Monday, February 27, 2012

Michael: Promoting Middle Grade: Tough Calls and Stress Balls

Like most authors, I try hard to help promote and publicize my books. But after two YA novels, I've found myself at a bit of a loss when it comes to promoting my first middle grade novel. The approaches that worked in YA—social media, blog tours, etc.—aren’t much use when it comes to, say, 10-year-old boys. They’re not on Twitter, and the cops tell me I have to stop hanging around schoolyards.

Since it’s my first middle grade, I assumed it was just that I didn’t know what I was doing. Throughout me life, that has been a pretty safe assumption. So I asked around. I live in NYC, I know a lot of authors, SCBWI was in town . . . The result: If anyone knows, they ain’t sayin’. I heard a lot of “No idea,” “I wish I knew,” and “I was about to ask you!”

There were some long-term strategies thrown in: “Do more school visits,” “Go to conventions,” and “Hang around schoolyards.” But none of those are much help in the, let’s see, two days until Plunked officially comes out. Here’s a look at some of the extreme, questionable, and extremely questionable things I’ve tried in the mean time:

1) An animated book trailer (it will surprise no one when I say I made this myself).

Get Plunked!
by: MDNorthrop



2) Here’s Plunky! Say ‘ello to my little friend (the star of my latest blog post):


3) Two words: stress balls. (I'll just pause while we all come up with our own jokes here.... Moving on!) I am seriously considering getting a whole mess of these squeezable mini baseballs made up with the title of my book on the side. I doubt it’s cost-effective (they’re about a buck each), but they might help. And I could definitely use the stress relief.


4) And, as the final act of a desperate man, I even joined Goodreads. I was definitely hesitant—rumor has it the place is littered with the hollowed-out husks of formerly happy authors—but it was necessary in order to list the book for a giveaway. I heard someone tell this other person that they heard from a third person that it might be a good way to promote your book. The conditional tense remains in effect [Update: Or does it? Check out what Yat-Yee has to say in the comments...], but I'll say this for Goodreads: They hide their husks well. My giveaway is up and running, and I'm "14% done" with the new Howard Cosell biography.

5) Which is not to say I have no answers. I do have one reliable, time-tested way of dealing with launch week . . .



Well, maybe not time-tested so much as cask-aged, but still. Cheers, gentle reader. I will not ask you to buy my book—well, I won’t beg—but if you could raise a glass to its success (or untimely demise) this week, I’d appreciate it.

30 comments:

  1. I don't know how this is done, or if it's entered automatically as soon as a grade-appropriate book is published, but get the novel in with the school librarian review sites. It'll be more effective than Goodreads, because there will be closer communication between school librarians looking to review and those looking to stock their shelves than middle graders hitting up the web for their next read. If even one copy becomes available in a school library and becomes an object of interest, because of the limited supply it'll be the book bought by teachers for classroom libraries-->snowball effect!

    These are guesses, though.

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  3. Hi Alyson. Darn it, I thought it was going to let me edit that comment. Anyhoo, yeah, school librarians are awesome and definitely key to this. My publisher sends review copies to those review sites and journals, though, so it's pretty much out of my hands. That's true in YA, too. The question for me has been what to do after the review copies have been sent. Goodreads wouldn't be about the middle graders as much as their parents, relatives, teachers, librarians, and such.

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  4. Glenrothes 1998 single malt, nice choice. It's heavier than the '94 but it also has more depth. Perfect for any launch week.

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  5. Ah, a man who knows his whisky! Thank you, sir. I'll drink to that!

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  6. I just entered your giveaway at Goodreads. I have two young readers at home, one solidly MG, the other veering into YA. I buy most of the books for them so if there is a way to target parents of MG readers...

    Sorry, that's all I got.

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  7. Thanks, Yat-Yee! That's really good to know. It's funny: At the same time you were posting your comment, I was busy rewording the Goodreads item. Goddreads was already starting to win me over, and I think after what you said here, it can officially declare victory.

    Anyway, thanks again. I hope you're having a nice week!

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  8. Love that cover. I also enter contests to win books for my son (10) and picked up some great authors that way. Kids are loyal once you hook 'em. Good luck.

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  9. Thanks, E! I'm thrilled with the cover (again). I've been very lucky with them so far. And I definitely feel like I'm learning something re: the contests.

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  10. Michael, I think you've got it figured out. I'm in the trenches (in a school library), and nothing beats promotion to librarians and kids. Word of mouth among students is so powerful. I think your methods match up well with your audience.

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    1. Ooh, I just realized I can reply to each comment individually—I can't do that on my blog (I think it's powered by Cavepress). Thanks, Jenny! It's really good to hear that. In terms of my sense of humor, I'm basically half 11-year-old boy and half bookish librarian anyway, so I might as well use what I've got!

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  11. Thank you, Michael, and good luck! Jenny is right -- kids are very, very loyal, so perhaps the best thing you can do is to write another great book.

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    1. Thanks, Megan! Yes, as Hamlet (would have) said (if he were a middle grade author): The book is the thing, wherein I'll catch the attention of the kids.

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    1. "Removed" comments always look so scandalous! I just did it so I could respond to Jenny and Megan individually. I swear. Really. (Or do I protest too much?)

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  13. Try volunteering as a coach in an after school or sports program.

    Send a copy to Erik at "This Kid Reviews Books" and he'll get the word out to his pals!

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  14. After this great blog post, I want to read it and I'm much older than 10--and I'm not a boy.

    Actually, at this age, I would say attracting the parents to your book is a good idea too. YA can buy their own, but your target market also has parents, grandparents, and other relatives buying books for them.

    I actually like the stress ball idea, despite how expensive it is. Oh, here's another thought, how about handing out free copies to a local little league team.

    Best of luck.

    Cheryl

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  15. Thanks, Cheryl! I appreciate that. It was kind of the same thing when I was an editor at Sports Illustrated Kids. We knew that the kids read the magazine, but it was the parents, grandparents, and schools that bought the subscriptions. And I think doing something with the local Little League is a great idea, too.

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  16. I loved your book trailer--it had me laughing out loud. And seeing how your writing here was entertaining and interesting, I think I'll go buy PLUNKED for my eleven-year-old son. And then maybe I'll talk him to doing a book report on it in front of his class--how's that for a little marketing? ;) Best of luck!

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  17. Thanks, Emily! I'm really glad you liked it—I'll tell Coach Sylvester the next time I run into him at the gym :) And that sounds like some outstanding marketing to me. I hope he enjoys the book!

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  18. I really enjoyed your article. More power to you!

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  19. Man, I'm really torn on this one. Normally, when I see a comment with a company name instead of a first name, I assume it's spam. But this is a post about promotion, and *the company's* first name is "Promotional"... It's like they're related! (And aren't corporations supposed to be people these days?) Or maybe Promotional Products Portland is someone's actual name? And if it is, I mean, wow: That dude's got enough trouble without me deleting his blog comments. So I'm going to leave it. Even if it is a company, this company is wishing me "more power." That makes it an electric company, of sorts, and perfect for a kidlit post.

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  20. Wow, you ARE a Red Sox fan. Making some serious lemons out of lemonade up there, just above. ;)

    If the book is as funny as the blog post, it must be good. Good luck with it! (That always sounds so dismissive, sorry. I really do bet it's good.)

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  21. Thanks, Kristen! Yes, a lifetime of Sox-fueled heartache (one delirious three-year stretch aside) has given me the ability to see the bright side of nearly anything. (Either that or I've been drinking in the clubhouse!)

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  22. I got hit in the knee from a pitched baseball. It hurt like crazy and I could see the stitch marks from the ball in the welts.

    Haven't been back to a baseball field since.

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  23. Hi, Kimberlee! You are definitely not alone. Baseball is unusual in that the ball itself is the reason a lot of kids walk away from the sport—and the ones who don't definitely aren't immune to that fear, either. It was very interesting to explore that in the book.

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