In an Interview, Lee Fodi Shares
His Book Marketing Tips

I met Lee Fodi at Word on the Street in Vancouver. His wizard hat drew attention. His enthusiasm for his writing left a big impression.

I've watched Lee's publishing journey with interest. When I learned about his opportunity to teach writing in Korea, I knew I had to leave my Peeping Tom mode behind and ask for a serious interview. Lee generously agreed to let other writers inside his writing and marketing.

This part of the interview deals with his marketing.

Lee Edward FodiWH: How important would you say your own marketing efforts are in promoting your books?
Lee Fodi:Invaluable. If not for my own marketing efforts, many of my books may well have disappeared into oblivion. Even though I enjoy a great relationship with Brown Books, the reality is that they are a smaller press and they don’t have the exposure of, say, a Harper & Collins. By marketing my books directly to the fans, I’ve been able to gain a swell of support that has continued to open new doorways for me.

WH: How important is the Kendra Kandlestar shop to your income?
Lee Fodi:To date, this shop has not been a significant income generator for me, but I have also not done anything to promote or publicize it, other than having it on my website. I plan to step up the importance of the store with the release of the new Kendra Kandlestar book this October.

WH: You do school visits and offer support to teachers by providing teaching guides. How important are these factors to your sales?Lee Fodi marketing books at school
Lee Fodi:School visits are absolutely essential to the success of my books. I believe in spreading the word about my books through the grassroots level, speaking to kids and teachers directly. I sell many books through schools, and, of course, I get to meet many of my fans in person, which is just about the best thing in the world.

When I visit a school, I try to both entertain and educate kids. For some kids, just meeting a real author is inspirational. For others, they want more; they really want to understand the nuts and bolts of getting published, while others want to gain insight into my creative process, so they can compare it to their own. So it can be challenging to meet all these demands in one visit—but it’s a challenge I embrace.

WH: You have a series of strong endorsements for your work from a range of organizations. How did those groups learn about you?
Lee Fodi: Word of mouth has been my best friend! I’ve found that I get a lot of referrals from one school to the next, based on my reputation. When it comes to endorsements, I have to defer credit to the publicist at Brown Books. She has done an amazing job of chasing after the people I’ve worked with to obtain these wonderful endorsements.

WH: You've been not only listed, but featured in Amazon. How did you accomplish that and how much did that feature affect sales?
Lee Fodi:Amazon remains a bit of a mystery to me, but I suppose it’s a bit of a self-feeding machine. The higher your book is ranked (in sales), then the more likely it is that people will come across it in the amazon market place, which of course means that it is more likely that to book will be purchased! For my first book, Corranda’s Crown, I initiated an extensive marketing campaign that encouraged people to buy the book on a specific day, which led to it jumping to a best-selling rank. This occurred on, which was then a fairly young market place. Many authors seem to lead similar campaigns these days, making amazon more competitive and thereby making it more difficult to rise to the top.

WH: Which marketing idea has worked best for you?
Lee Fodi: My website has been the most valuable tool for me. It’s allowed me to spread awareness worldwide and to give teachers and kids a place to get to know me. When teachers are referred to me, then can go to my website and instantly see what I’m all about. I’ve booked many a school visit based on the strength of my website. For my new book, Kendra Kandlestar and the Door to Unger, I will be trying something different by producing a book trailer, which I hope to release later this month. A book trailer is just like a movie trailer—except, of course, it’s for a book. I’m excited to see what response this book trailer gives me. I think it’s something that will really grab the attention of kids.

Otherwise, I would say that the school visits themselves and word-of-mouth marketing have probably have helped me the most. By promoting my book through schools, I’ve met many strong supporters and as a result have been given all sorts of speaking opportunities. Also, I’ve had teachers and librarians nominate my books for awards, and it’s these award programs that then turn into marketing machines of their own. Because of my work in schools, I was even given the opportunity of illustrating the 2007 poster for International School Library day, which will be used in schools all over the world.

WH: What advice would you give other writers when it comes to marketing?
Lee Fodi:No one can (or indeed should be able to) market a book like the author. After all, who knows a work better than the person who created it? So get out there, and market it. I think some authors think of this as boasting—but I think if you worked so hard to write and publish a book that must mean you really believe in it. And, if you really believe in it, then you should be able to spread that belief.

In my career, especially early on, I felt that the opportunities to market myself and my books were few and far between—but I took every slim crack, every chance I was given, no matter how small. In my opinion, it’s sometimes the smallest, tiniest cracks that can turn into giant windows of success.

I’ll never forget getting an obscure email through my website four years ago. It was from a person who wanted to start a creative writing program for children in his community and was looking for a children’s author to lead the way. I almost ignored the email. At the time, I had one book to my name. Why would this person ask me? But he had asked me, so, on a whim, I decided to meet this person for coffee and discuss his vision. I realized the opportunity before me. It involved a lot of risk in terms of my time and commitment. I had to develop my very own curriculum and teach a regular on-going class to children aged between 8-12. I had no formal teaching experience, and had no idea if I could do it. But what I did know is that I had a love of creating and this was the type of passion that I wanted to spread. So I took this slim crack of a chance.

Four years later, this one class that I started four years ago has turned into a formal teaching organization, the Creative Writing for Children Society of Vancouver. We now run 150 kids through our program a year, and we’ve had to hire more teachers to deal with the increasing demand. I’ve had the opportunity to not only spread the awareness of my own books to all of these kids, but I’ve been given the noble task of helping each of them desktop publish their own books. And, I’ve just returned from South Korea after leading our first-ever offshore writing camp. I sometimes shudder to think what I would have missed out on, if I hadn’t grabbed onto that tiny branch held out to me so long ago.

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