Oh Susanna – How To Explain Your Vision Of Marketing Strategy To A Publisher That Requests It?

Wow!  That was such a long title I feel like I’ve already written the post! 🙂

How is everyone this morning?  Feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed?  I will readily confess to “bright-eyed”, but I’m not sure I’m up for discussing the rest of that question at this hour on a Monday morning 🙂  (Who thought up that question anyway?  I have a feeling it was a member of the marmot family…

… not that I’m mentioning any names…. :))

So anyway, being as how it’s Monday, which means the first day of May is on a Tuesday when I don’t post, I wanted to take this opportunity to remind you all, so that you’ll have plenty of time to work on it, that we’re having a contest this month!!!  I’m so excited, because we haven’t had a contest since the Valentines one which was AGES ago and I miss them! 🙂  I do so hope someone will want to enter! 🙂

The contest is to write a children’s story about a very creative and/or unique birthday celebration in 300 words or less.  Poetry or prose, your choice.

Entries must be posted on your blog (or in the comment section of my contest blog post on May 19 if you don’t have a blog) between Saturday May 19 and 11:59 PM EDT Tuesday May 22.  Add your entry-specific link to the list that will go up with my special post that Saturday.  I will not post on Monday May 21 so the list will stay up.)  I’m still picking out prizes, but there will be prizes and they will be good and they will include things like a 3 pack of Perfect Picture Books, a duo of craft books, and/or a PB MS Critique by Yours Truly, or maybe something else awesome that I haven’t thought of yet… 🙂  (You are invited to suggest prizes if there’s something your little hearts especially desire :))  If there are fewer than 20 entries there will be one prize.  If there are more than 20 entries there will be 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes!)  Finalists will be chosen by me and my assistant judge and will be posted for you to vote on Monday May 28.  (I’m trying not to skip Would You Read It or Perfect Picture Books or overload you with extra posts, hence the wait til Monday the 28th, which I realize is Memorial Day so the voting will stay up throughout Tuesday!)
I hope we’ll have lots of enthusiastic participants!  Remember, 12 X 12ers, this can do double duty as your May MS! 🙂
I would also like to take this opportunity to announce that I’m planning on taking a stab at NaPiBoWriWee this week… anyone else a glutton for punishment feeling motivated?
Also, Phyllis had an awesome Visit to Seattle where she made friends with A-Wall (gorgeous!) and saw the Space Needle 🙂  Please hop on over to Saba’s and read all about it!  And, if all goes according to plan, there will be a post up tomorrow (Tuesday May 1) about Phyllis’s Visit to Rosalind in England! (But it’s not there yet because she’s finishing A To Z!)
Now then!  Onto today’s Oh Susanna question, which comes to us from the lovely Jen:
“Submission guidelines to Sylvan Dell Publishing request that you include an explanation for how you envision the marketing of your book.  Besides stating that your marketing strategy would consist of book signings, blog tours, using various social media, and press releases, how else would you state on a query letter how you would envision the marketing of your book? Also, I’m not sure how to go about targeting an audience for my “platform” part of marketing my book. Any suggestions?”
Well, Jen, as to the first part of your question, I think you’ve covered most of what they would be looking for.  Certainly you would want to mention book signings, blog tours, social media, and press releases.
I would also mention school and library visits if you plan to do those.
But I think they’re looking for you to go a little further than that.  The publishing world is in a state of flux these days.  No one is anxious to take too much of a risk.  If possible, they’d like to know who exactly you think is going to buy your book – in other words, where you think the market is.
Identify the themes/topics/subjects of your story and present them in terms of market.
Is your story about a new baby?  Then it will appeal to parents who are expecting a second or subsequent child, be useful to preschool teachers, and make a great gift for relatives and friends to give to new big siblings.
Is your story about a very hungry caterpillar?  Then it will be useful in preschool and early elementary curriculum units on science, insects, metamorphosis, nutrition, and basic concepts like color and food types.
Is your story about a child in a non-traditional family?  Then it will be valuable to non-traditional families where children will be helped by knowing they aren’t alone, useful in curriculum units on family or acceptance/tolerance/difference, and helpful to traditional families who want to expand their children’s understanding of what makes a family.
Think about who your book would appeal to AND think specifically about the types of books this publisher tends to publish and where they market other books on their list.  Are they a big publisher with traditional marketing, or are they a smaller publisher who might only publish books about Maine (like Down East) or who might sell their books in zoo or museum gift shops, or other types of niches?  Make sure you’re directing your helpful marketing ideas in the right area.  A niche publisher might be thrilled to know that your book will appeal to everyone who has ever spent time on Monhegan Island, but a big six publisher isn’t going to want that book unless the setting is more incidental to a story with a much broader theme and appeal, in which case you would emphasize the broader theme rather than the niche setting… if that makes sense.
As to the second part of your question, about targeting an audience for your platform, that is something I think a lot of writers struggle with.
Writers tend to gravitate toward other writers.  If you’re a writer who writes a blog, chances are high that the vast majority of your followers are other writers, and a significant portion of the blogs you follow are also writing blogs.  Many of these people may also be parents or teachers or librarians or grandparents or others who have children in their lives for whom they buy books, but they may just as easily be people who don’t have kids yet, or whose kids have grown past the picture book age, or who aren’t around kids much.  I think it’s hard, as a writer, to get a huge following of your target audience in this instance which is, bluntly put, consumers.
The easier answer is for people who write non-fiction.  In that case, you always have a topic.  You are something of an expert on that topic (because hopefully you did your research well :)) so people may seek you out and you can also look for blogs and groups who are interested in that topic and get to know people there so you can eventually spread word of your book about butterflies, Martin Luther King Jr., saving wetlands, or whatever you happen to be writing about.
But for those of us who write children’s fiction, it’s much harder.  Our target audience is two-fold: the kids we write for who, unless we write upper middle grade or YA, are most likely not online, and the parents/teachers/librarians who buy books for them and read to them and who may or may not have much time in their busy days to be online.
It is great to connect with teachers and librarians who blog, as well as with mommy bloggers out there, but it is hard to do and it takes a lot of time – time to research which blogs might fit with your personality/style/books, time to forge relationships with those blogs, and time to see if and when a review of your book might fit into those blogs’ schedules.  And it can be hard to find that kind of time and still have time to write.  It’s a work in progress for most of us, I think.
I hope that answers your questions, Jen!  If you have any follow-up questions, please ask below.  As always, I would be thrilled if readers with experience in these areas would chime in with their thoughts – please comment!  It takes a village 🙂 and that’s one of the nicest things about the writing community – we are a village! 🙂

67 thoughts on “Oh Susanna – How To Explain Your Vision Of Marketing Strategy To A Publisher That Requests It?

  1. Penny Klostermann says:

    Susanna, What wonderful information and suggestions. Your answer is so comprehensive, and I know I will find this information useful.
    Phyllis is still having a wonderful tour and using her forecasting skills like a good little groundhog should!
    I hope to join the birthday contest….my creative juices are all tuckered out with all the poetry writing in April…but I'm sure they will replenish after a few days rest.
    Good luck with NaPiBoWriWee. Unless I have a big change of mind by midnight, I'm skipping this one 🙂

  2. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    I'm glad you found the info helpful! And yes, Phyllis is still going strong – I have it on good authority she may be reporting in from St. Lucia tomorrow 🙂 I HOPE you join the contest – you have 3 weeks – hopefully plenty of time to rest and replenish and still come up with 300 words 🙂 And if you were doing NaPiBoWriWee on top of A to Z I would be bowled over by your glutton-for-punishmentness 🙂

  3. Hannah Holt says:

    Great answer. I had no idea publishers are asking for marketing strategies. (I'm not submitting right now, but it wouldn't hurt to be more informed… and you've done an excellent overview of some areas I could improve now).

  4. Theresa Milstein says:

    So much going on over here! Thanks for the thorough info.

    I'm glad A to Z is over, so I'll have more time to visit more of my regular blogs.

  5. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    A to Z is exhausting! Kudos to you for getting through it! I didn't even do it, but found it hard to keep up when so many of my regular blogs were posting every day! Glad to have you back 🙂

  6. Renee LaTulippe says:

    Susanna, I'm impressed with your response and have nothing to add. I never even thought of delving deeper into all those niches that you mention, so thanks for the food for thought (which, since I'm dieting, is the only food I'm allowed).

    I'm going to do my best to enter this contest, too! 🙂

  7. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    Glad you found it helpful, Renee, and I will look forward to your contest entry!!! As for dieting, that is too depressing to contemplate (even though I should be more than contemplating it) so head on over to Friday's post and help yourself to a virtual and completely calorie-free and non-fattening donut 🙂

  8. Clarike Bowman-Jahn says:

    I love your Q and A sessions Susanna and this one is wonderful.As you know I am now marketing my book , “Annie's' Special Day” as it is out as an E version and soon there will be a print book so thinking as a niche was good to learn. Since my book is about clocks and time I wonder if clock stores or jewelry stores would be an avenue of sales. I may approach one or two after I have the print book and see.

    So glad Phyllis is still making her rounds.

    I am going to try and write a children's story for the birthday theme for May, too. It sounds fun. Good luck finishing Pi Bo Week.

  9. Rena J. Traxel says:

    I wasn't sure if I should a submit a question or just ask here since it's inline with this question. Do you think it's smart for a writer to have a marketing plan regardless if the publisher is asking for it. Don't authors do most of their own promotion anyways?

  10. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    Yes, Rena, I do think that's smart, and yes, most authors – with very few exceptions – do the majority of their own marketing. Experienced editor Steve Meltzer commented on Cynsations recently that mid list authors should “Go anywhere and everywhere to promote your book. Be it a library, classroom, bookstore, online…anywhere. Make something fun for giveaways so that people will remember you. Write articles for any magazine, newspaper or blog to promote your work. Do it all for free, in the end it will pay off.” http://cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/2012/05/interview-editor-critique-author-tina.html The clear message is that it's up to us!

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