January Theme: MARKETING by John Claude Bemis
As a writer of Middle-Grade fiction, I find that some of the marketing avenues that work for writers of YA and adult fiction haven’t gone quite as well for me. MG readers are dependent on parents for transportation, and all too often parents don’t bring their kids out to book store readings. And while tech-savvy teens flock to social-media sites to discuss their favorite books and authors, tweens just don’t seem to be using Facebook and it’s like for this purpose.
My approach has been to make real world connections with young readers and their literary gate-keepers — i.e., parents, teachers, and librarians. Here are a few of my suggested strategies for reaching MG readers.
1 )School visits: I might get a dozen kids at a book store reading, but at a school visit, I have a captive audience of hundreds of kids. This has meant developing strong school visit programs that are appealing to kids and educators. I try to make it easy for schools to work with me. I have informative and easy to share school visit materials. I make all my correspondences professional, polite, and friendly. Line up book sales and a school visit can not only be a way to create an unforgettable experience for lots of potential new readers but also a great way to send them home with personalized books to remember the occasion.
2) Educator and Librarian conferences: I try to get out to as many state and national conferences as I can. Even small local reading association meetings are wonderful opportunities to connect with educators and librarians who can put my books directly in the hands of new readers. While it can be tempting when off at a conference to use that as a time to catch up on HGTV or to write in the quiet of the hotel room, I advise getting out and chatting with the attendees as much as possible. Not just after your presentation. Push aside your introverted tendencies, and mix and mingle. Many of my school and library visits have come from people I stopped to talk to between sessions or in the vendor halls. Personal connections go a long way!
3) Other authors: Meeting other authors at literary festivals, SCBWI conferences, and book store readings broadens my creative community. I value those relationships I make with other authors, and I’ve found that they can be some of my very best cheerleaders, helping to spread the word about my books on their websites, blogs, and in interviews. Naturally, I reciprocate and love the chance (on sites like this one) to collaborate with other children’s book authors to help get the word out about great reads.
The internet has made author increasingly more accessible to their readers. But, in our Twitter and Skype-world, what readers don’t get as often is that opportunity to meet authors in person. To talk to them face-to-face. To eat lunch with them. To actually chat. The focus of my marketing efforts has been on real world, personal connections with kids, parents, teachers, librarians, and book sellers. My artistic life is all the more fruitful because of those experiences.