Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Online Marketing advice from Author and Marketing Expert Shelli Johannes-Wells

Now that I'm in my debut year as an author, marketing is DEFINITELY on my mind. And while I'm lucky enough to have the support of a publisher behind me, I am also aware that much of it will also be my responsibility as the author. Luckily, I happen to have some friends who are marketing experts, and they let me pester them with emails filled with (probably lame) Shannon marketing questions.

But I realized that many of you don't that advantage. And since I'm all about paying it forward, I decided to ask one of my marketing friends to put together a guest post for me, so I could share some of what I'm learning with you guys.

So I give you, Shelli Johanness-Wells, who's here to explain how the various age groups in children's literature are different--and how that should shape various marketing strategies:

Shelli's Official Bio (i.e.: Why you should pay attention to this woman):

S.R. Johannes is the author of Untraceable, a teen wilderness thriller. She lives in Atlanta Georgia with her dog, British-accented husband, and the huge imaginations of their little prince and princess, which she hopes- someday- will change the world. She runs the Market My Words blog a go-to site for author marketing and is the founder of The Indelibles, a group for independent authors. You can follow her Author page, her blog, or Twitter.

Her new tween book, On The Bright Side releases Jan 31st  On the Bright Side is about a humorous take on guardian angeldom and death. Gabby is a tween angel (Bright) assigned to protect her middle school nemesis, who is now dating her school crush. Instead of protecting her frenemy, Gabby pranks her, accidentally unleashing a dark side. Soon, she learns what can happen if you hate someone to death.

Take it away, Shelli!


Marketing books to different markets

I have a tween book coming out and the marketing is a challenge.

Marketing is hard for any author. No one likes to do it and it’s hard and awkward. But to figure out the different markets and different ways to reach them is tough. Especially for authors who don’t have big houses behind them.

Teens (Self Influence/Peer Influence/Direct Buying Power)
Let’s first look at the buying characteristics of young adults. These are usually in high school. 15 (10th grade) and up to 17/18 (graduating). Anything after 18 (college) is considered New Adult
  •  Teens are driving and therefore usually have a job 
  •  They tend to make some of their own money 
  •  They are more in charge of their own purchases up to a certain $ amount (especially things like books and music) 
  • They are online, social networking and have ereaders  
  • They don’t look to adults for advice (this includes cool aunts, librarians they’ve known at story time since they were four, and especially not parents.)
  •  They listen to the opinions of friends. 
  •  Very into trends and fads 
  •  When it comes to books, they like good books but also like what is popular

The best way to reach this age group is online and through word of mouth. Especially with Facebook.

Therefore, you target building word of mouth. Which is also called PR. They don’t tend to respond to advertising like adults do. And target popular sites with teens.

Middle Graders (Adult Influence/Adult Buying Power)
Let’s check out middle graders. This market is misleading because these are not middle schoolers really. They tend to span elementary school and are usually ages 8 (2nd grade) to 11 or 12 (7th grade).
  •  They are a little more impressionable. Especially the younger ones 8-11 
  •  They have no purchasing power 
  •  They tend to listen to teachers, coaches, and parents more than friends. But they are just starting to be impressionable with trends and fads 
  •  They don’t read as much 
  •  They don’t tend to have ereaders 
  •  They are not online 
  •  Even picture book authors should use this route to market picture books
The best way to reach these readers are through gatekeepers. Librarians, booksellers, schools, teachers, coaches and even parents.

So target awareness of the gatekeepers.

Tweens (Self/Peer Influence/Adult Buying Power)
Ugh. This is a whole other ball game. Tweens are tough to reach in any way.
  •  They are not fully online yet and not allowed in many social networking sites. 
  • They like more interactive stuff. 
  •  Their social sites are usually closed to adults. 
  • Yet they are not very impressionable with adults. 
  • They tend to want to impress friends and go with popular opinion more than teens because this is an awkward stage. 
  • They don’t have their own money or transportation but are responsible for hundreds of billions of dollars in consumer spending. 

They are not a lot of tween books – especially in the age range of 13 and 14. Most books are aged up to 15 or aged down to 12.
  • They don’t want to read middle grade, but their parents don’t really want them to read a lot of YA (especially unscreened)
Why? Because bookstores don’t have separate shelves for these. Take B&N. They shelve MG in the kid’s area but YA is now in the adult area.

I think this area is up and coming. I think this age group will start to look for books that are in their age group yet appeal to their mature reading. Without all the violence and sex and issue driven books. Appealing to the interactive area will reach them more. Virtual books, choose your own adventure. Also – multi-media tends to reach this audience. Interactive sites like like AllyKatzz and Beacon Street.

This group is a challenge in itself and is an area still being tested.

A few tween resources
The Tween Marketing Machine book by Sigel
Tween magazines – American Girl, Girl’s Life.
Tween sites – Beacon Street, AllyKatzz


*phew* I don't know about you guys--but my head is all explodey now--in a good way. Hope you found this information helpful! Thanks so much Shelli!


  1. Wow - thanks for all the helpful information, Shelli and Shannon. Off to let it soak in now...

  2. Awesome! I think the PR and word of mouth works the best. We get the ball rolling and our work either takes off or it doesn't. Even though Okay For Now had a horrible cover I eventually read it and loved it through word of mouth!

  3. Great insights Shelli on the different age groups and how they find out about books. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Thanks for doing this post, and thank you Shelli for sharing some marketing tips. I love learning about stuff like that and since I'll be self-publishing my YA paranormal book in March, this post was helpful to me. :)

  5. Great information! Boy, it's hard to market to younger kids, it seems, but you've given great advice on it and how they find their books. :)

  6. Wow, great information! It's so important to keep the audience in mind when marketing and promoting.

  7. Shelli is AMAZING and I am bookmarking this post--hopefully, I'll need it someday. *grins*

  8. This is great, Shelli!! I have a 12-year-old who reads A LOT, and I write to YA, so this 100% makes sense with my experience. How you describe the tween age is so spot on and challenging.

  9. Great tips, Shelli! Thank you for sharing! And thank you Shannon for having her.

  10. Great post. Marketing really can be difficult. I'm a freelance publicist, so I do my own best but it's always nice to see what other ideas people have!


  11. thanks for letting me stop by shannon :)


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