Brian Lies

Brian LiesBrian Lies   The focus of the session I attended with Brian was geared to a discussion of his approach to the promotion process. How did he promote himself and his books? One very prominent promotional gimmick is his car-the Batmobile. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Moving back to the start of his talk, he described how he prepares a diagram to follow when writing a book. For example, the chart he created in a few minutes helped him figure out the layout and story line for Bats at the Beach. Once the book is written and in production he observed that not a minute should be wasted. That is a good time to meet with the publicity and marketing personnel at your publisher to present your ideas and plans. There certainly were plenty of ideas and many of them were great, but his publishing house felt they were a bit too aggressive and they agreed to nothing except a poster. Unfortunately, at that time Brian was not a household name so he did not have a strong bargaining position. He thought that perhaps, he could get his book into the hands of radio personality Daniel Pinkwater and maybe he might be selected as one of the 9 out of hundreds that Pinkwater receives to discuss on the radio.   Because Brian believed in his book, but he felt that he would need to make a big personal investment of money and time to raise its visibility. How big?

  • The Batmobile $4,000
  • A Book Tour $4,000
  • T-Shirts, etc. $2,000

Not exactly chicken feed for any author!
Everything was plotted out before the book appeared in the bookstores. He developed a time and action plan prior to the book’s launch and most importantly he stuck with the plan. Once he created the Batmobile, he needed photos for the bookstore tour and for Publishers Weekly. He made up things for kids such as crossword puzzles, bookplates and rubber stamps. Brian made the point that marketing and promotion are like starting a campfire-you start with the small media and feed the fire and hope it grows. He also compared his plan to that of a pebble tossed in a big pond which spreads out in ripples. Part of his scheme was to send the book out to the review media. Also, book events need to be scheduled early, and according to him it was not easy at first. He was most successful in getting the independent bookstores to arrange for reading and signings. However, the first event was booked against a conflicting event with a bigger name author, and for the second event there were no books and it rained. Thirty people showed up and 8 books had been presold. What a disaster, but one thing he learned-keep smiling and keep trying.   Broadcast e-mails were successful — see or hear Brain Lies at ____ (fill in the blank). Announcing events on the Batmobile was also a good move. The whole focus after his initial experiences was to make life easy for bookstore staff when putting on an event. You have to bring your own ballyhoo-caps, T-shirts (which were such a success that he needed more), tattoos, batball cards.   Did all of this planning and hard work pay off? Indeed! In June 2006, Bats at the Beach was way down at the bottom of the Amazon list and then something wonderful happened. Daniel Pinkwater read the entire book on the air. His comments on “Weekend Edition Saturday,” June 24, 2006 — “Brilliant, brilliant paintings . . . just a whiz-bang summer book, anytime book. Everybody should look at this.” It seems that Pinkwater has a soft spot for bats. The book quickly rose to number 2 on Amazon. Then Bats at the Beach had its debut on the New York Times bestseller list in the #2 spot, and spent 14 weeks on the list during the summer of 2006. More stories began to appear in publications such as The Boston Globe, Lies alumni magazine and his hometown press.   Fortunately, the reviews were positive (see below). Kirkus Reviews noted that “Lies’s lambent, exactly detailed paintings, bats with an appealingly mouse-like look cavort happily through the waves, play volleyball and other games or snuggle into comfy laps around a glowing campfire as the grownups chat amiably. Perfect for sharing with younglings of the wingless sort, when it’s time for them to do the same.” School Library Journal, June, 2006 had its own review that noted “This is the quintessential book about going to the beach complete with overflowing picnic baskets, kite flying, singing around the campfire, and scratchy sand in places ‘where no sand should be.'” Earlier in May of 2006 Bats at the Beach was named a 2006 Summer Pick by Book Sense.   After these successes, Brian’s publisher offer to pay mileage and hotel expenses for his tours. He spent the summer doing book events and added a bat to the top of his car, a Prius. After his first efforts at marketing on his own, Brain learned a lot. His publisher now trusts him and listens to and supports many of his marketing/promotional ideas. Brian always considers the independent booksellers first since they were his early supporters. Additional bat books have been written and Bats at the Library was declared “a good thing” on the “Martha Stewart Show” on October 29, 2008! Martha Stewart gave copies to her studio audience, showed some of the interior artwork and did a craft based on the work that Brain did for the Bat to Basics Tour. You can visit the video in the “Martha Stewart Show” archives. Also Bats at the Library was s winner of the Indies Choice Book Award Best New Picture Book! Bats at the Library was declared the #3 Best Picture Book of 2008 by Time/CNN and it spent 12 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list in 2008. And finally, you might want to look for the Bats at the Beach plushie bat from Merrymakers Inc., in stores near you.   More is Brian’s newest book, and it is about a devious magpie. It was recently released and on May 13 it received an excellent review in the New York Times “lavishly illustrated by Brian Lies . . . image seems to take precedence.” You better believe that Brian has been busy working on a new campaign and will never really stop promoting his books. His final comment to the audience of mostly book authors and illustrators was to “find a way to undertake promotion and marketing based on your comfort level. You need to keep promoting.”   For more about Brian Lies, visit his website.Contributor: Marilyn Courtot ReviewsBats at the BallgameBrian Lies   The intriguing bats of Bats at the Beach and Bats at the Library take us along, in deftly rhymed couplets, to “watch the bats play ball.” When dark arrives they are startled by the bright colors as they watch the preparation of the ball field, then stand for the anthem. The other team has beaten theirs in the past. In this game, both sides are scoreless until the seventh inning, when their opponents get a run. Catching a foul ball is a more cheerful highlight for our bat friends. Old timers reminisce as they hope for a change in the score. Mothdogs and Cricket Jack are consumed. Suddenly the crack of a baseball bat begins a drive. Excitement soars as the winning run scores. But then they must leave: “. . . we speed to beat the rising sun.” The acrylic dark night scenes create a melodramatic environment for the anatomically correct and appropriately uniformed bats engaging in the game. Vignettes illustrate historical moments; other perspectives focus on the audience. There is good-natured fun in these imaginatively conceived images that hold attention as we wonder where the bats will take us next. 2010, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Ages 4 to 8, $16.99. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).ISBN: 9780547249704Bats at the BeachBrian Lies   Here is a real reversal on a sunny day at the beach. The bats head out for a night of fun. They put on moonglow lotion, enjoy swims, picnics, burying each other in the sand, and beach volleyball. The details are a treat, such as the picnic food, which includes skeeter crisps and toasted bug marshmallows. The bats sing around the campfire and as the sky begins to lighten, they prepare to fly away. The moon is gone, but it did provide a perfect night for the bats at the beach. The illustrations, which are all nighttime scenes, still manage to show great detail — the light of the moon plays off the water and is reflected off the sand and a big yellow shovel. The campfire and interior of the snack bar provide a different type of light to help break the monotony of the night scenes. Young readers should find this reversal interesting, and it may help reduce the irrational fear that people seem to have about bats. The board book provides a little extra — The Bat Hymn written by Brian Lies and a web address where one can download a free copy. The initial book has also launched two spin offs — Bats at the Ballgame and Bats at the Library. 2011 (orig. 2006), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Ages 2 to 5, $16.00. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children’s Literature).ISBN: 9780547554372Bats at the LibraryBrian Lies   The delightful bats from Bats at the Beach are back. We join them in an adventure at the local library one “inky evening.” Lilting verses rich with imagery describe the excitement as the bats race to an enchanted place when they learn that a window has been left open. The older, experienced bats have their favorite books and places. But it is exploration time for the little ones, of everything from overhead projector and copy machine to water fountain and pop-up book. Best of all is story time, when they get lost in the magical world of the book. They leave reluctantly at first light, having reminded readers and listeners of the wonders of the library. The charming bats on the jacket are demonstrating their book selection technique as they display their anthropomorphic actions. These are not bats to fear. Acrylic paints in dark tones show detailed double-page scenes of the library’s stony exterior and lighted windows, then of scene after scene of the books, the shelves and equipment, and the many bat characters having a ball. Particularly inventive are the illustrations of well-known characters inside the books, with bats playing the leads in some of the stories. As dawn enlightens the sky, there is a melodramatic flight out the window. A couple of bats have “borrowed” a book; a young one is held close by its mother. “For now, we’ll dream of things we’ve read . . .” until the next Bat Night at the library. 2008, Houghton Mifflin, Ages 4 to 8, $16.00. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).ISBN: 9780618999231Deep in the SwampDonna M. BatemanIllustrated by Brian Lies   Wonderful wildlife illustrations and a rhymed counting text make this book appealing to readers. The swamp referred to in the title is the Okefenokee, and the plants and animals mentioned in the story are all native to that area. A mother otter and her little pup come on the scene first, followed by a mother snapping turtle and her “little turtles Two.” Then we see other creatures and their young, including marsh rabbits, alligators, blue heron, damselflies, bullfrogs, and rat snakes. Last comes the crayfish. “Deep in the swamp, in an underwater den,/Lived a mother crayfish and her little crayfish Ten./’Scurry!’ said the mother. ‘We scurry!’ said the Ten./So they scurried after tadpoles near their underwater den.” All of the rhymes are delightful and, adding to the interest, a guide to the plants and animals appears in the book as well. 2007, Charlesbridge, Ages 4 to 8, $15.95. Reviewer: Carolyn Mott Ford (Children’s Literature).ISBN: 9781570915970Finklehopper Frog CheersIrene LivingstonIllustrated by Brian Lies   Finklehopper Frog is happily on his way to a picnic, but his excitement starts to fade as he spies Cat and his pal Itchy. Although he fears the teasing of others about his “groovy pork-pie hat,” Frog sees his friend Ruby Rabbit and decides to go to the picnic anyway. Ruby diffuses the situation with her cheerful rapport. Later that day, Ruby needs encouragement to enter a race against Sue Kangaroo. This time Finklehopper Frog is the cheerleader for his pal. She tries her best but still comes in second. “No fair!” she cried. Livingston skillfully has Finkle point out that even though Sue Kangaroo wins the race, she can also have bad feelings when she sees Ruby Rabbit upset. The colorful illustrations on the inside cover of the book reveal a parade of animals, each with a different award around their neck. From the Teamwork award given to the group of ants, to the Best Effort medal presented to the snail, students are taught that everyone cannot always be first — but they can all be winners. Encouraging students to try their best and to have good sportsmanship, even when they do not win, are hard lessons to teach. The cartoon characters with their colorful clothing and outrageous expressions will hold students’ attention. Winner of two prestigious awards, this picture book is a must for every primary classroom. 2005, Tricycle Press, Ages 4 to 7, $ 14.95. Reviewer: Ann Sanger (Children’s Literature).ISBN: 9781582461380Lucky DuckEllen WeissIllustrated by Brian Lies   Several words per page and detailed illustrations work to show readers how lucky this bird is. He is not paying attention, but dropped ice cream, falling pianos, open manhole covers, revolving doors, and other potential hazards elude the hapless or clueless duck. That is, until he gets safely home, slips on a banana peel inside his own front door, and tumbles into bed. The controlled vocabulary features short sentences. Words such as “Watch out!” and “Whoa!” and “Good Grief!” and “Whew!” might challenge readers as there’s no context for these interjections, but there are plenty of picture clues. In the humorous illustrations, there are enough jokes, including the amalgam duck whose colors and parts seem borrowed from throughout the duck world, to challenge more proficient readers to check the signage, as well. Fun to read and fun to look at. This book is part of the “Ready-to-Read” series, Level 1. 2004, Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, Ages 4 to 6, $3.99. Reviewer: Susan Hepler, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).ISBN: 9780689860294MoreI.C. SpringmanIllustrated by Brian Lies   Only a word or two in large type on the double pages leave room for the illustrations to tell most of this story. A magpie begins with, “Nothing.” A mouse brings her, “Something,” a colored marble for her nest. More and more items are then collected until there are, “Lots;” then, “Plenty;” until there is, “Way too much.” The shocked mouse observes the overflowing collection and declares, “Enough! More than enough.” There is a cascade of items burying the magpie. But with the help of the mouse and friends, the pile becomes, “Less and less.” Finally the decision is, “Yes, enough.” Bird and mouse fly off together. Lies has produced a visual delight, almost photographic images created with acrylic paints, colored pencils, and paper collage. Even the few words of text are made part of the overall visual tale. At first we see a charming mouse offering his bird friend a gift to begin the collection. Then the deluge begins. We wonder where the bird has found the keys, sunglasses, etc. in the amazing close-ups. The message of moderation is clear, but we wonder what awaits the friends as they fly away. 2012, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Ages 4 to 8, $16.99. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).ISBN: 9780547610832PopcornElaine LandauIllustrated by Brian Lies   Presented in a conversational tone with humorous illustrations, this summary of the essentials of popcorn is both appealing and informative. Beginning with a pop quiz and ending with recipes for flavored popcorn, this book explains why popcorn pops, where it is grown, where it is eaten, its history, and then reveals a top secret. Popcorn is good for you! The artist’s dedication to “the raccoon who raided my corn patch” adds to the delight of the book. A mischievous raccoon appears in most of the illustrations, although he is never mentioned in the text. Young children will enjoy the active pictures and words that seem to speak directly to them. Older readers will appreciate the factual information and the additional facts included in various insert formats throughout the book. A bibliography of web sites and books is included. 2003, Charlesbridge, Ages 6 to 10, $16.95. Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).ISBN: 9781570914423See the Yak YakCharles GhignaIllustrated by Brian Lies   Beginning readers will have fun with the humorous homonyms (words that sound and look alike but have different meanings) in this early “Step into Reading” paperback. See a bat bat and a swallow swallow a baseball with the comically expressive illustrations. Animals and insects perform riddle-rhymes on every page. Have you ever seen a fish fish before? Large type, repetition, and a simple rhythm make this a good choice for preschoolers and kindergartners just learning to decode. The illustrations are sure to get a few laughs while complementing the simple text. 1999, Random House, Ages 3 to 7, $3.99. Reviewer: Wendy Pollock-Gilson (Children’s Literature).ISBN: 9780679891352 Updated 6/1/12To stay up to date on new books by this author, consider subscribing to The Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database. For your free trial, click here.If you’re interested in reviewing children’s and young adult books, then send a resume and writing sample to to Top

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