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.