July 1 is the deadline to submit to the Book Launch Award, a grant that exists to help an SCBWI member promote their newly published work. Past winners have used the $2,000 prize to finance book tours, book trailers, website development, school events, and more. For this month’s Insight, 2017 Book Launch recipient Tami Charles reflects on how she made the most out of her win.
Tami Charles won the Book Launch Award in 2017 for Like Vanessa, a middle grade novel about a thirteen-year-old girl who takes inspiration from Vanessa Williams, the first black Miss America. With the $2,000 prize, Charles constructed a detailed plan for promoting her debut novel, putting the money toward school visits, a new author website, and a trip to NCTE. But the main thrust of her marketing campaign was a series of videos posted to social media in which real readers would share their reactions to the book. Referencing the Dove Real Beauty Campaign as a point of inspiration, Charles said, “I wanted girls of all complexions and skin types to share their stories. This meant creating more than just one video. Six different girls were given a copy of the book and invited to make a video about it.” Charles didn’t have experience with videography before the Like Vanessa campaign, so she also used SCBWI grant money toward a subscription to the video production service Animoto. “Now I have a Youtube channel that I am slowly working to build,” she says. “It gave me training wheels to promote my own content.”
When asked if she had any advice for other authors promoting their books, Charles said, “Budget! Start by making a list of your wants and needs. I’m quite frugal, so I was able to spread the grant money over many different projects.”
She also advises collaborating with your publisher, who may be able to offer extra support and help brainstorm ideas. “If your publisher sees you are willing to work as an equal partner it looks really good for your future negotiations. These are selling points I can use in the future by saying, ‘I not only wrote the book but did XYZ to promote it.’ You can’t just be a writer typing at your desk all day. You have to be your own marketer.”
Like Vanessa has been on bookstore shelves for nearly fifteen months now, but Charles has no plans to slow down her promotional momentum. Her next step is to incentivize readers and volunteers to promote the book themselves, rewarding them with swag and free copies of the book. “Now that the book is out, I am able to get more ideas about how to promote the book from the readers themselves. It’s one thing for me to say my book is great, but now readers are starting to promote it on their own. And that’s really special.”
Submissions are now open for the Book Launch Award, which closes on July 1. Go to the official award page for full instructions on how to apply.