Guest Post: Five Things I’ve Learned After Marketing My Young Adult Debut

By Heather Marie

2014-03-07_1394157700After you sign a publishing agreement, whether it’s your first book or tenth, you immediately start to consider your marketing strategy. What people don’t tell you upfront is that you are about to embark on a crazy adventure of ups and downs, sometimes more downs than ups, and you’ll find yourself overwhelmed, exhausted, and maybe even depressed.

Don’t get me wrong, getting published is a flippin’ amazing experience! But the work doesn’t stop there. You wrote the book. You got it published. Now you have to sell it. And, yes, I mean you.

Your publisher and/or marketing team/publicist will be there to help you, but you have to be ready to put in some leg work. There are some things that work better for others, and some things you do that’ll completely flop, or some things that’ll blow everything else out of the water. The most important thing to remember is that you actually don’t have to do everything at once, if at all. You only have to do what works for you, period.

I learned this the hard way. After driving myself into the ground with marketing, I finally had time to reflect on what I won’t be doing next time around to spare my sanity.

1. Purchasing swag without draining your bank account in the process.

The minute you get the okay to tell the world about your book deal, you instantly want every promotional piece of swag you can get. First of all, swag is an excellent way to get your book out there. People love it and they’ll gladly take it off your hands, but let’s remember what happens to that swag once people get it. *eyes bookmarks scattered throughout my apartment* I can honestly say that my bookmarks have in no way helped with promotion. They’re just pretty to look at and that’s perfectly okay. However, I think next time I’ll save them for events or send them in bulk to libraries.

The pins and posters were fun as well, and I think the pins were a bigger hit than anything else. But I broke my back trying to get all of this stuff even after everyone told me not to. My advice would be to stick with what you can afford, but don’t feel obligated to go big. Of course, do what works for you, but also consider saving your funds to attend conventions where you can meet new readers in real life. If I’d known ahead of time the amount of money I’d end up spending, I would have held back and saved up for all the events I’ve missed out on.

2. When promoting on social media, timing is everything.

As exciting as it is to share that new piece of big news, try holding off on posting until you know people will see it. The best way to do this is to test a few things on your media accounts and see when you get the most hits. I’ve seen several people post brand new happenings in the super late hours when absolutely no one is around to see it, or in the way earlier hours when no one is even awake. What I’ve found is that my Facebook page gets the most hits on Monday’s in the late morning. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. Twitter on the other hand gets the most hits in the early afternoon on Fridays.

Obviously, I don’t only post big news on these days, but you can see what I mean about timing. I’ve gotten myself familiar with the certain times throughout the week that really make a difference. It’s easy for your posts to get lost in the craziness of social media, and if you want people to share or celebrate along with you, you have to familiarize yourself. Trust me. You’ll notice a huge difference in your posts when you do this. It’s hard for me to hold back, but if I find something out on a Saturday, I’ll wait until Monday to share it. Learning how to market yourself is so important. And when you do it is even more so.

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3. Breaking up your marketing so you’re not hitting your readers over the head.

Now that we’ve gone over the timing, let’s go over how much marketing you do at once. For instance, I had one week during release where I had a few major interviews/posts going up at once. I was honestly so sick of talking about myself at that point that I knew everyone else was sick of me, too.

Sometimes you don’t have control over what gets posted or when. At one point I had this amazing interview all scheduled with another major thing, and the interview was moved to another date which left my marketing team and I stuck. We had to run with it anyway, but ultimately the major thing wasn’t as successful as it could have been. Also, I had things get switched around so much that I was stuck promoting a billion things at once that flooded each other out.

The thing I learned here is that it’s okay to space things out. If that means waiting a few days or a few weeks, by all means do it. Sometimes it’s better to let people forget you have a new shiny book coming out and just be your normal human self for a while. That way, when that big thing gets promoted, people will actually stop and listen, as opposed to being like ‘meh.’

4. Telling people to buy your book is not going to make them buy your book.

It’s one thing to promote your book with fun posts and interviews or even a giveaway, but spamming them into buying your book isn’t going to work.

That is one thing I have never done, nor will I ever. Though that doesn’t necessarily mean I haven’t seen it done. An easy way to lose followers aka new readers is by spamming them with constant tweets and posts about buying your book. You know what I mean. The tweets that are very clearly generated through a website that posts your Amazon link every thirty minutes. What I am guilty of (going back to the fact #3) is promoting too many things at once, which can repel people from ever wanting to check your book out.–not because they don’t want to necessarily, but because it doesn’t seem new anymore.

People want to buy something they’re excited about. If something has been shoved into their face (newsfeed) enough, they’ll lose interest quick. Be yourself. Be real. That’ll sell your book more than any promotional link.

5. After all of this is said and done, please take time out for yourself.

You’ve published a book. Be proud of yourself right now. Allow it to sink in and really enjoy it. I’m serious. Being a published author is one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment. I’ve never been happier, but damn, do I wish I would have allowed myself time to appreciate the small things.

I worked myself so hard those last few months prior to release, that afterwards I hit rock bottom. I was exhausted emotionally, mentally, physically, and whatever else. Being a writer means your job is never done and that is absolutely true. There will always be something you have to do, whether that’s your next manuscript, an interview, an event, etc. I’m excited for these things. I love it! But I always, always forget to take care of myself first.

I ignored all the signs that told me to slow down. When my personal life was getting too complicated, I dived even further into my writing. I pushed myself so hard that I didn’t realize how burnt out I was until I emotionally fell apart.

Your book and readers will always be important, but remember that your health is priority. Take a day off. Go out with your friends. Read a book or two over the weekend. Do anything!

Just don’t forget to take care of you.

Heather-AuthorPhotos-3-WEBSIZEHeather Marie lives in Northern California with her husband and spends the majority of her time at home reading. Before she followed her dreams of becoming a writer, Heather worked as a hairstylist and makeup artist for several years. Although she enjoyed the artistic aspect of it all, nothing quite quenched her creative side like the telling of a good story. When the day had come for her to make a choice, she left behind her promising career to start another and never looked back.

Heather was included in a Cosmopolitan Magazine article as a “Latina YA Author You Need on Your Radar.” Her debut novel, The Gateway Through Which They Came released in August from Curiosity Quills Press.

The Road to Publishing: a Q & A with Andrew Karre of Carolrhoda Books

On Tuesday, Ashley Hope Pérez laid out what it’s like to work with rock star editor Andrew Karre , editorial director of Carolrhoda Books, Carolrhoda Lab & Darby Creek. Today, we have a bonus post, a Q&A between Ashley and Andrew, the last piece in our “Road to Publishing” series. We hope it’s been helpful! All of the posts can now be found if you click on the “The Road to Publishing Series” tab on the menu.

Ashley: What are the rookie mistakes you see first-time authors make during the editorial process?

Andrew: Rushing revisions. There are no points for speed. Although I hope I’ve learned enough to anticipate this and prevent it.

Ashley: What qualities make you look forward to working with an author again on a future project? Any deal-breakers?

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Andrew: A spirit of adventure. The authors I most enjoy working with are excited about the process. They like to use me as a sounding board, as a stress-test for their work. They want to hear my questions and suggestions, but they’re quite capable of going an entirely different direction. I’m not interested in authors who unquestioningly adopt my view of YA fiction. I’m interested in authors who will engage with it and articulate their own. In many cases, editing is a bit of a friendly struggle between the author and me wherein my goal is to lose in an interesting way that highlights the author’s strengths.

Ashley: In what way(s) does your approach to the editing process differ from other editors you know or have worked with?

Andrew: It’s hard to say. I only have second-hand information about how others edit. I tend not to write editorial letters. I prefer to write voluminous marginal notes and have lots of phone conversations (or lunches, whenever possible). Maybe that’s unusual? My goal in a markup is to highlight the places where an author is at the height of her powers and then challenge her to meet that standard throughout.

Ashley: Boundary-pushing is arguably your editorial signature. How does that priority influence the guidance you offer authors during the editing process?

Andrew: I don’t really think about that when we’re editing. Editing is about realizing and reconciling a manuscript’s potential and its author’s vision. It’s about pleasing the two of us, first and foremost. Insofar as we worry only about the limitations inherent in the manuscript, I guess the desire to be unbound is present.

Ashley: Beyond writing (and revising) a novel into its best possible form, what should authors be doing from the time they sign their contract to the time of the book’s release?

Social-media-for-public-relations1Andrew: There are a few practicalities every author should take care of–at least by that point if not sooner. Acquire all your digital real- estate. By that I mean, register a useful domain name, grab a good Twitter handle, etc.  Even if you can’t see how you’ll use them, at least you’ll have them. The only one of these that costs anything is the domain, and that’s cheap. Then, read your contemporaries. And if you can, interact with them as a colleague and fellow traveler. Join the conversations online in much the way you’d join a dinner party conversation: wait for your opening, and take it graciously when it comes. Be interesting, first and foremost. It’s not about selling.

Ashley: I distinctly remember a come-to-Jesus talk we had about social media some time between revisions for What Can’t Wait and the book’s launch day. I remember feeling very overwhelmed. Now, four years down the line, I can see lots of benefits from the relationships that I’ve established by existing online and at least intermittently being present in Twitter and other spaces.

At Latin@s in Kid Lit, we’re working to draw more attention to great books for younger kids as well as teens. What are some of your favorite books to read to or with your boys?  Do their preferences ever surprise you?

Andrew: Henry (5) loves nonfiction at the moment. He loves processes and technical details so we read a lot of things in that vein. I really loved Building Our House by Jonathan Bean. In the coverage of the death of Charlotte Zolotow, we discovered her Over and Over, and that’s been fun.  I still enjoy reading Goodnight Moon to Edmund (18 months).

Ashley: What’s one book that you hope to find in your stocking this holiday season?

Andrew: I still haven’t read NW by Zadie Smith and I generally enjoy her work.

Ashley: Any thoughts on the current state of publishing with regard to the percentages of works by/for/about Latin@s?

Andrew: It seems to me that the level of awareness of the need among publishers is high, as is the desire to find and break out new voices. High enough? I don’t know if it’s possible to say. I know I’m encouraged.