By Cindy Hudson
Award-winning children's author Roland Smith spends a lot of time on the road speaking to students about his books, which include both fiction and nonfiction for young readers. He posts comprehensive curriculum guides for his novels on his website -- www.rolandsmith.com http://www.rolandsmith.com -- and the guides are used in thousands of classrooms across the country as well as by book clubs to stimulate conversations about the books.
His most recent novel is I,Q Book One: Independence Hall, to be followed up later this year with I,Q Book Two: The White House. The series is about rock and roll, the music business, fame, and Islamic terrorism. Smith's two other most recent books are Elephant Run, which is about a girl and a boy stranded in Burma during the WWII Japanese occupation, and Peak, a novel about climbing Mt. Everest. Smith says he believes that "not all summits are found on the top of mountains. The things that really matter lie far below."
Here is his advice to authors about book promotion.
Q. What can authors do before their publication date to make a book launch more successful?
A. When I write a book I try to create readers because everything good in my life has come about because I was a reader. I spend 7-8 months a year on the road speaking about reading and writing. Obviously, I use my own books, present and future, to get the message across to students because I know my books best.
Aside from writing a very good book that young people want to read there is little you can do to promote your book prior to its publication.
Q. What do you like best about promoting your books?
A. That's easy...talking to students! I love to hear what my fans think about my books. I'm not sure how many people I talk to every year, but it is certainly over 50,000.
Q. What is one mistake you made promoting your first book that you would recommend others avoid?
A. I'm not sure I made too many mistakes. You have to be willing (and able) to speak to anyone about your books. It is not easy being away from home for weeks and months at a time. You have to be able to sleep in any time zone, in strange hotels...and you have to really enjoy talking to people. No one cares about your book more than you do. It is totally up to the author to get the word out about his or her work.
Q. Can you share your top book promotion tips for first-time authors?
A. Do five things a day to promote your book. Send an e-mail to someone about your book. Introduce yourself to buyers at books stores. Visit schools and talk about reading and writing. Contact conference chairs and send them material about your books and ask them if you can speak at their conference. Don't be shy about your books. You worked hard on them. You will have to continue to work hard after they come out to make certain that people know about your work. Your publisher is going to do very little for you or your book. You need to do it yourself.
Q. Is there something you would say is never too late to do when promoting your book?
A. Your books are like your children. It's never too late to help them.
Cindy Hudson is the author of Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs (Seal Press 2009). Her website, and its companion blog, feature reading lists, book reviews, author interviews, book giveaways and other book club resources. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Portland, Oregon, where she writes weekly for The Oregonian. Visit her online at MotherDaughterBookClub.com and CindyHudson.com.