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A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy
Inside A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy

KidLitCon 2011, Part IV

Tears, Sweat, and True Blood: DIY Marketing in a Post-Twilight World by Holly Cupala  and Shiraz Cupala. As with the Teaming Up presentation, the Cupalas presentation was both about the particular (what Cupala has done to promote her own novels, Tell Me a Secret and the upcoming Don’t Breathe a Word) and the universal (marketing in general, for both book bloggers and authors). I also liked that the Cupalas were matter of fact, talking about, well, the facts. Like most books get budgeted for less than $5,000 for promotion.  Or that part of the reason for Twilight‘s success was Meyer’s online engagement with her fans.

Holly spoke about the things she did to promote her first book, and had a handout of Seventy-Two DIY Things You Can Do To Market Your Book. I love how her approach was pretty much, it’s your book, so you can do this. Things she did included blog tours, trailers, sample chapters sent to bookstores, swag, and an audiobook. Yes, Holly and Shiraz produced their own professional-level audiobook with a professional narrator, Jenna Lamia.

Shiraz discussed, well, the practical things, such as the “The 4 Ps” that I’m sure would get nods from a marketing audience but, for the most part, got blank looks (at least from me): Product, Price, Place, Promotion; sometimes now also called the 4 Cs: Consumer, Cost, Convenience, Communication. He spoke about why people buy books, what impacts the direct decision to buy a book, the loss-leader approach to series pricing (i.e., what some may be familiar with from Amanda Hocking’s pricing the first in a series at less than the sequels). One thing that was said that I think needs to be bolded: only 12 % of teens buy books online. (So, personally speaking, as people talk about the brave new world of shiny ebooks and ereaders, remember, not every reader has access to the Internet or access to a credit card that makes such direct purchasing possible.) Also covered: the difference between above the line advertising, which is what consumers think of as advertising, as below the line things which consumers don’t think of as advertising. Shiraz spoke about word of mouth promotion, the type of authentic conversation about a book that a publisher cannot generate. (I’ll insert to add that this is why the FTC is concerned about how things that are paid for are indeed marked as advertising, so that the reader knows the difference between what is a paid promotion and what is authentic conversation.)

Holly spoke about how their approach to her second book, Don’t Breathe a Word, will be different from that of Tell Me a Secret, based on what worked last time, based on creating the need “spike” of sales, and, also, their own time and availability. For example, this time around they will again do videos because that garnered the most attention last time. However, they are going to have a more DIY approach this time.

Going Deep: The Hows and Whys of Blogging Critically by Kelly Jensen, Abby Johnson, Julia Riley and Janssen Brandshaw. Long term readers know this is a subject near and dear to my heart, so let me start off with saying what “blogging critically” means to me. It doesn’t mean “negative reviews.” It doesn’t mean not liking the books. It means, when the initial reader response is “I loved/like/hated the book,” answering “why” in the blog post. But enough of me, on to Kelly, Abby, Julia and Janssen (and Abby and Janssen participated virtually via Google Plus, which meant special guest stars of Janssen’s baby and husband in the background!) But first, Abby also explored at her blog, Abby the Librarian, the issue of why blogging critically.

Why blog critically, indeed? Abby said that as a librarian, she uses book blogs to make decisions about what to purchase for her library. (My aside: yes, blogs are used for purchasing!)

Things to look at while blogging critically: plot, character, setting, pace. By looking at a book critically it helps a reviewer figure out why a book worked or didn’t work; why that “meh” reaction or “I loved it” reaction happened.

And, critical reviews offers something more meaningful to those reading your blog. It’s especially helpful to back up that discussion with textual evidence (i.e., quotes) (personally speaking, one reason I love blog reviews is it allows longer reviews that includes quotes to illustrate what did and didn’t work about a book).

How long should a review be? (And let me give a shout out to my favorite book blogger who uses haiku to blog critically, Emily Reads). As someone who tends to blog with longer posts, I was relieved to hear Kelly say, “it’s not an issue of length, it’s an issue of substance.”

As to the big question of, can you use publisher copy or write your own plot summary, the panel agreed either is a valid approach with one caveat: cite whether or not you’re using the publisher copy.

What about spoilers? Who is your audience, Abby asked. If it’s gatekeepers, you may need some spoilers; with teen readers, not so much.

Finally, the recommended “tool kit” of things ou can look at when writing critically about a book: character development (is it fleshed out? believable? authentic?), dialogue (say it out loud, does it sound like something someone would actually say?), pacing, language & writing, voice, and reader appeal. And don’t forget — when reviewing an audiobook, talk about the narrator!

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About Elizabeth Burns

Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is lizzy.burns@gmail.com.

Comments

  1. adrienne says:

    Thanks so much for these posts about the conference. I wasn’t there, but I feel like I’m getting a lot out of the roundups, especially the ones that are more detailed like yours have been.

  2. Michelle says:

    I have a feeling that these would have been two of my favorite panels at the con. I like the focus on critical reviewing is about how an individual feels about how the book worked for them. Not how everyone should view the book. I think that is an essential fact that needs to be kept in the back of a bloggers mind when writing reviews. I’ve seen it said (and probably by these presenters) that there is a reader for every book. Whether that is me or not remains to be seen but that doesn’t mean that a book is “bad” because I don’t connect with it. Great stuff here!

  3. Sondy says:

    @Michelle, I did a blog post about exactly that just the day before yesterday. And at the conference, it was really stressed that critical does not equal negative. I so agree with you!

    Liz, one thing that has been simmering in my mind since the marketing panel is this: The survey that so much was based on was about people who purchase books. Don’t libraries purchase a large percentage of books? How many teens check out library books? How many books, in which format do libraries purchase? I know the Cupalas decided to publish her next book as a paperback original, based on these stats, but that made me wonder if it will hurt her sales to libraries.

    Also, isn’t it likely that the percentage of teens who purchase e-books is increasing rapidly? I’m pretty sure it’s constantly increasing for adults. (Says this former statistics instructor): one thing about statistics is that you can only really apply past frequency if the background conditions stay the same. That’s why it’s awfully hard to predict the future with statistics. They were definitely interesting statistics, though.

  4. Angela Carstensen Liz B says:

    adrienne, thanks! do you think you may be able to attend the one in NYC?

    Michelle, these types of conversations… I live for them.

    Sondy, I know part of the reason I’m all critical negative is because some people are “negative isn’t nice.” Well, it’s not about being nice it’s about looking at why a book works or doesn’t for that reader. And for me — to cycle back to Michelle’s comments — I like to know more about that why it didn’t work for that reader. It’s both a more interesting conversation, but it also helps to say “oh, so this book would/wouldn’t work for you.” And yes, the whole ebook thing needs so much more.

  5. adrienne says:

    The next one’s going to be in NYC? I hadn’t heard that yet. It’s excellent news. It’s relatively easy to get to the city from here, and I have friends I can stay with. Score!

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