Even before the economic crunch, large publishers might have had trouble bringing over an author from India to promote a picture book. For Tilbury House in Gardiner, Maine, which publishes eight books a year, funding a U.S. tour for Katia Novet Saint-Lot would have been out of the question. Instead Saint-Lot (author of Amadi’s Snowman, illustrated by Dimitrea Tokunbo) and Tilbury publicist Sarah McGinnis hit on the idea of touring virtually.
“We were looking to expand the book’s presence online with reviews and interviews,” says McGinnis, who got so many requests for blog visits that the tour grew to encompass the entire month of November. Enough requests have continued to come in since Saint-Lot and Tokunbo hit the (virtual) road—which kicked off on Saint-Lot’s own blog, Scribbly Katia—that they plan to make another round of Web visits.
Although it’s too soon to tell just how many copies of Amadi’s Snowman—about an Igbo boy in Nigeria who disdains reading until he sees a picture of a snowman in a book—the tour will sell, it has generated a number of hits online. According to McGinnis, a new Tilbury book might get 150 hits, while Amadi’s Snowman has received more than 4,000. Another indication that the tour is generating a lot of attention online is the fact that the book was recently nominated for a Cybil Award by children’s and young adult bloggers.
“With a traditional tour, when it’s over, it’s over,” says McGinnis. “In an online tour it will be available indefinitely.” Posted interviews and reviews continue to place high in online search results for Amadi’s Snowman. Plus the tour has enabled Saint-Lot, who was born in France and has lived in the U.S., England and Nigeria, to reach out to schools in Haiti, Nigeria, Italy and Canada.
Brooklyn-based author and illustrator Tokunbo, whose next book, The Sound of Kwanzaa, illustrated by Lisa Cohen, will be published by Scholastic, the virtual tour is a “cool” concept. “With each book I make connections with folks I hadn’t with previously published books,” she says. “The virtual tour makes my world bigger still.”
Coming up in the next few days are a posting of Saint-Lot’s photo essay on life in India at Bri Meets Books and an interview with Tokunbo at The Well-Read Child. By the end of the journey both author and illustrator will have “traveled” around the world and touched children from the U.S. to Nigeria and back again.