In 2006, after 20 years of teaching fifth grade, I decided to leave the classroom in order to write historical fiction for middle grade students. Since then, I’ve traveled to schools all over the Southeast, doing author presentations and teaching creative writing workshops. But most importantly, I’ve sold books!
Here are the most important lessons this teacher has learned:
1. Check your content. I understand you don’t want to be censored, but if you want to sell to schools, you have to consider your audience. Your student readers may respond to the sex and violence in your written-for –middle-school novel, but the teachers and parents will not. Keep in mind who’s filling out the order forms. Sex, drugs, and violent vampire attacks will not sell to schools.
2. Check the curriculum. What’s being taught in the schools? Are your books in line with their lesson plans? Many of the states are changing to the Common Core Standards, and you can easily access those standards on line at http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards. Teachers don’t have time for frills in the classroom. Point out that your books correlate to the objectives they’re teaching, and be specific!
3. Create teacher friendly materials. I write teacher’s guides that include journaling prompts, comprehension questions, skill sheets, and additional activities. Give suggestions on how your books can be used in the classroom. Do they teach about specific events in history? Do they cover important social issues? Do they inspire writing activities? Art activities? Skits? Use your imagination!
4. Offer to do an author presentation for students. You may have to do a few for free to get started. Work for book sales. If you convey your excitement about your books to the audience, you WILL sell books! (Read more about author presentations in future posts.)
5. Okay, so you’re going to hate this one, but here goes: Don’t be afraid to give away a few copies of your books. I know that’s painful, but schools are not going to buy your books sight unseen. They have to know what they’re getting for their money. My suggestion? Go to your local schools. Ask to see the media specialist—NOT the principal! The media specialist knows which faculty member will be willing to give your book a try. Leave the book with him or her, along with your contact information and your resume. School personnel want to know YOU, not just your book.
Have you tried to get YOUR books into schools? What worked for you? Share your ideas!