A children’s book can have a long shelf life for any number of reasons: for one, parents love to share childhood favorites with their kids. (What’s up, Dr. Seuss?)
Attracting teachers can be another surefire way to keep sales going. The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds, a book that encourages kids to embrace their creative side, has been popular among educators since it was published in 2003. In 2009, Terry Shay, an elementary school teacher in Iowa who is a fan of the book, dreamed up International Dot Day in order to bring more creativity-related activities to the classroom.
The event, celebrated annually on or near September 15, gained traction on social media, and Candlewick, the book’s publisher, seized on the interest. Since 2012, Candlewick has been promoting the event to teachers at conferences and via email and postcards. The publisher also produces and distributes supporting materials, such as classroom guides and temporary tattoos. In 2016, seven million participants in 165 countries signed up to participate.
“Teachers love to teach this book,” says Phoebe Kosman, assistant director of marketing at Candlewick; many blog their lesson plans. The title has sold more than half a million copies in the U.S. and Canada, Kosman says.
Educators have also been integral to the success of 2007’s The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), about a brother and sister who run dueling lemonade stands. The middle grade novel became popular in classrooms as a way to teach business concepts. “When a book makes it to the level of being taught in schools, it helps continue the momentum,” says Linda Magram, v-p, marketing and publicity, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers. The Lemonade War has sold one million copies in print and e-book, according to the publisher, and spawned four sequels.
In 2012, Tracy Weniger, the school programs manager at Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a pediatric cancer charity, contacted Davies about a partnership. As part of the Great Lemonade War Contest, schoolchildren around the country host lemonade stands to raise money for the charity. HMH donates copies of the title to participating schools, and provides other resources along the way, further raising the book’s profile. This year, The Lemonade War is featured as the annual pick for Texas Reads One Book, with more than 60,000 families participating.
Simon & Schuster, to promote its YA backlist, uses its online platform Riveted. The social community for teens started out as a physical mailing list about a decade ago and has been through several iterations, most recently operating under the name Pulse It.
The site’s frequent giveaways often are timed to coincide with a new release by an author. For instance, to promote the December 2016 publication of Neal Shusterman’s UnBound, S&S gave away e-book copies of the first title in the series, 2009’s Unwind. Riveted also features author guest posts and publishes deleted scenes from books. “Ideally, we’re building new fans by showing off the older work,” says Matt Pantoliano, associate director of digital marketing. “Once readers have discovered an author, they want to read more.”
At Sasquatch Books, local interest is key to sales of the Larry Gets Lost series, which sets a pup loose to explore a city while on vacation with his family. The first book, 2007’s Larry Gets Lost in Seattle by Michael Mullin, has sold 63,000 print copies, per the publisher. It’s not only stocked by bookstores but also at the gift shops for attractions Larry visits, such as the Space Needle.
Nicole Banholzer, publicity and marketing manager at Sasquatch Books, says that special markets sales team at its distributor, Penguin Random House, has helped get other editions of the book into local attractions—the New York edition sells at the Museum of Modern Art, for instance, and the Chicago edition at Willis Tower.
“It’s a great way to introduce kids to some of the history of a city they’re visiting,” Banholzer says. “It’s also fun for local kids to see their favorite hometown landmarks in a book.”
Banholzer also attributes the continued interest to the growing frontlist, because, she says, backlist titles are a lot easier to sell when they are part of an ongoing series. The publisher is releasing a 10th anniversary edition of the Seattle title this month and will work with 17 independent bookstores in 11 cities to put on story time events. Each bookshop will read the local edition of Larry Gets Lost; participating booksellers have received city-specific activity kits and giveaway items.
“There are a lot of different opportunities for kid’s books, like hosting story time events, and reaching educators, school librarians, and parents,” Banholzer says. “Everything doesn’t have to be brand-new.”