Monday, June 24, 2024

Six Things I’ve Learned About Promoting My Debut YA Novel by Carol Baldwin

 

CONGRATULATIONS! YOU SIGNED A CONTRACT!

 

The best advice I received in my seventeen years of researching, writing, revising, and editing, Half-Truths, came from my publisher, Jennifer Lowry, of Monarch Educational Services. I had two years before my book, set in 1950 in my hometown, Charlotte, NC, would be out.  Excitedly, I told Jen I was starting my next teen historical novel with the hopes she would also be interested in publishing it.

“Don’t work on it yet,” she said.

“What?” I couldn’t wait to research a two-timeline two-POV book that would be a prequel to Half-Truths.  (To be honest, I’d already started.)

“Why not?” I asked her.

“You’ve got work to do on Half-Truths.”

I knew that there would be rounds of editing, but that was in the future. What could I possibly do now?

“You need to start building connections in Charlotte.”

Disappointed, I put aside book #2. I’d learned to trust Jen’s publishing wisdom, so I started thinking about who I hoped would read my book and how I would connect with them.

I’m glad I did!

Here is what I’ve been doing for several months.

NOW WHAT? AFTER YOU SIGN THE CONTRACT

 

Tip #1: Create a Professional Website and Print Business Cards

If you don’t already have a landing place on the internet, now is the time to create it. For years I was content with a blog on which I posted book reviews and Half-Truths’ journey. When I looked around at other author’s sites I realized that mine was dated and cluttered. I wasn’t up to creating my own, so I hired a website designer. Now librarians, event coordinators, educators, and readers can find out about me, Half-Truths’ backstory, events, and my writing workshops.

Websites give you online exposure, but business cards are a tangible reminder to strangers of who you are and how they can connect with you. Trust me. You’ll feel like a star when you give them out.

 

Tip #2: Be ready to talk about your book to anyone.

I wear a t-shirt that reads, “Just a Girl Who Loves Writing.” A man recently stopped me on a walk and wanted to know what I was writing. He was standing outside of his church giving away bottled water to passersbys. I gave him my pitch, and my business card and told him I’d love to come to talk to his church about my book. But here’s what I failed to do—I didn’t get his contact information to follow up with him later.  I won’t repeat that mistake!

By the way, if you have a shirt or hat with your book cover on it, you will also wear it to book events and to the grocery store. You can use it as a giveaway or sell it if you have an online store. It’s multipurpose!

Susan Pless and her grandson help promote her debut picture book Scaryotyped.


Shannon Anderson has a different t-shirt for each of her picture books.


Stephanie Cotta advertises her Iron Kingdom series when she is out and about.

While we’re talking about swag, check out this water bottle sticker. It’s a conversation starter for Angelique Burrell and her YA book, Mark in the Road. 

Read more about Angelique Burrell’s books here.

 

Tip #3: Be Nice.

Smile when you’re wearing your t-shirt or swinging your bag with the image of your book cover on it. Make eye contact. People LOVE meeting real-life authors. You might be the only one they (or their child) will ever met. Be prepared to say hello to your future reader.

Diane Brooks gives away plastic snakes when she sells her debut picture book, Simon the Snake.

Respond to emails and comments on social media. (You are on one or two platforms, right?). Follow up with genuine appreciation when someone reaches out to you. Remember how your mother taught you to be nice? She was right.

 

Tip #4: Promote other authors.

This has been said a kazillion times but it can’t be underestimated. Other authors are your friends--not your competition. Think about how you can do signings or book events together. It’s fun and you can share the expense of renting space at a community event, farmer’s market, or holiday fair.

 

Tip #5: Start a spreadsheet.

Your goal is to have so many ideas of people you want to contact that you’ll need a spreadsheet to keep track of them all.

            At Monarch, the undeniable king of book marketing and spreadsheets is 14-year-old Adrian So. His chapter book, The Groundworld Heroes, debuts in August, 2024. He has spent months working on his marketing spreadsheet. His pages include:

          ARC’s – date requested and reviewed

          Physical copies promised

          Bloggers and book influencers (including Bookstagrammers, BookTokers)

          Library contacts

          Book subscription boxes

          Endorsements

          Corporate booksellers, retailers, zoos

          Indie bookstores

          Trade reviews, competitions, awards

          Media outlets

          ARC sharing groups on X

          Cover reveal participants

Each of these pages includes websites, contact information, and Adrian’s notes to himself.

       Since my book is a historical YA which hopefully both adults and teens will enjoy, my spreadsheet also includes pages for:

          Schools—private and public

          Area universities that might be interested in a history or kidlit program

          Fairs and events

          Homeschooling groups, local and regional events

          Museums

          Community organizations and venues

          STEM organizations

          Book clubs (adult, kid, mother/daughter)

          Senior centers and retirement facilities

          Churches

          Businesses

          Podcasts

 

Tip 6: Follow up on each name, organization, or media outlet on your spreadsheet.

Yes. This is time-consuming. And yes, it will pay off. Adrian received amazing endorsements from authors in his genre which will make excellent cover blurbs. As a result of my connections, I’m planning events at a local Charlotte history museum, two historical societies, several libraries, and a women’s club. And I’ve only just begun.

 

DOING THE WORK

 

Writing your book was a huge endeavor. You want to do as much as possible to get it into the hands of readers. The days of having a publicist who will spend time and money on getting your book noticed are rapidly diminishing. If you sign a contract with a house that has a publicist she will still expect you to make local and regional contacts. If you signed with a small trade publisher or are self-publishing, even more work falls in your lap.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some leads to follow up on.

And you have some work to do.

 


Carol Baldwin is a full-time writer, part-time publicist for Monarch, part-time gardener, and part-time golfer. She enjoys teaching writing to teens and adults; reading, and promoting clean reads. In her spare time, she dreams of her next book, Out of the Flame. She’d be happy to hear about your marketing efforts. Please connect with her here.

9 comments:

Karen Jones Gowen said...

These are all great tips, especially the spreadsheet which keeps it all organized.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Good tips. I have my book covers on items we've used as giveaways such as mugs and mousepads.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Thank you for sharing with us today, Carol!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Diane, for having me. Glad the spreadsheet was helpful, Karen. And Alex - mousepads and mugs are great ideas!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for the great tips. I like the T-shirt idea, which I hadn't thought of. And I'll have to ask Adrian a lot about his spreadsheet when I interview him in October.

Carol Baldwin said...

You're welcome, Natalie! Yes--ask Adrian how he got all these categories! I want to know too!

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Those are really great ideas! Thank you for all of the information.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Diane - what a great guest to have on the blog - Carol has certainly given some brilliant ideas here ... so succinct too. Cheers to you both - Hilary

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Hilary and Elizabeth. I'm glad the ideas were helpful! Passing along what I've learned.