Monday, 31 March 2014

How to reach your audience. My tips for writers of children's fiction

Today I'd like to talk about the things I have found most useful when trying to reach and engage with my audience.

My first book, The Viking's Apprentice was published just over a year ago. I'd written it, put it on all the usual sites and sat back waiting for the money to roll in. Tumble weed rolled in, but not money, and certainly not a following. What was I doing wrong? I'd written a good story, people that did read it seemed to like it and I appeared briefly in the top 10 on Amazon in my genre.

I checked my twitter account and I had gone from three followers to one! Twitter had removed to the two fake eggs that were following me. I needed a new approach, I needed to get active and engage with my readers.

I sat down and thought about it. Who are my readers? How can I reach them? How can this unknown author from a small town in Scotland reach the world. I made a list which looked something like this.

1. Colleagues in my day job
2. Schools
3. Libraries
4. Get more entries for my list.

The Day Job

Still three ideas is better than no ideas so I began with those. If you are a new author the chances are that you will have a day job. Who do you work with? Do they have children or grandchildren? I work in an office with around 500 employees and it's own internal news letter. I wrote an article for the newsletter and I got postcards printed from an online store to display in my work's cafe. This allowed the word to spread further than my team and my friends. I put out 50 postcards in the first week and when they all vanished I put out another 50, and so on. The cafe staff told me that there was a genuine interest and people seemed pleased that someone they were working with was doing something creative.
These postcards were simple, my book cover on the front and my website and contact details on the back.
Word was out amongst my work colleagues and soon I was getting stopped in the hallways and stairways to discuss my book. All good advertising and all for not very much money (about 15 pounds for the postcards). Never underestimate word of mouth. The more people talking about your book the better.

School Visits

Then I moved on to number two in my list, and this one has proved to be the most effective and the most fun. My book is aimed at children 8 and over so I approached primary schools, emailing details of my books to the school administrators. I told them about me and my work and asked if they would like a copy of the book and making it clear I was available for visits to talk to the children. I received several replies asking for copies which I dully sent. I then received an email from a school who would love to take the book as their reading book but the budget was the concern. I took a calculated risk and sent them ten copies free of charge. I wanted the children to read my work and if they liked the first book they might become fans of the series. The children at the school loved the book and invited me to visit which I did.

I've never done anything like this before so visiting a school where the children will tell you exactly what they think of your story was daunting. The children were brilliant though. They had completed projects on my book and drawn pictures and asked wonderful questions. I thought I would be there for about an hour and ended up staying all day. I took part in their story writing lesson and spoke to the children individually. It was a great experience.

The teachers at the school spoke about the visit to their colleagues in other schools and soon I was getting lots of requests to visit more schools all over Scotland. My last visit was a 300 mile round trip on country rounds which took about 6 hours of driving. The visit was excellent though and well worth the drive. It is so rewarding to hear children talk about your book and what they loved and which characters they liked.

I always leave a copy of each of my books for the school library and run some competition with the children. At my last visit I asked the children to draw something from my book and I gave away signed cover art.

You can see pictures of my latest visit at my facebook page

If you're a teacher reading this please feel free to get in touch to talk about a visit.
To give an example of the impact of school visits the position of my book before my visit last Tuesday was that The Viking's Apprentice was sitting at number 6 in norse and the sequel, The Master's Revenge was at number 8. Two days after the visit The Viking's Apprentice was number 2 and The Master's Revenge was number 3. My books have not left the top ten in their genre in Amazon UK for over 6 months.


I would advice all authors to approach libraries in their local areas and offer them a copy of your first book. This builds a relationship with the libraries and you will find that they are often more than willing to help local authors. They will take your advertising materials and might even set up events for you. When your subsequent works come out email the libraries to let them know. Building up a local following is important in all genres.

Book Fairs

Book fairs are a gold mine for authors of children's fiction. Everyone that walks by your stall is a potential customer. At my first book fair in June last year I had no idea what to expect. I took what I thought was a reasonable amount of books to see out the day and hoped for the best. I soon discovered that everyone who walked through the door was interested in my books. Why? Everyone knows a child who loves reading. Be it their own child, grandchild or family friend. I talked to everyone that came through the door and met some great people. My books sold out in 90 minutes. The lesson for the next book fair was take more books!

Radio Interviews

Do those words fill you with dread? A radio interview, a live interview with potentially 1000's of people listening. They shouldn't, they should fill you with optimism. I have done lots of radio interviews now and have mostly used this as a way of reaching out to people in America who I can't physically visit. My first interview was an hour long Q and A and although this might sound daunting the time flies by and when you love the subject you're talking about your passion will come through to the listeners. If radio stations aren't approaching you then approach them. Use Goodreads and twitter to find blog radio shows and offer yourself for interview. It's a great experience and well worth the effort. Be proud and confident of your work.

Well that's a lot to get you thinking and hopefully point you in the right direction. Since I started this proactive approach I have had my books go to number in their genre on Amazon in the USA, Canada and UK. Over 800 people have added my books on Goodreads and I have built a twitter following of 1500. Also 5000 people read my blog which is pretty amazing.

I'm giving away two signed copies of each of my books at Goodreads. If you would like the chance to win one then please follow this link. Book giveaway

If you would like to contact me then please do so at or leave a comment on the blog. If you would like to follow the blog please sign up by email.

If you would like to connect on twitter then please do so @ @bannon1975

If you're interested in buying either book in paperback or ebook format please visit my website where you will find a full list of where to buy. Where to buy the books.

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