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Today I'm excited to share Erin Moulton's new middle grade novel, TRACING STARS. It's a book about friendships and self-identity, such big issues in the middle grade years.

Here's a description from Goodreads:

A charming novel about sisterhood, self-identity, and friendship from the author of Flutter

Indie Lee Chickory knows she's not as cool as her older sister Bebe. Bebe has more friends, for one. And no one tells Bebe she's a fish freak, for two. So when Indie accidentally brings her pet lobster to school, makes a scene, loses him in the ocean and embarrasses Bebe worse than usual, she makes a wish on a star to become a better Chickory. She tries to do this by joining the stage crew of the community's theater production, The Sound of Music. (Bebe has a starring role.) But Bebe is worried that Indie will embarrass her again, so she gives her a makeover and tells her who she should be friends with. That means Owen is out. But he's fun and smart, so Indie keeps her friendship with him a secret. At night, Indie and Owen rebuild a tree house into a ship in the sky to catch Indie's pet lobster. But during the day, Indie has to hide her friendship with Owen.

When things come to a head, Indie realizes that being true to yourself is more important than being cool. But what's even more surprising is that Bebe realizes it, too.

Doesn't that sound good? Erin's going to share a fabulous guest post on marketing with us today. So here's Erin.

So, today I am here to discuss marketing for your middle grade novel. It’s funny, I get asked about this a lot. I have spoken about it on panels, and I have written blog posts about it, and yet, marketing is something I hate. Well, maybe hate is strong word. But it’s certainly something I feel, well, sick about. Honestly. I don’t know what the deal is. I write a book. It’s out in the world, but then figuring out how to talk about the book is hard for me. It literally makes my stomach twist. And here I am…to talk to you about how to do it! I know what you are saying, why the hell are you going to tell us how to do it if you can’t get a grip on it yourself, lady? 

That is a valid question, my friend. As it turns out, I have been talking to more and more writers, and it appears to be a common place of discomfort. It’s certainly not universal, but let’s face the facts, a lot of introverts are not good at putting themselves out there and the word “marketing” certainly indicates that you take charge of promoting yourself. And, again, let’s face the facts, a lot of writers are introverts. Myself included. But, I have come to think of it in a new, healthier way. 

One day, while I was leaving a school visit I was thinking, why do I love this, but hate putting myself out there to adults, to the market etc? And I realized it was because when I am doing a school visit, I feel like I am engaging with, and giving something to, the group. When I hear the word, marketing I think promotion, ads, commercials etc. Look, look, look, me, me, me! Bleh! Ultimately, I had preconceived notions about what marketing meant, and I think those notions were wrong. As I got into my car it dawned on me that if I thought about marketing simply as engaging with my audience, it wouldn’t feel nearly as uncomfortable. But that left the question: How would I engage with my readers? Well, I thought about it and I came up with three simple steps that helped me and I hope they help you, too. 

Step 1: Figure out who your audience is and give them what they need. Understand whether your book is for the school/library market or if it will be commercial. My books are for the school/library market, so I know that the people I want to engage with are teachers, librarians and kids! In order to engage with this group, I
a)      Made sure my website was friendly to teachers and librarians. I made a teacher’s guide, so it could be used in the classroom. I added Readers Theater and interviews. If you can put up some video, do that, too! Post anything you think will be helpful to teachers, kids or librarians in a school setting.
b)      I also made myself available for school visits. You can either post school visit content to your website or have a few idea options available to send teachers and librarians when they contact you. If you get a request from very far away, be sure to make skype available at a lower cost. It works great and it’s still beneficial to the kids.
c)       I also reached out to my MG and school library book bloggers. You can do a blog book tour (just like I am doing now). Make sure you give options for posts: review, interviews, giveaways, guest posts etc. That way you are not just saying “hey look at me, look at me!” Think content. You will be amazed at how open and welcoming the world of bloggers is, just as long as you are clear with your motives and have something significant to offer.

Step 2: Utilize your strengths to help/give to others. I don’t just mean with writing. I mean, utilize your strengths as a human. I get excited for others very easily and I have what the other librarians call the “nice factor.” I honestly can’t help it and rarely know when I am doing it. I nod on cue and give lots of encouraging looks. I have been hugged by a complete stranger on the street more than once. Actually more than twice. (now that I am thinking about this, I am starting to think it is actually a weakness….) In any case, I am not saying you need to be super friendly, but: know thyself, writer, and use your skills to buoy others. Like a lot of writers, I get excited about colleagues in the writing community, so I can’t help but
a)      Show off the work of friends and colleagues. Sometimes through reviews at the library, sometimes retweeting articles, other times just plain bragging about them. Do you have a blog? Can you do book chats or regular reviews? Be a voice in the greater picture.

b)      Give stuff away! I give stuff away on blogs, goodreads, and whenever I do a reading or signing I like to bring a basket or a book to giveaway. It’s a thank you for people giving their time to come and visit me. You’re given the pleasure of their company. Give something back. Make it unique to you and your story. Think about what sets you apart and give with that in mind. Do you love working with kids? Give away a skype visit. Do you work with charities? Do a raffle and give the profit to your favorite foundation. You get the gist; use your skills to buoy your book as well as others.

Step 3: (is small but important) be consistent with images so that people recognize you. We’re talking about engaging an audience here, and you cannot engage an audience if the audience cannot find you. Imagine if you were a band who regularly changed their name? Or, well, imagine if you were a writer who wrote every book under a different name? No one would be able to follow you to see what you are up to next. Make sure you have the same images on

a)      twitter and facebook, goodreads, amazon and your websites

b) swag, giveaways and gifties

So my point? Don’t market. Find your audience and engage with them. Think strengths, consistency, content and generosity. That’s my two cents. How do you engage with your readers?

Erin E. Moulton graduated with an MFA in Writing for Children from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2007. She is the author of Flutter: The Story of Four Sisters and One Incredible Journey(Philomel/Penguin 2011), and Tracing Stars(Philomel/Penguin 2012). Erin is co-founder of the Kinship Writers Association and is currently the YA librarian at the Derry Public Library.  Erin lives in Southern New Hampshire with her husband and puppy where she writes, reads, drinks tea and dreams.  You can visit her online at www.erinemoulton.com or on Facebook as Erin E. Moulton (Author), or find her on twitter @erinemoulton.

Erin has generously offered an ARC of TRACING STARS for a giveaway.  All you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on July 14th. I’ll announce the winner on July 16th. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.

If you mention this contest on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook, please let me know in the comments and I’ll give you an extra entry.

Here's what's coming up. There's a lot:

I hope you'll come back on Monday when I interview Carolyn Turgeon about her new book THE NEXT FULL MOON, a fantastic middle grade story about a girl who grows wings. Carolyn has written a number of adult/YA crossover books so she has lots of great advice to share with you.
The following Monday I'm interviewing Laurisa White Reyes and giving away a copy of her amazing book THE ROCK OF IVANHOE.

Wednesday that week Casey has a guest post scheduled with Shannon Wiersbitzky on staying focused and she's giving away THE SUMMER OF HAMMERS AND ANGELS.

The following Monday I'm interviewing Lenny Lee for my ASK THE EXPERT series and sharing and giving away UNRAVELING and THE SELECTION.

Then Wednesday that week I'm interviewing Leigh Bardugo and giving away a copy of her fantasy SHADOW AND BONE. I've heard such amazing things about her book. I've been saving it to read this week and I can't for her interview. 

Have a great weekend and see you on Monday!


Liesel K. Hill said...

Great guest post! Those are awesome tips that any writer, no matter what they write, can apply. :D

Andrea Mack said...

Thanks for this great guest post! Talking with other people about my writing and my books is hard for me but I'm getting better. Erin, thanks for sharing your insights.

Please don't enter me in the book giveaway. Much as I'd love to read Erin's new book, I have previously won a copy of Flutter, and I think someone else deserves a chance to enjoy her great writing!

Will Overby said...

Awesome suggestions! I can't wait to try those!

Kristin Lenz said...

Erin - your "nice factor" shines through in this post! My daughter has Flutter on her bookshelf (which she plucked from the bookstore by herself without a peep from me) and would love your new book, too. Thanks for sharing!

Barbara Watson said...

Great tips! I've heard the MG audience is the tough to market to because they aren't the ones with buying power. So engaging librarians, teachers (school visits are AWESOME--I wish I'd had some when I was in school!), and parents is key.

Erin, I'm a MG book blogger and can't wait to read TRACING STARS!

Barbara Watson said...

Sorry *is tough to market to*

I dislike typos and need to reread my comments before clicking publish.

Erin E. Moulton said...

Barbara, you're right, MG is a tough one to market for. Not nearly as full of buzz as YA,and less crosssover, I think.
My agent, Joan, always says, "no matter what, be authentic." In other words, if you are not comfortable doing something, don't do it! Unless, of course, you think the challenge would make you better. :) In any case, I think it's good to take that to heart regardless of the age group you write for.

Erin E. Moulton said...

Thanks Kristin! I hope your daughter likes FLUTTER!

Erin E. Moulton said...

You can do it, Andrea! Follow your strengths! But I certainly know how you feel! It's not easy.

Stephanie Garber said...

Great post! And Natalie, you are going to love SHADOW AND BONE! Such a fun read, it totally lives up to the hype!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Erin has some great ideas and tips. As a writer of MG fiction, these were very crucial for me to keep in mind. Thanks for another wonderful interview.

nutschell said...

Awesome of you to feature Erin here. I do love getting to know more MG authors:) These are really helpful tips so thanks for sharing them.

Happy Weekend!

Jan said...

Very valuable info here. I'm in the very, very, very beginning stages of my MG novel journey, but I'll bookmark this and refer to it--definitely!--if I ever get there. Still waiting for everything to just happen magically for me...

Stefanie Wass said...

I'm currently reading (and loving) FLUTTER!
Can't wait to read TRACING STARS.

Christina Lee said...

Hi there!! LOVE that cover for TRACING STARS (both covers, actually)!!! Great advice--needs to be bookmarked!

Angela Brown said...

Can you say BOOKMARK? Yeah, because I immediately bookmarked this post the moment I started reading over the tips provided. I suppose the truth is marketing is a pre-conceived thing in my mind as well so I really appreciate the positive spin and advice provided here today!!

Vivien said...

Shadow and Bone is fabulous stuff!! I really enjoy the MG that seems to skirt the line between it and YA.

Definitely some great tips!

Marcia said...

Wonderful guest post. I appreciate the specific tips on marketing MG, and plan to bookmark this right now.

Rosi said...

Great interview. Thanks. Also thanks for running the giveaway. The book looks great.

Natasha said...

Great post! Thanks for the chance to win, Tracing Stars sounds really good!
natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

Mary Preston said...

This was very interesting thank you.

I work in Early Childhood. Parents are often guided by our choices as regards their book purchases. So, sell us on a book & we read and recommend.

GFC: Mary Preston


Anonymous said...

Could you please do agent profiles for Kendra Marcus, Liza Fleissig and Uwe Stender.

Anonymous said...

Or atleast guide us on how to know more about them.

mshatch said...

Wow, great posts coming up and I'll be sure to check back to read them all - especially Monday's which will be right up my ally since my almost finished wip is a crossover, too. Can't wait!

Carmen said...

Thank you for the awesome tips, Erin!!
Best of luck with your book. It sounds wonderful.

cerickson at integra dot net

Unknown said...

Great advice. Readers can tell when you are just trying to sell yourself and your book and it's such a turn off--but engaging and sharing, that really draws people in.

Ruth Donnelly said...

An excellent post! And Tracing Stars sounds fantastic; it's going straight to the top of my TBR list.

Steve MC said...

You had me at "lobster." :-)

But really, excellent tips, especially about using that fun factor you have with kids, where you're sharing something cool, with everyone else as well.

emii said...

Recently I've been skimming a lot of book descriptions, and so I was amazed to find myself at the final sentence of yours, realizing that I'd been engaged from word one and read the whole thing!

Actually, I love this whole post. I'm writing my first query letter right now, so I'm obviously not up to any 'marketing' stage, but I absolutely love what you wrote about 'engaging'.

And I am about to search your book in our library's catalogue.

Lydia Kang said...

It makes so much sense that the marketing for MG is very different than for YA. Thank you for this post, Erin and Natalie!

Lisa said...

Your advice is spot on! Thanks for the ideas.

LisaRosenman (at) hotmail (dot) com

Leslie S. Rose said...

What a great post. I learned so much. As a middle grade teacher I appreciate the focus you give to students and schools. I HAVE to add Tracing Stars to my classroom library - lobsters and Sound of Music. I'm in.

Linda A. said...

Natalie and Erin,

Great marketing strategies and interview. Please enter me in the Tracing Stars giveaway. I agree with Leslie, this book has some interesting elements. I've never heard of a pet lobster.

Erin E. Moulton said...

You can do it, emii! Good luck with your querying!

Unknown said...

Wow! This is a great article. These are very timely as I release my middle grade novel. Tracing Stars sound like a awesome read.

Cathy Mealey said...

My DD is a fan of FLUTTER and would love to read TRACING STARS.

"Know thyself, writer" is great advice - taking it to heart!

cathy54321 at hotmail dot com

Jennifer R said...

Natalie - Another great post! Erin - loved your marketing tips! No need to enter me in the drawing, I just finished Tracing Stars tonight. I will have a post with Erin on Monday.

Veronika said...

I really enjoyed reading this post! Thank you so much for doing it! I can't wait to read the book, the cover is beautiful!!
verusbognar (at) gmail (dot) com

Unknown said...

Actually, you have a funny way of showing your fears and a good way of fighting them. I enjoyed reading your post a lot. I could actually understand how you feel about things because it goes the same way for me when I do trade shows and I started handing out my tradeshow gift where all the questions would come out..

Rida said...

Wow, great posts coming up and I'll be sure to check back to read them all - especially Monday's which will be right up my ally since my almost finished wip is a crossover, too. Can't wait!www.effectivefa.com

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this post!! The cover is amazing and looks beautiful!!
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