What, Where, and… Hey, want a Candy Bar?
Sometimes we do something so “right” in the setup of a story but we couldn’t say why—until later, in that rear view mirror of life. I’m talking about getting lucky with the “what” “where” and “a candy bar” in marketing my new YA novel, One Right Thing. I’ll explain.
I knew my book’s title (any book’s title) was important. I just hadn’t focused on the reasons why. So, I hadn’t thought how helpful my title choice would be. One Right Thing is a character driven “family drama” that includes teen pregnancy and sexual abuse. A few months ago, in a fit of absentee-agent-desperation, when my beloved book hit my deemed quota of rejections (Can we say 4 X 10, everyone?) I considered changing One Right Thing to “Sex 101.”
Must you ask?
Put “sex” in anything, probably even a picture book, or a recipe, and you’ll double your hits! Swapping out One Right Thing for “Sex 101” would have been a sell-out. Worse, it wouldn’t have held the marketing magic One Right Thing offers.
You want your title to be memorable and unique. And not overused! Run a check to see what other books, and on what other subjects, already have “your” title! And you want your title to give away a bit of what your book is about. Even though mine is about pregnancy, it’s almost, not at all, about sex. And you want your title to issue a kind of invitation, a “Come take me off this shelf!” plea. One reason I think One Right Thing works is people instantly want to argue with anything so one dimensional and dogmatic. “Who says only one?” “Why only one? Why not two?” “What’s this author’s one right thing, anyway?”
NPR had an essay contest a few years ago called “This I Believe.” Their entrants were mostly adults. With the similarity between “This I Believe,” and “One Right Thing,” I decided to sponsor a national contest for the 12-20 age group. This contest will keep many in my target audience saying and thinking my book’s title over and over: “Hey, Joe, what’s your one right thing?” “I dunno, man; I’m deciding. What’s your one right thing?”
We want, our readers thinking about our titles—pondering them, looking through the pages, figuring out what the titles mean. Make your title work for you. My book also looks at abortion and adoption. The idea isn’t to proclaim “one right thing,” but to get people talking about what’s right. For them.
Can you make your title into a contest? Can yours get mileage by lining up with a product? Something going on in the news? Something people know, maybe want, before they even know they want your book?
The next stroke of genius… okay, luck… is the “where” in my story. Books with a firm locale, that name streets you could go and stand on, intrigue me. Don’t they you? So, without seeing what a coop this would be, I set my novel in the town where I grew up. I now find that I have a natural and eager audience in the readers in this area. And it gives me a launching pad for my book and contest with the teens in Manhattan and Junction City, Kansas, where I started out. I’m beginning my book tour there because many local readers will be already interested in buying it. They’ll want to see if they can decide where, exactly, Maggie and her father lived, with all his broken down cars in the drive. Which hill is it where Skylar takes Maggie the first night they stand beneath the harvest moon and kiss? Do you have a place that burns with memories for you? Might it be a setting for a book?
The third marketing coop is, again, pure luck! Now, fun! Skylar, my hunky, male protagonist, devours Score candy bars. Get the double meaning? In football, and in life, Skylar is a jock, a risk taker, a boy with a appetite. He’s always hungry and… he always wants to score. How am I making use of this food item in marketing? And how might you put something like this, on purpose, into a piece of writing? Everyone likes getting a free book. Even better if it comes with a candy bar!
One Right Thing is a “print on demand.” I jumped in the first day and bought 100 “seed” books, books that—often—I send out, gratis, upon the waters of the reading world. I also bought, on sale, a huge box of Scores. When I give a librarian, or a teacher, or a teenager, a copy of One Right Thing with a goal or request—“Might you review this for me?” “Can you “like” this on your Facebook?” I also give them a Score candy bar. “Why the Score?” they ask. I smile and say, “Read the book; you’ll know!”
Bonus marketing creativity… I ordered new business cards that have the book’s cover on one side and my picture and how to reach me on the other. I give out five cards a day, to five different people, even if that means, as night nears, I give one to my neighbor, walking his poodle. If spreading the word about One Right Thing does nothing else, it’s increasing neighborliness. Poodle and I are getting to be great pals.
Last: always—like your purse or wallet—carry your new book everywhere you go, every time you leave home. Studies show that the first time you see something (i.e. my book jacket) you only “see” it. “Okay,”your eyes report, “that’s a book.” The second time you see something (again, my book) the information becomes: “There’s a book and I’ve seen it before.” The third time you see my book, your brain makes a leap. It says: “I see this book all the time. Maybe I should read this book!” And, of course, you should!
Good luck when it’s your turn to take on marketing. Write and share with Lisa and me your creative marketing ideas. Lisa will, and I will, be excited to hear from you. I thank my generous friend, Lisa, for sharing her blog space with me this month.
For you Kansas City readers, you are invited to a book party for One Right Thing on Thursday, Oct. 18, at the party room of Sulgrave-Regency condominiums from 6:30-8 p.m. Please come!
Chalise grew up in Manhattan, KS, and graduated from Kansas State Univ. She freelanced for 20 years, but her two favorite works are: Rain Forest Girl, a nonfiction children’s book about adopting from Brazil, and her most recent work: One Right Thing, a fiction YA on sexual abuse and teen pregnancy. You can reach Chalise – and she welcomes being reached – on her website: www.chalisebourque.com