Book Marketing for Good: The Importance of Reaching a Young Adult Readership

When a manuscript is submitted to Ooligan, it has to be something more than entertainment. It must fit specific requirements: it must be of particular importance to the Pacific Northwest, and, ideally, it should represent traditionally underserved voices. As a culture, we are growing more inclusive every day, but not all young readers grow up in the same environment. Not every town offers good examples, not every family is understanding, and not every book teaches the same thing.

When you’re marketing a novel to a young adult readership, it is important to understand that while the internet is a map to nearly every young reader, it can also be the thing that destroys a novel.

The Publishers Weekly article “Reaching YA Readers Where They Are: Online” shows how publishers have emerged online since 2015. One cannot begin to reach a young adult readership without an online presence. Often, these publishers will have a complete online persona in the form of an interactive website with only YA-related content. For example, Penguin Random House’s website Penguin Teen features “Meet the Author” pages that are all linked to authors’ websites and social media accounts. They have quizzes, blogs, and categories like “What’s Trending” and “Books to Look Out For.” These sites have a large social media presence, getting around 250,000 views per post and reaching an additional audience through hashtags and handles.

YA readers have a different relationship to authors than older readers do. Getting to know an author personally helps YA readers understand and care about a novel. According to Diana Urban, the industry marketing manager at BookBub, “Readers can sense when an author is being authentic.” When an author truly believes in their book and they express that on their public accounts, young viewers will develop a strong connection to that author. They will put the book stickers and buttons on their belongings and use their influence to post on every platform, furthering awareness. Word of mouth is still a major part of a book’s life, and publishers need to understand that the majority of word of mouth now takes place on social media. If a beautiful story reaches a number of readers, but then something resurfaces from years prior that shows the author acting contrary to how they seemed to portray their beliefs in their writing, this will spread to every young reader. Sales will plummet, and the book will be dead in the water. Personal branding is important, but it should never be manufactured. Thanks to social media and our young readers today, our society has started to hold authors to a higher standard of authenticity and civility. For a book to truly reach a YA readership, the author needs to be who they appear to be.

Marketing can be a highly stigmatized area, and some feel targeted by it in an exploitative way. After all, we all get advertised things we don’t want. But marketing a hand sanitizer or ketchup bottle is a very different task from what book marketers do every day. People who work with books believe wholeheartedly in what they are working with, and they want that book to reach as many people as it can, whether it’s a story about grief, coming of age, overcoming obstacles, love, hate, diversity, history, or anything else. Young readers are out there, and they’re eager for content. Using social media to promote a book with an equally eager and authentic author is the only way to reach them.

Manager Monday: Bringing Social Media Marketing to the Forefront

Oh, what’s this? A soapbox? For moi? Don’t mind if I do.

If there’s one thing I learned while serving as the social media manager for Ooligan Press, it’s that digital marketing is severely misunderstood—and often criminally undervalued—when it takes the form of a tweet, an Instagram photo, or a Facebook post. Despite the fact that more and more jobs in online community management are being posted every day, commercial social media platforms are still in the process of being fully recognized as their own legitimate, strategy-based method of business marketing—you know, that thing people get degrees in. Of course, that’s not to say anything depreciative about the professionals who manage those platforms… It just seems so darn easy, right?

Think about it. Social media has become one of the most ubiquitous pastimes of our generation. Everyone and their mother has a Facebook account—come to think of it, that idiom has never been more true. The vast majority of us stay up to date on who’s arguing with whom via our Twitter accounts. Everyone checked out LinkedIn when it was purported to be a career-building necessity and went a little endorsement crazy. And we all at least took a gander at Google+ at one point before laughing and clicking over to something worth our time. But does the casual, noncommercial utilization of social media platforms qualify the user for a position at, say, a digital marketing agency? Well, that’s a bit like asking if being a pro at making Kraft Mac & Cheese will earn you the title of head chef at a five-star restaurant.

The internet is a fluid and fickle thing; its platforms change shape about as often as its users change their socks. Trends come and go, upgrades occur, payment models shift, terms and conditions are modified, and most of the time, the typical internet user is none the wiser to any of it. As a web strategist, I believe one thing holds true throughout all this chaos: It’s easy to build and maintain your online identity poorly; it takes skill to do it impressively. In order for any commercial endeavor to be effective in such a dynamic digital landscape, it’s crucial to have someone managing your web presence who is ready, willing, and able to build and sustain your online brand with expert understanding and responsiveness. Hence the emerging field of social media professionals.

Granted, mastering social media is just one piece of what it means to be a true digital guru; the number of areas one can specialize in when it comes to digital marketing continues to grow. If you’re an aspiring web strategist, the most important thing you can do is find a place where you can cut your teeth on the type of work that’s common in a B2B or B2C environment, the kind of work that requires taking your knowledge of social media to the next level. Lucky for you, digital marketing is one of the fastest growing and most valuable industries in the country—projected to be worth $62 billion back in 2012—so there’s never been a better time to get involved.

My advice? Get to tweeting. Create a website. Get to posting. Build your platform; show them you can do it and do it well. Explore, experiment, and stay informed. Live on the cutting edge. If you need a little schooling, there’s a degree for that. I guarantee you that, in a few year’s time, the number of young professionals with extensive and impressive digital marketing training will skyrocket, so get in while you can and secure yourself a very fun and lucrative future. The internet is here to stay; it’s just about getting the right people to help run it now. Godspeed.