This article was written in 2013, for the updated version go to the Cereal Authors’ blog where I posted a part 2.
If you’re a children’s author or a YA novelist, you know how hard it is to market to a young crowd. The most popular advice is: to find forums and talk to your audience there, which is absurd. I mean could you imagine hanging out in a chat room with a bunch of kids without looking creepy? Yeah, me neither. We can’t promote our work directly because we’d end up on Dateline’s “To Catch a Predator.” or can we?
Having done some research, I’ve come to the conclusion that it may not be as difficult as we think.
Usually when someone says kiddult, it has negative connotations, but this is the one time where being a big kid is actually a good thing. For example, did you know that most YA books are purchased by adults, and not teens? In fact, the average age of a YA reader is between (30-44) years old. Many of them like to call themselves nerds but in reality, they’re kids (at heart).
Also, most YA bloggers are adults who are either librarians, school teachers or authors themselves. So it shouldn’t be that hard to get a review however, it doesn’t mean you get a free pass to avoid teens.
So Where are the Kids Hanging Out?
Tumblr, the micro blogging site created in 2007, is hands down the most popular choice by teens. It’s easy to use and very to the point. Unlike Facebook, they don’t insist on knowing everything about you and your dog. Runner up is Twitter, another popular site, for teens to communicate with their friends.
Okay I Signed Up, Now What?
If you’re gonna make this work you have to understand how teens use social media. Most teens (over 91%), share photos while others (84%), share things like their favorite music, books or movies.
This means what you post will have to be visual as well as entertaining. My personal tip, create memes for your book. A few months ago, I created a meme using a meme generator for a friend whose romance novel had just been released. Needless to say, she loved it and even added her own special touch to it.
Here are just a few sites that allow you to create and share funny memes:
Also, if you think your character looks or sounds like a certain celebrity go to that celeb’s website, and raid their media kit. Many of them offer free photos for media purposes.
Flickr is my favorite as you may have noticed on this blog, they have many good pictures that are in the commons section but you have to tread lightly. Many of those the owners allow only shares and forbid their pics from being used for advertising purposes. Same applies to Photobucket and stock.xchng.
So why go through all this trouble? Because social media sites like Facebook and Google’s algorithms tend to favor pictures rather than just regular posts. I’ve noticed that authors who are having issues reaching their followers can easily improve their reach just by adding a photo to their post.
Approaching YA Book Groups
First and foremost you NEED to read the rules, most groups post theirs somewhere at the top of the main page, or they devote an entire thread to them.
I’d advise anyone to lurk for a while until you become familiar with the group. Have a few conversations and don’t forget to have a little fun.
Goodreads has several groups devoted to YA books:
Facebook also has several groups and fan pages devote to YA novels.
Even Twitter has #YALitChat which is a conversation devoted to any and all things YA.
Interviews: Talking to the Cool Authors
Another way to get on the radar of a teen audience is to interview a popular YA author and post it on your blog. If it doesn’t help the author, it’ll at least help you! This will require careful pitching and patience. There are a lot of authors who don’t answer their emails in a timely fashion or they just farm it all out to their agent. Be prepared to pitch them like you would an editor or journalist.
It Won’t Sell Unless the Price is Right
This is an obvious point but many marketers ignore the fact that teens are not rich. They can’t and won’t pay $24.00 for a hardcover book. You have to price accordingly. It’s your job to lure them to your book with discounts, and exclusives.
Many young people are talented and want to show off their abilities in a public way, so why not help them do that? Run a contest and offer prizes like free books or giftcards.
Another tip: You can create quizzes on Goodreads and use them as part of your marketing. I created one for my YA novel Hag last month. I plan on using it in an upcoming blog tour. They’re real easy to create and are fun for readers.
Many teens love a good cause to get involved especially a cause that’s relevant to them. Remember the Kony 2012 campaign? That campaign was fueled by young people who shared, commented and donated.
Why not donated a portion of your profits to a charity? Make it time sensitive, so there’s a sense of urgency.
Learn Their Language
This one is really more for YOU than them. On the internet, you’ll eventually run into “text talk” (acronyms that are popular in text messages). Remember many teens are viewing the internet via a cell phone, so don’t be surprised if you run into vegetable soup.
If you noticed, marketing to teens isn’t much different than marketing to adults. It’s been proven, as long as you are fun and engaging, you shouldn’t have too much trouble marketing to any audience.