Last month I attended a webinar hosted by Publisher’s Weekly, called “Building the Next Generation of YA Stars.” The speakers included the editorial director of Disney-Hyperion and the executive editor of Harlequin Teen. Together they covered new marketing strategies for YA novels, trends, and what they look for when acquiring books.
According to them, YA books have more leeway for experimental and creative marketing techniques. So, several books have been testing new ideas, with a lot of success. Examples include revealing chapters based on certain number of likes (see Clockwork Princess) or even making the book free. There are also cover reveals, where a certain number of tweets reveals a pixel of the cover, until the full cover is revealed.
Throwing the marketing back to the fans is helpful, they said, and the more involved they are in the marketing process, the more it helps to sell books. The most powerful marketing tool is word-of-mouth, so the trick is to find new and exciting ways to get the word out.
Another example of involving the fans is to have them vote, and a certain number of votes can determine which city an author appears in for a book tour. This can ensure the success of a book tour.
Additionally, Skype visits and video chats are good ways for authors to reach audiences without spending too much money (such as having monthly video chats with authors via Shindig). Festivals and regional festivals are also very important, as well as having booksellers and librarians create buzz around a book. Harlequin works with libraries via their site, harlequinforlibraries.com.
As for social media, having holiday chats on Twitter and talking about books there helps build an audience. It’s also good to have author specific chats, which encourages fans to have a direct line of contact.
The Internet is a good place for testing marketing ideas. Other experiments have included user generated contests on Pinterest, where fans create artwork. Another contest encourages fans to write blog posts from certain characters’ point of view. All of this creates interaction and synergy, they said.
According to the editors, it’s hard to predict the next trend, but there are a few popular genres. Costume drama is big, because of Downton Abbey, and new adult is doing well, because it’s older YA, it can crossover, and the characters can grow up. Additionally, dystopian books are still selling well.
Both editors said that they don’t acquire manuscripts based on trend, but rather by unique, great stories (which will probably start a trend). They don’t like books that sound like adults trying to sound like teenagers–it’s the closest thing to taboo in YA. But they do look for how the story is presented, and if it feels authentic. And at least one of the editors is looking for something funny. And why not? We could all probably always use a good laugh.