2011 Winner Hilary Graham
Authors Rock: How Winning the SCBWI Book Launch Award
Was Music to One Author’s Ears
--By Hilary Weisman Graham
A few weeks ago I experienced the thrill of walking into a bookstore and seeing my debut young adult novel, Reunited (Simon & Schuster) on the shelves for the very first time. But becoming a published author wasn’t the only lifelong dream I fulfilled this year. Thanks to the 2011 SCBWI Book Launch Award, I’ve also become the producer of a boy band.
The group is called Level3, and if you haven’t heard of them, it’s probably because they’re fictional. Or, at least they used to be. While the Grammy-winning pop rock trio may have originated in the pages of Reunited—think Back Street Boys or One Direction—with a little marketing savvy and a generous infusion of cash from SCBWI, Level3 has literally come to life.
Let me explain.
Reunited tells the story of Alice, Summer, and Tiernan—three ex-best friends who drive 2,000 miles cross-country to see the one-night-only reunion show of the band (Level3) they loved as little girls. Mostly it’s a book about friendship. But since the goal of their road-trip is to attend Level3’s concert, music plays a big part in the story. And each time I found myself writing the lyrics to a Level3 song—an event that happened frequently, since lyrical excerpts open each chapter—I became aware of the fact that I was also composing the melodies to these songs in my head.
And with that realization a marketing strategy was born. Teenagers love music. Reunited is about music. By creating songs from my fictional band, not only would I provide teen readers with the online “bonus content” they crave, it would also be a great cross-promotional opportunity.
So, I called up two of my most talented musician friends, promised them my undying gratitude, then sat back as these musical geniuses turned my unpolished ditties into two catchy, professionally produced songs.
The author in the music studio, getting to live out her rock star fantasies.
There was only one problem with my imaginary band. My musician friends and studio producers were my age. (In other words, a bunch of old dudes.) Sure, Level3 sounded great, but they didn’t look anything like the trio of dreamy heartthrobs I’d crafted in my book. But if I’d learned anything in my former career as a filmmaker, it was that a little movie magic goes a long way. And so, in the long tradition of Milli-Vanilli and other lip-synched acts, I went scouting for talent at the local high school musical, where as luck would have it, I discovered three young actors who were sure to make my teen readers swoon.
A few weeks later, the boys and I spent a day shooting footage for their music videos and snapping photographs that would serve as Level3’s album covers. Over the next several months, I used every free, non-writing moment I had to assemble these elements in preparation for the launch of the band’s website. Today, www.level3theband.com is a place where fans can read blog posts by the band members, download two free Level3 songs, peruse photos, watch a Level3 music video and a behind-the-scenes “pop-up” documentary, and follow Level3 on Facebook and Twitter.
The face of Level3
But lest you think Level3 exists only in cyberspace, think again. Because this summer, the band’s hitting the road, with gigs at public libraries from Boston to Austin. How does a fictional band go on tour, you may ask? With a good story, lots of free stuff to give away, and a real live opening act. In addition to producing Level3’s songs, I used part of my SCBWI Book Launch Award money to engage the services of Curious City, a children’s book marketing company run by the amazing Kirsten Cappy. Through Kirsten, I’ve partnered with indie singer/songwriter Dilly Dilly who will appear at these events as Level3’s opening act. But when Level3 gets “unexpectedly stuck in Europe due to via problems,” Dilly Dilly will appease disappointed fans by offering them two free Level3 MP3s, two free MP3′s of her own, three free chapters of Reunited, and a chance to win a $50 Ticketmaster gift certificate. Of course, the librarians will be in on the joke from the get-go. And as an added bonus, concert-goers will also be able to have their picture taken in a photo booth that looks just like the ’76 VW camper van the girls in Reunited take cross-country to see the Level3 show.
When I first got my book deal, an author friend joked that today’s writers spend 15% of their time writing and 85% of their time marketing their books. While her percentages may be exaggerated (slightly), in the current climate of the publishing industry, the essence of her statement certainly rings true. And though I haven’t been a published author for very long, I think the more creative we authors get with the marketing part of our job, the more likely we are to actually enjoy it. And personally, I’m excited that the bonus content I’ve created will help Reunited’s fans extend their stay in my fictional world.
Hilary Weisman Graham is a screenwriter, Emmy-nominated TV producer, filmmaker, and the author of Reunited (Simon & Schuster), her debut young adult novel. In 2007, Hilary was selected as a contestant on the Mark Burnett/Steven Spielberg-produced reality series On the Lot: The Search for America’s Next Great Director. Out of a pool of 12,000 submissions, Hilary made it onto the show as one of the eighteen finalists and stayed in the competition until only nine contestants remained, making her the longest-standing female director. Among Hilary’s many film-related honors, her personal favorite happened on On the Lot, when Carrie Fisher (best-selling author/screenwriter/Princess Leia) watched one of Hilary’s short films, looked her in the eye, and said, “I am jealous of your writing.” Hilary lives in rural New Hampshire with her husband and son, but still manages to do business in Hollywood and is currently at work on a screenplay for The Disney Channel.
REUNITED – Synopsis (Coming from Simon & Schuster - June 12, 2012)
1 Concert. 2,000 Miles. 3 Ex-Best Friends.
Alice, Summer, and Tiernan are ex-best friends. Back in middle school, the three girls were inseparable. They were also the number one fans of the rock band Level3. But when the band broke up, so did their friendship. Summer ran with the popular crowd, Tiernan was a rebellious wild-child, and Alice spent high school with her nose buried in books. Now, just as the girls are about to graduate, Level3 announces a one-time-only reunion show. Even though the concert’s 2000 miles away, Alice buys three tickets on impulse. And as it turns out, Summer and Tiernan have their own reasons for wanting to get out of town. But on the long drive cross-country, the girls hit more than a few bumps in the road. Will their friendship get an encore or is the show really over?
ISBN-10: 144243984X ISBN-13: 978-1442439849
More Info about Hilary, Level3 and Reunited:
Hilary’s website: www.hilarygraham.com
Hilary's Blog: http://hilarywgraham.wordpress.com/
Hilary's Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/HilaryWeismanGraham
REUNITED on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12988064-reunited
Reunited's Book Trailer: On YouTube
Level3’s website: www.level3theband.com
Info about having a fictional band at your library