But what even is a promo group? Do you need one? And how do you join or start one?
As a proud member of PB Crew 22 (shout out to all my crew-mates!) I have just enough experience to answer some of your burning questions.
WHAT A PROMO GROUP IS (AND IS NOT).Sadly, a promo group is not a collection of top notch publicists summoned by your publisher to tirelessly promote your new book. No, in actuality most publishers would like you to pull quite a bit of weight in advancing your work. (You thought you were done selling it when you queried your agent, didn't you?) A promo group is a collection of debut authors and illustrators, usually all releasing traditionally published books in the same year. They are self organized, often 15-20 members large, and they work cooperatively to promote each other's books. Promo groups have a social media presence and some even have websites.
DO I NEED ONE?Let's first look at what a promo group might accomplish. PB Crew 22 came up with a pretty expansive task list before I even joined them, which included a short introductory video, regular promotional posts on Twitter and Instagram, Pinterest boards for each book, reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, panel presentation opportunities, blog interviews, and book giveaways. (Phew!)
Clearly, a promo group can go a long way in helping you get your debut out in the world. I would say that a quarter of the Twitter followers I currently have are thanks to the countless tweets and retweets of my crew-mates. Our group had the opportunity to collectively create a post for Tara Lazar's Storystorm on how our books were born. I also have significantly more reviews for my 2022 releases than I would have without them.
Beyond that, many promo group members feel they've gained a supportive network that goes beyond promotion. Lisa Tolin, author of How to be a Rock Star shared, "It's also been wonderful to learn from people who have been through this before. They've helped us understand things like how to approach bookstores or libraries. And within our group we have former teachers and booksellers, plus authors who have put together panels and teacher guides. That perspective has been so helpful to those of us who are new!"
|My crew is more than an all-star team, it's become a network for support and advice.|
So you definitely need a promo group, right?! Not necessarily. Being part of a promo group means you're not just promoting your own work, but the work of up to 20 other children's book creators as well. (In my case, 21 others!) And that can be, well... a lot of work! Ask yourself if you have the time and energy to write and post 20 reviews to multiple outlets, if you're willing to do frequent retweets for your group members, and if organizing panels and guest blog entries sounds like fun. If the answer is no, a promo group is probably not right for you. Keep in mind as well, that all this time spent on promotion can sometimes take away from time spent on your next project.
HOW DO I JOIN OR START A PROMO GROUP?PB Crew 22 started when Cynthia Harmony, author of Mi Ciudad Sings reached out to Laurie Lavoie and asked if she was interested in starting a promotion group. They then reached out to Lisa Tolin and the three kept an eye on Twitter and Publisher's Weekly for picture book authors, illustrators, and author/illustrators with 2022 releases from Big 5 publishers. Through emails and DMs, the group slowly grew until it became its current size. I was lucky enough to meet Cynthia through an email thread for SCBWI EI Coordinators and she invited me to be the 22nd and final member of the crew.
They quickly established social media accounts for the group, but decided against a website and commissioned member Blythe Russo, author and illustrator of Sloth Sleeps Over to create the adorable banner below, among other graphics. Through email communication and group discussion over Zoom, PB Crew 22 created the initial task list mentioned above.
|Our group logo, created by Blythe Russo|
A promo group is just one tool in an author's publicity tool belt, but it can be a hefty one. If you are interested in starting a promo group of your own, start by following some of the ones mentioned above and note the types of content they produce and engagement they create. Then start asking around. Your local SCBWI chapter, Publisher's Weekly announcements, and social media are great places to find other debut authors and illustrators that may be interested in helping you get your work into the hands of readers... assuming you're willing to help them too.
Ellie Peterson is an author and illustrator of many picture books including HOW TO HUG A PUFFERFISH and SCHOOL IS WHEREVER I AM. Find out more about Ellie and her work at elliepetersonart.com.