Alexandrea Fokken understands it takes patience to build your author brand. Find out which specific steps she recommends to grow your audience.
1. Tell me briefly about your latest book – what is it about and what motivated you to write it?
Harrison’s Hairy Problem is a story about an elephant named Harrison. Harrison the Elephant is a hairy elephant. From his head to his tail, Harrison is covered in hair. His only wish is to be hairless like all the other elephants he knows. The story is about self-love and learning that it is okay to be different.
I started writing Harrison’s story during the COVID-19 lockdown. My daughter has this rocking elephant that is very hairy, and I kept asking her what she wanted to name him. Being only nine months old at the time, of course she could not tell me. One day, we were playing with the rocking elephant and the idea just popped into my head. I quickly wrote down the story, asking my cousin and husband for ideas on what it should be about (either, no two elephants are alike or it’s okay to be different, which are similar lessons). The next thing I knew I was waiting for the copyrights and working on the illustrations.
2. How have your sales been?
For my first book, I believe sales are pretty good. It has sold over 150 copies in eight different countries. It has also been read out loud on two different YouTube channels and one podcast. I think that’s pretty good for my first story. However, I’m still learning how to market.
3. You’ve chosen self-publishing. How have you liked it so far? Talk about some of the positives and negatives you’ve encountered.
To tell you the truth, I chose to self-publish because I wanted to illustrate my story. A lot of publishing companies like to use their own illustrators, and I felt like I could get my story across better with my own doodles.
It was rather stressful doing it this way though, because I didn’t know what I was (and still don’t) doing. It would be nice to be able to take some of that weight of my shoulders and hand over to someone else for a bit.
4. What sort of networking have you done as an author, and what have been the results?
I have a Facebook page, website, Instagram page, and Reddit account. I try to post something on my Instagram and Facebook once or twice a week to promote my book and try to increase my following the rest of the week. I am also a part of some promotional Facebook groups, but I’m very wary about those. My website is there, but I feel like I don’t use it as much as I should.
5. Talk a little about the sort of marketing techniques you’ve used to sell your books. Which ones have been most successful?
Just talk about your book. You might feel like you’re overdoing it, but the more you talk the more people will listen. Think outside the box, too. Put your book in a “Little Free Library.”
6. Are there any marketing or networking techniques you’ve intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?
I’ve been avoiding paying other people to market my book for me. My goal has been to make the money I spent on my book back before I spend money on ads, which might hurt my book sales.
7. What are the most important things you’ve learned about publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
Word of mouth matters. I am not a big person that likes to put myself out there. However, posting your book on your social media page, having friends and family share the post or post pictures of themselves with the book can really help reach other people. Also, just talking to other authors can be helpful. You can learn so much from them. Don’t be shy when you have a question, because like they all say, “There is no such thing as a stupid question.”
8. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, what would it be?
I feel like I would tell more people about it before I published it. I only told twelve people about my book before I published it, because I was very embarrassed by it. Being an English speaker who struggles with the English language made it hard for me to believe in myself and my product. I felt like there was a lot of pressure on my book to do well. However, after I published my book and had so much positive feedback I learned that sometimes you just need to be confident and proud of something you’ve created. Never stop believing in yourself. You can do anything if you put your best foot forward.
9. New authors face the challenge of getting their books into the hands of readers. What advice do you have for an author just starting out?
Don’t be afraid to use social media. Post your link to your book on social media sites, have your friends and family share it, join Facebook groups that have to do with your book, join author support groups, and don’t stress about book sales. You are building your brand, it isn’t going to happen overnight.
10. What other projects are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on my next picture book. I’m hoping to have it published in January 2021. I’m trying not to give away too many details because I’m having a contest to win a free copy of my next book during the months of November and December.
11. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?
Helping children learn to believe in and love themselves, care for the world around them, and cherish friendships.
12. How can readers learn more about your books?
Follow me on Instagram or Facebook @alexandreasbooks. Also check out my website: www.alexandreasbooks.com.
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