What are some tips for getting a YA novel onto high school reading lists?
The best way to introduce your novel is to give free copies to the English Language Arts, aka ELA, teachers at the school. What?? Free copies??
Indulge me for a second. If you see a new product, don't you hope to get a sample before buying? Librarians are no different. They strive to buy novels on the NYT best sellers' list, but they are not infallible. If you want them to notice your debut novel then you need to be able to give some to get some. Most schools are on a budget nowadays. Very few schools have a "Debbie" who keeps up on current trends. So you give a copy of your novel—so what? If more kids hear about it then you just did yourself a favor! Librarians are evaluated just like classroom teachers. If they can prove the validity of your book then they help you AND they help the library. Consider it a win-win.
How do authors know if their book would be a good fit, e.g. does it help if the book has a good curricular tie-in?
Curricular tie-in doesn't matter-in certain states-unless you are past the testing period (when teachers can teach novels). What matters is getting kids to read your novel and take Accelerated Reader quizzes on said novel. Whether authors agree with it or not, AR is here to stay because of the accountability it offers students and teachers. Teachers are able to evaluate the reading level, (no matter how inaccurate you believe it to be), and students gain instant feedback on their reading assessments. Plus—believe it or not—students who read at a certain level achieve at a certain level, so teachers always push them to read "above."
Yes there will be alternatives to the rule, but the AR test dominates all because it makes students accountable for reading comprehension, though—in my experience—you are in the clear if your novel is "curriculum based." S.E. Hinton has been proven to be curriculum based, because it applies to ALL students (i.e. they all know gangs, race, sex, etc.), and students ALWAYS seem to pass the tests for a Hinton novel because it is high-concept. So I guess you have to ask yourself if your novel can apply to all students. My answer isn't the be all, end all—I'm just letting you know about inner city and regional schools. I'm sure people will disagree!
What about the role of teachers' guides?
Teachers' guides help to a point. Since our country has numerous states with MANY standards, it is difficult to tailor different novels to different states. Teachers' guides help with comprehension, but you have to ask yourself if they aid in the teaching of standards. If they don't, then you may see a lack of sales in schools. Once the U.S. standards come out (in 2012, I believe), it will be easier to create a teachers' guide that can be accessible to all states. You will see growth in sales at that point, because teachers' guides will address state standards, and teachers will be given more freedom of text—obviously in my and Debbie's opinion.
What about school visits, either in-person or virtual? Are these still an option in today's economy?
As long as schools don't have to pay then this is an option, because we are ALL poor. I know California has California Advancement Partnership for Schools, but I do not know about other states. In California, authors can sign up to speak at CAPS and reach thousands—if not millions—of children.
Are there certain school visits educators and students enjoy the most?
Students enjoy anything that is multimedia. If an author has a book trailer, a reading and a response—that is, a Q and A—then that author will get the most bang for her or his buck. We live in the age of entertainment. No matter how much you fight it, you know this is true. Kids love video games, music, etc. If an author can provide this experience, then Debbie and I can guarantee success with a school visit. In fact, Debbie can guarantee the school will buy at least three copies of the book because of student demand. That's not to speak as to how many teachers will buy, because class sets are based on teacher need, not librarians' need.
Do you have any other advice for authors trying to break into the school market?
Make sure you visit ALL the schools in your area. Kids love to read if you make it exciting to them! Think of yourself as being a movie trailer ...
And now for some additional advice, direct from Debbie.
What is the best way to see if librarians would be interested in adding an author's book to their stacks?
Teachers are the best resource despite the idea that the librarian conquers all. (See the above comments on curriculum tie-ins.) We live in a standards-based world-though I love authors who have a new spin on the old.
What about author appearances at libraries? Are these still an option in today's economy?
I would love someone to visit my library during or after school. If you can prove your novel is exceptional at explaining plot, characterization and everything else, then the teachers will love it. And read in alternate voices for characters, because kids love it. I love spotlighting different genres as well!
What genres are being checked out the most?
Horror, romance and mystery are the most popular.
Do you have any other advice for authors trying to break into the library market?
Make friends with your local librarian, because we are your biggest supporters. Come hang out before you do an appearance. You'd be amazed to hear what kids think when they are in an informal situation. You might gain insight.
Thank you very much, Alleged Author and Debbie, for this incredible advice!
Want to learn more? Following are some links you might find of interest:
- Entertaining middle-grade readers;
- Presentation topics and promotional ideas;
- Some more cool presentation topics;
- Suggested fees and contracts;
- Preparing for an author appearance; and
- Going virtual with your iMac or Skype.
Your turn: Would you consider adding a school or school library visit to your book's marketing plan?