Publishing for kids: Top online marketing tips

kids publishing

Claire Morrison is the Senior Marketing Manager for DK Books. She joined DK 18 months ago to head up the marketing for children’s, education, licensing and travel books. She is a speaker at the next BookMachine event, ‘Publishing for Kids: how to reach book buyers online‘, on 9th March in London. We interviewed her here.

1) As a marketer, what’s the first thing you think about when developing an online marketing campaign for a new children’s book?

Whatever the campaign – whether it’s online or offline – I think about the audience. Who are they? Where are they? What problem or desire am I going to solve for them? How do they behave? Particularly for online campaigns, I think about what or how they will be searching online to reach the book I’m working on.

At DK, the marketing team are responsible for writing the blurb for the books which appear online. Keywords are central to increasing discoverability. It’s important to find out what the audience is actually searching for, opposed to what we as publishers think they search for. To do this, we work closely with our colleagues in our dedicated insights and analytics team to ensure we are using the right phrases in blurbs to make our books more discoverable. Once I’ve worked out who the audience are, I then start to look at where they go online and what the best way to reach them is.

2) What is the best children’s marketing campaign you have seen? Why is it so good?

Rather than a whole campaign what I’ve been most impressed by has been live events such as Puffin Virtually Live. I watched one in November to promote James Patterson’s Middle School series. Puffin worked around an absent author skilfully by using the illustrator in the studio and recorded clips of James Patterson. Having an audience of local primary school children at the event gave it a real TV production feel. I also appreciated how much work had gone into what seemed a short space of time. Live events are really tense for the marketer as, if anything goes wrong, it has to be dealt with swiftly – and with this format it’s all reliant on technology, which makes it even scarier! However, this live format, which I also know Hachette Children’s Group use, is a great way to turn one-off events into far reaching campaigns.

3) How can publishers, in general, become better at marketing kids’ books?

As an industry, we are all about fiction. It’s no different for kids’ books. With the big houses concentrating their budgets on fiction and not taking a punt on non-fiction (unless there is a big name behind it), we are missing an opportunity to build the non-fiction readers of the future. Working for the UK’s number one children’s non-fiction publisher means I know there is an appetite for non-fiction books, not just from parents but from children too. The industry as a whole – booksellers, librarians, teachers, parents and publishers – need to come together and build platforms to promote children’s non-fiction; such as specialist weeks or day events in store (DK do this through Star Wars Reads Day), non-fiction book clubs for children or getting more non-fiction onto reading lists.

4) What are parents looking for when finding books for their children online?

This is such a big question as it depends on a number of things and each search is personal to the individual. What parents are chiefly interested in is finding age-appropriate books. This can be a fine balance: if the content is too old it can put children off as it proves too challenging, yet if something is too easy it doesn’t challenge children enough and they end up bored. On top of this, parents are looking for books that will engage their children and also help them learn (even if it’s surreptitiously). Parents are also looking for trusted books, whether they are recommended by others who they trust (parents, friends or teachers) or from a trustworthy brand or author.

5) If you could offer advice to any budding children’s marketing professionals, what would that be?

Just because you aren’t working in children’s publishing right now it doesn’t mean you can’t in the future. I came from an adult publishing and marketing background and found the transition from adult to children’s market much easier than I had previously thought. Marketing is a transferable skill, so moving knowledge from adult or academic publishing into children’s is just about changing your thinking rather than starting from scratch. You just need to demonstrate this to your future employer and get your foot in the door. With most of the books I market, the parents are still the ultimate decision maker when it comes to purchasing so, although the books are for children, I’m thinking what the adult wants when they make that purchase.


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