Marketing Outside the Box - An Interview with Donna Mae


    By Francine Puckly

Last year we featured an interview with picture book author, Donna Mae (the-wooly-adventures-of-self-publishing-an-interview-with-donna-mae.html). Donna had so many interesting promotional ideas for her books that we’ve asked her back to answer some marketing questions for our readers!
How do you market your picture books? And do you have any marketing advice for other authors?

I’m fortunate that being shelved in Barnes & Noble has given me access to in-store readings and posted events. But out-of-the-box thinking is crucial to promote your books. New and unique ideas for events and school visits make the difference. Here are a few ideas I’ve used:
  • Local gift shops will sell your book. (My personal hairdresser sells my books!) Because I am a local author, I have sold and signed books in her shop. People love signed books.
  • Approach Indie bookstores for readings.
  • Approach local libraries for author visits.
  • Explore having interviews on local cable T.V. or radio stations. (A local radio station helped me promote my newest book launch.)
  • Donate books to non-profit groups. (I’ve sent books to Milk & Bookies in California.)
  • Advertise! Running ads in local newspapers about your readings will bring more awareness to library author visits or radio station broadcasts.
  • Figure out unique distribution channels for your books. (I’ve become friends with the on-line marketing manager for Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallows, and she recently ordered books from me to distribute to her bloggers as gifts.)
Stay positive! Miracles happen in common hours!
Let’s talk about book-specific marketing for your two picture books. How have you adjusted promotional events and items for each book?
Well, Marshmallows Galore is the story of what a little boy does with giant marshmallows that fall from the sky while he’s sleeping, so those events are going to center around marshmallows!
  • I have a large apothecary jar full of giant marshmallows (guess the number!). Everyone loves marshmallows and that jar is always the hit of the event. It adds fun and excitement. 
  • I give away badges. I created a PLEDGE to accompany my story. One of the activities after my reading is that we all take The Marshmallow Pledge and everyone gets a pledge badge.
  • Customizing your book display is a good idea. A friend has made felt s’mores for my displays.
  • A simple craft is another good marketing tool to accompany your event or school visit. I have done countless Barnes & Noble readings coupled with a craft. The craft I have the children make for this is a helium hot air balloon (because in the book the kids travel by hot air balloon to feed the whole world). Everyone gets a giant marshmallow to put inside. You should see the smiles!

Marketing for The Wooly Adventures of Purl, (a story of a little girl who learns to knit and chaos ensues!) is a little different:
  • I have a poster of the book cover displayed on an old wooden easel. I’ve knitted a very long scarf that hangs from the poster, a plush lamb from my story, and a 1950’s lamb vase for holding my signing pens. Also, a doll is being made for me which resembles the little girl in my story. So, these fun display items add more visual.
  • I’ve recently come up with a simple craft—a lamb on a popsicle stick—which I’ll be using at school visits. (A cardboard circle for the body, precut head and legs from construction paper, cotton balls, pink foam nose and googly eyes—all glued to a popsicle stick!) Once we’re done, I gather the kids in a circle, wrap them in a very long scarf, and take the cutest picture.
  • Publishers create book launches for authors to help promote their books. I recently held my own book launch for The Wooly Adventures of Purl at a local yarn store. It was so much fun creating and advertising the launch. As I mentioned above, I called a local radio station, and they were more than happy to have me come in and talk about my launch. You have to be creative and take risks if you want to succeed.

You pulled together a book trailer for Marshmallows Galore. What was your process? How did you go about doing it?
Once again I delved into the abyss. I decided to make a YouTube video first. I knew I wanted local help, and my brother had mentioned that a friend’s son had a lot of video-making experience. We talked on the phone and I viewed some of his work. We set up a time and place to do the filming. A local farmer that had bales of hay wrapped in white plastic. They look like giant marshmallows. (Score!)
I then set about writing multiple scenes I wanted to reenact. I gathered 10 children and pulled some props together. A friend sewed and stuffed a giant marshmallow for my campfire scene. My husband is very creative, and he made a very realistic campfire from poster board. All the children wore tee shirts with my book cover printed on the front (a small expense).
We did three scenes from inside and outside my house.  My granddaughter and I read the book with scenes from the book to coincide. The children recited The Marshmallow Pledge and held individual signs. The videographer even wrote the music. It took weeks of planning and getting everyone on the same page. In the end I was happy with the outcome. I thought, “Next year the Oscar!” HAHA!! Once again, so much fun.

You can see Donna’s video here:
Do you have plans to create a book trailer for The Wooly Adventures of Purl?
As this book was released in November 2015, I’m still trying to catch my breath.
Instead of a video, I would like to have a trailer for this book. I’m thinking the abyss is now looking for me!

Do you have any last additional advice to give our readers on marketing?
Although I have no formal marketing background, I have owned a few businesses over the years and worked in retail. It helped me to know and understand what people like and don’t like and how they respond to different things. It’s a full-time job and as I’ve said, some out-of-the-box thinking goes a long way!
Thank you, Donna! Good luck to all of you who are stepping into the book marketing world. Be creative and put all of your experiences to work for you!
~ Francine