Marketing That Makes a Difference

PhotobucketToday’s guest blogger is WU friend and YA author Kay Cassidy! Kay, a 2008 Golden Heart winner, is the author of The Cinderella Society, which will be published by Egmont USA in April 2010. Among her many talents, Kay is a seasoned professional trainer and former leadership development specialist who enjoys teaching motivational workshops around the country. She is also the founder and host of The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest, a national library outreach program that provides year-round free programming to teen and youth librarians–and that’s what she’s here to talk to us about. Take it away, Kay!

Marketing That Makes a Difference

I love marketing. I love the brainstorming, the creative process of developing an idea from its infancy, the (sometimes overwhelming!) details of taking a now-grand idea and making it a reality. But what I love most is creating marketing that not only serves a purpose for my career, but makes a difference in some small way. Maybe to one person, maybe to a group of people. But it leaves the world a little better for having done it.

Every author I know feels like they could use a bit of good karma in their careers. And they all know the power of creating goodwill in building a solid reputation. So how great would it be if we could combine good karma, goodwill, and good marketing to create marketing efforts that truly make a difference?

Good thing we can. With a little imagination and whole lot of heart. :-)

I recently sent in my author questionnaire to my awesome marketing director and, along with it, a seven-page strategic marketing plan. (Yes, you can take the girl out of MBA land, but you can’t take the MBA out of the girl.) The strategic marketing plan outlined my primary marketing objectives for my new series and my career overall and laid out the specific initiatives I’ve got planned to complement my publisher’s efforts. One of my primary objectives–beyond the obvious (establish my name and reputation)–was to use each marketing opportunity as a chance to give back or make a difference.

To give you an example of what I mean, I’m going to use an actual marketing program I just launched as a real-time, real-life case study to highlight five tips for creating marketing of your own that makes a real difference… to you, to your career, and to the people your marketing reaches. Are you ready?

Welcome to The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest!

Last week, I launched my newly-redesigned web site along with a national library outreach program called The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest. The idea for The Hunt was simple: create a totally FREE program for teen and youth librarians that gives them a complete, turn-key programming solution to draw in readers year-round. My reason for creating it was equally simple: if it hadn’t been for the lovely teen librarian in the town where we used to live, I never would have fallen in love with YA and become a YA author (a job I adore!). And that leads me to the first tip for creating marketing that makes a difference:

Tip #1 – Have a purpose for your marketing that goes beyond what’s in it for you personally.

I’m a professional trainer by trade and did curriculum and course development in my corporate career, so creating a program like this was a natural fit. Plus I’m a sucker for trivia, scavenger hunts (real-life ones), mysteries, etc. A great fit all around. In fact, that’s another tip for creating marketing that makes a difference:

Tip #2 – Play to your strengths and your passions.

With the concept in mind, it was time to bring The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest to life. Over 120 YA and middle grades authors created a 10-question scavenger hunt (i.e. super fun trivia quiz) for one or more of their books. Scavenger hunts include questions like “What was the color of Moe’s hideous car?” or “What is Gemma’s favorite comfort food?” Every scavenger hunt also has a special note from the author because I wanted to give each hunt a personal touch. I’ve already had several librarians email me to say they think the kids are going to get a kick out of the author notes. And that’s the third tip for creating marketing that makes a difference:

Tip #3 – Small personal touches or a bit of personal attention always make a difference.

But I wanted to do more than just give librarians a program they could sink their programming teeth into. I also wanted to make it fun and exciting for readers. My goal was to create a program that encouraged kids to read a variety of books (a tough sell for many young readers). The Hunt features nearly every kind of book you can imagine: fantasies, historicals, mysteries, romantic comedies, sweeping literary novels… you name it. All within the YA and middle grade genres.

I accomplished that by consciously inviting a wide range of authors to participate. I’m delighted that The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest authors include many New York Times bestselling authors and winners or finalists of the Newbery Medal, Printz Award, National Book Award and Edgar Award. There truly is something for every reader. And it’s good karma times two – every author who participates lifts The Hunt to a higher level while simultaneously creating goodwill for that author. It’s a win-win… and another way to create marketing that makes a difference:

Tip #4 – Partner with other people when you can. Goodwill increases exponentially the more people who pay it forward at the same time.

But the icing on the cake in The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest? PRIZES. Every reader (called a hunter) who correctly answers a scavenger hunt gets entered into the monthly contest by his or her librarian. Every month, I choose one lucky hunter as the winner. The winning hunter receives a $50 Barnes & Noble gift card (good in stores or online) to use for whatever their heart desires. Even better, when they win, the host library wins too… a library prize tote filled with more awesome scavenger hunt books for the library’s collection.

Fun, fast, free + prizes. It doesn’t get much better than that, right? Every librarian out there can use free programming and free books for the library’s collection. Add in the buzz factor of having some awesome authors on the roster, and the response has been nothing short of amazing. When other people start talking about your marketing… your books… you as an author… that’s the kind of marketing you simply can’t create on your own. Which leads me to the final tip for creating marketing that makes a difference.

Tip #5 – Be unique! Give people a reason to talk about you (in a good way, of course!).

So there you go. Five tips to help you brainstorm ways to create marketing that makes a difference. Your difference will naturally be different than my difference (say that five times fast!). And that’s the point: do what matters to you. Not only will it be genuine, it’ll be more meaningful to you in the end.

Has The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest been a lot of work? Oh my goodness, yes. But is it worth it in the end? Absolutely! I’m thrilled to be able to make a small difference to hard-working librarians out there (who are so often underappreciated) while also encouraging kids to read more. Both of those things are very important to me. Plus it’s helping me establish my author presence in a way that I feel good about at the end of the day. To me, that’s what marketing to make a difference is all about. Here’s to making a difference in your part of the world!


Thanks so much, Kay! Readers, you can visit Kay anytime at her website HERE; be sure to check out her contest!

Write on.



  1. says

    Sounds like an awesome program. To my knowledge, we authors don’t make any money directly off libraries, but I’m so glad we all seem to support them! Way to take that to another level.

  2. says

    What a fascinating and inspiring post, Kay. My daughter is an avid reader, borrowing books from the library regularly. If she is introduced to a new author/novel and she loves the story enough, she’ll buy the books to add to her collection.
    Although you marketing efforts helps libraries immensely, you are also pushing book sales too for the authors!

  3. thea says

    What a wonderful idea!! The concept could be easily adapted to many genres too, or simplified to the classroom/reading teacher level. Great blog today. thanks, WU!

  4. says

    The passion you have for your marketing plan is undeniable, Kay, and your enthusiasm is infectious. The Great Scavenger Hunt will be a resounding success because of both!

  5. says

    Hi Kristan,

    Thanks so much for the cheers! I believe, for most authors, library sales pay royalties just like any other sale would (though the % may vary depending on contract/format/etc.). But now you’ve got me curious about how standard that is, so I’m going to do some digging and post what I find out tomorrow. :-)

  6. says

    Hi Lorna!

    Cheers to you for raising a bookloving daughter in an age of multimedia! :-) And absolutely, there are a lot of school libraries registered for The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest so their teachers can use it as incentive in the classroom. Anything I can do to help librarians and teachers is a win in my book!

  7. says

    Hi Thea!

    Thanks so much for the nice note. I hope teachers and librarians alike find creative uses for The Hunt. The more, the merrier!

  8. says

    Hi Kathleen!

    You’re very sweet, thank you. :-) I’m looking forward to having you aboard The Hunt when your debut comes out this fall!

  9. says

    Hi again Kristan!

    Just a quick chime-in to confirm that authors do receive regular royalties from library sales. True, any given library may only buy a few copies of a book that a hundred people may read (if we’re so blessed!), but those are sales just like any other. Money aside though, anything that introduces an author’s work to a new reader is a win in my book. :-)