Though marketing departments do great work launching middle grade books out into the world, their job ideally includes a strong partnership with the authors whose titles they are promoting. For their part, middle grade authors quickly learn that they play a big role in inspiring readers, and that self-marketing is part of getting through to those readers and building a successful writing career.

As not every author has a marketing degree, and the knack for self-promotion and connecting with kids does not always come naturally, we asked a number of authors who have mastered these skills to share their insights and best advice for fellow authors.

Peter Brown

The Wild Robot Escapes (Little, Brown)

Okay, so you want to promote your children’s novel to the adults who can put it into the hands of children. The key to self-promotion is efficiency. You might have a fun idea to make original one-of-a-kind hand-knit oven mitts to send to a few important booksellers, but how many oven mitts can you actually make? How much time and money will that take? Could that time and money be spent more effectively? Will oven mitts really convince a bookseller to put your book on their “Exciting New Books” table? Probably not.

Remember, booksellers are in the business of selling books; they aren’t in the business of collecting oven mitts. So use your resources wisely. As much fun as it might be to make five or 10 incredible oven mitts, your energy is better spent on the boring, tried-and-true methods of book promotion. Here’s a list of five wise (and unsurprising) things you can do to promote your book:

● Have a social media presence. I hate social media, but I’m on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram because they are the easiest way to tell the world about my upcoming book, or about my book events. In order to build a following online, it helps if you post witty, interesting, useful, uplifting things on social media... but don’t force it.

● Have a nicely designed website that’s easy to navigate with links to buy your book. Personally, my website only links to IndieBound, not Amazon, because everyone knows about Amazon but, sadly, not everyone knows they can easily buy books online from indie booksellers. Also, many educators appreciate it when authors have activities that can be printed and used in their classroom (coloring pages, trivia, crafts, etc.), but that kind of project can easily take over your life, so be careful.

● If you can stomach public speaking, use that to your advantage, and make yourself available for events at schools and libraries and bookstores and book festivals. And then make sure there’s a page on your website that describes the type of presentations you give. The more public speaking you do the easier it’ll be, and the more quickly you’ll build a following of loyal readers.

● Decide how much of your own money you’re willing to spend on self-promotion, if any. Then think about the most effective ways to use that money. Apparently, people really love enamel pins, so I spent my own money to have pins made of my character Roz from my Wild Robot books, and I gave them away at book events. At least for a while, there were children (and adults) all over the country (and other countries) wearing my pins out in public. I think that was money well spent.

● Actually, custom hand-knit oven mitts do sound pretty fantastic. If you really love knitting, I say go for it.

Wendy S. Swore

A Monster Like Me (Shadow Mountain)

School visits are a must for middle grade. And in our world of YouTube and digital feeds, an excellent book trailer helps kids see your story as something awesome and relevant to them. When given the opportunity to talk to kids, the message should include a quick overview of the story and how it relates to kids, writing tips for aspiring writers, and a deeper, inspirational message.

Librarians, books clubs, parents, and teachers are gatekeepers for middle grade readers and it’s vital to gain their support through positive social media and respond to all messages quickly. I love doing Skype classroom and book club visits with these kids. Their imagination and enthusiasm are contagious.

Hashtags that relate to your story, such as #StopBullyingNow, help make your message searchable on feeds. A local #KindCommunity organization is working to get my books into classrooms as part of a kindness initiative because my story aligned with their values.

Since I’m at the farmer’s market each week [Swore farms with her husband], I include my book as part of the display and give out free posters and bookmarks to kids and teachers. They love it, and will often come right back with a parent to get the book.

Most importantly: be real. These kids need to see the person behind the story and know that you care about them. I’ve had children open up and share their struggles, fears, and dreams with me because they related to what I had to say. These precious moments are a gift, and I’m grateful to have the privilege to share my story with these amazing children.

Kate Messner

Chirp (Bloomsbury, Feb. 2020)

Middle grade readers are tricky to reach directly on social media for a few reasons, not the least of which is that they’re not supposed to be there. Nearly all popular social media platforms set 13 as a minimum age for users, and while we know that some kids lie about their age, reaching out to children directly on social media is sketchy, at best. We need to remember that even though we’re friendly children’s authors, we’re also strangers, and we never want to encourage kids to be communicating online with people they don’t know unless their adults are involved and approve.

Given all of that, I’ve found that the best way to share my books with middle grade readers is by reaching out to the people who most often put books in their hands—their teachers, librarians, and families. I also think it’s important to be a partner in kids’ literacy lives, working to help them grow as lifelong readers, instead of just hawking books. Here are a few tips:

● Offer school visits, both in-person and virtual, that are more than just a book advertisement or stand-up comedy. Kids can and should be entertained by author visits, and hopefully they’ll come away wanting to read the featured title. But think about what else you can offer teachers, librarians, and families. Writing tips? A look at the research process that will get kids excited about science or history? Suggestions for what to read next? Inspiration for overcoming challenges? It should always be about more than selling books.

● Ask yourself how you can best serve teachers, librarians, and families via your social media feeds. Again, it’s fine to promote your books, but if that’s all you’re doing, you’re not doing much for the community. I’ve heard some people suggest a 20/80 rule, spending no more than 20% of your online presence promoting your books and/or visits and at least 80% offering other useful content, and I think that’s a decent guideline. What might be included in that other 80%? Offer writing and research tips for writers of all ages. Share links that will be helpful to teachers and librarians, and do what you can to lift up their voices and concerns. Share your own writing process; it can be a real inspiration to kids to know that published authors outline, draft, struggle, and have to revise a lot, too. Recommend books that you didn’t write, especially books by creators whose voices are less privileged than yours. And sure, share that photo of your dog or cat. Also, remember to listen at least as much as you talk. Pay attention to what teachers and librarians are recommending and you’ll learn a lot.

● Remember that even though kids aren’t “supposed” to be on social media, many will see your posts via searches of public posts or pages that their teachers, librarians, and families choose to share with them. If that’s something you want to encourage, curate a feed that works for kids, too. That doesn’t mean never sharing your views about the world, but it might mean thinking about how you choose to do it. Do you want your Twitter feed to be a mostly-for-other-adults situation where you’re not limited in the language you use or the topics you discuss? Or do you want it to be something a fourth-grade teacher can share with students on the SmartBoard? Different authors make different choices about this, and for valid reasons. Whatever you decide, be intentional and thoughtful about what you choose to share.

Rajani LaRocca

Midsummer’s Mayhem (Yellow Jacket)

Be reachable.

Have a website. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should have basic information—your bio, book info (including release dates/buy links), agent’s contact info, publicist’s contact info, social media links, and a way to reach you directly (email or form).

I think of my website and social media platforms as an introduction to me and my books. What do I want people to know about me?

Consider having a newsletter for people who are interested. Even if people are off social media, they typically still check their email.

I try to keep my events page as up-to-date as possible so people know where to find me if they want to see me in person.

Be connected.

I would advise authors to pick at least one social media platform and use it. Try to make your social media handles recognizable/similar to your name. I try to tweet/tag people on Twitter and Instagram sometimes, but it’s a challenge if your name is Laura Smith but your handle is @FluffyUnicorn63!

Novel Nineteens, a Facebook debut group for YA and middle grade authors with titles pubbing in 2019, has been invaluable for meeting fellow authors and talking about everything from writing to promotion. We formed a smaller subset for middle grade folks, as well!

Connect to authors, teachers, librarians, ARC-sharing groups (#BookPosse, #BookExcursion, etc.), and booksellers via Twitter and Instagram. When I meet authors, educators, or booksellers in person (and everyone should!), I get their social media info as well and follow them.

I’m attending as many nerd camps as possible this year. These are free conferences where educators and authors get together and talk about all kinds of interesting topics. I found out about these by following accounts on Twitter and going to their websites.

It’s never too early or too late to get connected to the writing community online. I sometimes schedule tweets/posts ahead of time using programs like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck when I know I want to participate in a chat but will be away/busy.

Be interesting.

Get in on the middle grade conversation with Twitter chats such as #MGLitChat (Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET; I sometimes cohost) and #MGBookChat (Mondays at 9 p.m. ET). I also participate in monthly #Novel19s chats. I recently joined the

@MGatHeart group, which does a monthly newsletter and #MGBookClub chat about a specific middle grade book.

Talking about your writing craft or publishing journey is interesting to writers and teachers alike.

Be generous.

We’re all in this because we love books, so I use my website and social media to promote others’ books, as well! I talk about books I really love, and that shines through.

I try to tag booksellers, conferences, and other authors as much as possible, especially when I see fellow debut authors’ books “in the wild.”

Group promotion is fun! It’s also more interesting than always talking about my own book. I try to do giveaways of other people’s books on my website, and when I read a book I love, I post an online review and tag the author on social media.

I’ve learned that a beautiful (or funny!) photo is a real draw. When I post on Facebook or Twitter, I try to include a photo (or at least a GIF!). Instagram is all photo based, of course. I shamelessly use my cute dog as much as possible. And I use free graphic design websites like Canva and BeFunky to create collages and graphics featuring book covers, event dates, novel aesthetics, etc.

I try to include activities or ideas related to my book (baking contests, Shakespeare fun) when thinking about events. For example, I have a downloadable Midsummer’s Mayhem Baking Event Kit on my website at

Be genuine.

I say things I really mean and feel, and that allows people to connect to the real me.

I’m a positive person, so I try to focus on positive things on social media.

Have fun!

I do the things I find enjoyable. If the marketing time becomes a drain, I take a break. I know it will all still be there.

I’ve found promotion to be way more fun than I thought it would be!

Kelly Yang

Front Desk (Scholastic/Levine)

I love social media and have fully embraced it as a way to spread the word about Front Desk and also extend the conversation. Social media is a great tool for reaching middle grade gatekeepers, including librarians, teachers, booksellers, and parents.

To use social media effectively, I like to think of it as a garden. I tend to it regularly. I grow a variety of plants—retweets, long threads, short posts, videos, pictures, giveaways, posts about my book, posts that have nothing to do with my book—but I always, always keep my posts authentic and relevant to my followers. That authenticity is key. You can’t fake it on social. The only way to build a following is to be real with people—be real with what your book’s all about and what you are all about.

My advice to fellow middle grade authors is to give social media a try. While it’s not for everyone, just as gardening is not everyone’s thing, there are huge upsides when done well, with minimal added stress.

My top tips for middle grade authors using social to promote their books are:

Be yourself. Your authenticity will come across to your followers and you’ll have more fun posting.

Treat your garden with respect. Be kind, generous, and tweet at others the way you wish to be tweeted at.

Be smart. Make sure you are your own gatekeeper. Remember: the internet is forever!

Finally, don’t let social media overwhelm you. If you find yourself anxiously checking how many people liked your post every hour, it’s time to step away and take a break.

I try and reach kids through school visits and bookstore signings as well as creating kid-focused content, which I put up on my website (such as including pictures of all of Front Desk’s characters and writing backstories and fun facts for them). Everything is centered on the kids’ experience. I want children to laugh when they meet me at their school event and run to their library afterwards because they’re dying to check out my books. If I’m at a bookstore event, I always stick around afterwards, just in case a kid is too shy to ask me a question during the q&a. Sometimes they just stick a note in my pocket (I’ve gotten some really moving notes from kids). I sincerely believe that the connections we make during these events—and the affirmation we can give to kids—can last a lifetime.

● If you’re doing a bookstore event with kids in attendance, don’t monologue for too long. Instead, keep it interactive—and throw in jokes kids will get.

● Create a website that’s easy for kids to navigate, and start a newsletter.

● Do more of what you love, and less of what you don’t. If school talks aren’t your thing, no problem. Make videos instead and make them publicly available to teachers.

● Be authentic! Be yourself! And have fun!

Ann Braden

The Benefits of Being an Octopus (Sky Pony)

The most important thing to remember is that if you put love and passion into your book, then your book is going to put more love and passion into the world. If you worked to make the characters come alive on the page as fully formed individuals, then it will mirror the human experience and help us understand ourselves and others better. Those are powerful things.

Promoting your book is not about icky self-promotion—it’s about helping others connect to this book that you believe in, so that readers can be moved in response.

Imagine your book is your child (because it is). Be proud! Be enthusiastic! Jump up and down! Don’t feel like you have to hide your enthusiasm and play it cool. Be real—in your books, on social media, and with yourself. And if your excitement is turning into anxiety because you’re watching other books earn recognition that you wish your book would get, find the books that you love as a reader (and which also aren’t winning all the awards) and champion those. It does wonders for the soul.

I was a community organizer before my debut novel was published, and the biggest lesson I took from it was the power of one step. One reader loves your book. Celebrate it! And then that reader may love it so much that they tell someone else about it.

Each step makes the next step possible. Ultimately, stories change us. One person at a time, your story will shape lives. To me, promoting good books isn’t about marketing; it’s about bringing positive change into our world.

Christina Soontornvat

A Wish in the Dark (Candlewick, Mar. 2020)

When it comes to deciding between in-person events, think about what you enjoy, how much time you can devote, and what your goals are beyond just selling books. Festivals offer opportunities to connect with other authors and build community. Conferences allow you to forge relationships with educators. For me, I’ve found that school visits offer the most return on my investment of time and energy. At a school visit, I get to talk directly with young readers and also make connections with educators that can carry on to my next books. Plus, I really enjoy doing them! When I have a new book coming out, I offer a limited number of free school visits to build excitement and spread the word about the project.

I get so much more out of social media by viewing it as a space to build community rather than a platform to promote my work. Yes, of course I promote my work there. But I also follow people I respect, learn about new books and issues in our field, boost the books I have read and loved, post my burning questions, and offer advice if others ask for it. The whole thing is so much more pleasant when I view it through that lens.

Kids really like watching book-related videos. If it’s in your budget to make a short book trailer, it’s a great investment. But even if you can’t produce a trailer, you can record simple videos of you pitching your book, sharing three or four things you love about it, or giving cool background information about how you came up with the story. Educators could show these videos to their students to get them excited about your work.

Karina Yan Glaser

The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue

(HMH, Sept.)

I made a website (I used Squarespace, which was easy for me to create and update myself) with news, events, resources, book recommendations, and information about my books. I tried to make the resources section fun with lots of photos, a q&a, some videos, an educator’s guide, and a place to listen to music from my books.

I created author-specific social media accounts for Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. I suggest finding the social media platform that you connect best with and focusing on that; don’t try to be great at all of them. For me, I like Instagram; it’s the platform I spend the most time on. That being said, many educators are on Twitter and that is a great place to connect with them. Also, teachers love book giveaways! If you have spare galleys, teachers love getting sneak peeks at books and are great author allies. Send books via media mail to save money.

Marketing can be overwhelming. Choose the things you like to do and have time for. If you’re new to Twitter, spend some time following other middle grade authors, educators, and kid lit influencers. Tweet once a day until you feel more comfortable with the platform.

Self-marketing can be expensive. If you’re on a budget and can only spend money on one promotional item, I would suggest getting bookmarks made. Bookmarks are functional and can be handed out easily at school visits and bookstores. Young readers love bookmarks!

Join a debut group. These groups often circulate galleys among themselves and help promote each other on social media. A debut group is also a great place to share tips and frustrations.

I think my most important piece of marketing advice is to be authentic to who you are. Don’t be afraid to celebrate your own achievements, but also lift up others in the industry. Be kind and give back when you can.

Nathan Hale

Major Impossible (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #9)

(Abrams, Dec.)

My expertise is entirely in real-life. I actively avoid social media—barf.

I’m a school visitor. I visit over a hundred schools a year. It takes weeks and weeks of travel. I do presentations and workshops for every grade—pre-K to high school seniors. I’m currently booked until 2023.

How did I become a school visitor? When I started, about a decade ago, I went to local schools and charged very little. I often did them for free. My presentation a decade ago was a standard PowerPoint: here’s where I work, here’s a picture of my pet, here is a diagram about how books are made—it was awful.

I got very few requests with that early presentation. I had one principal refuse to pay my $100 honorarium. And that principal was right. My presentation was lousy. I realized that just being an author wasn’t that impressive to kids. Schools that bring in authors usually bring in an author a year—and the kids had seen that boring PowerPoint variation many times.

I didn’t start getting invitations until I really worked on my presentation—made it special, made it a performance. I know authors who do yo-yo tricks, play guitars, do interactive choose-your-own-adventure presentations—all kinds of crazy stuff, and it works! These authors are in demand! I draw during my presentation—it’s storytelling with nonstop live cartooning. While I do have presentations about my career and publishing, my most-requested ones are stories. I find kids like story time a lot more than career day.

It took years of school visiting to find my presentation. And now I work as hard on my presentations as I do on my books. If the material is engaging, the kids want to read the books. I use a lot of extra books in my presentations—not just mine, but the books I use to research my nonfiction books. I try to get excitement going for the nonfiction section in general.

Advice to other authors? Prepare your school visit like you have been booked for an hour-long comedy special. A gym full of eighth graders at 2:30 p.m. on a Friday is as tough as any drunken late-night comedy crowd. Would you show that crowd a PowerPoint of your desk?

Practice, volunteer for free visits, time yourself, tell stories, make it memorable, do a trick, yodel, play the harmonica—give them something to remember and talk about! If you are boring, kids will assume your books are boring, too—and I know that isn’t the case.

School librarians are always very happy to volunteer stories about authors who were dull. I don’t ask—they just tell. And, sadly, I’ve heard librarians say this, “It was such a shame, because before the author visit the kids were really excited about the books—afterward, not so much.” Nobody is more nervous about getting a dull visit than the librarian who booked the whole thing. They’ve spent months hyping your visit, making posters, talking you up, and convincing the administration it is worth their time and money. Don’t let them down.

A good presentation gets readers excited—they want the books. Librarians will recommend you to other librarians, those kids will get excited, and so on.

It’s slow, old-fashioned, and requires a lot of time and travel, but a good school visit is a wonderful thing. Do it right and the kids will remember it for the rest of their lives—and they’ll take home books!

Russell Ginns

Samantha Spinner and the Boy in the Ball

(Delacorte, Jan. 2020)

During the 2018–2019 school year, I visited more than 100 schools. From private institutions to large public schools, from magnets to Montessori, I presented Samantha Spinner to crowds of third to sixth graders.

Here is a selection of handy tips I’ve learned... the hard way!

● Learn the “quiet sign.” Most schools have a special gesture to get everyone to settle down and listen. This might be a peace sign, three fingers in the air, etc. They are all different. Shortly before you start, ask some kids in the front row what the sign is for their school. You’ll make connections with your audience, and then you can use it in your presentation to bring everyone back to attention.

● Have kids write questions ahead of time. The q&a is one of the most memorable and meaningful parts of your visit. A few days ahead of time, email the librarian or teacher to have kids write questions to ask. Then, during your visit, the teacher can select kids to stand up and read their questions. This will also mitigate having to answer the same question two, three, or four times in a row!

● Don’t relive your entire childhood. Many authors share pictures of themselves when they were in elementary school. Yes, that is a great way to make connections with your audience. Other fun things to share are favorite books, toys, pets, and the experiences and hobbies that led you to create your book. Do not, however, use up more than 5% of your precious time exploring your past at the expense of promoting your actual books.

Exception: If you are an astronaut or a Supreme Court justice, milk it for all it’s worth.

● Bring your own cables and adapters. Every single school has a different combination of projectors, speakers, laptops, microphones, and power cables. I travel with a small duffle bag of cables and adapters. It streamlines setup time and has prevented disaster on more than one visit.

Here are great items to bring:

● HDMI to SVGA adapter

● A mini audio cable

● A six-to-10-foot power cord

● A USB drive with a copy of your presentation

● A small wooden block or two to raise up the video projector (I’m not kidding)

● Always accept the microphone. Often, you will get asked if you want a microphone or not. When you present to 30 or more kids, always ask for amplification, even if you are in a carpeted room, and even if you have a loud or piercing voice like me. The moment one kid in the back cannot hear you clearly, he/she will turn to his/her neighbor and ask what you said. This will ripple through the crowd.

● Always choose the microphone with a cord.

Schools often have a variety of PA options, including wireless, lavalier, and handheld microphones. While they have many advantages, advanced devices can surprise you mid-presentation with interference or loss of charge.

● Practice using a microphone.

A few minutes spent learning how to hold a microphone and finding the right distance (three to six inches) from your face is all you need. Get comfortable.

● Create materials and experiences to share. Anything you can do to get readers excited about your book before and after your presentation is vital. My series happens to be a puzzle-filled global adventure, so I’ve created an online trivia game at I’ve also created handouts for teachers to print out and share.

Maybe you’re not willing or able to go to such extremes. Here are other great things to consider adding to your show:

● A cheat sheet about the characters and their world

● Bookmarks

● Amazing factoids about your subject

● A game or puzzles that teachers can play with kids afterwards

● Study questions and amazing behind-the-scenes trivia

● A page of jokes and riddles related to the topic of your book

● Funny badges to print out

● Only sign books and bookplates. It’s a special treat to be able to personalize books for individuals or classrooms. Inevitably, kids will tear scraps of paper and ask you to sign them. Don’t devalue the interaction with actual readers. Besides, paper scraps get discarded immediately. In any enthusiastic crowd, a kid will ask you to sign his/her arm or hand. Cheerfully and firmly, call out “no body parts” and move on.

Exception: It is a great honor to be asked to sign a kid’s cast.

Adam Gidwitz

The Chupacabras of the Rio Grande (The Unicorn Rescue Society #4) (Dutton); The Inquisitor’s Tale (Dutton)

My first book, A Tale Dark and Grimm, was published in 2010. Over the last decade, I’ve been trying to share my books with kids. I never, ever think of it as “marketing.” I think of it as sharing. “Marketing” is what we do with widgets. The moment books become widgets, our lives and society are degraded.

I’ve tried a number of techniques to share my books with kids. I think there are two factors that determine whether a technique works or not: First, are you finding the readers where they are? I mean this both physically and emotionally. And second, is the technique really natural to me? Is it something I can do with integrity? This second point is massively important and widely undervalued, so let me elaborate.

Integrity doesn’t just mean honesty. It means that all the parts of you are integrated. You believe in your book, you believe in the technique you are employing to try and share the book with kids, you enjoy that experience, you enjoy kids. If you act with integrity, your sharing technique will be sustainable on your end. And, just as importantly, kids (and all humans, really) are authenticity hounds—they can smell inauthenticity. If you’re doing something because you really believe in it and enjoy it, they will be there with you.

For example: when I was first published, I was invited by the champion librarian Marti Rossi down to San Antonio, Tex., to speak to a group of a couple hundred librarians. It was an incredible opportunity, and it went well. (Marti introduced me as being from New York. “We’ll try not to hold that against him,” she said. I got up on stage and said that I felt much more comfortable speaking to kids than to adults, so I would just pretend they were all kids; since we’re in Texas, I said, that should get the intellectual level just about right. That was met with a round of lusty booing. I have loved Texas ever since that day.)

Some of the librarians liked my talk (despite my rudeness) and invited me to their schools to speak. So I set up a few weeks of school visits in Texas. Not knowing what I was doing, I bought boxes of my books from my publisher, put them in the trunk of a rental car, and drove around Texas. Nowadays, I know that it is far better for everyone involved to join up with a local bookstore and let them sell the books. Everyone wins, and the author doesn’t get a hernia schlepping boxes of books from their car to the school.

I loved doing the school visits. I had been a teacher, and I love talking to kids, and I was telling them scary stories, which are beloved in South Texas even more than anywhere else in this country. Now, I had no idea that I would become an author. One thing I knew I would never be, though, was a traveling salesman. Two of my great-grandfathers were traveling salesmen. My grandfather was, too. I remember hearing about their jobs and thinking “I will never, ever do something like that.” And then, one day, as I lugged a box of books under the live oak trees from my car in a school parking lot to the front door of yet another school, the reality of my situation dawned on me, and I suddenly stopped, and thought, “Shit....”

Meanwhile, back in New York, a meeting was happening at my publishing house. According to someone who was there (and denied by others), the following exchange occurred: Someone asked, “How is Adam Gidwitz selling so many books? We haven’t put any marketing money behind him at all.” And my publicist replied, “He’s driving around Texas doing school visits.” And someone said, “Maybe we should put some money behind his books.” And they did. When my second book in the series came out, I was back in South Texas, visiting schools and bookstores. And my publisher was pushing my books. And we got two books on the bestseller list in the same week.

I am not saying that selling books out of the back of your car in Texas is the best way to share your books with kids. I’m saying that it was the best way for me to share my books with kids, at that point in my life. Now I have a child and can’t spend weeks on end on the road. I’m trying new techniques, because I don’t want to travel as much, but I still want to tell scary stories to kids where they are. I’ve created a podcast called Grimm, Grimmer, Grimmest. It’s a combination of me telling scary Grimm fairy tales live to kids in New York City classrooms and dramatizations of my versions of the stories, woven together and beautifully produced. The podcast is as funny as it is scary, and it allows the kids to be themselves. The project felt true to me, like it had integrity, and in its first week on Apple Podcasts, it hit #1 in the service’s kids and families category.

Other marketing endeavors haven’t worked as well. My presence on social media is fairly limited, because I don’t like being on it. If I’m writing, I want to write a story, not “create content”—whatever the hell that means. And I’d rather be staring at the sky than a screen. But my pal David Bowles is an incredible presence on social media. As a scholar of Nahuatl and Mesoamerican history, he finds brilliant ways to weave his knowledge and his writing together online. (Don’t miss his “Mexican X” series on Twitter, Facebook, and Medium.) David loves doing this, and so he does it well. And while he’s not finding kids directly with his posts, he’s finding teachers and librarians who are thrilled by his scholarship and inspired to pick up his wonderful books, such as the Pura Belpré Honor Book They Call Me Guero: A Border Kid’s Poems.

If you can find a place where your passions intersect with where kids are, that is where to focus your efforts to share your books. And, for our society’s sake, please stop thinking of it as “marketing.”

For a look at publishers' middle grade marketing strategies, see "Taking Middle Grade to Market."