—By BookWorks Author, Cindy Samul—
While reviewing Cindy Samul's book, Snowman Amuck, for Book of the Week, we discovered that she offered some fun activities for readers as book extras on her website. We asked her if she'd be willing to share a bit about the creation of that bonus material and how it's helped her with promotion and sales. She graciously obliged, including ideas for perks that you might offer, even if you don't write for kids.
When I wrote and illustrated my children's book, Snowman Amuck, I knew I wanted to create additional bonus material, extras, to help promote the book. I soon discovered a number of uses and benefits that make developing extras worth the time and effort.
Reasons to Create Book Extras
Drive traffic to your website.
At the end of your book, let readers know that they can get free extras by visiting your website. Add this information anywhere your book is listed or promoted.
Grow your email list.
Use an extra as a giveaway when readers join your email list. People are more likely to sign up if they get something of interest in return.
Make book signings more attractive.
Whether it's an art activity, a free resource list, or handing out bookmarks, book extras are a great way to engage potential book buyers. It's a handy conversation starter that gets you out from behind your signing table.
Can your young adult book be tied into the curriculum? I bet it can. Teachers appreciate prepared activities and if you plan on doing school visits, you'll want to develop this kind of material anyway.
Say "thank you".
Add book extras to your letters of thanks to super fans and supporters. It's also nice to include extras when mailing books to contest giveaway winners.
Where to Start
The first extra I created was printable coloring sheets. If you have a completed picture book, this is one of the easiest to put together. To start, I took three pieces of existing artwork from Snowman Amuck and converted them to line art. I added the book title and made sure the coloring sheets were easily printable to a standard (8.5 x 11) size. Then I saved them as PDFs and added the files to my website. Now the coloring sheets do double duty. Visitors to the website can download them, and when I do in-person events, it's easy to print out a stack, grab a bucket of markers and set up a coloring station.
For picture books, any kind of activity sheet can work. You might use word puzzles, connect-the-dots, mazes, crosswords, cut-out figures, doodling prompts—just to name a few. I went on to make paper dolls because I personally like them, and, when I was feeling really ambitious, a 12-page “How to Draw a Snowman” booklet, which I printed from my desktop and gave away at a local library event. The important thing is to use the same creativity and imagination you used to make your book.
(Tip: If you worked with an illustrator on your book, they can help you create extras too. See “How I Hired and Collaborated with Illustrators for My Book” by Carole P. Roman)
Activity sheets are a natural fit for picture books, but what about chapter books and young adult novels? For older children, you might develop a series of discussion topics and questions. How about writing prompts or journaling exercises based on your characters?
For a nonfiction children's book, you could create a study guide with activities, experiments or explorations relating to your subject. Again this material will be useful to you during school visits and teachers will appreciate that you put together a thoughtful, well-planned program.
Book Extras Are Not Just for Kids
Book extras are not just for children's books. Many adults have discovered the therapeutic value of coloring. Similar art exercises may work for the right kind of self-help or lifestyle book.
Other types of nonfiction seem to do well by offering bonus material not found in the book. I know I've joined email lists to get things like “Seven Steps to...” or “Top Ten Ways to...” in return. Think about your own online habits. What would catch your interest?
If you're a fiction writer you could offer a stand-alone short story about a favorite character from your novel. Consider doing extras geared to bookclubs—a page of printable bookmarks with a different discussion point on each one.
Book extras are not limited to printables. I'm currently working on a “How to Draw a Snowman” video to go along with the booklet already on my website. Videos are great extras that anyone with a smartphone can make. Would an author interview about your writing process work for you? How about reading that bonus short story you wrote?
Book Extra's Are Fun Work
I know it's a huge effort to write and produce a book without having to think about even more material, but I believe the benefits are still worth it. Beyond the promotional uses mentioned above, there is something satisfying about finishing a project in days rather than the months (or years) it takes to write a book. It's a small creative diversion that I find energizing. Yes, it's work, but it's fun work. And speaking of fun, have a peek at my book trailer, another part of my promo toolkit that was fun to produce.
(Tip: If you're considering a trailer for your book, (and you should) check out "How I Made and Use My Book Trailer" by Niki Breeser Tschirgi.)
Cindy Samul is an illustrator with a life-long love of books, cartoons, and gummy bears. She’s a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design and currently lives in Connecticut with a Limerickman. Visit www.CindySamul.com for more information.