It’s been a busy summer, on a book tour to promote my new picture book, Pink Lion (Walker Books 2017). It’s the first time I’ve done anything like this on my own, so I thought now the last event is over, it might be useful to pull together what I’ve learned along the way. At least I can remind myself next time I have to do it, and maybe it will be useful to someone else as well.
I am naturally quite a shy person, so being the centre of attention doesn’t come naturally to me – but I have discovered that I can do it! In fact, I’ve really enjoyed all the events, meeting lovely bookshop people, parents and most of all children all over the place from Clapham Junction to Northumberland. One of my events was at the HUGE Apple Store in Regents Street for their Saturday Kids Hour. I’m glad I didn’t know in advance I would have to wear a microphone, but now I know I can do it – and it was amazing to see my Pink Lion animation on a screen the size of a double decker bus…
So here are my tips on book promotion for the shy (which I suspect is 99.9 per cent of all illustrators and quite a lot of authors too):
- Make yourself a prop – a puppet or a toy (or find someone who can make one for you). I somehow felt more confident having my velvet version of Arnold with me – and children love to give him a hug.
- Contact lots of shops and offer a storytime visit – once it’s in the diary, you have to do it. And it actually gets easier and easier.
- Have some ‘extras’ to leave behind – I bought a badge-maker a few years ago and it has been a great investment. This is the one I use.
- Practise, and work out how long it takes to read the story. Ask questions of the audience, get them involved. If you don’t mind drawing in public, ask if the bookshop has a flipchart. I use a wax crayon to draw and pastel chalks to colour, and children love to help with the colouring in. 45 minutes is a good length (no longer) for a picture book age audience.
- Have another activity for after the story – for Pink Lion I have three different colouring/activity sheets which have a mix of things to colour and space for bits children can make up themselves. The better prepared you are, the less nerve-racking. Audiences can be very big or very small – you never know, so be prepared for both and don’t worry if it’s smaller. It’s more intimate that way, which is nice as a change.
- Be prepared for noisy babies and other distractions – it’s OK to pause for a while.
- Speak slowly.
- Enjoy it – and don’t forget a Sharpie to sign books afterwards.
A huge thankyou to all the places that have hosted me and Arnold over the last few months: Waterstones Clapham Junction, Queens Park Bookshop, Sheen Bookshop, Southfields Library, Heffers Cambridge, Forum Books Corbridge, the Apple Store Regents Street, Nomad Books Fulham, and Tales on Moon Lane in Herne Hill.
And an extra special thankyou to the places that made window displays! Thankyou Forum Books, Queens Park Books, Heffers and Salt and Pepper, the nicest cafe in Soutfhields.