Thursday, February 2, 2012

Innovations in Book Marketing: Sara Wilson Etienne's HARBINGER

Starting a new series of case studies in book marketing, Sara Wilson Etienne shares about the marketing she's done for her debut YA novel, Harbinger, out today.

When I sold my first book, Harbinger, a year and a half ago, I thought I was ready. I had a website with a blog. I had an active Facebook page. I had a husband who was great at graphic design and web stuff. What more could a girl ask for??? Then I figured out…

Promotion can really suck.

Turns out, promoting yourself can be awkward and expensive and a ton of work. Shockingly, it’s not fun to feel like a telemarketer interrupting people’s dinner. Talk too much about your book and people get tired of listening. Talk too little and no one will hear you. And there are people everywhere telling you WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING OR ELSE. Or else your book will never make it onto the shelves of Barnes and Noble. Or else you’ll never get a second printing. Or else pterodactyls will time-travel forward to personally shred every copy of your book.

But I also found, as I dipped my toe into the promotional water, that I did love doing some things. I loved emailing one-on-one with YA book bloggers…it was so great checking out their websites, getting to know them, seeing what was going on in that part of the world. I also loved chatting with people in the infinite cocktail party that is Twitter. And I loved doing things that let the world of Harbinger sneak off the page and into our real world. And I realized that was the first important rule when promoting your book.

Pick something fun. Something you’re good at. Something that fits your book.

I picked the Holbrook Academy website.

My husband, Tony, is an artist and a technical genius. We love fitting my words and his pictures together to make something new…for example, he illustrated a map of Holbrook Academy for the end papers of Harbinger. As well as a wonderful tarot card illustration. Together we dreamed up a website for the school in my book, Holbrook Academy. We matched scenic, slightly corporate pictures with the creepy doublespeak of Holbrook.

It was fun to dream up the website for my world, but when I talked to Putnam about it, they asked me an important question: what would keep people coming back to it once they’d been there and looked around?


Yikes! Yes, as we have all seen from the flurry of Superbowl ads this week, good promotions have entertaining content.

Around that time, one of my artist friends asked if he could get an early copy of Harbinger so he could create my first piece of fan-art. I loved the idea! And the light bulb didn’t just go off, it exploded in my head! Harbinger-inspired art would be great content! This is something that fit my book and something I could put together well.

It’s not a coincidence that my main character, Faye, is an artist and a ton of my friends are also artists. All my stories come out in words, so I’m in awe of people who create visually. So I reached out to illustrator friends of mine and the Holbrook Academy sketchbook was born.

I gave twenty-five incredible illustrators and artists advance copies of Harbinger and asked them to pick a moment, a character, a scene that they loved and create a piece of art around it. Then I reached out to YA book bloggers and asked them to reveal the pieces of art.  This is where I stumbled across the next important part.

Think outside the box. But not too far outside.

The responses I got from bloggers were excited. Blog tours were something they recognized, but this was a new twist. An art blog tour. People were psyched about the idea, but they still knew what to do with it. I also sent the bloggers fun swag along with the ARCs, a plush figurine from the book (made by one of the artists), a Holbrook Academy brochure, and a lanyard with the date of Harbinger’s release....unique, but still familiar.

picture by the Fable Faerie, one of the YA Bloggers who got the ARC and swag

Even though I was asking other people to do a lot of work, I was overwhelmed by the support people showed Harbinger. The artists got involved and thought about more artists that might want to join in. Then people thought, if we’re making art, why not have a gallery show?

The real-world gallery show is on March 3rd, at The Hive Gallery in downtown LA.  Details are here on facebook. The online gallery is here.

As the art came out and bloggers posted it, more bloggers got interested. This is what you want, you want energy to snowball. You are only one person. Your voice is only so loud. But as it turns out, with other people’s help, you can build a megaphone.

Get other people involved and excited, and your book will become much bigger than yourself.

That same rule applied to the Harbinger book trailer too. I live in Los Angeles, so it seemed a crime not to make a live action book trailer. I talked to a friend of mine about it and he talked to his friends and soon the trailer got bigger than all of us. I’m not going to say much more about the trailer, since I’ve already written a whole blog post about it. Except I will say this, once people got excited, the trailer became an unstoppable force.
Shooting the Harbinger trailer

As your book goes through the steps toward publication, it stops being yours… first your agent, then your editor, then the design team, then bloggers, and finally readers!

This is what you want…for other people to feel excitement and ownership over your book. For people to make your story theirs.

That is what a good book promotion idea can do for you. It may still be a lot of hard work, it might cost some money, but turns out…it doesn’t have to suck.

Thanks Sara!

Inspiring, isn't it?

Here's the trailer for Sara's debut, "Harbinger"

Illustrate and Write... and Market Your Books On!


Lissa Price said...

Great article! The two links to the art show are not working though. Want to see!

Congrats, Sara, on your release.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Hi Lissa, the links are now working. Thanks for letting us know.

Saviour Pirotta said...

Wow, fantastic article. Some very original ways of marketing here. The Harbringer inspired art idea is very good. Maybe we should all keep things like this in mind when writing. Disney asked it of his writers.

Sarah said...

So interesting and intriguing - thanks for sharing a new way to think about marketing.

And, wow, what an incredible trailer!

erica lorraine scheidt said...

Thanks, great interview Wind.