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Blog«The Best Guide to Selling Children's Books
The Best Guide to Selling Children's Books
Karen Inglis
14 July 2023
24 May 2024
17.68 minutes

Karen Inglis writes picture books, chapter books and short middle grade novels for ages 3-11. Her time travel adventure for ages 8-11 The Secret Lake is an Amazon bestseller in the UK, US and Canada and has sold over 250,000 copies in print and is in translation in eight countries. Karen has presented on children’s self-publishing around the UK and is Children’s Advisor for ALLi.

“My top piece of advice for marketing your children’s book is to start locally and build up your brand – and your confidence – from there. Thereafter, each time you release a new title be sure to implement this local strategy alongside wider ones – your local brand offers countless photo and content opportunities for wider social media marketing use.”

Approaching local libraries

One of the first things I recommend is to approach your local library to see if they run story time sessions for children and offer to host a free event there. This is a great way to ‘test the water’ with live events and, since you won’t be charging, it won’t feel pressurized. Bear in mind that they may need a couple of months’ notice to set this up, so plant the idea early on when you meet them and go from there.

My first ever event was at our library in Barnes (the London ‘village’ where I live) and I was terrified that either no one or hordes of people would turn up! In fact, it worked out perfectly. It ended up being me, my younger sister (taking photos from the back), seven children, around seven adults and a few of the library staff. The librarian even put-up flags and provided tea, orange juice and biscuits! You could offer to bring cake if it’s allowed…

To support the event I created A4 and A5 flyers that I put up at the library and shared with local schools. This is easy to do using the website and a colour printer. After the event I had photos taken from the back that I was able to share on my blog and twitter account. These days I’d also be sharing that photo on my Facebook and Instagram account pages, and adding suitable hashtags, to try to capture the attention of wider audiences.

Local libraries are also good to join as a member as this also allows you access to their website to recommend they get your book in and most often, suggestions from members and submissions for these are actioned internally. Always good to get around the gatekeepers!

Approaching Local Bookshops

Many local bookshops are open to supporting local authors if the quality of the book on offer is of a professional level and is a good fit. While they will be able to order your book online via suppliers, most will prefer to take a small amount of stock on consignment (sale or return) to see how sales go.

If your nearest bookshop is a few miles away, I’d recommend visiting in person ahead of time to get a feel for the shop – and perhaps buy a children’s (or other) book and chat with the staff to find out who looks after the buying side. Take along a copy of your book and a Title Information Sheet designed using Canva and including a link to your website. However, don’t necessarily plan to use these right away. If the shop is busy the last thing staff will want is an unplanned sales pitch from an author they’ve never heard of!

If the buyer isn’t there, ask when the quietest time might be to pop back for a chat. At this point you could mention your book and leave your Title Information Sheet. If the buyer is there, play it by ear. If it’s busy you could leave the information sheet and/or a copy of the book and offer to drop back at a later date.

Title Information Sheet

This is an A4 sheet, or similar size, designed to introduce and ‘sell’ your book-to-book buyers. The key components of your Title Information Sheet should be:

Book cover image

Other images from inside the book (optional, if room)

ISBN and page count

Publisher name and publication date


Target age range and topic/genre


Any testimonials

Author details

Contact details: website, email, phone


Supporting your bookshop with local marketing – checklist

If the bookshop agrees to take your book, go out of your way to make sales a success:

Offer to host a story time and signing session if they have a suitable space.

Support them by putting up flyers locally to let parents/children know that signed copies of your book are available at the shop. I did this when first starting out, making use of notice boards in coffee shops and local newsagents in areas popular with young families – use Canva for design.

Offer to provide a ‘shelf talker’ about your book – these are the mini book blurb/review labels encased in plastic that you see hanging off the shelf in many bookshops. I’ve done this with all of my books locally, and with Waterstones in the early days. Check the dimensions then create using Canva.

Go out of your way to mention that signed copies of your book are available at XYZ bookshop in any local press releases/articles or other marketing material you produce – including the ‘Where to buy my books’ page on your author website.

Offer to come in and sign books for personalised orders – provide a flyer for their till that promotes this offer and spread the word via your social media accounts.

Offer to work with the bookshop on local school events – while you would charge a fee to the school for your time, the book sales could be organised and pass through the bookshop. If there are lots of schools within reach, this strategy could work alongside the one below.


Contacting local schools

Local schools offer the perfect opportunity to connect with young readers, sell your books and start to raise the profile of your ‘author brand’ through word of mouth. That’s the good news. The less good news is that you must be prepared to put in a lot of hard work if you want to get a foot (or should that be book?!) inside their doors. They are incredibly busy places and, unless you strike lucky, it can take a lot of time to get a meaningful response about a potential visit. Also, many will have authors booked months ahead of time and – what with school trips, exams, school inspections, sports days and other festivities – organising a visit from an unknown author isn’t likely to be a top priority for them.

I only say this to manage expectations – so don’t give up. If you plan ahead and are professional and methodical in your approach, you will get there. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent in the early days getting the correct contact names, tailoring emails and following up when I didn’t hear back only to be told the teacher wasn’t available or that they’d get back to me (but they didn’t), or to discover the person I had been told to contact had left. It can be very disheartening, but what I’ve come to realise over the years is that the school and the staff who you will come into contact with are just busy! As a result, emails can be overlooked or forgotten about. Schools that I was convinced were actively avoiding me turned out to be delightful when I finally visited them – often a year or two on from when I’d first contacted them.

To this day there are schools close to where I live that I’ve not managed to get into, despite several rounds of conversations and emails. I no longer take this personally. I put it down to their being super-busy – or simply booked up with more well-known authors. But I will try them again at some stage.

Schools close to where you grew up

If it’s feasible logistically, why not also contact the school you went to as a child? You are likely to find it easier to book a visit here than at many other schools. When I contacted the primary school I went to they were thrilled, and I spent a day seeing classes with my first three books. Next on my to-do list is to try to arrange visits to others in the area – this is feasible as my relatives still live there, which means I can stay overnight and so avoid a potential cost for the school.


Contacting schools – checklist

Get the name of the literacy coordinator/school librarian from the school’s website or via their office.

Tailor each email, referring to the school by name and to the pupils by gender if the context is right – for example, if your book is loved by girls and you’re targeting an all-girls’ school you might mention this.

Mention any local connections – be that around the story, and/or local bookshops that stock your book, or the fact that you were a pupil at the school.

Include your book cover thumbnail(s) in the body of your email or at sign-off – to make the message stand out more.

Briefly outline the age groups your books are suitable for and the suggested format of your visit, ie readings with Q&A and/or workshop.

Attach a ‘Name of author – Books Overview’ PDF with a full blurb of each book. Keep to one page per book and try to make the layout engaging. Again, include thumbnails, a couple of interior illustrations if relevant, age range and perhaps a notable review or testimonial. (If you only have one book then call the document ‘Name of author – Book Title – overview’ instead.)

Attach a separate document entitled ‘Visit Format’ describing how you will run your sessions and session length – or include in the books overview PDF if you have room. (I talk more about visit format below.)

Leave any mention of fees to one side until you have spoken with your contact – unless you’re able to offer a visit for free (on which more below).

Over time you’ll be able to update these PDFs, as you sell more books and get more reviews. (For example, The Secret Lake was considered for adaptation by Children’s BBC TV a few years ago, so I now include that in a section I call ‘Interesting to know’.)


Local press, magazines or community websites

Local newspapers, magazines and community websites are always on the lookout for timely and engaging stories, so don’t be shy if you think you can find an angle to promote your book. You have nothing to lose aside from the time to look up the contact and draft your press release. If it comes to nothing you’ve at least had practice at press release writing and made contacts that might be useful in the future.

Approaching playgroups and other parent groups

If you have a picture book you could also approach local playgroups or other parent gatherings to see if they’d like a free session and the chance to buy signed books for the children. Or offer to host an event at home. Either way, you’ll slowly start to spread news about your brand.

Local events/fairs

Look out for school fairs, charity fêtes and other local events where you could take a table and sell your books. The cost of table hire is likely to be low and even if you only sell enough books to break even, you’ll be raising your author brand’s profile. And if you make a loss, you’ve still raised your author profile and had a fun day! One such event that I attended resulted in a whole school visit after a parent bought The Secret Lake for her daughter who took it into school and mentioned that I was local!

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