Finding the right people to buy your book can be really tricky. But it’s even harder marketing to those people. So let’s review some standing wisdom, as well as some not-so-conventional ideas for the following genres: Young Adult (YA), Middle Grade (MG), Romance, and Fantasy.
Of course, I put this out there with a caveat: all of this hinges on the fact that you have an active social media presence, you have an email list that you communicate with regularly, and you have at least one book to sell.
Note: I haven’t published in all of these genres (although I have written through freelancing and ghost writing in most of them), so these ideas come from people and clients I’ve worked with who have.
Marketing to Your Target Audience
Middle grade can be tricky because your audience isn’t in charge of the credit card. So you’re writing to children but selling to parents.
- I cannot stress this enough: SCHOOLS. Schools, schools, schools. Listen to this podcast where Maria Dismondy, a childrens book writer, dives into how she goes to schools (and is paid) all over the place. Whether you want to be paid or not, the exposure happens here.
- Check out your options at local libraries. Can you offer a children’s book hour? Can you offer a class teaching kids how to write? Reading your book? Talking to parents? Attending a school book fair? Brainstorm about how you can get to the parents and the kids at the same time.
- Chat with local, independent kids stores to see if they’ll stock your book and split the royalties. (Double win: depending on your state, they’ll pay sales tax on it so you won’t have to get a Sales Tax and Use License. Always check with a professional before moving forward, of course.) This can be clothing stores, used book stores (I’ve definitely done this in the past), kids gyms, etc.
- Here’s an article from a guy that wrote into Hugh Howey and writes Middle Grade/Childrens.
- Use parents as your influencers. Give your book to parents with kids the target age for your book, then ask them to give you feedback on it. What did they like? Why did they feel it was a good book for their children? Ask them to share it on whatever social media presence they hang out in, especially if they have Mommy groups or other places.
- This is an AWESOME post on ideas for Middle Grade/Childrens. I loved her idea of getting on school reading lists. That’s brilliant.
- Check out what events your community has for educators. Doing whatever you can to get your books in the hands of teachers can help you find connections with parents and kids. If the book does well, the teacher will talk.
- Cecily Paterson is an author that I’ve followed for a long time. She writes MG/YA and I love her newsletter. I feel like she does a really good job writing the newsletter for her audience and their parents. Follow her to get a feel for how she approaches it. Her first book, Invisible, has hit massive success, and rightly so. I read all her books. You’ll also notice she has a school bookings tab.
YA has a funny habit of pulling in people of all ages. (I just had a 70 year old man email me and tell me my first book, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls, was one of his favorites and he’s stoked to get into all of them immediately. My book is about a sixteen-year-old girl. #justsayin) But the meat of my paid ads marketing sinks into the age range of 15-30 something and it’s worked well for me so far.
- Find five teenagers and five early twentysomethings. Yes, you can do this. Just go on Facebook or Twitter of G+ and ask. If you can’t find any, come to me. I have people.
- Give your book to them to read for free, then ask them what they loved about it. Use those factors in your marketing schemes (FB ads, for example.) If they say, I loved that Sarah and Jason didn’t kiss until the very end then you say in your ad: The slow burn romance in this fast-paced YA thriller will keep you on the edge of your toes.
- Follow those people on social media and on their favorite platforms. I haven’t ventured into Snapchat yet, but every single teenager that I’ve talked to is on there. Most teens I talk to don’t care about Facebook. Instagram is the next winner.
- Go where they are. Libraries? Probably not. Stores? Probably closer. See if you can get book signings at a Starbucks close to a high school (I’ve done that so many times) before class gets out. Then talk to them. See what books they like and why.
- Find the right hashtags on Instagram. (Like right here) and try to post in a way that you can incorporate them naturally.
- Facebook ads go to Instagram. (FB owns IG, by the way.) Get your ads on both. Don’t know how to do Facebook ads? No worry. Mark Dawson has your back for free.
- Call a high school and offer to chat with them and their students for free. Then, while you’re there, get email addresses. Find the teenagers there that are actually interested (some will probably act bored, that’s fine) and get them on your email list, or follow them on social media. I’ve done this. They LOVE it.
- Put excerpts where they’ll access—and parents can too. Many teenagers email me saying that their parents won’t let them buy ebooks or have the credit card. But if the parents can read a snippet of the book before they buy, that can go a long way. Wattpad has been helpful for me for this. Amazon allows it too, usually.
The beautiful thing about fantasy is that it’s so incredibly broad. The horrible thing about fantasy is that it’s so incredibly broad. Fantasy lovers are hard core, typically. They’ll invest in a good story. It also means that a lot of fantasy lovers are simply where the books—and the magic—are. I’ve also noticed that a lot of avid fantasy readers are aspiring writers of some sort. There’s something alluring about making magic, so keep that in mind.
- Here is a really great list on Promoting Your SciFi/Fantasy Book that includes Pinterest boards, Twitter hashtags, and Facebook groups to join that can be helpful.
- Pay an artist to create fantasy art for your book if you can afford it. There’s nothing more exciting than a new, really awesome picture of a dragon. Granted, this can get expensive. If you have any talent for art yourself, make your own fantasy art!
- Fantasy lovers are book lovers. Here’s a great article with hashtags for book lovers on twitter or IG. I load the first comment of my IG posts with hashtags (up to 40 if I really want it to make a splash), which makes this an easy way to find the people that are talking about the stuff you want to hear. Following and supporting these people can be a great way to help them become influencers for you later.
- In order to be one of the people, you have to be one of the people. Interact with other fantasy lovers on the social media outlet of your choice. Facebook groups are a great place to start. Pinterest has tons of fantasy boards as well. Being able to talk to the talk (especially about cornerstone Fantasy books—Hello LOTR!) has helped alot.
- Book signings in book stores. I always ran into more fantasy lovers than any other genre, and they were, for me, the ones most excited about exploring a new fantasy series. They were the ones that stopped and chatted. From what I’ve noticed, they can be almost as voracious as romance readers.
- This doesn’t always happen (and can be tricky to make it organic) but if you have a blog, try to create fantasy oriented posts. A lot of authors create author blogs and then write to authors: not their audience. Focus your posts on fantasy-related topics. Dragons. Wizards. Magic and all the dimensions of it. Favorite fantasy authors. Fantasy book reviews (if you can make them interesting). Maps. How to make fantasy maps.
- Follow all your favorite fantasy authors. How do they present information in a way that’s appealing to you? What do their websites look like, for good or ill? Take notes. Then take action.
- Start a discussion on your favorite social media platform about a hot topic in fantasy. On this facebook post, I asked people for their favorite dragon book to help me with inspiration. Then on this post, I asked them why they liked dragons. Originally it was market research for my next book, The Dragonmasters, to see what genre conventions I needed to stick with, but it fast became a marketing tactic. All those people that responded? Obvious fantasy lovers. Those are people I can message 1:1 and ask for help in exchange for a free book, for example. Also, it gets them involved in the process, and people know my next book is about dragons without me saying HEY OVER HERE THIS IS ABOUT DRAGONS BUY IT NOW THANKS BYE.
- Teach a class on writing fantasy or creating magic systems at your library.
- Teach a class on writing fantasy or creating magic systems at a local high school.
- Start Pinterest boards geared toward fantasy stuff. I have Pinterest boards for potions, hairstyles, clothing, and more.
Romance readers are voracious, so speed and dependability are key with publishing and marketing to romance. The other wonderful thing: if you’re a romance reader, you know exactly what to write. Romance is very formulaic (some will argue this, but it’s true. There’s just variation on the theme. This is true of all publishing.) Romance readers, on average, read a book a day.
- Cover is key to romance readers. There’s a few very specific things that draw their eye, and it doesn’t have to be an uber-lusty, half naked man and woman on the cover. Marketing your book with a romance-geared cover will be SO much easier if it’s spot on.
- Target your Facebook ads to audiences that show interest in other big name romance authors. (This is true of any genre, really.)
- In romance, NICHE DOWN. Regency. Scottish Highlands. Historical. Contemporary. Then you can get into a vein and readers will come. Romance readers will share if they trust you, and they’ll buy the whole series. If you can hook them on the first book, they’ll go to the others.
- Bank on the fact that romance readers are voracious—but loyal. If you have a series, offer the first book free. Bring them into the series so they’ll buy the rest and get them on that email list.
- Romance authors are also notoriously helpful and kind. Reach out to them, get some pointers. NETWORK. It’s amazing how far a kind email about their books and an invitation to be writing buddies can go.
- Create a romance box set. Remember, romance readers want more? Get other romance authors to offer a free book and create a box set. At the end of your story, have your other romance books linked. If the reader likes your book, they’ll be motivated to buy more. Remember how much romance readers read? They’re always looking for new books and authors.
- Create a Facebook group for your romance fans, and promote it at the end of your book with a link so they can click right to it. Then put really relevant content in that group (not just your own—remember, you’re all romance readers, so stock that group full of other romance authors. Like the friends you networked with, remember?!)
- Create a romance list on Goodreads Listopia and put your books (as well as other authors) on the list. Promote that in your group and to your social media following.
- Create a Pinterest board geared toward all your favorite romance books (absolutely put yours in as well) and invite other romance authors onto it. Invite your readers into the board through your email list. Getting them interactive helps with brand recognition.
- Offer to do Skype video calls for book clubs.
- Follow the SPA Girls Podcast, support them, give them social media love, and if applicable, pitch to get on their show about your books. (Their podcast is about self publishing but is geared specifically to romance authors.)
Let’s Wrap This Up
There are endless combinations of genres that we could talk about here, and gear feedback toward them specifically, but the truth is that most of these apply to every genre. Pick a few things out of these lists, apply it to your books, and try it out.
Unfortunately, there’s no guarantees in marketing. But at least, in trying, you know what does or doesn’t work for you. Every attempt will hone you a little bit further. Three years down the road? You’ll be so glad you tried what you tried. I promise.
If you have any genres you want me to address specifically, just put it in the comments and I’ll add to the post!
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