Hi, I’m Aleesah Darlison. I’m an author and the owner of Greenleaf Press.
There are many ways you can use your marketing skills to promote a book. This instalment of the Greenleaf Press Newsletter, I’m going to talk about the extra special, rather unique way I launched one of my Totally Twins books.
The Totally Twins series, four books in all, was written by me, illustrated by the gorgeous Serena Geddes and published by New Frontier. It was the first series I’d ever had picked up and I absolutely loved writing in diary format.
Pre-publication, I entered one of the stories in the series into a competition. The story was shortlisted, which told me it was good enough to start submitting. Not long after that, I submitted the series proposal and one story manuscript to New Frontier.
They liked the idea and offered me a contract to publish two books. After the success of the first two books, we went on to create another two books, to there were four in total. The series sold in Australia and was also sold in France and recently in the UK.
Rewind to 2010, however, and I only had one published picture book under my belt at the time Totally Twins Book 1: Musical Mayhem came out, so I was still very new in the market. Incidentally, the Totally Twins series was picked up from the slush pile, or unsolicited manuscripts.
When the third book, Tropical Trouble, was due to be released, I wanted to do something different, something fresh, that would attract people to the launch and create buzz around the book’s release.
I was still pretty new to the writing and publishing game and had only had two book launches previously so I was very inexperienced.
What I did have up my sleeve were some great contacts – and supportive friends – at the local primary school where my children attended, Balgowlah Heights Public School in Sydney. I’d worked with the children in my oldest son’s class (he was in Year 2 at the time) to create a fun little video of my picture book, Puggle’s Problem, to enter into a CBCA Competition.
The students in the class and the parents all got behind the project. It really did help that the children loved acting. They were awesome! We didn’t win the competition, but if you’d like to see the hilarious OUT-TAKES video, you can view it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yu2d5z18fM0&t=20s
It occurred to me to make another video, this time for the launch of Tropical Trouble. It would be lots of fun, I had the support of the students, teachers and parents of my son’s class at school – everyone wanted to be involved – and I thought it would be a fantastic way to engage people in my stories.
Admittedly, it was a huge job. I had to take portions of the first book, Musical Mayhem, and convert it to a ‘screenplay’, effectively reducing a 15,000 word book to only a few thousand words that would then be narrated and acted out over a three minute film.
Then, I had to cast the twenty-five students in roles (not an easy job when everyone wanted to be the main character!), have them rehearse, bring in props, rearrange classrooms and halls for filming, find someone who could film while I directed, actually spend time doing the filming, edit the film and finally ‘release’ it at the launch.
Thankfully, one of the other mums worked at Channel 7 so had lots of experience with filming and editing – and the great thing was, she was keen to help me. Huge bonus!
Each and every one of the twenty-five students were given parts. Some more major than others, obviously.
The idea was that the film would have its ‘world premiere’ at the book launch, which would be held at Berkelouw Books in Balgowlah on a Friday afternoon after school.
I was absolutely amazed at how eagerly the students threw themselves into learning their roles and filming. There were a few nerves and jitters, amongst lots of excitement and expectation. Not a single child let me down, though. They all performed their parts with gusto.
My other idea to help create buzz, was to offer goodie bags for those attending. I contacted stores in the shopping centre where Berkelouws was located plus some other contacts I had, asking them to donate products, giveaways and promotional items for the goodie bags and also as lucky door prizes. Lots of people came on board, which was fantastic.
Serena and the graphic designer at New Frontier created some beautiful invitations, which we distributed far and wide. I also bought some island-themed outfits for us to wear on the night – grass skirts, lays, floral headbands. We really got into the spirit of the tropical theme.
Promotions focused mainly in the local area and with the use of direct marketing and some point of sale flyers – Serena’s invitations. We were also lucky enough to score a notice in the Sydney Morning Herald. Of course, everyone at the school, and especially the ‘actors’ in my son’s class and their families were all geared up for the launch too.
On the night of the launch, we ended up with about a hundred people crammed into Berkelouws amidst table loads of food, drinks, balloons and decorations, books and of course, the film screen.
And I mean crammed. We’d pretty much gone beyond buzz and entered the realm of hype. It was standing sardine room only.
It was absolutely fantastic and I would have to say the book launch was a resounding success. It was a huge effort in the months prior, but it was also lots of fun and it was a truly effective way to engage readers and their families in the series. Making the short film they got to know my characters better and came to feel that they were a part of the stories themselves.
Here’s the link if you’d like to view the short film we made:
My son, who was eight at the time is in the video. See if you can pick him. Here’s a clue: his performance will rock you!
Life, and book launches, are what you make of them. If you’re trying to create buzz, atmosphere, excitement and a POINT OF DIFFERENCE, it’s a good idea to try something new. Something that involves others and gets them excited and interested. Creating supporters, fans and ambassadors for your books does take time, care and commitment, but it’s well worth it.
Book launches happen all the time – but making them different and interesting so people actually want to come and be involved and buy your book – now that takes a special effort.