The Ultimate Guide to Selling Childrens Books

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Marketing books is hard enough. But what happens when your readers aren’t the people paying for the books? That’s the problem children’s authors face. Alliance of Independent Authors members, Karen Inglis and Kate Woodard discuss selling children’s books and the methods that have worked for them.

How to sell children’s books

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. Find out more about Karen on her website, Twitter. The below excerpt has been extracted and edited from Karen’s book on children’s book marketing. The updated edition of her popular non-fiction title How to Self-publish and Market a Children’s Book (

Karen Inglis, a children’s author and consultant for the Alliance of Independent Authors on the self-publication of children’s books.

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 onesThe company in your area provides numerous opportunities to take photos and create content for social media marketing.

 Of course, during the restrictions we have all faced during Lockdown you’ll need to adapt some of the strategies below by making contact by email, or via snail mail or hand delivered mail where libraries and bookshops are operating click and collect.

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Approaching local libraries

I suggest starting by seeing if your local library has any story time events for kids and offer to do one for free. This is a good way to get real-life events going without any added pressure since you won’t be asking for money. Be aware that the library might need a few months of preparation, so it’s best to let them know your idea as early as possible.

I recently had my very first event at the library in Barnes, the London village I call home. I was initially quite anxious, not knowing if I’d have no attendees or an overwhelming amount. Fortunately, the turnout was perfect. There were seven children, seven adults, my little sister taking pictures from the back, and several library staff members. The librarian even went the extra mile in decorating and providing refreshments like tea, orange juice, and biscuits. If allowed, you could even bring cake for the occasion.

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 Canva.comAfter the event I took pictures from the rear that I was able to post on my blog and Twitter. I would also make sure to share the same photo on my Facebook and Instagram accounts, with some hashtag that could attract the attention of more people.

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Approaching Local Bookshops

Many local bookstores may agree to promote local writers if their book is up to a professional standard and is suitable for their shop. Even though they can acquire the book through the Ingram distribution channel, most stores prefer to take a small number of copies on a consignment basis (whereby the store can return any unsold copies).

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 SheetI created a design with Canva that contains a link to my website, but I would not recommend using it right away. When a store is busy, the staff might not want an unexpected sales pitch from someone they do not know.

If the buyer isn’t present, inquire about when the best time to come back and discuss your book might be. Mention the title of your book and leave behind a Title Information Sheet. If the buyer is in the store, take the situation as it comes. If it is busy, leave the Title Information Sheet and/or a copy of the book and offer to return at a later date.

Title Information Sheet

This A4 sheet, or something similar, is meant to present and promote your book to potential buyers. The essential elements of your Title Information Sheet should include:

  • Book cover image
  • Other images from inside the book (optional, if room)
  • ISBN and page count
  • Publisher name and publication date
  • RRP
  • Target age range and topic/genre
  • Synopsis/blurb
  • Any testimonials
  • Author details
  • Contact details: website, email, phone
  • Available locally on consignment – terms 40% (or whatever you decide)
  • Available to order from UK [other country] wholesalers*
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(*on the basis that wholesalers can order from Ingram Spark)

You’ll find an example information sheet in Karen’s book or by searching online.

Supporting your bookshop with local marketing – checklist

If the bookshop has agreed to stock your book, it is important to do everything possible to ensure its success in sales.

  • 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

Schools provide an ideal way to engage with younger readers, promote your books, and begin to build recognition for your “author brand” through word of mouth. The challenge is that you must be willing to put in a great deal of effort if you wish to gain access. Schools are extremely busy places, and unless you are fortunate, it may take some time to receive a helpful answer about a potential visit. In addition, since many schools book authors months in advance, scheduling a visit from an unrecognized author will likely not be a priority when compared to other events such as exams, school inspections, sports days, and other activities.

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 busyEmails can sometimes be forgotten or overlooked, and I experienced this first-hand. I had been sure that certain schools were purposely not responding to me, yet when I went to visit them, I found that they were actually quite welcoming – often this happened a year or two after I initially reached out.

I have still not been able to secure a place in some of the local schools near me, even after multiple attempts. I don’t take this to heart anymore; I think it’s just because they are too busy or they have already been booked by more popular authors. Nevertheless, I plan on trying again in the future.

Schools close to where you grew up

If it is possible from a logistical standpoint, why not reach out to the school you attended as a child? It may be easier to arrange a visit than at many other schools. When I contacted the primary school I had gone to, they were very excited and I ended up spending a day in the classrooms with my first three books. My next goal is to try and arrange visits to other schools in the area – fortunately, my relatives still live there, making it possible for me to stay overnight and saving the school from any potential expenses.

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 authorBook 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).
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Over time you’ll be able to update these PDFs, as you sell more books and get more reviews. (For example, The Secret LakeMy book was once thought of as a potential adaptation by Children’s BBC TV a few years ago, so I have incorporated that detail into a subsection I call ‘Interesting to Know’.

Local press, magazines or community websites

Reach out to local newspapers, magazines, and community websites to share your story. If you think you can find a unique angle to promote your book, don’t hesitate to take the time and effort to look up the contact and write a press release. Even if it doesn’t come to fruition, you can still benefit from the experience of writing a press release and gain some valuable contacts for future endeavors.

Include an engaging image alongside your own headshot with a short bio. Here’s me promoting my most recent title ‘The Tell-Me Tree’ (photo right) in the summer of 2020 – a short article appeared in our local village magazine that went out to several thousand households. Of course, be sure to mention that the book is available to order from the local bookshop as well as online.  

Approaching playgroups and other parent groups

If you own a picture book, you might consider attending playgroups or other parent gatherings to give a free session and the opportunity to purchase books that have been signed for the children. Alternatively, you could host an event at your house in order to promote 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 of school visit after a parent bought The Secret Lake for her daughter who took it into school and mentioned that I was local! 

Added benefits of local marketing 

Do not discount the importance of local marketing – in my experience, it has resulted in:

  • Invitations to judge poetry competitions at two local schools – which in each case led to paid whole of school visits later on (and many book sales)
  • Requests to run Self-publishing training at the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival
  • A photo op with a famous sports journalist holding Eeek! The Runaway Alien – great for social media!
  • A request to run a free after school author talk to help raise funds for a local primary’s library; parents and pupils paid the PTA a fee to attend. This in turn led to a huge number of book sales since the parents (who hold the purse strings) were in attendance!

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Publishing English Language Children’s Books in a Foreign Country

Kate Woodard is the author of many children’s books including Petrified Pete. She is based in Brazil where she travels to bilingual schools throughout the country, sharing her books and her love of writing. You can find out more about Kate at or follow her on instagram at @katewoodardstories.

The AskALLi team asked Kate all about her experiences of marketing children’s books abroad.

  • What marketing or methods or tactics did you use to sell your English language books in a foreign country?

I came to the conclusion that starting locally was the most efficient approach, so I contacted local bilingual schools to inquire about the possibility of having an English-speaking author visit. I was pleased to find out that around 80% of them were interested, and I arranged times to come to their schools. After successfully connecting with local bilingual schools, many of them invited me back to participate in their book fairs and reading weeks.

I endeavored to reach a larger audience by reaching out to bilingual schools throughout the nation. I was able to make time for a few book author appearances in certain cities before the COVID-19 crisis began.

I reached out to nearby weekend festivals and bazaars and invested in a book display to advertise and distribute my books.

I observed that a few of the local cafes had sections dedicated to reading, so I contacted the managers and was able to arrange for some of my books to be sold. Additionally, I gave away a couple of books to certain cafes. Whenever I go out for breakfast at one of these cafes, I sometimes see young people reading one of my books and it always feels great!

I reached out to a few collaborative stores in Brazil to discuss ways to promote my new book. One of them was opening its doors around the same time I was launching my book. They kindly offered to host a book launch party, which was a great way for me to introduce my book to my public, as well as helping a local business grow its customer base.

  • How did you build working relationships with schools?

I always keep an eye on the social media accounts of my schools. When I see that an event is being advertised or a literary-related activity is about to take place, I contact the school and offer to be of assistance as an author.

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Recently, I have been hosting author readings on Zoom as the world has gone digital. I read one of my stories to the children and then we do a joint activity like sketching their own interpretations of characters from my book or creating a new story together.

  • What did you learn about printing your book?

Printing a children’s picture book requires a lot of consideration. When I first started, I couldn’t find a local printer, so I had to look into printing-on-demand options from the US. However, I soon discovered this wouldn’t be cost-effective. To make sure I could make a decent profit I worked out the cost of production and the price I wanted to sell the books for, then I approached smaller local printers to see what their rates would be for bulk orders. After some trial and error (where the printer had to redo some of my books due to mismanagement) I eventually found a reliable one. To avoid having too many unsold books, I also tried to work out how many I would need to print. There is no sure-fire way to do this, but I got a better idea of the quantities I would sell after visiting schools. This helped me to decide how many to print each time.

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SCBWI Member Benefits: Marketing for Self-Published Authors

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is a charitable organization that is among the biggest of its kind. It works to support authors and illustrators of children’s literature, magazines, film, television, and multimedia. It is the only organization that is dedicated to the group mentioned. Furthermore, SCBWI is the first official member of the Alliance of Independent Authors.

As a self-published author or illustrator, the SCBWI is eager to provide assistance in promoting your work. There are numerous opportunities to explore that can help you reach a wider audience. Check out the options below!

SCBWI BookStop

Each year from October to November, members are given the opportunity to create a sales page for a book that has been released in the last 1-3 years on our website. This page will be available for six weeks and our 2020 BookStop promotion received 68K views from people across the globe. This is a great way for readers to explore, buy, and appreciate the knowledge that you share through your book.

The Book: The Essential Guide to Publishing for Children

The Book is our yearly publication, updated with up-to-the-minute market surveys, The Book Reviewers Directory, an annotated bibliography of essential reference books for any aspiring children’s book authors, and so much more. This year, included in the 2021 Edition of The Book, is a brand new, s—the best practices, what you need to know before you self-publish, hiring an illustrator, and using a Kickstarter to fund your self-published book! 

Awards & Grants

Spark Award: The Spark Award is one of the most exciting opportunities we offer for self-published SCBWI members. The Spark winner receives a $1,000 cash prize—both the winner and honor recipients receive seals to display on their book, the opportunity to teach a digital workshop about their publishing journey, the chance to be featured in the SCBWI online bookstore and publicized through SCBWI social networking sites. The winners will also get the opportunity to attend any conference of their choice tuition free (other than for extras such as critiques and intensives). For more information, please visit the Spark Award submissions page here.

Happy Book Birthday

There’s nothing more exciting than a book birthday! On the first Monday of each month, we will display all the books released that month, including those published by self-published authors. Submissions are now open for the April 2020 edition of the Happy Book Birthday program! For more info see here.

Member Bookstore

Take advantage of our Member Bookstore! Independently published authors are encouraged to add any previous publications to their home profile, by clicking “add” under the Publications section. This will automatically add your title to our BookstoreBooks authored by you can be discovered by both members and non-members by searching a particular category or keywords.

Speaker’s Bureau

Are you looking to engage with school visits? SCBWI has created a Speaker’s Bureau, which is an online registry used by teachers and librarians to source speakers for these visits. If you would like to be included in this list, you can do so by updating your SCBWI Member Profile under the “edit profile” tab.

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Frequently asked questions

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How can I sell children’s books?

You can sell children’s books by listing them on online marketplaces, such as Amazon and eBay. You can also create an online store, or join an online bookseller community to list your items. You can also sell books to local libraries, bookstores, or even host a yard sale.

Where is the best place to sell children’s books?

The best place to sell children’s books depends on your specific needs. If you want to reach a large number of potential buyers, online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay are great options. If you want to reach a more local audience, you can sell books to local libraries, bookstores, or host a yard sale.

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What should I consider when selling children’s books?

When selling children’s books, it’s important to consider the condition of the books, the age range of the books, and the price. You should also consider the shipping costs and any fees associated with selling the books online. Additionally, you should research the competition and current market prices.

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How do I price children’s books?

When pricing children’s books, you should consider the condition of the book, its age range, and the current market prices. You should also factor in the cost of shipping and any fees associated with selling the books online. Additionally, you should research the competition to get an idea of the price range.

What is the best way to market children’s books?

The best way to market children’s books is to create an online presence. You can list your books on online marketplaces, create an online store, join an online bookseller community, or create social media accounts to advertise your books. Additionally, you can use word-of-mouth marketing and host events to promote your books.

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