Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The lemonade-stand marketing lesson every indie author needs to read.

One sizzling summer day, my daughter decided to run a lemonade stand.  Maybe your kids did this too, once or twice?

She set up shop in front of our house.  She had a sign, a table, fresh cold lemonade (mmm, I’m making myself thirsty – it’s super-hot here as I write this!), and opened up for business.

And then… nobody came.

What did she do wrong?  She was certainly cute enough.  And the lemonade was sweetly tart, frozen and refreshing.

But we lived on a one-way street that didn’t get a lot of traffic.  People were driving past quickly and weren’t in a mood to buy lemonade.  She sold a couple to our neighbours, but really didn’t attract a lot of interest beyond the immediate area.

So the next time we thought about doing a lemonade stand, we did it at my mother’s place, a block away.  Not such a big difference, right?  But there were a few major factors that changed the game:
  • It was a two-way street, with a major road nearby
  • There were lots of bikes and joggers going past
  • It was close enough that our own neighbours could come there, too
  • It was down the street from a police station, so everyone was driving slowly and paid attention to the little girl with the lemonade stand.
Sales were much better at the second location!

The kids also did something else differently, by the way:  my daughter stayed with the lemonade stand while her brother rode around the neighbourhood on his bike drumming up business.
Smart marketing, right?

Maybe this seems obvious.  But trust me, it isn’t.  How do I know? 

I hang out in writing groups and forums online.  And every single day, I see writers on there trying to promote their work .  In some cases, this seems to be the ONLY marketing that they are doing for their book.  They go there ALL the time, posting and posting and posting their books, again and again and again.

These people are doing the online equivalent of what my daughter did – setting themselves up on a one-way street where nobody’s going to buy their lemonade.

How can you tell if you’re selling lemonade on a one-way street, to people who aren’t in a mood to buy?  Check out what's going on in the spot where you're setting up your "lemonade stand."
  • Are most of the people there writing their own books?
  • Is your marketing getting lost in the crowd?
  • Do you have to post and repost to get attention?
  • Are the majority of the topics there about writing itself?
Don’t get me wrong; these forums are important, and helpful.  But not for selling books. 
Online forums and writers groups are really useful for:
  • Asking questions if you’re new at the self-publishing game
  • Chatting about technicalities of publishing
  • Asking legal, copyright or other questions
  • Getting feedback about story ideas
  • Finding resources like contests (check this indie kids' book cover contest; it's free to enter!), writing courses and workshops, and editing services
But one thing they are NOT good for is… SELLING BOOKS.

To sell books, you have to go where readers are.  Or, since we write for kids, where their parents, teachers and librarians are hanging out.  Given that 90% of readers have never and will never write a book themselves… if you’re hanging around with other writers, you’re in the wrong place.

So where SHOULD you promote your books online?

That’s a great question.  I’d love to hear your ideas.  Maybe we can start a conversation.  Just drop me a line in the Comments section below. 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go make some lemonade…


  1. I've never been, because it's prohibitively far, but I hear teacher conferences, librarian conferences, and (if you have the right sort of book) homeschool associations are good places to go. Here's the question (yes, I could google it, but I'd have to sift through answers): where are these gatherings online?

    1. As a former homeschooler, I do occasionally tap into homeschool and educators' groups and forums etc that I enjoyed as a parent. However, I'm careful a) not to overdo it, and b) never to represent myself as a homeschooler. I try to be completely honest and up front and only share things that I think people will appreciate. For instance, for my "Now You Know" books about Jewish topics, I usually post it because I know there are lots of Christians looking for readings about Biblical festivals. Again, however... I usually share things once and explain the specific benefit. I try not to be spammy. :-)

  2. An online option is if you are friends with a teacher or former teacher and they have a large "friend" pool you could ask them to give your book a read and post their thoughts. Teachers will often befriend other teachers, school personnel and student's parents not to mention any regular parent/ grandparent/ aunt/ uncle/ etc. friends.

    1. I agree - teachers are SO important, and great influencers. Networking is all-important. Remember not to wear out your best contacts but save them for something you really feel is special, that they can genuinely help you with. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I know some people donate a portion of their proceeds to charities and such. It seems like they could share that with the charity. Then the author's book could be shared and posted about by the charity and its supporters. For example, when an event is going to happen where the sponsor has promised a percentage to a local animal shelter, the animal shelter posts on its facebook page about the event a few times before it happens and then again on the day of to let animal lovers know. They usually post event follow ups too.

    1. A fantastic idea, especially if your book is centred around a particular topic, like adopting a shelter dog. If they love the message (and your art is good and heartwarming) you'll get SOooo much better traction. Thanks for sharing this tip!


As always, I love to hear from you.