Marketing Books to Boys, Part 1

07 Mar

This is the first in a series entitled, “Marketing Books to Boys.”  Men represent approximately 50% of the potential fiction reading market but about 20% of the actual fiction reading market, according to some polls.  We’ll be exploring some of the things publishers can do to reach boys.

What can publishers do to better market books to boys?  I can think of several things they can do, but let’s start with the use of technology.  Can publishers use the technology that boys love to encourage them to read?

According to Nielson*, boys are more likely to visit Youtube than girls, with the highest representation of visitors being between the ages of 12 and 17.  Both boys and that particular age group are an “overrepresented” demographic among Youtube visitors and an “underrepresented” demographic of fiction readers .  What a great place to target boys.  Brilliant, bloody brilliant!

I think there is a great opportunity to reach boys by taking advantage of their visual nature.  Using book trailers to hook them seems like a sound plan, and a lot of authors have been doing so, but is the industry taking complete advantage of the medium? I visited Youtube to find out.

While I found that some publishers seem to have a presence on Youtube, their efforts aren’t particularly directed at boys and they don’t really seem to be taking complete advantage of the technology.  I searched for videos using some words that boys might search on Youtube to see if any book trailers would pop up in the results. (I have a twelve-year-old test subject.)  Some did, but they were mostly picture books.  I think that publishers could make a better effort to have their book trailers come up in searches of the type of things boys look for on Youtube.

After I did some unscientific test searches, I decided to see if any publishers were progressive enough to have their own Youtube channels.  At least some did, and when I got to their channels I saw . . . chiclit!  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)  Yup, even in a place where you would most likely find boys, publishers targeted girls for the most part, followed by adults, and made only some token efforts to reach boys.

So, what is Random House’s lead video when you visit their page?   It’s Carrie Ryan’s “The Dead-Tossed Waves.”  (Yeah, Carrie!)  There was even a link to purchase the book in the text that accompanied the video.  That’s very progressive and I didn’t find that feature in any of the other publisher channels I visited, though I don’t doubt someone else is doing that, too.  But here in the land of boys, couldn’t Random House throw us a bone?  They didn’t have any boylit book trailers even in their side panel, at least when I checked.

Penguin Putnam led with a video of the author of “Killer Summer” sitting in a chair, facing the camera, and chatting about his novel.  It was a video about an adult novel, with no action, and no button to purchase the book.  The channel was sparse, at best, and had no boylit.  Way to take advantage of the medium PP!

My visit to Harper Collins’ Children Book channel was much more encouraging.  They featured an actual book trailer of “Lord Sunday.”  I don’t think the trailer would effectively entice a boy to read it, it was comprised of static images and Muzac, but the book did have a male main character.  Give them credit for trying.

My final visit was to Disney Hyperion’s Youtube channel.  I was full of optimism based on the decent showing by Harper Collins, but there I was once again assaulted with  . . . chiclit!  Et Tu, Disney?  However, on the side panel there was a book trailer for Percy Jackson and the Olympians, a great boy book, but I don’t consider that a series for reluctant readers and I don’t think Disney needs to go to Youtube for an audience for that book.  Still, it was a boy book and the trailer was decent.  The rest of the book trailers on the side panel were . . . chicklit!  (Not that – well you know.)  Some of them were gender neutral, but most of them were for books for girls and involved talking heads; a poor use of the medium.

I’m sure that some publishers are using Youtube to market books to boys in an effective manner, I just haven’t found them yet.  But if publishers are going to come “a courting” to Youtube, the land of boys between 12 and 17, shouldn’t they at least give the boys a wave while they’re there?  It would be the polite thing to do and might even result in some sales.

What do you think about book trailers, boys, and Youtube?  Could publishers be making better use of Youtube to encourage boys to read?  Can you think of another way publishers could be marketing to boys and reluctant readers in particular?



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Written by Carl

  1. Lisa Green

    March 7, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    What a brilliant post! You are so right, it just makes sense and the publishers would do well to start using Youtube as a means to reach this tricky market.

    • Carl

      March 8, 2010 at 9:11 am

      Well, brilliant is a strong word – but it would be discourteous to argue with you. 😉


  2. LM Preston

    March 8, 2010 at 10:32 am

    I write a lot of books where the MC is a boy. I’ve been told that it’s hard to sell those mss. However, my son’s major complaint when he goes into bookstores is that girls faces fill the covers. Therefore, I started to write where there are more kids that carry my stories. I believe publishers should poll their public and ask boys how best to market to them. Great post, thanks for taking this on.

    • Carl

      March 8, 2010 at 5:51 pm

      Hi LM,

      Thank you for writing books for boys!