Welcome Melissa. First, tell us a little about your books.
Iggy the Iguana is a chapter book series for ages 7 to 11. The major theme throughout Iggy’s journey revolves around acceptance and diversity. In the first book of the series, Iggy has moved from his private “All-Lizard” school to a public “All-Animal” school. He is extremely worried about fitting in and making new friends. After many humorous, dramatic, and heartfelt situations, Iggy matures into a self-confident lizard by the end of fourth grade. All of his experiences prepare him for the summer time in the second book of the series, Summer League. Sometimes God will put us in certain situations to create empathic understanding to help others in the future.
You published your books independently. How did you educate yourself about the business of publishing and marketing books?
I took time to experience both sides of the industry in order to prepare myself for the task I was about to undertake. I talked to other authors at publishing conferences and arranged one-on-one meetings in order to see what type of business worked best for my personality style. I am an entrepreneur at heart, so I made the ultimate decision to keep all rights and control of my books and started LongTale Publishing. Of course I studied Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual backwards and forwards, and took EVERY necessary step to do it the right way and start a business. As a marketer it became necessary to always be months ahead of the game, so I surrounded myself with professionals to be aware of industry standards and additional ways to think out side the box. Networking!
What have been your biggest challenges in promoting your Iggy books?
Regional recognition has been great, but as a small publisher, national recognition is my biggest struggle. When you choose to go Indie you gain much if you do the work, but naturally you also give up certain things. It is hard to reach a greater number of people when you don’t have the support of a nationally recognized publisher.
What book promotion tactics have worked best for you?
Getting extremely involved with other promoters of literacy has been my key way of promotion. Teachers, Librarians, Principals, Girl Scouts, Parents, Book Clubs, Literacy Charities, all of these people know what I do because they have met me in person at conferences, school events, book signings, etc. A presence on the Internet has also been extremely beneficial to me. You have to be searchable to build your own credibility. Take advantage of the big social marketing sites . . . Websites, Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Literacy Groups, etc. Everyone needs a place to connect with you after they meet you.
What promotional tactics haven't worked so well?
Impersonal marketing. Yes, we all should mail out flyers, postcards, emails, etc. but until these people know who you are or have heard about you through other recommendations, the results from direct marketing is small. You have to do both for the other to work.
Do you have a written book marketing plan?
Yes, and it is constantly being updated because there is always so much you can do to market children’s books.
Melissa, you have a full-time job. How do you manage to fit in your writing, publishing and promotional activities? Any tips for other authors?
I took the leap of faith when I altered careers from counseling to the literacy industry. It was all or nothing for me. My advice is to be true to your personality. If having a side career works best for you, then proactively make time and schedule everything, but still be patient when there are not enough hours in the day. If you are able to have the luxury of being a career author and publisher, don’t take that flexibility for granted. It takes a lot of time to make it in this industry. Take it seriously and become an expert because it is worth it!
What advice can you give to other authors?
When going into the publishing industry, take time to ask yourself valuable questions so your results through out the years are milestones and not disappointments. What are your goals? To sell books is a completely different goal than to get published. All of our dreams hold a dear place in each of our hearts. The small goals lead to the bigger ones and they may change along your journey, but they are all dreams achieved no matter how big or small.
Melissa Williams is a children’s author and public speaker. She is the author of the children’s chapter book series, Iggy the Iguana, and the owner of LongTale Publishing and the Literacy Foundation Read3Zero. She is also a children’s columnist at The Westside Story Newspaper. To connect with Melissa visit her blog or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.
During the month of February, be the most active visitor on Melissa's blog tour for a chance to win the Iggy Collection, including Snap Shell the Turtle plush doll, Iggy Collector's Baseball Cards, and the Read3Zero t-shirt . . . supporting the fight against illiteracy 30 minutes at a time.
For tips on how to promote children's books, see Melissa's article, How to Market Children's Books in Schools.