Authors and Animals Are A Winning Team
By Francine Silverman
Children’s book authors who bring animals - pets, pictures or stuffed - to book signings usually sell lots of books – and have fun too!
Joyce Sidman collaborated with teen authors on The World According to Dog: Poems and Teen Voices (Houghton Mifflin Company 2003). “Working with an extremely progressive-minded bookstore owner (Wild Rumpus of Minneapolis), I dreamed up the idea of a ‘dog party’ – an event including dog owners and their dogs,” she says. “It took place outside, with plenty of room for the dogs. The teen authors and I read from the book, and then we invited the audience to write about their dogs on 4x5 cards, which some of them read aloud. We then posted the cards on a ‘Dog Wall of Fame’ in the bookstore.” http://www.joycesidman.com
“I did two readings for B&N,” says Anita Salzberg, author of three children’s books on animals and an adult book about her life with her husband, the turtle lover. “The first was an early afternoon talk on Turtles (Franklin Watts 1996), my children's book written with my husband Allen. B&N promoted the reading and the fact that we'd be bringing turtles. A crowd of 50 showed up—parents, children (mostly under 5), and as many of the store staff as could get away from their posts.
“We were told that an average crowd for a children's book reading was closer to 20, so we and our turtles were a big hit. First we talked about turtles and what children could learn from our book. After that we had the children draw a turtle with the paper and crayons we had brought. Only then did Allen walk around with our live turtles. We both answered questions, which came fast and furious. (For the record, a turtle cannot take off its shell!)
“The store had ordered 25 books (softcover, $7). We sold 10 that afternoon. The Events Coordinator explained that people would return later and buy more books. People did. The store reordered 25 copies the next week. Okay, our sales were not on a par with John Grisham's, but we did way better than the 5-7 copies I know to be standard for book readings/signings by unknown authors.
“About a week later, I gave an evening reading at that same B&N of Confessions of a Turtle Wife (Bookpublisher.com 2001). Again, the promotional materials stated that we'd be bringing live animals.”
“If you’re promoting a book about animals or about people and animals, bring the animals! Anita suggests. “As an unknown author, you may or may not draw a crowd. But your animals sure will.
“The corollary to this suggestion is: at your reading/presentation, bring out the animals last. Otherwise, you will be upstaged! No one wants to listen to you talk about your book when they can ooh and ah over a turtle that reminds them of the one they had as a child.
“And, of course, make sure all PR/advertising materials trumpet the fact that you’ll be brining animals to your presentation.” http://www.turtlewife.com
Sandra McLeod Humphrey, whose latest book is Dare to Dream (Prometheus Books 2005), doesn’t bring a pet but always includes a drawing for a large stuffed animal at her book signings. “The stuffed animal [attracts] the kids and the parents follow the kids,” she says. http://www.kidscandoit.com.
When her 25th book, My Little Book of River Otters (Windward Publishing 2003), was published, Hope Marston had a cake made to order with the otters from the book jacket on it. “We had over 100 people, more than the room could hold safely, and I sold lots of books and stuffed animals that go with all six books in the series,” she says. Hope attributes the large turnout to the fact that she brought along her illustrator, whose drawing of an otter was used as a door prize.
Margot Finke is an Australian-born children’s author who lives in Oregon. The first in her series of rhyming books about Australian and US critters is Kangaroo Clues (Writers Exchange E-Publishing International 2004).
Before the book was even published, Margot “did a one-hour reading, chat, and short lesson plan, for a grade 3 writing class,” she recalls. “I started by reading several of my shorter rhyming Aussie stories, showed an Australian map with their unique animals pictured, plus some boomerangs, bark paintings, fire sticks, and message sticks. I also took along a coconut I had found on a far Queensland beach, and brought back to Oregon. After that, I gave a short, interactive lesson on ways to choose strong active verbs and great adjectives. I made each child an illustrated work sheet for this fun lesson, as well as a special badge with their name, and the words, ‘Future Writers of Oregon.’”
While Margot had no books to sell at that point, she “felt that telling them there would soon be a fun, quality E-Book available was worth the time and effort. I also made sure my e-mail and the URL for my website was on the bookmark gifts I gave each child, as well as the name of my book. I also promised the school a CD for their library as soon as Kangaroo Clues was published.” http://www.margotfinke.com