Monday 5 March 2018

My 10 Step Marketing Plan • by Natascha Biebow

So, after years of tinkering and not giving up, I’m super excited that I have finally got a new book coming out in Spring 2019. THE CRAYON MAN is a narrative non-fiction picture book about the invention of the Crayola crayon. 

It is a colourful jaunt into the invention of one of America’s signature childhood toys: In 1903, a man’s innovative invention appeared in homes in a bright green box – the Crayola crayons. In a world where children are given crayons almost as soon as they are born, where the smell of crayons is more recognizable than coffee and peanut butter, I wondered: what must it have been like to live at a time when crayons were a novelty?  

Original box of 8 launched in 1903. Image from

Oooh, I'm so excited. 

Last September, I went to the SCBWI Author Bootcamp to learn about how to market my book. I came away with lots of practical advice and a list in my notebook. But since then I have, well, hidden under my rock. I figured I had bags of time still. 
Then last week my publisher sent me a marketing questionnaire. 

Hmm, maybe I should crawl out from under my rock . . . 
. . . and think about starting to do some, erm, Marketing.

It’s one of those words that, for me, is like when my mum used to announce something I didn't like to eat for dinner, like fried liver with apples. It made my stomach clench in anticipation.

When I got the questionnaire, I decided to see if I could come up with a marketing plan. And, um, maybe you can help?

1. Hide under my rock.

No, actually the Bootcamp list says: don't forget to work on the next book. Yes! I can do that. I’ve been researching and writing some more non-fiction picture books, because I want to keep up the momentum and actually get to have coffee and cake with my lovely new editor at some point soon. 
But that's not really MARKETING . . . Right. The Bootcamp notes. 

2. Blog. I like writing. Yes, I can do those. Blogs are my friend. I blog here and I have a new blog for the SCBWI’s Words & Pictures online magazine:
To do: Write a couple of blog posts about topics like how the book came about, a glimpse behind the scenes, and perhaps even with some updates on this plan. What else?

3. Website: I’ve already used to build one of those for my coaching and mentoring service. So, I grab and start building an author website. But, what should it have on it? It’s a darned blank page!

I want to crawl back under my rock. No, come on, I coach myself. Chunk it down. Bring it back to writing.

Maybe I could share:

-       some quirky info about me Like this:
     Whenever I go anywhere, I always have a book (or usually books) in my bag -- IN CASE. I think my greatest fear is being stuck somewhere without a book . . .

             . . . (and chocolate)!

-       the book cover (can’t wait to see that!), a blurb with THE CRAYON MAN hook and links to bookshops

-       tips for readers and teachers about using the book in the classroom (I coach writers and illustrators, and I’m a Montessori teacher so that should be do-able), and maybe some useful non-fiction links and activity sheets.

-       some info about school visits

-       link to my blogs

Better get writing then and oooh, maybe do some colouring.  

But when? I'm supposed to be writing a new book (and working to earn a living).

4. Create some freebies: postcards/bookmarks? Or someone suggested a fun rubberised stamp saying “I met an author today”. Design and print.

5. Dream up and plan a school visit gig: hmmm, this one sounds a tad big and overwhelming. How to start? Oooh, I know, PROPS! I could buy some rearlly, cool stationery, like: 

-       Slates and slate pencils

-       Coloured chalk

-       Lovely colourful Crayola crayons . . .

But I can't just colour with an assembly of 200 kids. The notes say I need a PRESENTATION. I need to brainstorm and plan out my visit. (Maybe I can work on this while walking the dog?!)

I need some ideas. I know: go and watch some seasoned authors perform.

Mo O'Hara enthralling school children.
I wonder if I can come up with a party trick like Kes Gray did at my son's school where he flicked playing cards and biscuits across the school hall? Hmmm . . . 

Practise my presentation performance in front of a mirror. (I guess all those years of drama club in high school may come in useful. Who knew?!) Next, find a guinea pig school to let me try it out. And maybe . . .  book some school visits for when the book comes out?

6. Connect with reviewers, librarians and booksellers. Go into local bookshops and introduce myself. Leave postcards. Make new friends. Make a list of everyone I know so I can tell them about the book. For this one, I have to be brave and network. (That rock is looking quite tempting again right now).

7. Create an author profile on and and. And on Wikipedia, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Facebook etc. Maybe I can re-purpose some of the writing from building my website?

8. You Tube is big. Maybe I should make a book trailer. I can get my 8 year-old son to help me since he’s keen to be a photographer/videographer.  

9. Get on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram . . .

Um, here is where things go pear-shaped. I don’t like social media. What to do? Hire a coach?

10. Organize a launch – check in with the publisher, but also maybe do a blog tour?

Ouf, such a long list! How do busy authors have time for all this stuff? I think it’s time to go hide under my rock again. And take a long nap. At least till next Monday.

Have you got a book marketing tip? I’d love to swap and share!

Natascha Biebow Author, Editor and Mentor

Natascha is the author of The Crayon Man (coming in 2019), Elephants Never Forget and Is This My Nose?, editor of numerous award-winning children’s books, and Co-Regional Advisor (Co-Chair) of SCBWI British Isles. She runs Blue Elephant Storyshaping, an editing, coaching and mentoring service aimed at empowering writers and illustrators to fine-tune their work pre-submission. Check out her Cook Up a Picture Book courses!


Jane Clarke said...

Oh gosh, that looks daunting, set down in a list - but it's a very useful list. I'm happy to make the odd excursion out of my comfort zone, but don't force myself to do anything I hate - and schedule in hiding under my rock time :-)

Joolze said...

First of all -congratulations on your new book Natascha! I always find marketing hard...I like my little rock too. I'm the same as you with number 6 - hate putting myself out there. I love number 5 though. School visits are what make all the hardship of writing (and marketing!) worthwhile. I hope you manage to get out from your rock OK - I'll certainly be looking out for a copy as one of my picture book gurus just loves drawing and colouring, so this would be the perfect book for her to read!

Juliet Clare Bell said...

Congratulations, Natascha. I'm really looking forward to reading this when it's out. Like Julie, I really like the school visits, too, but marketing books is definitely something that sends me running towards my rock. Good luck with it all. And it may be naive but I HOPE the most important thing is to write the next book -which is the thing you are probably most comfortable with.

Lucy Rowland said...

Hi Natascha, congratulations on your upcoming book! I agree, like you, marketing is not may favourite thing or where my strengths lie. I'm currently finding it hard to get the balance right between promoting books that are already out and writing new stories. Sometimes you have to learn to say no to some things as well. I like your list of top tips...there are definitely some that I enjoy more than others. Perhaps it's about playing to our individual strengths?

Catherine Cooper said...

Congratulations, Natascha.
Whenever I've got a new book coming out, I run a competition. It gives you an excuse to announce the book, follow up with reminders for the closing date, and then, when the competition is closed, you can thank everyone for entering and let them know that the prize winner will be announced....
Of course, you have the perfect theme in your book for a competition...
Presenting the winner in a bookshop or library with a copy of the book before it goes on the bookshelves is also another way to publicise the forthcoming book release date, or you could publicise the release date by saying that the winner will be presented with their prize at the event. This only works for local entries, which is why I usually run my competitions in three categories... local, national, and international. They are always free to enter. It would also give you things to fill those blank pages on your website and updates to post on Facebook, all without saying... 'buy my book'!
As for props, how about making an oversized crayon, one that a giant might use and get the children to draw what a young giant might draw on his piece of paper.
Have fun!
Bye the way, it's definitely time to return that rock to the rockery!
Every good wish.

Candy Gourlay said...

Congrats, Natascha! I'm really looking forward to your book ... oh and hey, didn't you win a website consultation with me? Or was that just a dream? IT WILL BE FINE.

Moira Butterfield said...

Congratulations! I've just signed up for a performance workshop at the Society of Authors. Maybe that will give you some ideas, too.

Natascha Biebow said...

Thank you! I love chatting to kids too, so imagine once I figure out a good presentation I will enjoy doing school visits. Great you can think of someone who will like a book on colour.

Natascha Biebow said...

Yes, good advice, thank you!

Natascha Biebow said...

Yes, good advice to remember you can say 'no'. Thank you!

Natascha Biebow said...

Ace idea about the competition - thanks so much!

Natascha Biebow said...

He, he, he, yes I did! I will hit you up for social media advice. Thank you!

Natascha Biebow said...

Good tip, thanks, Moira!

Natascha Biebow said...

The list helps me to plan and keep myself accountable. And good advice to stick to things that feel right.

Rebecca said...

Fabulous list! It all seems daunting but if we assign a few small tasks per month (since we have quite a while to prepare) a heap can get done. For my first book last fall I did postcards, coloring pages, etc., set up events at every bookstore around, as well as some less traditional events—like a children’s museum and an orchard. Looking back it seems like a lot, but it was manageable. For my next release for example my April task is to collect contact details for a few schools I’d like to visit and connect with the illustrator about coloring pages. That’s all of an hour’s work at most. Small bites!