Thursday, March 13, 2008

Truck Stuck Officially Hits the Road

great shoes

I didn't know I make so many faces when I read aloud

I viewed my trip to North Carolina as a dress rehearsal. On Feb. 17 the Magic Tree Bookstore in Oak Park hosted the Official Book Launch Party. The Magic Tree is our local independent children’s bookstore and I have been friends with the owners for years. They are very supportive of our SCBWI-IL Oak Park network. And they have taken a personal interest in the Truck Stuck manuscript, helping me brainstorm where to submit it. So of course this was the store of choice for a Launch Party. We scheduled the party for 1 pm on a Sunday afternoon and I sent an email flyer to everyone I knew inviting them.

Here is a copy of the flyer which I included as an attachment to an email note:

It’s a Party!

Bring your truck.
Will it get stuck?
There’ll be lemonade.
A balloon parade.
Lots to do—

Hope to see you at my book signing and launch party for Truck Stuck!

Magic Tree Bookstore (141 N. Oak Park Avenue, Oak Park, IL 60301)

Sunday, February 17, 2008 at 1 p.m.

Sallie Wolf


note the hood ornament, just like the illustration

I ordered a cake from a fellow SCBWI-IL member who is a fabulous baker. She made the most delicious cake to look exactly like the truck in the book. I bought lemonade and brought my suitcase full of trucks. I was ready to party!

A huge number of my friends showed up, with and without with small kids. The Magic Tree had rolled away several of their bookstands to clear a large space on the floor and laid down picnic blankets for the children to sit on. I pulled out my trucks and the kids started playing with the trucks. I read the story aloud, using the trucks and my shoebox viaduct to act out the story. Then I cut the truck cake and we celebrated with cake and lemonade, and while people enjoyed the cake and chatted, I signed book after book after book. The kids played with the trucks on the floor. The good news and the bad news is we ran out of books to sell! The Magic Tree staff said that had never happened at a signing before. But I think I should have warned them about how many people I had invited. We sold over 40 books and many more were ordered.

What did I learn from this event? Quite a lot. Number one, it really pays to know your local bookseller. The staff at the Magic Tree have taught me so much, including which publishers they like (Charlesbridge is one of them), which books are selling well, what books they would like to see published (broken bones is a topic they would like to see covered). I have attended many author/illustrator events there and make it a point to get to as many as I can just to see what other authors do, how they interact with their audience, what visual aids they bring. I like to discuss books with the staff because they are avid readers who enjoy the literature they sell. And they even referred me to another independent bookstore about an hour away and I have arranged to do a story hour with them in a few weeks.

What else did I learn? Let the bookstore know if I have reason to believe there will be a huge demand for books. I never asked the Magic Tree how many books they had ordered, but when I realized how many people might show up I knew they would not have ordered enough. Luckily, most of these people are good friends of mine and they are going to buy the book even if they have to order it. But there definitely was a “heat of the moment” feel to the party and it would have been good to not run out.

And lastly, I learned that I should not depend solely on the bookstore to send out press releases to the local papers. Partly, the paper wants the store to advertise and is reluctant to cover events it feels are just free publicity. And partly, the bookstore owners are just as busy as I am. And partly, if the paper gets more than one press release about an up-coming event, it might pay more attention. Contacting the local media is something I need to work at still. But as I say, I’m learning as I go.

And I also realized that, while the suitcase full of trucks is a great visual aid and attention-getter, it can also be a distraction. I am learning how to coordinate playing with the trucks with reading the book, but it takes practice.

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