Book Marketing Now: Rajani LaRocca
Rajani LaRocca, author of THE SECRET CODE INSIDE YOU and five other 2021 titles, shares her thoughts on pitching, promoting, and writing the very best books you can.
Welcome to Book Marketing Now, a monthly feature of Books, Marketing, & More where I share interviews with writers about their marketing and publishing journey as they share the inside scoop on releasing books into the current market! Check out past interviews with Namina Forna, Tara Sullivan, Andrea Wang, Heather Kelly, and Rachel Sarah, Aileen Weintraub & Diana Whitney.
Rajani LaRocca’s year has been a busy one — in 2021 alone, she released six new titles across multiple genres and publishers. While this is in part due to pandemic delays, it also speaks to Rajani’s enthusiasm and ambition for her blended subjects: STEM, community, self-empowerment, and the Indian-American experience. And sometimes a touch of magic.
Here Rajani shares her approach to pitching and marketing multiple books and how seeking out support — whether marketing, writing, or emotional — can help you (and your books!) succeed. Her latest title is The Secret Code Inside You which launched on September 14th! Check out her adorable book trailer:
How did you initially market your books to your agent/publisher? How has that strategy changed now that you’re marketing to readers?
When I wrote my query to my agent for my first book, Midsummer’s Mayhem, the pitch in my query was used as part of his pitch to editors, and eventually became part of the jacket copy for the book!
Since then, I include a pitch with everything I submit to my agent. Writing the pitch clarifies for me what I think the heart of my story is and what I want to tell the world about it. If I can’t write the pitch, this might indicate that I’m not finished revising the story. Sometimes my marketing pitch becomes part of the publisher’s copy, and sometimes it doesn’t, but the act of writing it is always helpful to me.
Who do you see as the audience for your books? What is the best way you’ve found to reach them?
Kids and the adults who love them and buy books for them! I’ve found the best way to reach them is through bookstores, educators, the media, and social media.
How have you managed juggling the marketing for so many different titles?
It has been a busy year, marketing the six titles coming out in 2021 as well as working on revisions with editors and writing new work!
I’ve taken things one step at a time, tried to plan things in advance, and gotten good at doing things quickly. I’ve learned to trust my instincts — sometimes it’s best not to think too much about interview questions and write the first thing that comes to mind. I’ve also developed “elevator pitches” for each of my books so I can easily tell people about them.
Red, White, and Whole is my middle grade novel in verse that published in February with Quill Tree/Harper Collins. Set in 1983, it’s about 13-year-old Reha, who feels torn between the worlds of her immigrant parents and her friends at school. Then her mother is diagnosed with leukemia, and Reha is torn in a different way. She believes if she could just be the perfect daughter, the one her parents want her to be, she can somehow save her mother’s life. This novel of my heart incorporates many of my own childhood experiences growing up as in immigrant.
Bracelets For Bina’s Brothers published with Charlesbridge in April as part of their Storytelling Math series. The story follows a little girl name Bina who wants to make special bracelets using every-other-one patterns for each of her three older brothers for the Hindu holiday of Raksha Bandhan. It’s about celebrating sibling love and early math.
Much Ado About Baseball published in June with Yellow Jacket/Little Bee Books. A companion novel to my debut, Midsummer’s Mayhem, this novel is set in the same town of Comity, MA during the same summer but with a different cast of characters. It’s about Trish and Ben, two math competition rivals who end up on the same summer baseball team. They can’t stand each other, and the team is terrible. Then they meet an older boy who says his family snack shop sells food that helps with team spirit, and they each receive a mysterious math puzzle book. Once they start eating the snacks and solving the puzzles, the team becomes unstoppable. But then they get to a puzzle they can’t solve, with disastrous consequences. Can Trish and Ben find a way to work together, or will they strike out when it counts the most?
Where Three Oceans Meet released with Abrams in August. It’s a story about a girl who travels with her mother and grandmother to Kanyakumari at the very tip of India, where they say three oceans meet. Along the way she learns about the strength and love between mothers and daughters that transcends distance and time.
My Little Golden Book About Kamala Harris is a picture book biography of our incredible vice president, who is groundbreaking in so many ways.
The Secret Code Inside You is a nonfiction picture book written in rhyming verse that in introduces kids to the basics of DNA and genetics, but also touches on the limits of our genes and how our choices also make us who we are.
Because I knew I’d be publishing six books with five different publishers this year, I decided to work with an independent publicist, Tracy van Straaten of TvS Media Group, to focus on my “author brand.” Tracy has been invaluable in augmenting the work of my publishers and helping me getting interviews and other media opportunities. I don’t think most authors need outside help with publicity, but given the special circumstances of this year, it made sense for me and it has definitely been worth the investment!
How have you tailored (and/or combined!) your marketing efforts for each of your new books?
I try to shine a spotlight the most interesting aspects of each book as well as putting each one in the context of who I am as a writer and person. Although the books are very different from each other, there are some common themes. Some of my books incorporate STEM topics — including Red, White, and Whole; Bracelets for Bina’s Brothers; Much Ado About Baseball; and The Secret Code Inside You. Some incorporate Indian and Indian-American culture, including Red, White, and Whole; Bracelets for Bina’s Brothers; Much Ado About Baseball; and Where Three Oceans Meet. Some of my books are nonfiction — My Little Golden Book About Kamala Harris and The Secret Code Inside You. Red, White, and Whole and The Secret Code Inside You are both written in verse, and Where Three Oceans Meet, in lyrical prose.
Some of my marketing has been about the fact that I had six books publish this year! This is rather meta, but still true and interesting!
How do schools and libraries fit into your marketing process?
My publishers have gotten me into conferences with educators, and I have attended every nErDCamp I can. I try to connect with teachers and librarians via social media as well.
Has the pandemic affected your book marketing?
There’s been a lot more emphasis on virtual events and marketing, including videos, social media, and virtual appearances!
What communities or networks have helped you in your marketing efforts and how?
I’m very grateful to fellow writing friends, especially those in my book promotion group, The Soaring 20s. I’m also grateful to the educators and ARC sharing groups who read, review, and boost books and share them with their students.
What advice would you give to writers just starting out when it comes to marketing themselves?
The most important thing is to write the best book you can. You should also think about yourself and what you as a writer, artist, and person can offer the world. Connect to other book lovers, including writers, agents, editors, educators, and bookstores in respectful and professional ways, and read lots of books and boost them! When your true love of children’s literature shines through, you become an appealing person to follow and interact with.
I would also recommend that authors who have books to market have at least a basic website with information about their books and themselves. I would also recommend starting a newsletter — it doesn’t have to come out often, but it’s a very helpful tool to reach people who are interested in what you have to say and what’s coming next for you.
As debut year approaches, I strongly recommend joining a book promotion group for emotional support and to help share the load of marketing and boost each other’s books. It’s been invaluable to me!
Finally, do you have a tea recommendation that has helped you get through the marketing process?
I love Curio Spice Co. Uncommon Chai! This delicious blend of loose tea has a lovely black pepper zing.
To order Rajani’s books:
Signed Copies at The Silver Unicorn | Bookshop.org | Indiebound.org | Barnes & Noble
Rajani LaRocca was born in India, raised in Kentucky, and now lives in the Boston area, where she practices medicine and writes award-winning books for young readers. She’s always been an omnivorous reader, and now she is an omnivorous writer of fiction and nonfiction, novels and picture books, prose and poetry. She finds inspiration in her family, her childhood, the natural world, math, science, and just about everywhere she looks. Learn more about Rajani and her books at www.RajaniLaRocca.com and Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. She also cohosts the STEM Women in KidLit Podcast.
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Happy reading & writing!
Writer & Marketing Coach
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Allison Pottern Hoch has happily made books her life’s work. She spent four years marketing and publicizing academic titles at The MIT Press before she went to work for Wellesley Books as a children’s bookseller and event coordinator. She is now living her dream: putting her B.A. in Creative Writing to good use as a novelist and as a writing/marketing coach for authors. She enjoys science fiction, cupcakes, and a hot cup of tea.
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