Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Readers First: A New Spin on Marketing

My book is in the world, my book is in the world! Now buy it, buy it, buy it!


('cause, I gotta eat . . . and maybe, one day, get another book deal . . .)

Such is the case of every author with a book for sale. And especially nowadays, authors have to become their own publicists, sales reps, and marketers. Selling your book is a full-time job, which leaves little time for writing. 

As a debut author, this is something I've struggled with this year: the push-pull of "am I writer or am I a salesperson?" has guided my every workday from January 1, 2015 (and my book, Becoming Jinn, came out on April 21). 

I'm one of those debut authors who has done a lot: from blog posts to bookstores to festivals to giveaways to conferences, I've been in the world selling my book. I haven't been writing as much, but that's something I'm rectifying. And next year, when the sequel, Circle of Jinn, releases on May 17, 2016, I hope to have a better handle on balancing that push-pull. That's another blog post for another time!

This post is about the one aspect of marketing my book that I've found the most fun and rewarding: putting the reader first.

This should be a no brainer. Books are for readers, right? Yes, but sometimes, when all you want to do is reach more readers, that simple fact gets lost in the noise.

I recently completed a project with some of my best author friends that brought the joy of connecting with readers to the forefront. I'm sharing the project with you here in the hopes that it inspires you to find new (and enjoyable) ways to market your own book.

I live in New England, and this area is chock-full of talent. Middle grade and young adult authors have a strong footing here, and yet many readers are unaware of just how many writers live among them.

Who knows? The creator of a child's favorite story just might be behind them in line at the movie theater or next to them at the community pool. Authors such as Jeff Kinney, Suzanne Collins, and Rick Riordan call New England home. Not bad company to be in.

One day, Massachusetts-based authors Jen Malone, Jen Brooks, Trisha Leaver, and I were chatting (as we are wont to do), and we said: "We eat local, we shop local, why not read local?" 

And such was born our Read Local Challenge. We created a poster celebrating 30 MG and YA books written by New England authors, appropriate for the middle school level. We are distributing this poster free to more than 500 schools and libraries in the region, in addition to making them available at library conferences. Our goal is to reach as many schools and libraries as we can and encourage students and patrons to read local. As a bonus, the schools that read the most titles will win prizes from us, from swag to in-person school visits. 

This poster has our four books on it, of course. But it also has the book covers of 26 other authors. The only thing we asked of those other authors was to give us a cool fact about themselves that we could put on the poster to increase the fun factor. This project took a lot of time, effort, and funds, all provided by the four of us. But this is one of the most exciting and rewarding "marketing" efforts I've done, and I think the reason comes down to one thing: readers first.

This is not just promotion for me and my book, it's celebrating reading, something I am passionate about, and it's celebrating the region in which I live, something I'm also pretty jazzed about. I'm proud of us New England authors (and yes, all the snow does give us a lot of time to hole up and write).

And in turn, readers are responding in an overwhelming positive fashion to the project. 

Kids are loving the poster and the challenge. They want them to hang in their rooms. They want to check off all the ones they've read and start reading more. Librarians and teachers are excited as well, hanging them in their spaces and asking for more. This is a project that is bringing us closer to that elusive species: book readers. And in part it's doing that because it's not just about us four sponsoring the poster: it's about all authors and all readers. That's what makes it cool. That's the kind of marketing I hope to do more of in 2016.

What out-of-the-box initiatives have you done to reach your market?

Are you teacher or librarian in New England? Interested in the poster for your classroom or library? Visit my Web site for more information.

Are you in need of ideas for marketing your book? I'm offering consulting on this very topic. Check out my Web site for more information.

Lori Goldstein is the author of Becoming Jinn (Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan, now available!, sequel, Circle of Jinn, May 17, 2016, available for preorder). With a degree in journalism and more than 10 years of experience, Lori is a freelance copyeditor and manuscript consultant for all genres. She focuses on the nitty-gritty, letting writers focus on the writing.

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