3 S.R. Johannes: A tween marketing experiment

Monday, December 19, 2011

A tween marketing experiment

As most of you know I wrote a funny, adventurous "tween angel series" called On The Bright Side that my agent started submitting to editors in Oct 2009. The book went to acquisitions at a couple of the Big 6 houses and I even completed a couple non-contractual revisions for editors. Unfortunately, the book STILL ended up not selling and was pulled in early 2010 for revisions.  

At the time, I was devastated and had no idea stuff like that even happened in the industry. That you could go to acquisitions and do non-contractual revisions for nothing. In the end,  it didn't sell - primarily because editors felt the tween market didn't really exist and my book either needed to be aged down to MG (12) or up to a low YA book (15). Even though I considered aging it up to 15, the option never panned out for me.

If you are interested in more of the deets - here are a few past interviews about On The Bright Side's journey:
  • Realm Love Joy did a beautiful art rendition of my character in On The Bright Side, Gabby
  • Beth Revis and I talked about On The Bright Side 
  • Chuck Sambuchino asks me about my agent and On The Bright Side
Tween Market
Well lately, people have been talking lately about the tween and middle grade market saying ebooks have still not popped in that market yet.

I personally think the ebook market for middle graders and tweens is about to pop. Not only is JK Rowling launching Harry Potter ebooks with Pottermore this year; but now that ereaders are so cheap, I think tweens will be getting Kindles and Nooks this holiday season. If they do, I have found that there are not many affordable ebooks (2.99) out there for that age group. 

On The Bright Side
So guess what? *waits for groans, shaking heads, and "you are crazy" chants to subside.*

Yes....I have decided to go ahead and publish my poor little tween book from 2009 on January 31st, 2012! You can even add it on Goodreads.

I plan to dive head first into the question of "are tweens online and do they have ereaders?" I know, I probably seem crazy and trust me - my husband is shaking his head at my next move. 

But you know what, people thought Einstein was a little off his rocker and look what he did. Okay, bad example, but my marketing mind cannot resist the urge to investigate and poke around. And since my tween book has been edited and ready to go for a couple years... and since it is collecting dust on my shelf of "all the books I have written that ALMOST got bought but didn't", I've decided to take another chance in the indie pubbing world.

I've had SOOOO much fun putting out Untraceable and so much wonderful support from everyone that I have nothing to lose. Bright has no life left in traditional publishing since it went on submission to pretty much every BIG house there was and I personally think it's too cute to just push aside and forget. I don't know about you - but I kinda feel like my books are my kids and to turn my back on them doesn't feel quite right. It feels like I'm abandoning them just because SOMEONE else said they were not quite good enough. And that feeling sucks.

So over the next month - I'm going do some blogging not only to continue talking about the self-pubbing industry, but also to talk about "how can we can market to tweens - especially online" and "do they need their own books?"  Where do they hang out? How do you reach them directly? Do they like ereaders? Can "tween" be a new market outside of middle grade? A market for those kids who have outgrown Harry Potter, but are too young for Twilight and Hunger Games.

On the Bright Side pitch
Tomorrow I will release the first chapter as a sneak peek of On The Bright Side.

On the Bright Side is a hilarious road to guardian angeldom paved with so much drama and due-paying that it makes middle school look painless.

As if the devil’s food cake at her wake and the white fat pants she’s stuck wearing for eternity weren’t bad enough, fourteen year-old Gabby is quick to discover that Cirrus, the main rung of Heaven, is a far cry from the Pearly Gates. Here, Skyphones and InnerNets are all the rage. Until Gabby finds out she has to protect Angela, her school nemesis, in order to move up through the training levels of heaven. Problem is, Angela is now hitting on Gabby's should-have-been boyfriend. (awkward!)

Instead of protecting Angela, Gabby pranks her (like tripping is a sin?) at the hopes of cooling off the new couple. At first, they seem harmless until the school dance sabotage gets completely out of control. Then, her Celestial Sky Agent, who happens to have anger management issues of his own, puts Gabby on probation, threatening her eternal future. 

Determined to right her wrongs, Gabby steals an ancient artifact that allows her to return to Earth for just one day. Without knowing, she kicks off a series of events and learns what can happen when you hate someone to death. 

If you have a TWEEN/MG blog or would be interested in signing up for a blog tour and free ARC, please complete this form for me. 

What do you guys think about the tween market? Is it different than MG and YA? Does it deserve its own spot on the shelf?


Laura Pauling said...

Great news! Sounds like a terrific book. I think there is room for a tween market. Definitely. And will only continue as the months go by.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I agree, there is a need for tween books. Kids in that age bracket need age appropriate books. I met with an editor at a conference last year and that was one of the age groups she was interested in.

Anonymous said...

Hi - I saw your tweet referring to 'tween' and chimes filled the air as suddenly all became clear. This is the problem I've been having with my writing - I'm too old for middle readers and a bit young for young adult. Tween is definitely the way forward for me from a writing perspective!

Like you say, how many in this age group have their own e-readers and to what extent are parents still acting as gatekeepers in their e-book reading habits?

If you look at how mobile phones have filtered down to younger age groups, I assume e-readers will follow the same pattern so the marketing case for differentiating this age group can only become stronger.

Right then, what can we do to get things going?!

Corey Schwartz said...

Go Shelli! I've had a sneak peak at One the Bright Side and it rocks!

Cynthia said...

I'm surprised it didn't go. It sounds like a great book! Good luck!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

What a fantastic blurb! Sounds like there's a place on the shelf for this book, Shelli. I think any great tale with be read by many ages. I mean, I fall in love with picture books, MG, YA and it's been centuries since I was those ages. When you have a good story, you reach an audience.

Lori M. Lee said...

Sounds great, Shelli :) I wish you the best of luck with the new release, although I don't think you'll need it. You clearly know what you're doing!

E. Arroyo said...

Congrats! It might be a great time as parents are probably upgrading their ereaders and handing them down. =) Good luck.

Meradeth Houston said...

Sounds like a lot of fun! Good luck with your launch :)

Unknown said...

I teach sixth grade and write MG. In my classes, e-readers have exploded in the last year and a half. I've been waiting to see if and when the older MG audience got into the game. According to my observations, they're in! The technological trickle down effect, older e-readers from parents to kids, is in full swing, as is the holiday e-reader gift request. Eleven and twelve year-olds, who are readers, read pretty much anything they can get their hands on, including younger MG and older MG, all the way to younger YA books, like The Hunger Games, which has also trickled down to the MG audience.

I, too, will more than likely be publishing my work in early spring. Good luck! I think you're right on target when you say that this age group is about to "pop" when it comes to e-readers. It's popping, that's for sure, but the popcorn bag is not yet full.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

thanks guys -

tween is that hard area to reach but I think it will become more prominent as we move forward. Its those kids who are too old for MG but parents think they are too young for most YA.

ali cross said...

SO excited to read this AND to see how it does! I think it's gonna ROCK it!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

The mg/tween discussion is an interesting one. I'm curious if publishers will start developing an upper mg/lower ya grouping for kids.

As for now, I've learned I need to keep my protagonists 12 or under if I want to stay in the mg realm.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

Great plan - and I agree with you about the tween market and ereaders. I think within a year - maybe two. Good luck!

Hannah Hale said...

I agree, I think that market is primed for a major surge! The person in front of me AND behind me at best buy yesterday were buying Kindles for the nieces (lucky girls!). My own tween wants an eReader for Christmas as do all her friends.

Exciting times for you, Shelli!

Jemi Fraser said...

I think tweens will be getting into ebooks soon too. At our school, very few of the kids have even seen an ereader (not an affluent area) - but they'd love to have them! :)

kah said...

LOVE IT! I would so read that book.

I can't believe publishers wouldn't jump on a story with such a great concept.

Sometimes the big 6 miss out on great books because they won't think outside of the box. Sounds like this story was one of those.

Natalie said...

Oh my gosh. That sounds AWESOME! And I can't think of an eBook experiment that would be more interesting for me, personally, to watch. I'll totally be tuning in. :)

Katie Anderson said...

Woo hoo!!!!!

Dorothy Dreyer said...

Sounds great! Good luck with it! (My daughter is 13 1/2 - probably would be just the right book for her!)

RaShelle Workman said...

I'm excited for you!