The Whole Megillah, always striving to be at the forefront, has put together a cyber-roundtable of authors who have successfully been using social media to promote their Jewish children’s books.
- Laura Toffler-Corrie, author of The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz (Roaring Brook Press, 2010)
- Steve Sheinkin, author of the Rabbi Harvey series (Jewish Lights)
- Shirley Vernick, author of The Blood Lie (Cinco Puntos Press, September 2011)
- Ellen Bari, author of Jumping Jenny (Kar-Ben, 2011)
- Shevi Arnold, self-publishing Dan Quixote: Boy of Nuevo Jersey
The Whole Megillah (TWM): Whose idea was it to use social media—yours, your agent’s, your editor’s/publisher’s?
Laura Toffler-Corrie: I think using social media is a group effort between a writer, agent, editor and the publicity department at the house publishing your book. At the beginning of my career, I wasn’t that savvy about the internet, but I learned quickly that I needed to use it as a tool for communication and promotion. I discovered Verla Kay’s Children’s Writers and Illustrator’s Chat board (otherwise known as the blue boards) and found that it was an excellent way to share information and learn from other aspiring and professional writers.
My editor acted as an advocate and facilitator with the publicity department at my house, which is Roaring Brook Press at Macmillan, and they were very keen on using social media to promote new titles. For example, they provided ARCs (advanced readers copies) to well-respected bloggers and reviewers. My editor ‘booked’ me onto a writer‘s panel at the Brooklyn Book Festival, and my agent facilitated my appearance at the Jewish Writer’s and Illustrator’s Conference in NYC. She also suggested that I develop a website which she graciously designed for me, and suggested that I start a blog.
Steve Sheinkin: It was strongly encouraged by the publishers of my Rabbi Harvey graphic novels, Jewish Lights. But I guess it’s obvious to anyone these days that it has to be done.
Shirley Vernick: My publisher and I are on the same page about the value of social media. We both want to tap into cyberspace to inform and regularly update potential readers.
Ellen Bari: Mine.
Shevi Arnold: Mine. I don’t have an agent or editor at this time, and due to the digital publishing revolution, I’ve decided to self-publish most of my own novels.
TWM: Did you have a plan?
Toffler-Corrie: No, I didn’t have a set plan at first. Roaring Brook had its ideas, and I discovered different avenues during the process. With my second book, The Accidental Sainthood of Jenna Bloom, which is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2012, I think I’ll have a better idea of how to approach promotion through the social media, and will probably develop more of a plan as the publication date draws closer.
Sheinkin: No, not at all. I was really not interested in social media before thinking of it as a marketing tool.
Vernick: Yes and no. I knew I wanted a website and a Facebook page, and that starting earlier was better than later. But I’m new to a lot of this and am still figuring out the nuances.
Arnold: Yes. I’ve been reading several excellent books on marketing, such as Get Known Before the Book Deal by Christina Katz.
TWM: How far in advance of your book’s publication did you start using social media?
Toffler-Corrie: I think it was probably around the time the ARC began to circulate.
Vernick: About six months.
Sheinkin: I got Rabbi Harvey up on Facebook, with his own page, after The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey and Rabbi Harvey Rides Again had already come out. I’ve since done a third in the series, Rabbi Harvey vs. the Wisdom Kid.
Bari: I set up a Jumping Jenny Facebook Fan Page about three weeks before, and the website launched the day the book officially was released. I have been on Twitter for my other organization, Momasphere, for a year and a half, and my partner did some announcing of the book as well.
Arnold: Several years back. I can’t remember when I started blogging, and I’ve been active on the SCBWI boards and on Amazon’s boards for years.
TWM: Which social media did you use?
Toffler-Corrie: I’ve been interviewed and reviewed by internet reviewers and bloggers. As mentioned previously, some reviews were set up through the publicity department at Roaring Brook and some bloggers contacted me directly through my website. I started my own blog aimed at aspiring writers about the process, the industry, etc. and then used Facebook and Twitter to announce new blog posts. Often my agent and editor, both of whom have many followers, would re-tweet me which brought traffic to my site. I was featured in an interview by my local paper.
I’ve also organized many writer’s panels myself and included other writers, and advertised through local libraries, bookstores and SCBWI. I joined the “Tenners,” an internet group of authors who had books debuting in 2010. I’ve appeared on a panel at Books of Wonder in NYC.
Additionally, I’ve done a number of school presentations. I’ve organized a “giveaway” on Goodreads, which generated a lot of publicity, and I subscribe to Publisher’s Weekly to keep abreast of what’s going on in the industry.
Sheinkin: Mostly Facebook, and some blogs.
Bari: Twitter, Facebook, website.
Arnold: Blogging (I’ve used many different kinds, but I’ve settled on Blogspot), micro-blogging (Tumblr), bulletin boards (including Amazon’s), Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, as well as various Ning-type user groups, Amazon’s Author Central.
Coming up next in Part 2 — what’s good about Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Question for you: Which social media do you use?