I have four kids, three of which are in my target reading age for my books now (9, 11, and 13). And when I’m not writing, I like to volunteer at their schools—especially in all positions that relate to books. This means I work in the publishing center at the elementary school (we edit and produce books the kids write and put them available for check out in the library), co-organize and run the twice-a-year book fairs at the school, and assist in the junior high LRC (shelving books, covering new books, and anything else they ask me to do).
I write both young adult and middle grade fiction and I’ve found over the years that middle grade books are a bit tougher to promote. With YA, we can reach readers online: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, etc. But your average middle grade reader isn’t on these platforms so how do we let them know about our new books?
One day I was working the Scholastic Book Fair at school and I could see the librarian in the corner of the LRC doing book talks with the various classes. Each time she finished a book talk, the kids were given time to go wander around the book fair. Over and over again the kids went right to the book she had been talking about and snapped it up. So much so that we had to restock that book several times during that week of the fair.
I noticed something similar at the junior high level as well. The librarian there book-talked my books a couple of times with the 7th and 8th graders and she said that each time she did one, all my books were checked out and a waiting list formed.
So approximately three months prior to the release of my newest middle grade book, Cici Reno #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker, (Today! !) I decided I would go straight to the junior high librarians to help get the word out. With a little help from Google, I created a list of mailing addresses for all the junior high schools within a 30-minute drive of me. I picked 30-minutes because I wanted to be available if any of the schools asked me to come for a school visit as well. My mailing list came to 175 schools. I then made postcards at Vistaprint.com.
On the color side of the postcard I uploaded the book cover. On the left side of the back of the postcard, I had Vistaprint print the title, my name, book description, availability date, age range, grade level, ISBN, and my web site address in case they wanted to get in contact with me. I also added my publisher’s logo at the bottom. On the blank right side of the card I hand wrote the school name, attn: School Librarian, and the address, and then added a personal note at the bottom and signed it.
It does take some time but I think personalizing the post cards is nice and separates your card from standard advertisements that come in the mail. Here you can write whatever you want. I noted that I was a local author and what town I’m living in and that I hoped they’d consider my new middle grade novel for their library’s collection. You can also add that you are available for school visits if you’d like. I’ve been getting a number invitations for visits from my postcards so it’s definitely been time well spent.
And if you have any postcards left when you’re done (and your hand isn’t too cramped!) send them to public libraries and bookstores as well to let them also know you have a new book coming out.
Kristina Springer is the author of Cici Reno #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker (Sterling Children's/April 19, 2016), My Fake Boyfriend Is Better Than Yours (Macmillan/FSG), a Scholastic Bestseller and 2012 YALSA Quick Pick book; The Espressologist (Macmillan,/FSG), a 2010 Society of School Librarians International Honor Book and 2014 Illinois Reads Book that has been purchased for film by Michael Eisner’s Vuguru; and Just Your Average Princess (Macmillan/FSG). She has a Masters in Writing from DePaul University and resides in a suburb of Chicago with her husband and children.
Middle school is a test, but Cici Reno has all the answers. She's the go-to girl for advice. She's cool, she's funny, and she's enlightened (thanks to yoga classes at her mom's studio). So when her pretty BFF, Aggie, is too shy to speak to the boy she's crushing on, Cici goes online and does the talking for her. The only problem is, Cici starts to fall for the guy herself! For the first time in her life, she doesn't have a clue.