Monday, May 2, 2011

Marketing Monday - Hilary Wagner

Whew! After an intense A to Z April, Marketing Monday is back!

Today, I am thrilled to feature Hilary Wagner, a middle grade author whose debut novel Nightshade City has already enjoyed terrific success!. If you're a children's writer, chances are, you are familiar with her blog posts or tweets.

Hilary has also been a terrific resource for other authors through SCBWI and in an interview for the CBI Insider.

She's fun, she's incredibly sweet, and she... well, she loves rats. What's not to love? ;) 

What did Holiday House do to help promote Nightshade City?

Holiday House has deep ties in schools and libraries. Even now, more and more libraries get my book every week. It's so exciting. It's even at several libraries in Singapore, Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands!

Among other events, Holiday House had me speak at the NCTE ALAN workshops in November at Disney World. That was a big honor and certainly something to mark off the bucket list. I'm happy to say I'll be on the NCTE Holiday House panel this year as well, to speak about my latest book. Anytime Holiday House has me and other authors speak, they always set up a dinner party too, wherein myself and the other authors get to sit down with Educators and professionals in the publishing industry to talk about our books and help spread the word, not to mention have a great time! They've truly been great and not knowing what to expect as a debut author, they surpassed everything I could have hoped for as far as marketing me.

What did you do to market your novel? When did you start getting the word out (and how)?

Well, I'm in an on-line writers group--not a critique group, but a group of writers who support each other through the whole process. So, as a group, anyone with a book coming out gets a blog tour and we are all part of it. We all write for different age levels, but that doesn't matter, spreading the word is spreading the word!

I did work with a book publicist as well. Through my publisher, my book got into Barnes & Noble and other retail stores, but I really wanted a strong Indie presence. I worked with my publicist to design postcards that went out to a huge list of independent booksellers. It worked too! Just the other day, I was at a local Chicago indie bookstore who said the reason they ordered my books was because they received the postcard!

I'm also pretty involved with social networking (twitter, facebook, blogging) and not just to push my book, but to make friends. The on-line writers' community is vast and truly supportive of one another. I've met wonderful writers, who've become good friends and great supporters of my books. It's also been a great way to land speaking engagements. Many of the panels I've spoken on and school visits I've been invited to have all been a result of some form of social networking.

Also, if not involved already, I suggest every children's writer joins the SCBWI. My local chapter (Illinois) is very active. I've made so many friends and I actually get to meet them in person! I was just on an SCBWI panel last month in Chicago, talking about social networking for your book, so your question is quite timely! It's such a wonderful resource for meeting fellow writers, joining critique groups, finding SCBWI meet-ups in your local area. I would be lost without them!

You have a quote from Rick Riordan on the cover. (Wow!) Do you think that helped Nightshade City gain some attention from fans of Percy Jackson?

I sure hope so! I was literally in shock with my agent read the quote to me. She was walking down the street in NYC and I was sitting in my office. I screamed out loud and everyone came running! What an honor! Apparently, Mr. Riordan's children had read the final manuscript and like it so he read it too! It's truly amazing how these things happen in life.

Nightshade City is in its second printing, a CBC Best Book, a Crystal Kite Finalist, and a Goodreads Choice Award Finalist. What do you think led to this success? (aside from the fact that you wrote a terrific novel)

I would think it's all the "terrific novel" part, ha, ha! Honestly though, I think much of it is getting the word spread about your book. It's a very organic process. I suppose you can compare it to how a rumor gets started, but with a bit of luck it's a good rumor in this case! ;)

What advice do you have for other authors who are just starting to think about promoting their books?

Well, when you first start out it's a little overwhelming. You don't need to join every social networking site or have three blogs going, posting every day. You just need to figure out what works best for you. I'm active with my blog, but really only post once a week. That's what works best for me. It's doable, I can manage it, and I don't feel pressure. It took a while to grow my readership--it won't happen overnight, so don't get discouraged. IT WILL HAPPEN! Just keep consistent with your posts, follow others in your field (usually they'll follow back), try and respond to folks who comment on your blog and have fun.

I'm also pretty active on Twitter and Facebook, but I use it more for fun than anything else. About 95% of the people I'm connected to are fellow writers and it's fun to joke and be silly with everyone, talk about our "regular" lives, as well as talk about our writing and publishing. The key is to be yourself! No one wants you to constantly blab about your book and your book alone. Frankly, it's annoying and a good way for people to drop you as a connection. To me, it is perfectly fine to talk about your book, provide links, etc, just don't make that all you are. Let me know you, because I'm sure you're wonderful and then of course, I'll want to support you and buy your book! ;)

Thank you, Hilary!!  The White Assassin, Hilary's sequel to Nightshade City, will be released in October. Don't miss it!

If you are a published author and you would like to share your experiences with marketing and promoting your book(s), I'd love to share your story! Please contact me at anpstevens [at] gmail [dot] com. 


  1. Great interview. Congrats on finishing the A-Z Challenge!

  2. That's great. Another book to add to my TBR list - for me and my son, I should say. Thanks!

  3. Alison, thanks so much for having me! You asked great questions!

    xoxo -- Hilary

  4. Great interview, Alison :).

    I love the tips. I find it hard myself to keep up blogging/twittering on a daily/hourly basis. I guess I should find timing that works.

    Nice book cover too, Hilary. I'm putting the book in my to-read list :).

  5. kmckendry: Thanks!

    Brooke: You'll love it!

    Hilary: You did all the work--thanks so much!

    Astrid: I have trouble finding time, too. Good to know you can successfully market and not be constantly submerged in the social network.

  6. Nice article, thanks for the information.

  7. Great interview. Liked the part about the postcards.

  8. sewa: You're welcome!

    Chris: The postcards are a great idea, aren't they?

  9. Hmm, I'd never heard of the difference between a "writer's group" and a "critique group." Sounds lovely. Thanks for another great interview!

  10. I received some great tips on publicity by reading this.

    I'm so glad for her success and can't wait to read Hilary's 2nd novel.

  11. Julie: I hadn't either... maybe we need to start one?!?

    Medeia: Lots of great ideas. I'm anxiously awaiting the sequel, too (and the one she's currently writing). :)

  12. Hilary is the best! I loved Nightshade City.

  13. This was a fantastic interview! It's also so nice to hear somebody say that posting once a week on your blog is all right, instead of the "churn it out!" advice that I often get. I really enjoyed this. Thank you two ladies!