Monday, March 12, 2012

Marketing Monday: Angela Cerrito and Holiday House marketing

As promised, today I have young adult author Angela Cerrito and Terry Borzumato-Greenberg, VP of Marketing at Holiday House for an extra-special edition of Marketing Monday.

Critics have had wonderful things to say about Angela's debut novel, THE END OF THE LINE:

"A thought-provoking look at culpability and grief," Kirkus Reviews

"Robbie's story has the potential to make young people think, care, and possibly change." VOYA

So let's find out how Angela and the Holiday House marketing team made it such a success! (Note: the first response is from Terry, the rest from Angela.)

Terry, THE END OF THE LINE is for ages 12+, which means that some of the target audience is young adults, and the rest is gatekeepers: parents, teachers, librarians. How do you market a book like this to effectively reach all of those potential readers/buyers? Do you put an emphasis on trying to reach a particular group?

Holiday House has always marketed to the gatekeepers, especially librarians and teachers. There are the tried and true ways which really are essential to establishing a book, such as sending advance copies to the key reviewers, to library systems and educators nationwide, and to the appropriate awards committees. Now with the internet, and social networking, there are so many additional opportunities!

We were so excited when Angela Cerrito’s debut novel was signed up for the Holiday House list. And one of the nice things that worked in the book’s favor was that seven of the eight novels published on the same list were all first novels! So with that, we created a fabulous marketing campaign: “7 Novels, 7 New Voices, 7 Incredible Stories.” We created reader’s guides and bookmarks, and we began promoting the list months in advance of publication at conventions as well as online. Librarians, educators, and booksellers all love to be in at the ground level to introduce new authors to young readers, so we gave them the tools to do that. Two professors were so impressed with Holiday House’s commitment, and to the books, that they put together a program at a national teacher convention to showcase the talent. It was a rousing success!

Getting the book into the hands of the right people goes a long way. And then the book needs to do the rest of the work, which of course THE END OF THE LINE did. We’re lucky to have Angela and her novel on the Holiday House list. They both have made an impact with readers. And we thank those all-important gatekeepers. . . .

Angela, how did you and Holiday House go about creating a marketing plan for TEOTL? To what extent was it a joint venture (hammering out what you could do versus what would best be handled by the Holiday House team)?

Holiday House did wonders with marketing THE END OF THE LINE from the start. The novel tackles serious subjects but the main character is fairly young. My editor, Julie Amper, guided the revision process with the end reader in mind. Holiday House’s marketing department created the marketing plan as Terry Borzumato-Greenberg mentioned above. When I learned of opportunities to promote the novel (a book launch in my home town, Skype visits with classrooms, speaking at a teachers’ workshop and displaying the novel at the SCBWI LA conference) I simply sent an email to the Holiday House to work out the details.

Basically, Holiday House is there for me when I have a question. Okay, Alison I’ll admit this embarrassing tidbit. I was concerned about the use of the word “gatekeepers” in question 1. I work in healthcare and in this industry a “gatekeeper” is someone who denies access to health care or specialized care. I was a bit concerned about the term being applied to parents, teachers and librarians who I really see as “gate openers” for literature. Haylee Gonnason, publicist at Holiday House, responded to assure me that the term was common in publishing and not negative. I think that publicists have at least two jobs in one. They have to work with professionals in the industry and the media to promote books and they must also educate authors who may be very new to publishing.

(I had no idea the term had such a drastically different meaning in healthcare. In fact, I love your term: gate openers. How can we change it?!)

As far as things I did on my own:

Teachers Guide: Natalie Lorenz created a teacher’s guide for TEOTL. I think this was the best thing I did to promote the novel. It leads itself well to classroom and teachers can use all or select parts of the guide. I love how Natalie created lessons for students with a variety of different learning styles. In January, the guide was downloaded from my website about once per day. This month so far it has been downloaded about 15 times per week.

Website: I created an interactive website for the book. The main character in THE END OF THE LINE is required to make lists. The first list is about who he is. Readers can send me lists about who they are and I will post them on the website.

Book Trailer: My daughter and her friends made book trailers (in a few different languages) for the book.

Blog Interviews: It has been so much fun to be interviewed by bloggers. I keep a list with links to all of the interviews on my website. I was honored to be interviewed by Cynthia Leitich Smith on Cynsations, Cynthia had read an excerpt of an earlier version of the novel many years before it was published.

Angela, how did you use social networking to spread the word about your novel? Do you have a sense of how well it helped you reach your target audience?

I’m not alone in thinking social networking is difficult to measure. I first and foremost use social networking to connect with my family and friends. Most of my FB status updates and comments have to do with real events in my life (the things my children say or what our family is up to next). I don’t shy away from new social networking opportunities (like tumblr / pinterest) but I don’t spend a great deal of time on them either.

I’m not sure if any of my social networking efforts (or even my website) helped “spread the word” about THE END OF THE LINE. But they are all landing places for people to find me after they have read the novel. After a school visit or presentation, I often receive website lists and friend requests from people who were at the event. That is the best indication I have that social networking is working for me.

Note: I love getting handwritten letters too! My habit is to respond to emails with an email and to snail mail with a handwritten letter or card.

I love that you send handwritten notes in return! Such a great way to establish a connection with your readers. TEOTL is listed as one of YALSA's 2012 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers and was selected for VOYA’s Top of the Top Shelf and Top Picks for Middle Grade Readers lists. Did marketing efforts lead to either of those honors, and if so, how?

I am thrilled and so grateful that TEOTL was selected to each of those lists. I have to credit the Holiday House marketing department for getting the book noticed.

TEOTL is a recent addition to the Great Scavenger Hunt Contest. Did marketing efforts lead to this?

I heard about the Great Scavenger Hunt from a reader a couple of years ago. But I wouldn’t have known how to participate as a novelist if it weren’t for The Elevensies, a group of debut authors whose first novels were published in 2011. I’m fortunate that my first novel came out at the right time for me to be part of this wonderful group of talented and generous writers.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to be interviewed on your site!!

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Thank you, Terry and Angela, for taking the time to share your experience with us. It's a wonderful book and you've marketed it well!

Angela grew up in Dearborn Michigan. She liked school but she loved summer visits to her grandparents’ cabin on Pontiac Lake where they lived “like the olden days.” She spent her summers trying to protect her strawberry patch from muskrats (and trying to protect the muskrats from her grandfather), swimming with her sister, reading and eating mulberries right off the tree. After high school she moved to Forest Grove, Oregon where she tried to balance many part-time jobs with full-time school, found the love of her life and got married over a weekend in graduate school. She went on to become a physical therapist and has worked in Oregon, Wisconsin, Georgia, Italy and Germany. She started writing when she had the good fortune to be unemployed while living in Italy.  After writing a few novels, joining several critique groups, attending many SCBWI conferences and what seemed like thousands of revisions, her first novel was acquired by Holiday House and released in 2011. She is represented by William Reiss of John Hawkins and Associates. 

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.