I never thought I would say this, but middle grade is a pretty awesome time. At that age kids have outgrown picture books and easy readers but aren’t yet mature enough for young adult topics. They are discovering themselves and what interests them, and they are ready for a little bit of adventure. As a middle grade author, you are inspiring young readers and helping develop their interest in reading more. So how does a middle grade author grab the attention of 8-12 year olds so that they will read their book?
You don’t . . . (well, not at first. Just hear me out.)
You grab the attention of their parents, guardians, librarians, and teachers. These are the gatekeepers, the ones who make the purchases, who are on social media, and who ultimately make decisions for your target reader.
Have an online presence
With that in mind you want to tailor your online presence to catch the gatekeeper's eye. Use your social media wisely, promote your book, but don’t ONLY promote your book. Teachers and librarians aren’t only focused on books, but also on bettering the community. There’s a 20/80 rule where an author should use their online presence 20% of the time to promote their book and 80% of the time offering useful content like writing tips for writers of all ages or sharing links that are helpful to teachers and librarians. Talk about your writing process and other things that they can share with their students that can inspire them to want to give writing a try. Have giveaways geared towards educators that will get your book into their hands. Who doesn’t love free stuff?! Also, pay attention and respond to comments by the teachers and librarians, this will help you to connect with them and can lead to more personal ways to promote your book.
Get out there!
Once you have connected with the gatekeepers, you now have the opportunity to connect directly with your readers!
School and library visits are a wonderful way to engage with MG students. This can be done virtually or in person, and it’s your opportunity to feel like a celebrity! Them getting to meet the person who ACTUALLY wrote and published a book can be very inspiring and this will make them want to read your book even more. When you do go to in-person events, have something to give away, like bookmarks or lapel pins, something that the student can take away and be reminded to read your book. Again, who doesn’t love free stuff?! It can be scary to speak publicly but it is such an effective marketing tool. If public speaking isn’t your thing, make videos that you can share with teachers to show their students. Just get yourself out there in some way shape or form.
Channel your inner Spielberg (or hire someone to be your Spielberg)
Speaking of videos, another great way to connect with your reader is to create a book trailer. Let’s face it, we are all visual creatures, especially at that age. A book trailer can be a fun way for the parents and other gatekeepers to show MG readers how exciting your book is and pique their interest.
Just Be Yourself
Finally, just remember to have fun! Kids are very honest critics and they can tell when you are not in your comfort zone. You want to be authentic. If sprinkling jokes in here and there isn’t your thing, have some interactive games for the kids to take part in. Do what makes you feel comfortable, this will build trust between you and your potential reader.
by Michael Hardison
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