Friday, August 2, 2013

Erica Perl: Discoverable Me - Innovative Ways to Attract Spotlights for Your Books

Award-winning author Erica Perl
Erica Perl writes picture books and novels, her most recent of which, WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU O.J., was a Sydney Taylor notable book, best book of the month, and state book award finalist for two states.

She's also the vice president of publisher and author relations at First Book, a nonprofit that delivers new, high-quality books to the kids who need them.

She talked to a standing-room-only crowd of people about new ways to get our books noticed in an increasingly challenging marketplace.

Her first book, a picture book, came out in 2005 (she was a long-time SCBWI member as she worked her way toward publication). She started us off with a tour of her 2005-era promotional efforts: a wordy email, a flyer without a picture of the book's cover, postcards, events (often wearing a hat), even articles in the SCBWI newsletter.

"I'm not here to tell you that you have to go out and have hats knitted for you or do crazy, over-the-top stunts to get people to notice your book," she said.

You want your efforts to go beyond the people you reach directly. You want to reach the "big mouths"--people who will talk to people you're not talking to yourself.

These can include bloggers, librarians, and others, maybe someone unorthodox ... such as your dentist's friend who works at a company that wants to give a bunch of kids books.

Then there are gatekeepers (librarians, for example). @MrSchuReads is a great example of someone who does a lot to get the word out about books he likes.

Other circles: ShareMyLesson, a site run by the American Federation of Teachers. We might not think of this as a place for authors and illustrators, but anyone can join for free.  There are other sites like this.

In classrooms, she does an exercise with kids to help them find rhymes to lines in her book. The teacher writes them down. They can then use those to write their own books, which serves teachers.
She also teamed up with another author, Ayun Halliday, who wrote ALWAYS LOTS OF HEINIES AT THE ZOO (illustrated by our faculty member, Dan Santat).

She shared many ideas beyond this of really smart ways to reach readers, including ones that worked with her middle grade novel WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU OJ, about a girl who makes a dog out of an orange juice container.

Erica had made so many smart moves--she no doubt invigorated a lot of authors and illustrators who've felt overwhelmed by marketing their work. And for sure, attendees will never look at an OJ container the same way again.

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