Marketing Is Hard and Other Obvious Truths

marketingCloud1Okay, so this week’s topic is marketing. As the other Debs have confessed, as writers, its one arena that really leaves us flummoxed. What works? What doesn’t? Who knows?

One of the most confusing aspects of all this is that marketing is defined differently than publicity. Marketing usually entails paid, guaranteed efforts (like ad placement or co-op at the bookstore), while publicity is the stuff you see show up randomly — like when your book makes a list or gets reviewed by a magazine, or gets played up on the publisher’s in-house marketing website. Publishers have folks from both departments working on your books (well, hopefully anyway), and what they do, while it overlaps, there is a difference.

So if you don a marketing tiara for a second, there are specific things you can do as a writer to promote your own work. Here are a few things D and I did for TINY PRETTY THINGS.

1. Swag. I can’t promote this enough. I mean, maybe it’s a YA thing, but readers love goodies, like stickers and buttons and T-shirts. And these, with the pretty, pretty cover of your book front and center, can be like little traveling ads for the book. Because people will be like, “Ooooh, shiny! What’s that?” And then you let your reader handsell! It’s a win for everyone. (Again, at least in theory.) The key here is not to over-invest, especially if you’re doing a pre-order promo or something like that. Mailing costs can add up fast. But we took plenty of stickers and buttons to all our events, pre- and post-pub, and YA readers definitely appreciate the swag.

2. Bookplates. Since Dhonielle and I are co-authors, it’s not super-easy for us to just jet into a local bookstore together to sign copies — we’re not physically together much of the time. Bookplates have been great for us in this regard, because she has a batch I’ve signed, and I have a batch she’s signed. So either of us can take some to a local shop and offer them up for “signed copy” purposes. Plus, they’re cute and book-themed.

3. Events. I know, it seems odd to put this into marketing rather than publicity. But given the out of pocket travel costs (usually covered by the writer, unfortunately), I would say this falls a bit into both categories. Bookstore events, conferences like RT and ALA, etc., but you right in front of readers (and librarians and teachers and booksellers), so whether or not you actually sell many copies at any given event, you’re leaving an impression. And we tend to like “knowing” whom we’re buying from right? Readers want connection, and there’s nothing like being there in person. It’s exhausting and can get expensive, but if you can afford to do events time and money-wise, I think they do up you — and your book’s — profile.

Author: Sona Charaipotra

An entertainment and lifestyle journalist published by The New York Times, People, ABC News, MSN, Cosmopolitan and other major national media, SONA CHARAIPOTRA currently curates a kickass column on YA books and teen culture for A collector of presumably useless degrees, she double-majored in journalism and American Studies at Rutgers before getting her masters in screenwriting from New York University (where her thesis project was developed for the screen by MTV Films) and her MFA from the New School. When she's not hanging out with her writer husband and two chatter-boxy kids, she can be found poking plot holes in teen shows like Twisted and Vampire Diaries. But call it research: Sona is the co-founder of CAKE Literary, a boutique book development company with a decidedly diverse bent. Her debut, the YA dance drama Tiny Pretty Things (co-written with Dhonielle Clayton), is due May 26 from HarperTeen. Find her on the web at or

One Reply to “Marketing Is Hard and Other Obvious Truths”

  1. Thanks for making the distinction, Sona! Important to see how you can support marketing efforts — thought I have to say, I think you’re right that swag may be more of a YA thing…but then again, WHO REALLY KNOWS? 🙂

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