Featured Author Viviane Elbee January 2019

Viviane ElbeeHappy New Year, 12 x 12 Members! We’re are excited to announce that for the third year in a row, our Featured Author posts will come from our 12 x 12 community. We are so proud of the success of our members and love that we get to celebrate with you this way. Remember these posts are here to encourage you. If you don’t have an agent or a book deal yet, that’s where these authors were just a few years ago. It takes time to walk the publishing path and we’re here to help, educate, and encourage you along the way. 

We are particularly happy to bring you this month’s Featured Author. Viviane Elbee was a 2016 12 x 12 Diversity Scholarship recipient. During her time as a scholarship member, Viviane signed with her agent and received an offer for her debut picture TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI, which just came out this past November. Today, Viviane shares her journey and what she’s wishes she would have known earlier. Thanks, Viviane!

Yay! It’s a new year! It’s a great time to advance your storytelling career and start learning about book marketing.

A decade ago, I joined an SCBWI critique group, determined to improve my writing skills. Then I joined 12 x 12 and gained so much knowledge about the craft, thanks to excellent webinars, blog posts and community discussions. During all these years, I was working on the craft, but I didn’t pay much attention to marketing. Then, two years ago, shortly after winning a 12 x 12 diversity scholarship, I received an offer for TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI and signed with an agent (Natascha Morris @socalledYAlife). Suddenly I discovered a whole new world– the world of book marketing.

Here are some tips and things I WISH I HAD KNOWN and DONE EARLIER. Hopefully when you get that yes! and your publisher asks you for your marketing plan, you’ll be prepared.

#1 – You can start planning your marketing NOW – even if you don’t have any manuscripts under contract or publications. Some successful self-published authors recommend starting even before your manuscripts are polished!

#2 – Reserve a proper domain name and set up a basic website.

  • Websites should have an: ABOUT ME page, a CONTACT page (usually an email form), and a SOCIAL MEDIA link page. If you have publications, you should have a PUBLICATIONS / BOOKS page(s). If you’re agented, mention your agent.
  • You may also wish to include an EVENTS page.
  • Some authors and illustrators have blogs and newsletters.
  • Email signups can be a great way to build a platform too.
  • It’s important that your website be about YOU. You’re the brand. (Hopefully one day you’ll have LOTS of books listed on your website.)
  • If the “about me” page is tough, read other author and illustrator bios for inspiration. Gather your ideas, rough drafts, and polished manuscripts and look for recurring subjects. A generic idea is: YOUR NAME is a _____ [writer, illustrator…] who loves _____ [giraffes, the great outdoors, food] and is currently working on ____ [a picture book, an art portfolio, a novel…]. (Keep your bio in 3rd person because it’s better for search engine optimization).
  • Taking an author branding course can help. (This is one that I took.) Andrea provides a lot of videos, worksheets and exercises about branding, and there are sections that will help you plan your website.)
  • Having a website makes you look like a serious professional. This cannot be replaced by a Facebook page or Twitter or Instagram.
  • Update your website regularly

#3 – Social Media. Reserve your name on all the major social media platforms even if you don’t intend to use all of them. You don’t want a bot to grab your name and post nonsense. Set aside some time to figure out which social media platforms you like best – you don’t need to be active on all platforms, but after you get a yes, your publisher and agent may ask you to be active online, so it helps to know the basics and which sites you like best.

  • If you feel lost online, reach out to your fellow 12 x 12ers! They’ll gladly friend you in FB and follow you on Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest and Goodreads and more.
  • Join Goodreads. Use a real photo of yourself (a good one that you are proud of) and your bio. Add books you’ve read and want to read to your virtual shelves. Update your book shelves regularly. About 4-6 months from publication, you’ll have the opportunity to register yourself as a Goodreads author and “claim” your book. That will make it easier for book fans to find you and connect. (It’s easy to add published 12 x 12 books to your to-read list – there’s a Goodreads 12×12 Listopia list – https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/122442.12x12_Books).
  • If you find you like Instagram, use the hashtag #bookstagram to find the book lovers.
  • Think before you post– how will this content reflect on you? It’s safe to post pics of baby giraffes in the snow, but complaints about book industry people could hurt your chances with some agents and editors.

Teach Your Giraffe to Ski by Viviane Elbee#4 – Get to know your local bookstores. Plan regular trips a few times a year. Ask booksellers for their recommendations. If you have a relationship with the booksellers and they recognize you, it’ll be a lot easier to tell them about your book when it comes out and they’ll be more willing to help you set up a launch party. (Yes, buy a book while you’re there. But if you overspend in bookstores, bring cash only.)

#5 – Get to know your libraries and librarians. Some libraries organize wonderful events with authors and illustrators.

#6 – Build connections with people. Even if people don’t buy your book, they may recommend it to others. Networking is important, and SCBWI and 12 x 12 are great ways to connect with others in the KidLit industry. It’s also good to network with people who are not in the book industry – you never know who might buy your book!

#7 – Pay attention to local presses –newspapers, radios and TV. Do you know any of the journalists/freelancers? Can you follow them on social media and build a connection? Your publisher may ask about your press connections in your marketing plan questionnaire. As a new debut author, it can be hard to get an article or interview that’s just about you, but expanding the subject matter may lead to a winning article idea. Here’s an article a local paper ran about my critique group after I suggested the idea to one of the journalists. The press thought it was interesting that there was a large group of local talent in our area, the article helped boost my critique partners’ work, and it mentions TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI. (https://www.minthilltimes.com/featured/successful-local-group-of-childrens-authors-illustrators-a-mint-hill-time-exclusive-interview/)

#8 – After you get a book deal, it’s time to update your website. Include the upcoming book, update your social media profiles, and let your personal connections know.

#9 – Once your book appears in Amazon, you’ll want to claim your book and set up your Amazon author profile.

#10 – Joining EPIC 18 was my single most helpful marketing tactic after I got a book deal. This is a debut group of authors and illustrators with books releasing in 2018 (https://epiceighteen.weebly.com/). I found out about EPIC 18 via 12 x 12, and similar groups form regularly. If you have a book scheduled for release, check with 12 x 12 to connect with a similar group. Some author/illustrator groups include previously published authors with a new book releasing that year. Epic 18 was incredibly supportive and educational – everyone shared tips about things like book marketing timelines, how to set up a book launch party, the importance of signing up for an Amazon author central account, how to contact ARC review chains and bloggers, which pens to use for autographs, and the best places to buy book swag such as bookmarks, postcards and stickers. (If any of you would like to share extra marketing tips in the comments, it’d be much appreciated.)

I’m hoping this year will be a great year for all of us. There are always things to learn in the book industry, but I also hope that you’ll explore and discover new ideas and hobbies outside of your writing life. If I hadn’t taken the time to learn to ski a few years ago, I would have never written TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI. New activities can enrich your life and may inspire a winning manuscript.

So, like a certain adventurous giraffe, I encourage all of you to enter the new year with a Whoosh! and a Wheee! and bravely seek out new opportunities.


Viviane Elbee is a children’s author creating fun books for fond memories. When not writing, Viviane has all kinds of adventures with her family, both at home in the Carolinas and abroad. Her debut picture book, TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI, came out in November 2018 (Albert Whitman and Co.). Her work has also appeared in Highlights High Five magazine.

Viviane is giving away one signed copy of TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI to one lucky 12 x 12 member. Be sure to register!

GOLD membership renewal – January 3-4
SILVER members enter Rafflecopter for 2017 GOLD Level – January 3-4
SILVER members upgrade to GOLD – January 5-7
ALL Returning 12 x 12 members can renew at the SILVER Level – January 8 – February 28

Registration opens for new 12 x 12 members on January 8th. Sign up to be notified on our Membership Page.

This Post Has 106 Comments

  1. Thanks Viviane, and perfect timing! One of my goals for 2019 is to (finally) create website, and I have been pestering my daughter/social media consultant for help. 🙂 I appreciate your advice and guidelines.

  2. Great post, Viviane! Thank you for giving us a look at marketing (an aspect of writing that few of us understand) and what you did to help promote, Teach Your Giraffe To Ski

  3. Great advice for the new year as we all look positively to our future published PBs. Each of these points is about all the connections we’re making now and can plan ahead for — thanks Viviane!

  4. I have a website set up but not published yet. You’ve given me lots to think about. Looking forward to reading your book too!

  5. Wow. This is chock full of good advice. Thanks for sharing. And I had to chuckle when I thought about my instructor who was helping me learn to ski at age 60. He must have felt like he was teaching a giraffe to ski! Such a cute, kid-friendly book cover!

  6. Thanks Viviane for this advice…social media platforms do make me nervous so I only have a few…I know I need to do more with them.

  7. Viviane, this is gold! My first pb is coming out later this year, and I’m hungry for all knowledge about marketing. Thank you thank you!

  8. Thank you, Viviane, This info is terrific. I always wonder, though, what’s the actual content–Home Page, etc–for an unpublished writer? Or are we simply in the Ready, Set, Get Ready mode until that day comes…? 🙂

  9. Thanks so much, Viviane. This is all the stuff I really don’t like to think about, but it’s so important. Congratulations on your new book!

  10. This was a great post, Viviane! At least I’ve done several of these things already and “when” I get my first book deal I’ll have a resource suggesting what else I can do to market my book! Thanks.

  11. Thank you for sharing so much valuable knowledge and information! And congratulations on your book and 12×12 success story. You are an inspiration. 🙂

  12. Wow! This is such great advice. I am building my website this year and now I feel like I have a plan. Congratulations and continued success Viviane!

  13. Wow! A valuable post! “… which pens to sign autographs with”??! Didn’t know there WAS such a thing (and why). I need to print this out & make a checklist… Thank you, Viviane!

  14. Loved TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE HOW TO SKI! In fact, I read it to my grandkids before we went skiing during Christmas vacation!
    Thanks for the branding and social media tips, Viviane…building our presence is important when we have book news to spread…but the connections are just plain fun.

  15. Thank you for the wonderful post, Viviane! I appreciated all the practical advice. In fact, I copied and saved the entire post to use as a resource. 🙂

  16. WOW! My head is spinning with all of this great information! Clearly, I have a lot of work to do in 2019! Thanks for the great post! 🙂

  17. Great post, VIviane! I didn’t think of reserving on platforms I wouldn’t use (I’m ever the optimist about things and should be more street smart!)

  18. Thank you everybody, for all your kind comments! I’m happy to see my post is helpful. Polly Renner – it’s ok to only be active on 1 or 2 social media sites, not all of them. I just wanted to point out that it’s good practice to reserve your name everywhere so bots don’t get your name. (Also, you may feel less nervous with Goodreads – you mark books you want to read, rate/review books you’ve read, or like other book reviews. It’s one of my favorites.) Joyce Schriebman, unpublished writers could put a nice image on their homepage and one sentence about themselves (the sentence might be repeated in the “about me” section.) It can take some time to think about what you want on your website and how to set it up, which provider to use etc… so might as well get a head start before your book deal comes along.

  19. Really excited about your book, Viviane! Natascha Morris used it as an example for a workshop I attended last year. Great to see your well-deserved success! Good luck!

  20. Viviane! Congratulations and Happy New Year! Thank you for your book. I think we all sometimes feel like a giraffe learning how to ski 🙂 Thank you for the impressive amount of information you shared about the business side of books — marketing. I always wince a little when I have to skip over the ‘website’ box when posting a comment like this. You have inspired me to make an author website and get started on the other medias, as well. I’ll be re-reading your post often. Thank you!

  21. Thank you, Viviane! Excellent advice. I’m glad I’m part way there with your suggestions. Now I have more to do. Congrats on your book…I love giraffes, so I’m eager to get it!

  22. Excellent post, Viviane! I thought of your narrator’s advice as I was skiing yesterday! 🙂 It’s been SO MUCH FUN watching your book come to life! CONGRATULATIONS!!!

  23. Wonderful info! Thanks, Viviane!! And congratulations on your sweet looking book! Can’t wait to check it out. 🙂

  24. Congratulations on your book, Viviane! I really enjoyed your advice, even though I’m only in the “working on the craft years” at this point. But who knows? Maybe 2019 will have to be a marketing year for me as well. ; )

  25. An excellent list of ways to prepare for marketing success, Viviane. Congratulations on your new book. It looks adorable.

  26. Thanks for the great post and advice, Viviane!!! Marketing a book is one of those things that feels so daunting at times, but these tips make me feel more prepared! 🙂

  27. Viviane, you have provided us all with some wonderful tips and advice for marketing books. Thank you and congrats on your success!

  28. Terrific information- it’s a bit overwhelming but I’m trying for some small steps. Thanks for sharing! And congratulations on Teach Your Giraffe to Ski- I loved it!

  29. This is helpful information and I’m putting the book on hold at the library. I’ve vowed to make much better use of 12×12 this year ~ so in that vein, how do I register for a copy of Teach Your Giraffe to Ski?

  30. Viviane,

    This is fantastic marketing advice! Thanks for kicking off 2019 with a bang! I’m blown away by all you offered on the blog. Hope we can work together in the future. Would love to get you up in Concord to present a marketing workshop one day or have you give a presentation on writing/literacy.

    I use K.S. Image Solutions in Harrisburg, NC for all of my promotional products. Krystal and her family are great to work with. They do a lot with fire departments, hospitals, etc.

    My favorite marketing product is the temporary tattoo. Children love them mad they last much monger than a sticker. Bookmarks are always a hit, too.

  31. Thank you, Viviane! That’s good advice. I actually started a website , but I’m sheepish about announcing it as I am an emerging writer. Time to revisit it!

  32. Thank you for spelling it out or leaving a guide for things to remember to do before and after
    you send out your work or queries and receive an offer. This is a marketing plan, I needed to
    have now.

  33. What a gold mine of information! Thank you so much, Viviane. I can’t wait to read your book. It’s on the list for my next trip to the library!

  34. Hi, Viviane! I’m getting a late start and just read your post. Thank you so much for this information. I started to create a website but didn’t get far. Now I’m ready to act! Congratulations on your picture book. I can’t wait to read it.

  35. Viviane, such a useful post, on a topic (I have to admit) I would happily ignore. But obviously, that’s not a good idea. Will start small and try to branch out as I go along 🙂 Good reads sounds like a perfect starting place.
    Congrats on your book, too. Haven’t read it yet, but LOVE the title. Have it on my list of mentor texts.

  36. What a mine of useful information on a topic I know little about. I know I’m going to keep referring back to this one! Thanks for the tips and best of luck for your book this year.

  37. Viviane, this post is wonderful! It’s so informative and great to know before being published. Thank you so much! I can’t wait to read your book.

  38. Excellent information on marketing, Viviane! Thank you! It is an area that gets overlooked, but is so important to promoting books. Congratulations on your book! Can’t wait to read it!

  39. Vivianne,
    My grandchildren love to ski so I’m definitely getting this book. I resist all things marketing but now you’ve made me reconsider. I’ll start on this to do list one thing at a time. I had a yoga studio and marketing took up HUGE amounts of time. So it goes. I’d rather write.

  40. Great advice! I always forget the book marketing aspect of publishing, so this has been super helpful. Congrats on TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI! I love the how-to format/helpful and funny instructions, clever and fun characters, and beautiful illustrations. The giraffe reminds me of my 6-foot-3 brother who lives in Denver and is always skiing down the Colorado slopes! 🙂


  41. I’m so glad to have joined this group. This book looks like it will be fun to read. I’ve just checked it out at the local library. It isn’t even in their circulation pool yet, but my name is first on the list when they get it, 02/01/19.

  42. Thanks for the advice and tips. It is one side of the writing cycle to write and revise, but the selling portion is a subject unto itself. You put the needed information in a way that is well done.

  43. Thanks so much for your insight into marketing. I have already made a website, but now I know how to really make it shine! Thanks again!

  44. Thank you Viviane. Very helpful to the newby. I’m sure I will be referring back to the repeatedly as I set up my web page. Congrats on your wonderful TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE HOW TO SKI!

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