A few years ago, after being introduced through a mutual friend, author Elizabeth Hamilton-Guarino and illustrator Sandra Waugh decided to team up on a picture book that celebrates all art forms, cooperation, and the idea that anyone, young or old, should “let their dreams fly.” Lucky for us, their dream became a reality known as Pinky Doodle Bug, which was released in December.
After completing the book they were cautious about pitching the big children’s publishing houses, which are often hesitant to take on debut authors in the picture book genre. Elizabeth and Sandra also had reservations about traditional publishing’s strict storybook arcs and long-lead printing times.
“In the world of children’s publishing, which often feels like a secret club, we felt our book may or may not ever come to life,” Elizabeth says. “We didn’t want to risk it… We wanted to really remain positive and put all of our positive energy and life into the project.”
The relationship between the two women and Lulu has been strong from the start — which isn’t a surprise given the collaborative message of Pinky Doodle Bug. In addition to purchasing Lulu’s Global Distribution Package, which puts the book in every bookstore (on order) as well as on multiple online retailers, Elizabeth and Sandra also worked closely with Lulu to market their book.
“Lulu.com has been a critical part of our success. They have had on-the-spot customer service, featured our book, tweeted about us and really help us market the book also, which is probably the biggest boost needed,” Elizabeth says.
Elizabeth and Sandra’s marketing efforts didn’t stop there. They have a robust website that launched before the book released so that they could showcase their ideas and bring the characters to life. By using snappages.com, they have full control over the design and content of their site though the company’s easy drag-and-drop system. This allows them to update pinkydoodlebug.com at least once a week so that everything showcased is current and relevant. Their site has also been a place for Sandra to post coloring pages that have proved so popular a Pinky Doodle Bug activity book will be out soon!
Recognizing that having a website is only the first step toward successful marketing — and that getting people there is the second — both women used social media to boost traffic to their website. Elizabeth leveraged her business’ Twitter account (30,000 followers) and also created a Pinky-specific Facebook page and Twitter account (700 followers) to give away the book and raise brand awareness — within reason. Both women abide by “Twitter 4 Business Specialist” Keith Keller’s assertion that tweeters should abide by the 1 to 10 ratio, meaning 1 tweet about you and 10 about something or someone else.
Although scheduling (they’re moms!) and cost constraints have prohibited Elizabeth and Sandra from working with a PR agency, they’ve both done school and/or library visits, which paid off. Pinky Doodle Bug recently received the prestigious GOLD Mom’s Choice Award, which honors excellence in family-friendly media products. Elizabeth advises that authors seize the opportunities they can: “Sometimes the reason for being there [a book festival, for instance] might not be to sell books, but rather to meet someone or to learn something about someone or yourself.”
In the future Elizabeth and Sandra plan to let their own Pinky dreams fly. Outside of an upcoming activity book and new picture book, Pinky Doodle Dance, the author and illustrator team are hoping to create Pinky dolls, media, and more.