3 S.R. Johannes: Marvelous Marketer - Jay Asher (Author of Th1rteen R3asons Why)

Monday, February 02, 2009

Marvelous Marketer - Jay Asher (Author of Th1rteen R3asons Why)

Happy Library Lover's Month to all our fabulous librarians!

Keeping up due to popular demand!

Interview with Jay Asher, Author of

Thirteen Reasons Why

Hi Jay, Thank you for agreeing to share your marketing tips with readers. Before we get into marketing, tell us a little about yourself.

Thirteen Reasons Why is a novel for teens, dealing with some very serious issues, which I decided to write as a suspense novel more than anything else. I submitted it to a couple houses, but before any rejection letters came back, I decided I would rather sell it through a literary agency.

While the book got its share of rejection letters, it ended up selling in a three-house auction, so I’m glad I had an agent to handle the details of the auction and guide me in my house selection. In the end, I went with Razorbill, an imprint at Penguin…and I couldn’t have made a better choice! With everything from the editing to marketing, they’ve been so enthusiastic and creative.

Do you have a website? When did you start it and who manages it?

I have a blog and a MySpace page . I manage both myself. Now, I keep a blog mostly for fun, to share my journey as a writer, and have mostly moved away from using it for promotional reasons.

There is also a website for the book which is handled by my publisher. It was launched right around the time my advance reading copies (ARCs) went out, and has been updated with new content a few times since then . They usually ask for my input on ideas, but I’m usually just amazed at what they come up with.

In your opinion, how important is social networking?

I’ve dabbled in most of the social networking sites and closed my accounts on everything but MySpace and my blog. It became to much to manage.

Before I was published, I think it was very important to do as much social networking as possible.

When the book finally came out, even though no one outside of the industry knew my name, there were enough people in different parts of the country interested in my book enough to give it a nice start. But you have to be careful, networking can be a time-suck, too.

The MySpace page is very important, though. That’s the first place most of my teen readers go to find out where I’m speaking, to get info on the book, and that’s where most of the fan-mail comes from!

How important is technology to an author’s marketing plan?

It depends on the book.

I’ve been promoting a unique Thirteen Reasons Why book club which ties in to some of the unusual aspects of the book (You can read about it on my MySpace page).

Since a lot of libraries with teen sections have their own MySpace pages, I promote the book club that way. With just a couple back-and-forth e-mails with the librarian, a group of teens will be discussing my book a few weeks later in some random part of the country.

So being creative and reaching out through technology is important. But it’s also important to simply have a presence so people can reach you if they’re looking to book an author for an event.

In your opinion, what are the top 3 things every author should do to promote their book?

My list would be different if I wrote for a different age group, but the things that helped me the most are MySpace, the book club idea, and speaking at as many schools as possible.

With MySpace, I answer every teen who contacts me, and many of them respond that most authors don’t write them back, which boggles my mind. It is such a gratifying feeling to know someone was touched by my book and took time out of their busy lives to tell me about it. I can’t imagine not writing back!

The book clubs are a great way to get a number of students talking about your book when you can’t travel to their schools.

But actually visiting schools and speaking directly to students is my favorite way to promote. Now, I was terrified of speaking the first few times I did school visits because I had no idea how the teens would react to me (or treat me…I’ll admit, I still haven’t gotten over my own high school traumas). So I designed my speech, even though the book itself is very serious, to be a little more lighthearted and entertaining. It’s fun to be seen as a “fun” presenter, but it also makes my time in front of them entertaining for me.

Basically, any way I can get my book in front of readers, whether I’m there or not, I’ll do it!

Do you have a formal marketing plan or is your marketing more random? If not, why? Would you like to?

Because my book deals with such a serious topic, I didn’t know how adults would respond to it. I thought teens would love it if they knew about it and had access to it, but quite often you have to go through adults to reach the teens (bookstore owners, librarians, and teachers all happen to be adults!).

I had a hard time thinking of ways to promote “this book about suicide” until I started hearing from people who’d read it. But once adults took to the book, usually after hearing the positive reactions teens were having to it, a lot of doors opened up for promotion. For example, the book club idea started with a school librarian in Alabama. She put together such a unique and positive event for her teens, I just copied what she did and promoted the heck out of it.

When the book clubs took off, Penguin printed up some nice discussion guides to give out at tradeshows. When I was asked to speak at a suicide prevention forum, I said yes even though I had no idea what I (“I just wrote a book about it!”) would have to talk about.

But I spent a lot of time putting together a presentation I was proud of, which led to more speaking engagements on that topic. I think if I had thought too much about exactly what I wanted to do to promote the book in advance, I would’ve been disappointed. The marketing evolved naturally, which was nice. And Penguin took a similar approach because they weren’t entirely sure what the reaction to it would be. When it started taking off, they adjusted their strategy to enhance what was already going on. So I think it’s important to stay flexible.

Thank you Jay for sharing your marketing strategies with us. I appreciate it.

Note: Until recently, Jay along with Robin and Eve co-authored the popular Disco Mermaids blog. It is still up for readers to view the archives which catalogs some of Jay's publishing journey.
  • Please take my quick poll on what marketing topic you want to hear more about. (upper left side)
  • Tomorrow: Day 4 in our 30 day Marketing Journey
  • Wednesday: Our Secret Marvelous Marketer of the Day


Denise Jaden said...

Great interview! I'm always interested to hear what other authors are doing for promotion and what works.

Just a note - some of the links to Jay's site are not working/need reformatting.

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for the interview. I found this novel fascinating, and it has certainly sparked some avid readers among teens!

Kelly H-Y said...

Very interesting interview ... thanks!

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Great interview - I didn't know Jay was doing the book club thing through myspace, contacting the different library myspace pages - that's genius!
Thanks to you both,

Vivian Mahoney said...

Jay's book is such a good read. Thanks for the interview!

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

vivian - thx for stopping by

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

denise - thx for catching those :)

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

beth - thx for coming by. I love tantalize - cant wait until eternal too

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

lee - glad you got something out of it :) I lover to hear that - thx for stopping by

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

Kelly - thx for coming :)

Carrie Harris said...

I can't believe that most authors don't write kids back, either! I think I'll be taking my first piece of fan mail and framing it. :)

Assuming that I get one, that is.

Casey Something said...

I remember reading this but I apparently didn't comment.

Thanks for the input Jay! I'm glad to hear you were terrified of speaking at schools and now love it. That's inspiring for me.

Anonymous said...

Great interview. Kathleen Duey talked about him. She apparantly read his novel before he got pubbed and said she knew right away that it was going to be a hit. She said he was a super-nice guy. Also found it interesting that he gave little thought to marketing BEFORE the book came out, but only after in a natural way. That is probably the luxury of an author with a bestselling book right out of the chute...
Vicky Shecter

Anonymous said...

I like that he says the marketing evolved naturally. That's reassuring.

Unknown said...

This was a good interview. I love getting to know these people through you. I feel so much more in the know.