If You Build It, They Will Come: Launch Your Book W/Low-Cost Community Building & Online Marketing Initiatives

Originally Posted: September 2013

by Kristi Olson

Kellie Celia, marketing communications manager for Walden Media/Walden Pond Press, offered practical tips and advice for authors and illustrators on how to launch their own low-cost community building and online marketing campaign. Here are some highlights from her May Professional Series lecture:

-Build Relationships

“Know your audience,” Celia said. It includes not only targeted readers (the core audience), but also the peripheral audience: gatekeepers for picture books and middle grade books (people who influence children’s book buying), teen librarians and adult crossover readers for YA, and other readers who are interested in the book’s topic (SciFi fans, history buffs).

Authors should know that readers find books mainly through personal recommendations/word of mouth and through impressions gathered from social media, reviews, bookstores, libraries, and online. Celia commented that The Hunger Games publicity started at Scholastic as an in-house campaign with advance reader copies. All the buzz started through simple word of mouth.

-Build a Community, Online and Offline

Authors should be aware of online platforms that can be used to market their book, Celia said. These include: Twitter, Author Facebook Page, Goodreads, Pinterest, Tumblr, Blog, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube. Authors should connect with online influencers who promote books through these online platforms. They should also build an offline community by networking at conferences, local kid lit events, local bookstores, school libraries, and non-profit settings.

-Build Buzz

Even before a new book comes out, the author can start building buzz. “Start four to six months before publication,” Celia said. She suggested approaching and pitching book influencers. “Email bloggers with teasers or a synopsis and ask if they might want to write a review,” she suggested. Authors can also offer to write a guest post on the blog. And they shouldn’t forget the peripheral audience. “Are there possible partnerships with any non-profits that may tie into your topic?” Celia asked. Other early online promotions include Goodreads giveways, teaser excerpts, cover/artwork reveals, Pinterest boards, and Skype talks.

-Plan the Book Launch

When the book is ready to be released into the world, Celia offered additional suggestions for promoting it. “Harness the power of social media,” she said, through Twitter promotions (Tweetstakes, Twitter Chats), Goodreads (giveaways, book lists, book clubs, Q&As, events), Facebook (promoted posts, ads, sweepstakes, events), and YouTube/SchoolTube/Animoto (book trailer contests). Make sure to also “harness the power of blogs” through blog tours, blog hops, and guest posts. Authors should also announce the book launch to local and online press using radio ads and press releases. Offline book launch events can include Skype visits to schools and libraries, book parties, and local school visits.

“If you build it,” Celia said, “they will come.”


Kristi Olson holds an MFA in Creative Writing for Children from The New School University. She is currently working on a young adult novel.


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