Cori McCarthy is the author of four novels for young readers: The Color of Rain (Running Press, 2013), Breaking Sky (Sourcebooks, 2015), You Were Here (Sourcebooks, 2016) and the forthcoming Now a Major Motion Picture (Sourcebooks, 2017). I interviewed McCarthy to discuss ebook marketing and the transition of a book into a movie.
This is part one of a two-part series.
BB: Cori, as an author for young readers, what has your experience been in the digital realm?
CM: All of my books have come out as ebooks, and I wondered, when I got my first contract for The Color of Rain, why is there competition between print books and ebooks? Readers would come up to me and in a sheepish way and say, “I’m really sorry, I bought your ebook.” I would say, “That’s great! You bought my book.” Ebook sales are just as important as hard copy sales.
BB: How do you promote your books?
CM: My publisher, Sourcebooks, offers specific marketing programs for every book. Sourcebooks is an indie publisher, so they don’t have huge marketing budgets. They do a lot on social media, at national conferences, and for teachers and librarians. In April they promoted Breaking Sky with a Kindle Daily Deal, which lowered the ebook price to $1.99.
Breaking Sky is about a female teenage fighter pilot, so I wanted to promote the book to the military. My publisher works very hard to promote my books. But marketing to the military is not their specialty, so I worked with a freelance publicist. She put together some Facebook ads that specifically targeted anyone who is interested in the U.S. Air Force or in the military or in Young Adult novels.
The way Facebook ads work is that you can target an audience by interest. When you run a Facebook ad, you get a complete analysis of how many people clicked on it, what their genders are, what their ages are. We got a very, very good response from a variety of ages and both male and female.
My publicist had other ideas. She got me into the Vegas Valley Book Festival, and there’s a really big Air Force base near there. I am going to go to the Festival and talk to the high schools in the area.
BB: So your publisher put together a price reduction promotion and promotion with Amazon, and then on your own you hired a publicist to target military readers?
CM: The last thing you want to do is hire a publicist to do the things that your publisher should be doing for you. But it’s great to hire a publicist to supplement your publisher’s core promotions. My publicist put in motion programs that my publisher doesn’t have the time or the budget to do. We hadn’t quite reached Air Force or Navy families, so I opted to promote to this audience myself. There aren’t very many realistic military experiences for young adult readers, and I believe there is a crossover market for these kinds of books.
BB: So your strategy is to encourage your publisher to do everything they can, plus if you have additional ideas, you’re not shy about marketing the books yourself.
CM: You have to be multi-faceted in your approach. You can’t just go after one audience or one market. We are reaching out in multiple directions, trying to get the word out as much as possible. And it’s to varying degrees of success. With Amazon, you can check your sales rank and your author rank and it will go up and down. So I would do a really big push one day and then the next day I would check the rank and be like, “Oh, it went up! I’m doing something good.”
BB: When did your Amazon ranking change the most dramatically?
CM: On Twitter, I had been talking back and forth with an actor, David Boreanaz, who has a very, very large fanbase. So when he retweeted the price reduction of my ebook, I immediately got 50 shares and many, many link clicks on the sales page. That wasn’t something I could have planned; it was just kind of networking a little bit.
BB: This happened because you have you been networking consistently on social media and doing lots of different things on all fronts?
CM: You never know what is going to work. If you put all your money and energy into one promotion and it doesn’t get much of a response, that is tough. But if you do four things and one of them works or two of them work, then you feel pretty good about it.
Not only is David Boreanaz a fan of Cori McCarthy’s writing, but we’ve just heard that Breaking Sky is being developed into a movie by Sony Pictures. In part two of this article, McCarthy will talk about her experience with Hollywood.
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