I was corresponding with an old friend of mine and she sent me a link to a blogpost about an author visiting a school and not even being recompensed for her time and effort and my friend expressed alarm because I’d put up those youtube videos as free resources for educators on my youtube channel and she was worried that I wasn’t getting recompensed for my work and giving it away for free. So in answering her, I thought it would make a good blog post, but before I get into that! I just had to share that Big Red Lollipop earned a mention in the New York Daily News!!!

Ooh, they were talking about that list, the one I’m still riding high on, and lamenting the fact that so many favourites like The Wizard of Oz weren’t included and then I came upon this sentence:

“…And modern writers also get their due, thanks to such new classics as “Big Red  Lollipop” (published in 2010) and “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” (2003).”

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/new-york-public-library-releases-100-popular-children-books-list-article-1.1471423#ixzz2i07QksPH

They called Big Red Lollipop a CLASSIC!!!!  Oooh! I’d always been too scared to say the ‘c’ word! But here they went and said it for me!

But anyway, let’s get back to the idea of authors giving away freebies.

I remember watching the Cake Boss once and he said about freebies, if you’re good enough, you only have to give them away once! (I’m paraphrasing)

This is what I told her:

The youtube video is definitely free content but sometimes you do need to give away stuff for free. Think of it like a baker giving away a taste of cookies.

The stuff I gave away is nothing compared to the content of the actual presentations, plus the nice thing with youtube is that it has the advertising/monetization feature which I did enable (after debating over it) so that if and when enough teachers/educators click on the videos I’ll eventually get some remuneration, and hopefully that will provide another stream of income.

Yes, it’s getting harder and harder these days to make an income as an author so I think these days you have to think of income generating streams when it comes to writing.

Also, if you look at a lot of entertainers like Russel Peters and comics and musicians, they give away tons of stuff for free on the internet, and it only increases their popularity and bookings.

I  analyzed those models before I went that route.

And one thing I’m painfully aware of is that these days there’s a complete fear and mistrust of Muslims and I’m absolutely certain that the hijab I wear has closed certain doors for me (even while it’s opened others).

I want to be a world famous children’s author. I want to be an author whose books are so good that teachers themselves feel the need to use them to enhance their students’ education.

So how do I open the doors of people who are turned off by my hijab? Who get repulsed and even appalled by it?

It’s simple. It’s a matter of desensitization. I have to hope they will get ‘used’ to it. I hope they get used to me, so they understand that I’m not threatening in the least and it’s just a piece of cloth that I’m required to wear because of my faith.

And at the same time, when a teacher looks at my book tutorial, it’s a resource they can tell other teachers about, and in the process they can see me speak (in action) and hopefully they’ll enjoy it, learn a little and laugh a bit and in the process they get desensitized to the hijab I wear and my ‘foreignness’, so it’s all good. Believe me, it was a really calculated choice on my part to give away that stuff for free.

Basically when it comes to stuff that won’t add any sweat from my brow, it’s a good idea to give it for free. Free downloads are like that. You do the work once, and the dividends trickle in…and the blessings, because there really are a lot of schools who can’t afford an author visit.

The Indian tour comes down to marketing too. First of all I’ll be helping the Indian publisher, Duckbill, to promote the book! Doing my part to create excitement there, and that’s all good. Yeah, a lot of the presentations are free, but they’re footing my ground expenses, and a travel grant is footing the bulk of the getting there expenses, and along the way I’ll take a day or two to see some sights, so it’s all good. A trade off.

But also, think of how good that will look on my resume! Basically what I’ve been doing over the last fifteen years is establishing my credibility as not only a Canadian author (that’s actually too limiting!) but as an international presence. That takes time and effort, but there too the dividends are slowly trickling in.

India is actually a HUGE market. And the books will be sold for relatively cheap, but you can make up for it in volume, and think of the diaspora!!!

There are no guarantees, but it’s all marketing. You just never know where the leads will take you.

You know what happened when the head of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content came to town and I sent him to Canscaip to speak to the Canadian authors who could market their work and themselves over there?

The Canadian authors thought it was a scam. And they thought their publishers should submit their work and apply for the travel grants they’d need to go there! They basically didn’t want to do any of the legwork, thinking their publishers would do it for them.


What I see as my role is this: that I bring a unique expertise to the classroom, I can enrich their learning and the excitement children feel towards literacy both through my books as well as my presentations.

After I’ve written the book, I take off the creative ‘cap’ and put on the educator’s ‘cap’ and think of, okay, how would a teacher use my book in the classroom? I always have morals and messages in my books, subtly interwoven themes, and they have to be subtle for the stories to work, but thinking like an educator means stripping away the subtleties and exposing the themes for what they are so that educators can apply them to curricular learning. It’s hard! But the idea is to make your books indispensible!

That’s marketing!

And as more and more teachers learn of how to use your books, then basically you get the ball rolling and the word of mouth will continue the momentum and you don’t have to work so hard on your own marketing.

It’s getting that ball rolling that’s so hard!

Basically when it comes to children’s books, writing the book is just the beginning. You might get lucky and it takes off, but the odds of that happening really is like winning the lottery and you can’t count on it.

Talent isn’t enough.

It takes perseverance and strategy.

But I’m lucky, because I have people behind me in all this who’ve helped me reach out and make myself a LOT more marketable!

When I went to the Singapore American School the teachers there were some of the best in the world, many with Phd’s! As a result some of them were snooty, and they have so many authors come in, it’s not even a big deal for them. It’s one of the richest international schools in the world. But the two librarians who booked me told me that I was a natural ‘educator’. And when I did a workshop with the kids on writing (believe I worked hard for that money and I didn’t mind!) the educators told me afterwards that I’d made them look at syntax in a completely different way and the weirdest thing was that the autistic kids had found the lesson fascinating! Usually they’d be unfocused, walking around and disruptive, but I talked about the focus of a sentence, and they were intrigued and even fascinated. This is what the librarian told me.

She had been concerned that the autistic kids wouldn’t be able to handle the session.

And when I told my Big Red Lollipop story, the kids bought copies of the books in droves! They told me I sold more books there than anyone else.

I find the journey has been extremely hard and challenging, but well worth it. I LOVE what I do!

Yesterday I went to a school of grade sevens and eights and I got to talk to them about bullying and suicide.

It’s amazing!

So the marketing aspect can be a drawback, but it can also be rewarding in and of itself. It all depends on what attitude you approach it with, and when it comes to freebies, I seldom do free presentations (publisher tours excepted). But youtube stuff…sure why not!