Reaching a Middle Grade Audience

z Middle Grade Book PileThe internet constantly buzzes with news of book launches, making it hard to keep track of all of them. So how can you show the world that your book has arrived? I’ve heard so many authors say that it’s easier to reach readers of young adult novels online, but middle grade authors often need to reach out to the gatekeepers—people like teachers, media specialists, and parents who help put great books into the hands of readers around the ages of eight through twelve.

Here are some tips that might help you figure out what to do (and what to avoid).

* Spreading the word on established blogs can really help! If you’re doing a launch blitz, try not to have similar-sounding interviews flooding the internet. Do your best to give something unique and interesting each time. Dig deeper than just facts about your book, show how it’s connected to your heart and your life. Don’t just think about yourself and your book when replying…try to share something that will appeal to potential readers as well.

* Holding a giveaway is a wonderful way to reach potential readers, and I’ve seen how much word about a book can spread when people shout out about a giveaway. Plus, I always feel better about sharing a link for a giveaway on places like Twitter and Facebook instead of just announcing that a friend has a great new book out—then I’m helping both the author and the people who read my post.

* Keep your website up to date. Let people know the story behind your stories. Give them a glimpse of yourself, and let them know about any upcoming appearances and how they can get a signed copy or bookplate. I’ve seen some authors work with an Indie bookstore, where people can order a copy that they’ll sign before it’s shipped out. Try to include fun activities on your website, and link to sites your audience and/or the gatekeepers will enjoy. One of my main characters loves cupcakes, so I plan to create a Pinterest board full of great cupcake recipes on it. Laurie Friedman, author of the Mallory and April Sinclair series, has done a wonderful job setting up her Pinterest boards.  She created a board for each series, plus boards that are just for teachers, classroom reading spaces, young authors corner, etc.

* Try to speak at conferences, bookstores, libraries, and schools. Many authors offer short Skype visits for free, and I think that’s a wonderful opportunity to help out a school or other organization while also spreading the word about your book.

* Visuals can be a huge asset to an author’s website and can draw more people to it when shared online. Create an amazing book trailer, and post other videos that could interest readers.

* Include teacher’s/reading group guides on your website and bookmarks. I posted helpful tips for creating guides a couple months ago. Click here to read that post. Speaking of bookmarks, it’s great to have handouts like that with more info about your book/s, your website, and links to teacher’s guides or other book related activities.

* Team up with other authors and form a group blog that provides a constant stream of helpful information, or consider starting a marketing group. I’ve seen writers with similar types of books team up for book tours, and it seems like they attract more attention than most authors can on their own.

* Make it easy for people to contact you for potential interviews or author visits. Some websites make me feel like I’m navigating through a maze filled with dead ends while trying to contact an author I’d like to interview for our site.

* I absolutely love SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), and think it is a huge asset. I’m the SCBWI FL Newsletter Editor, and am always surprised when people don’t let me know about their great news. I love shouting it out to our members! If you aren’t involved in your local group, definitely check it out. In addition to local events, they probably have some kind of newsletter, too. Even though the info goes to other authors and illustrators, most of them are avid readers and some may have children who would enjoy your books. Plus, quite a few teachers and media specialists are writers, too! And the amount of support and friendship you can find with people who ‘get it’ is priceless.

Z Middle Grade Books and Ruby* My teen girls laughed when they caught me doing a photo shoot…of middle grade novels. I told them it was for my Mixed-Up Files post, but they didn’t see the point of photographing a pile of books by themselves, and helped me pose one of our dogs into the shot. It made me realize how much I love seeing pictures of children and animals reading books—so you can share photos or video clips of that online, too!

 

Here are some promotional red flags

* BUY MY BOOK!!!! Seeing blatant self-promotion always makes me shudder. When someone is obviously on a social network site for the purpose of selling a book, it often has the opposite effect. Don’t send a promotional link to your book thinly veiled as a thank you for following or friending you on a site. And don’t blitz people with a link to buy your book or news about it multiple times an hour on places like Twitter or Facebook. You want people to smile when they see your cover…not cringe.

* The same is true of forums. Don’t be a drive-by poster who only hops onto a forum to promote a book, then disappear until it’s time to promote the next book. Interact with other forum participants—share some of your knowledge to help them, ask questions, shout out congratulations and send some support to those going through a rough time. If you want people to be happy to celebrate your good news, you need to be there for them, too.

* When sharing news about your book, don’t make it sound like a formal press release. You’ve worked hard to get your book published! Share your genuine thoughts and enthusiasm throughout your publication journey. Even better, reach out and help others. If you learned some tricks while creating a book trailer, share them. And if you win an award or get an amazing review, don’t just post a general statement and link all over the internet—let us experience the moment with you. Shannon Hitchcock did a fantastic job when she blogged about how she discovered that her middle grade novel, The Ballad of Jessie Pearl, won the 2014 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award. What she wrote was personal, and it made me laugh, smile, and cheer for her.

I’d love to know what you believe works and what to avoid while trying to reach potential readers for middle grade novels.

Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle grade novels with heart and quirky picture books. She’s constantly inspired by her two daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix who was rescued from the Everglades. Visit Mindy’s TwitterFacebook, or blog to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.

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Mindy Alyse Weiss
Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle grade novels with heart and quirky picture books. She’s constantly inspired by her two daughters, an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix who was rescued from the Everglades and a rescue cat who loves to knock things off her desk.
20 Comments
  1. Thank you all so much for your thoughtful comments and suggestions. Thanks to you, I added more to my promotional tips file. I’ve heard how successful postcards to libraries and schools can be. On my personal blog, I often see more interest in a critique giveaway than one for a book, so it’s definitely good to think about giveaways for critiques or art if you’re an illustrator. The comment about asking readers to leave a review for an author who graciously contributed a book gave me an idea for a future Mixed-Up Files post! I don’t think many people realize how much thoughtful reviews can help.

    And yes…the best thing you can do is write your next book! I’ve seen so many authors get caught up promoting a book that they barely have time to work on a new one.

    I’m glad that several of you loved the photo of my dog with the middle grade novels. I smile every time I see it. 🙂

  2. I’m trying to heed your advice and avoid drive-by-poster syndrome: Thank you for this informative post! And thanks to Cathy for her suggestions as well.

  3. Great post, Mindy. Full of helpful tips and info, but I especially like the photo of your dog reading middle grade. Too cute!

  4. Yep, good stuff here, Mindy! I think it’s so important to reach out and make connections, but I agree that it’s even more important to be genuine, to be yourself, to remember that Golden Rule. One suggestion I’d make for the author who may not have a ton of books for giveaways but is visiting a lot of blogs on a book tour: give away a service. Offer a manuscript critique (first 10 pages) or a query critique. Writers always love feedback so you’ll draw more visitors, and that’s really the point of promotion, right? 🙂

    Also, when I do a giveaway/blog book tour, I like to remind the winners to PLEASE leave a review for the author who so graciously contributed a book. I think it’s okay to gently nudge (on social media) those folks who may have read your book to leave a review at Goodreads or Amazon. Those reviews really help!

  5. Great post and wonderful advice! I like your books photo + dog! I, too, take crazy pictures just for my blog as well.

  6. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with book promotion, and so tough to tell what works and what doesn’t. One thing I really enjoy is sending printed postcards to libraries in my home state sharing news of my latest book. I sent out about 250 for my debut and received some very nice replies. But according to both my agent and editor, the number one thing a writer should be doing to promote themselves is to get busy writing another book!

  7. Mindy – I’d like to add that I love featuring (traditionally published) mid-grade authors in guest posts at Dulemba.com on Saturdays. People can reach me through http://dulemba.com/index_contact.html . The posts goes live on a Saturday, then get featured in my newsletter, which goes out to nearly 4,000 subscribers each week. I love to use my platform to help promote my friends! 🙂 e

  8. Love this post, Mindy. And I especially love the dog photo! Thanks for all you do to help us navigate the publishing world.

  9. Mindy, not only is this a great topic, but you have a nice writing style–conversational and approachable. It’s like reading a note from a friend. Well done!

  10. And I thought I knew everything! Thanks, Mindy–this is a really thoughtful, helpful post.

  11. Great advice!

  12. You’re welcome, Vicky. And thank you for stopping by the Mixed-Up Files, and for leaving us a comment. 🙂

  13. Thanks for sharing such practical advise in one easy to grasp package!

  14. Thanks, Louise. I agree–networking is so important.

  15. Great post! Lots of helpful advice. Being a debut author can be daunting, and I think networking is the key to survival as well as promoting each other’s work.