Looking for a smart way to sell more books? Teachers Pay Teachers may be just what your book sales need. Learn how this helps get your book in classrooms by watching the conversation between author/illustrator Traci Champion and Argyle Fox Publishing Founder Daniel Brantley.
Partial transcription (for those who would rather read about the program):
I’m Daniel Brantley, founder of Argyle Fox Publishing, and I’m thrilled to be talking with Traci Champion, illustrator of Crystal Cox Shimer’s Pickles and Pork Rind series and author and illustrator of Ollie the Little Bigfoot. Tracy, thank you so much for joining me today.
I’m very excited to have you. You’ve worked exceptionally hard to promote your book, Ollie, and I’m constantly amazed at how persistently you push it out there. You’re always doing interviews and events and—I’m just impressed. You stay busy, and I really appreciate it, because you’re doing what it takes to make your book a success.
Traci: Well, we try to think out of the box. We really enjoy Ollie the Little Bigfoot thoroughly. Because it was so important to my family, everybody gets excited to do something with it, so it is never a chore to do anything. We just find it so incredibly exciting to see it go to the next step and the next step and—we just get excited about it!
What Authors Benefit from Teachers Pay Teachers
Daniel: That excitement is infectious. I think people are picking up on it, and that’s why it’s doing so well. And while you had great success with Ollie and we’re super excited about it, we’re not here to talk specifically about Ollie. We’re going to be talking about Teachers Pay Teachers, a marketing opportunity I’d never heard of until you presented it to me. I’m super thankful that you’re willing to talk about Teachers Pay Teachers and help other authors learn about this opportunity. That said, what kind of authors can benefit from Teachers Pay Teachers?
Traci: Children’s authors or authors who write something that is educational, something that would benefit groups of children. For example, if you’re writing a book about just jokes, that would probably not be a good fit for Teachers Pay Teachers. They try to find books that they can bring into the classroom and use as an educational tool with their classrooms. It’s a great way of getting your book heard.
I’m sure that you know with Ollie, I only deal with the younger levels like elementary school students, but I’m sure there are avenues out there for middle school and early high school as well.
Daniel: Yep. It showed K–12, which interested me. So when you speak of something with educational value, you don’t mean it’s a textbook. Tell us a little bit real quick about Ollie—what does Ollie teach that teachers find beneficial in the classroom?
Traci: So, we originally wrote Ollie to be a book just about children on the [autism] spectrum, but the way that my daughter formatted it, it benefits everybody.
We wanted to create something that showed the differences between people—that you can do things this way and I can do it that way, but we can also be friends together and we can accept one another. So that’s one thing that appeals to classrooms, especially younger classrooms. They’re trying to teach kids that we can all get along at an early age. They’re just trying to find their way through life.
Teachers look for things that help teach kids how to work together in unity, and that’s why Ollie was such a good success. Ollie teaches you that it’s okay to be different. It’s okay to work together.
We’re actually working on a Teachers Pay Teachers for Crystal for Pickles and Pork Rind, because anything that shows friendship, that shows working together, how to problem solve, how to reach other people and teach good behavior, that’s what they focus on. They focus on things that have those special ingredients that help kids work together.
How Authors Can Benefit from the Program
Daniel: Teachers Pay Teachers sounds like a site explicitly for teachers, but here we are talking about how authors can benefit from this. Explain what they do so authors can have an idea of how it could benefit them.
Traci: This is a teacher website that’s been a huge gift for me. I was approached by a teacher, because I have three kids. One of their teachers fell in love with the book and she introduced me to Teachers Pay Teachers.
They create curriculums to go along with your books so that the whole class can enjoy it. And not just a one-day curriculum. They make it stretch out for the week so it’s like a week project that they have all these activities that go along with your book.
What that does is get your book into the school systems, which is very hard to do because Scholastic has a huge lockdown on it. But we were friends with all of our teachers that my kids have, and they were happy to do that for us. The one that did Ollie for us said of course I’ll do it for Crystal as well.
Teachers don’t make a lot of money for this. They do it so they can help other teachers bring more interesting things into their classroom. The teachers put your materials, your resources online and sell those to other teachers so they can use them in classrooms all over the U.S.
I think the Ollie resources are like five or six dollars to purchase. Once one teacher purchases it they can use it throughout the whole school system. In our area our teachers purchased it, so they have that in their catalog. Every year they get new students they bring out Ollie and the Teachers Pay Teachers activities for that week.
I’ve had some of the parents and the kids that I do not know recognize my Ollie t-shirt at the grocery store, and they’re like we talked about Ollie at school today. Then the parent asks where they can get that book. People come up to us because their kids did the curriculum. Even churches—I’ve found like four churches doing the Ollie activities!
Then I spoke to one of the managers at the library that Ollie‘s in, and she said that she bought it and is using it for her summer camp this year. So it goes beyond the school. It has a domino effect and it’s really good for somebody to try to get involved. It’s good for your book sales, and it’s good for getting your book out there to be noticed.
Cost and Benefit of Teachers Pay Teachers
Daniel: If an author wanted to get their materials put up on the site, the materials should be PDFs. Does it cost anything to do it?
Crystal: It does not cost anything. I was approached by a friend who is a teacher. I encourage people to engage with the local school systems. Talk to the librarian in the local school systems. They purchased the books.
Go locally and then let it spread. It spread like wildfire.
I heard from a friend in Alabama, and she said her son just did a class on my book. It spreads!
Teachers want to hear your story. They want to create materials for books like this because they don’t want to do the same books every time.
A lot of times they pull out stock images and use those, a lot of clipart. But my friend allowed me to have creative design on the artwork. I got to use a lot of my own drawings. The same with Crystal. I’m creating hers, using her own illustrations from her book for her Teachers Pay Teachers curriculum.
If you’re the illustrator of your book as well as the author, ask to do the art. I was allowed to do the line drawings for mine.
Daniel: Otherwise, non-illustrators should not be intimidated, correct?
Traci: Correct. The teachers create the curriculum for you. I’m not talented enough to create classwork. The teacher will create it for you. So you can breathe a sigh of relief.
Daniel: Then they present the curriculum, and you can create the illustrations to go along with it?
Traci: Exactly. It’s lovely. If I hadn’t created the illustrations, we went back and forth. She asked how I liked this idea and another. It’s like working with [Argyle Fox Publishing]. Most teachers I’ve come across who used the Ollie curriculum tweaked it to meet the needs in their own classroom. It’s just a great way of getting your book out there and seeing it through someone else’s eyes.
Spreading the Word
Daniel: Getting your materials on Teachers Pay Teachers is one thing. Getting people to buy it is another. Do you have to market it?
Traci: There are thousands of curriculums out there. Because of the nature of Ollie, I donated a lot of mine to the schools. I highly recommend that because once they saw it in the class, word of mouth was like wildfire. Then people started requesting it and purchasing it.
For your first go-around, donate your book to the school. Let the school use it and fall in love with it. Word of mouth will take care of it. It’s easy social marketing. The children come in and get excited about it. They tell their parents, and they ask where they can buy the book.
On each Teachers Pay Teachers account, most of them say where you can buy the book, which turns into sales for you.
Daniel: Have you noticed a bump in sales from Teachers Pay Teachers?
Traci: I’m a hard one to judge on that. We’ve donated a lot. And we’ve noticed a lot of opportunities open up for us across the board. I’ve had people contact me for podcasts. We’re doing interviews with people in Poland. I have a couple scheduled in England.
As soon as I tell people I have a Teachers Pay Teachers account, they get excited. The zoo even asked to see the book! It’s a good icebreaker and another way to get your foot in the door.
Daniel: Is there anything else authors should know to succeed with this program?
Traci: Be kind to your teachers.
You can have the best book in the whole wide world, but unless you have people reading it and looking at it, you won’t be able to sell it. Talk to people, talk to your school systems and teachers, make that connection.
We already had that connection with most of our teachers in our area. They were thrilled with us and wanted to share it with all their teacher friends. It really does pay to get involved with the school system and Teachers Pay Teachers.
Find Traci and Ollie on Instagram.