by Stan Yan, Author and Illustrator
This is the second part in a two-part series where I discuss keys to promoting my bedtime picture book, There’s a Zombie in the Basement, inspired by my 3-year-old son who wouldn’t come down to my basement studio, fearfully pointing at my zombie artwork on the walls. I’ve been promoting my other work at comic and fan conventions since 2001, but I’ve learned a lot about them and applied it specifically to promoting my book. You don’t have to feel overwhelmed by conventions and events! Read on for my keys to standing out and selling your work.
Key #1: What’s Cookin,’ Good Lookin’?
I learned long ago, if you can’t make eye contact with people, you have no chance of getting to talk to them about your book. So, make sure you have a good-looking display. I have some retractable banners that do some of my talking for me from buildasign.com ($80 and free shipping!), but I also had some dolls of my zombie girl made, stickers, magnets, no solicitor signs, DVD’s, and coming soon, buttons to attract eyes!
I have also learned that when I had TOO much in my display space, there was no visual focal point, so I had to simplify so it was clear to people what I was selling.
Key #2: Yes, I’m Going to Read the Whole Thing to You!
Once I have made eye contact with someone, that gives me an opening to talk to them. I always smile, which puts people at ease, then I ask their children if I can read them a story. If it’s just adults, I ask them if they would like to read my zombie children’s book, and if they start, I ask them to read the whole thing as a favor to me. Why? Picture books get read over and over to children. As a parent, I won’t BUY one unless I’ve read it. And if you don’t read to the end, you might not realize that the protagonist has gained control over these creatures/fears. Plus, if they’re not sold already, the last page, which reads, “What are you afraid of? Draw a picture of it here,” is the closer.
Key #3: I Can’t Believe You’re Paying to Advertise for Me!
People pay premium dollars to wear merchandise with brands, musicians, and movies prominently emblazoned upon them. I’ve allowed my small, but rabid cadre of fans to do the same by offering to sell t-shirts with my zombie girl on them.
If nothing else, I’ve found it doesn’t hurt to have There’s a Zombie in the Basement shopping bags for my customers to proudly carry around.
Key #4: You’re Selling Even If You Don’t Make a Sale.
Of course, not everyone will buy. Often it’s because they don’t have kids, or they’ve already spent their budget on a celebrity photo op. This doesn’t stop me.
I remind people that my book makes a great gift for other people’s kids if they don’t have kids of their own.
I also give people postcards inviting them to bring me to their school to do a reading and an interactive monster drawing demo. I often run into teachers, so this is a particularly good way to make money and grow my fan base after the convention is over.
If nothing else, it reminds people about my book.
If you have questions for Stan about taking your work on the convention and events circuit, ask him in the comments below!
Find the first installment of this series here.
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Stan Yan is a Denver-based writer/illustrator, graphic novelist and instructor, but is probably best known for doing zombie caricatures. Yan’s debut picture book is inspired by his son’s fear of his artwork, There’s a Zombie in the Basement. Yan has been an SCBWI member since 2013 and is Assistant to the Illustrators Coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Chapter.
Images provided by Stan Yan.