We all know that one of the hottest-selling publishing areas at the moment is the YA or young adult novel. But historically teenage books had always been difficult to sell, after all the last thing a teenager is going to respond to is an “old” person telling them what they should read.
So what changed? Authors and marketers stopped aiming teenage books at teenagers and the result has been darker and more appealing stories with a much wider demographic audience. Teenage (or YA as they are now called) novels are now read by everyone – young and old. And the teenagers themselves? Now that no-one is telling them that these books are meant for them, they are perfectly happy to take them on as well.
In publicity terms this is a rare case where less targeting means better results. You are every bit as likely to find a review for a YA novel in Marie Claire magazine as the much more teen-focused Bliss. So the advice is to cast your net wide and keep your target audience a little bit vague. As always, an in-depth knowledge of the media is important but for the YA novel that problem is increased – you need knowledge of a much wider range of media than with most other books. Your two choices are to call in the professionals or try to make the needed contacts yourself.
Most publicity companies can either supply you with a media list or do all of the work for you. The advantage of a full-service campaign is that you will have a professional ‘pitching’ your story in a way that will appeal to editors and producers. If you are very confident of your ability to sell a story you can save money by buying a list and having a go yourself. Remember, though, you only get one chance to “sell” your book to a journalist, so make sure your pitch is perfect.
Your audience may be consuming all kinds of media. Magazines can include those aimed at teenagers as well as women’s magazines and genre magazines (such as ones for science fiction or horror fans). National newspapers will occasionally cover YA fiction, and don’t forget about the local papers who love stories about local authors. On the radio, book stories can occasionally be shoehorned into music shows, particularly ones with a lot of talk between songs. And finally television: it is generally the morning shows that you are after, particularly during the school holidays and with a message aimed at parents.
Now onto social media marketing. It is a given that teenagers and young adults use social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter and that opinions and recommendations get shared over electronic as well as personal networks. Not only that but the rise of the YA novel has led to the rise of the YA book blogger. These writers and reviewers play a powerful role in shaping opinions among young adults and also also in more traditional media. Magazine and newspaper editors are among the readers of the best and most-informed blogs on the internet and they often write about the books that are hot in social network circles. A great review on an influential blog can snowball into national coverage – and it often does.
If you haven’t done it already, get on Twitter and Facebook and start building a network as soon as possible. Make your social networking reflect you as a person, don’t try too hard to sell or be too corporate, and remember that it is called social for a reason. You should not just be broadcasting advertisements for your book but also telling people about you and joining in on conversations. Just as importantly, you also need to listen to find out who are the powerful opinion shapers that can help you the most.
Generating publicity for a YA novel can be one of the most challenging and most rewarding things that you can do in the course of your writing career. It is intensely time-consuming and energy draining (if you do it yourself) but if your book takes off it can spread like wildfire!