If I'm being completely honest, I didn't expect to enjoy marketing work when I came to the publishing program. With a background in food service and retail sales, the term "marketing" conjured images of a large group of higher-ups, all with clipboards, evaluating merchandising and shelf conditions, weaving throughout the sales floor in a pack, and then passing along often-frustrating, not terribly constructive feedback. What's more, I came to the publishing program to edit, and the work seemed tied to my "other" life, the one I was pursuing higher education in the hopes of eventually leaving.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I found so much overlap between marketing and editing in the world of publishing. Finding the exact right words to communicate salient points to your audience? Brainstorming back-cover copy and drafting press releases? I was delighted to see just how creative marketing in the world of books can be, and how well it spoke to my skills as both an editor and a writer.
Marketing & Publicity Planning
Portland's Hawthorne Books acquired Karen Karbo's debut novel, The Diamond Lane, originally published by Overlook Press in 1991, as part of its Rediscovery Series, a program that aims to give voice to books that have fallen under the radar (or were perhaps never properly placed on the radar). In my Book Marketing & Promotion class, taught by Hawthorne's Rhonda Hughes, I was asked to create a marketing plan—really, a "wish list"— for the book's promotion cycle.
I was pleased to see that, despite several potential challenges and a wealth of ideas from my fellow classmates, one offshoot of an item I added to the marketing plan made it all the way to the book launch in the fall of 2014: Karbo and Hughes were properly decked out in the most glam fashion of the early nineties, shoulder pads and all.
For me, one of the most intriguing aspects of marketing work is tailoring information to meet a specific audience. Another assignment in my Book Marketing & Promotion class was to create two separate press releases for Monica Drake's Clown Girl, one with a regional focus, and one with a national audience in mind. I was given several pieces of information—printing specs, blurbs, biographical notes about the author—and asked to arrange this information in ways that would reach the two exclusive audiences.
Above, please see my regional press release; below is my national press release.
Similar to press releases, requests for media engagement—blurbs, reviews, a simple shout-out on an individual's social media account—should speak directly to their recipients. A little bit of research can go a long way, and building on already obvious connections with direct statements is key.
During my first term of work at Ooligan Press, I was tasked with reaching out to several media outlets to garner support for our forthcoming YA title at the time, The Ninth Day. This is a letter I wrote to the book review editor at Lilith Magazine. Ooligan heard back from Ms. Kurshan during the fall of 2013, and Ruth Tenzer Feldman and the The Ninth Day's companion novel, Blue Thread, were profiled in a piece titled "Some kids got Disney, I got the Holocaust."
During media outreach for Forgive Me If I've Told You This Before, I wrote to Alison Bechdel, author of the Dykes to Watch Out For series, hoping to play on connections between Bechdel's work and our protagonist, Triinu. Even though Bechdel wasn't able to help us out at the time, this letter opened up a new vein of thought for team members at Ooligan, inspiring us to contact individuals including emily m. danforth and Sara Quin (of Tegan and Sara); danforth mentioned the book on Twitter, and Quin's review of Forgive Me (quoted on the book's cover) had a profound impact on sales of the book.
I've contributed marketing work to the following publications: