2011 Winner Sherry Shahan
Launching Ice Island
by Sherry Shahan
Okay, I admit it. I’d rather be at my desk writing than slogging down the promo trail. Sure, I want my latest book to do well. And these days, agents, editors, and publishers expect writers to have substantial p.p., meaning presence and platform. They also require snother p known as product. For me, it’s always been a tricky balance.
As a full-time, self-supporting writer I rely heavily, though not solely, on advances and royalties. Being awarded SCBWI’s first-ever Book Launch Award allowed me the most valuable component of all: Time. I could actually afford to set my writing related activities aside for awhile and focus on promoting my latest adventure novel Ice Island (Declacorte Press/Random House). My heartfelt appreciation to SCBWI for making that possible.
Since Ice Island features two teen mushers and their faithful sled dogs, my marketing plan included developing a blog to introduce educators to the fun and easily implemented reading incentive called IditaRead. Such a blog would contain maps of Alaska, fun facts about dog musing, links to pertinent websites, as well as detailed instructions on how to implement IditaRead in the classroom.
I worked closely with my publicist at Random House who was thrilled with the idea. She agreed to send a free copy of Ice Island to each of the first 10 teachers who contacted me about their participation in the IditaRead. (As it turned out she sent more than 10 books.)
Let’s back up a minute. How did I connect with schools across the county? Good question. Though Gooogle I discovered scores of excellent educator websites that connect the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska with reading programs. So instead of reinventing the wheel it seemed wiser to approach those sites.
For instance, this year www.idita-read.org had over 4,700 student participants for a total race mileage (minutes reading) of 4,869,905. I emailed them the Ice Island book cover, a synopsis, and a line from the Kirkus review. Not only did www.idita-read.org promote the giveaway on their site, but they added a link to my website. Teachers across the country involved in the IditaRead were excited to learn about a novel featuring teen mushers and their faithful huskies.
Unexpected benefits: A teacher made an audio recording of a harrowing scene from the book, and I’ve received several invitations to visit schools via Skype.
The latter triggered an idea for 2013. A month before the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race I plan to offer a discounted Skype visit to schools who participate in the IditaRead
The grant money also afforded me time to send email book announcements to elementary schools in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau. This is how I connected with the librarian in charge of the Authors to Alaska program. In hindsight I wish I’d limited the giveaway to one book per zip code. As it turned out, several teachers from the same school requested books. Fortunately Random House was more than generous with their giveaway copies.
Anyone interested in learning more about the Idita-Read can check out the doc. posted on the “Books” page of my website: www.SherryShahan.com. Or I can send you the doc. via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sherry Shahan is best known for her riveting do-or-die adventure novels, Ice Island (Delacorte Press/Random House), Death Mountain (Peachtree), Frozen Stiff (Yearling/Random House), and photo-illustrated DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW: The Story of the Jr. Iditarod (Mondo).
Ice Island, Delacorte Books for Young Readers (January 10, 2012)
What begins as a training run with sled dogs turns into a race against time for Tatum and her new friend, a Siberian Yupik boy named Cole. When a freak blizzard hits this remote island off the coast of Alaska, the duo seeks shelter overnight in a dilapidated hunting cabin. Their harrowing ordeal goes from bad to worse when wind-driven snow forces them to risk an alternate route. Stranded in the untamed wilderness, they must rely on each other—as well as their faithful huskies—to survive sub-zero temperatures and bone-numbing exhaustion. Worse still, their food supply is dangerously low. The most daunting decision comes when the strongest dog runs away. One person must go for help, while one must stay behind. Either way, they'll both be alone in the wild for an uncertain amount of time.