to fellow book lovers. We even learned about book tubing. OMG, I want to booktube now. Can that be a new AOR feature?

The highlight of the entire expo was definitely all of the wonderful readers, bloggers, authors, and book industry people that we met. How did you all get to be so lovely? Thanks for a great weekend, Sydney!

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Stacey Nash and KA Last representing Aussie Owned and Read.

Because the lovely people at Booktopia were giving out freebies, I nabbed some to giveaway to one lucky blog follower. Enter via the rafflecopter link below!

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Stuff you could win! Fallen too Far (Abbi Glines) Almost Dead (Kaz Delaney) Swag from Forget Me Not, Remember Me, Immagica, Fall for Me. Also, (not in picture) a Booktopia bag.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Stacey NashStacey Nash may have sat on a banana while wearing black jeans, but it’s not her biggest accomplishment. YAY me! She does has a YA book out with HarperCollins Aus, and another book releasing in just three weeks! Eeeep!

To talk about books, bananas, or anything else, catch her at one of these places; website, twitter, facebook, or instagram.

Street Teams: what do readers think?

Let’s talk about Street Teams.

I feel like facebook is full of them right now. Every time I turn around another one has popped up in my social media feed, my notifications, or sometimes even in my DMs. Sometimes I get invited and sometimes I’m just added. I’m a member of at least a dozen street teams, and I try to be at least somewhat active in all of them, but the more of them that pop up, the harder that’s becoming. Maybe that’s because I’m an author as well as a reader and I don’t want to flood my social media feed with promotional material. (We all know that’s a sure way to get yourself blocked.) Or maybe it’s because I’m a mum, an author, a publicist, a million other things and there are only so many hours in the day. Either way, I feel guilty when I don’t participate in all of the things for all of the authors. Because I LOVE them and I want to help, I really do.

But sometimes it feels a little bit like this:

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GIF source: Joyreacter.com

With so many street teams around, I’m pondering a couple of things.

  • Are readers tired of street teams or do they still love them?
  • I know most teams have missions and prizes, but do team members actually want those prizes or are members there because they want to interact with the author?
  • Etiquette: Some authors add readers to their teams without consultation. Does this annoy people or is it okay?
  • Also with etiquette, when you’re a member are you expected to take part in the majority of events, and author requests, or is it okay to only participate sometimes?

And I guess all those thoughts led me to the big ones;

  • Are street teams losing their usefulness to authors as readers join more and more?
  • Are teams also losing their usefulness because social media is flooded with promo for so many books?

Technically it’s not poll day, but I’m going to whack a poll in here anyway, because I know a lot of you are shy and won’t leave a comment. As readers, I want to know what you think. Do you love streets teams, hate them, tired of them, or fall somewhere in the middle?

Let’s talk about this!

Stacey Nash (3) Stacey Nash doesn’t have a street team, but she does have a YA book out with HarperCollins Aus, and the second book in the series releases in just five weeks! Eeeep! To talk about that, or anything else, catch her at one of these places; website, twitter, facebook, or pinterest.