1. Tell us a little about your journey into publishing and why you chose to get involved with marketing books.
I actually applied for my current job straight out of university. Fortunately for everyone involved, I didn’t get it. Apparently the fact that I did my dissertation on werewolves wasn’t enough to win them over.
So I spent a year being bored in offices, performing important tasks like counting paperclips and pretending to work while actually reading FanFiction. Then I got an email from Hodder who actually (in a testament to my manager’s incredible organisation) kept my CV on file. I went for an interview, showed them that I had some concrete office experience, and managed not to screw it up. I’ve been there ever since.
I work across all our fiction titles, but I have a particular responsibility for our SFF and horror publications, and our gloriously geeky community Hodderscape. Perhaps that werewolf dissertation did come in useful…
2. You’re involved with a reading community website and blog, Bookends, with several other marketers from Hodder, Headline and Quercus. What made you decide to join forces?
It really comes down to giving the reader the best experience possible, and making the best platform possible for our authors. We all had our own communities, and they were great and people put a lot of passion into making them as good as possible – but combining forces means we can have exclusive content from Jodi Picoult, Jill Mansell and Hilary Boyd in one place. Having a much bigger team also comes in handy too!
3. What, in your mind, is important to understand/remember when embarking on a digital marketing campaign?
The principles really aren’t that different from traditional marketing. You start by thinking about the reader who will love this book, what their lives are like, where they spend their time both online and offline, what their favourite brands and products are. Then you work outwards. With a digital campaign this involves thinking about which social media channels they’re on (if any!), how they speak to their friends online and what kind of content they respond to and share. If you can’t reach these people through one of your own channels, you need to think of partnerships that put you in front of these people. You can create the most engaging content in the world, but if nobody sees it you’ve wasted your time and money.
With social media I think it’s really important to remember that, as a brand on social, you’re a total intruder. People are sharing cat gifs, talking to their friends and taking the mick out of politicians, and you’re there trying to sell something. You need to adapt yourself to that crazy ecosystem (or, more accurately, ecosystems). With your own channels you need to play the long game and build a brand that people love and trust. It’s not just about a single campaign – it’s about replying to your fans even though it’s Christmas, talking about a book you love even though you don’t publish it, and spending hours crafting the perfect Vine just to make people laugh. This accounts for some of the strangeness I get up to on the @Hodderscape Twitter account.
4. What are your thoughts on the growing requirement for authors to be social media savvy and conscious of themselves as a brand? How does this affect your work, if at all?
I think we need to be very clear with authors about what the options are, what there is to be gained from a good online presence, but we also need to let them know that we understand that writing ultimately takes priority. For a number of reasons, professional and personal, some writers simply can’t have an online presence. We need to let them know that we understand that.
The best thing we can do as publishers is educate. Social media can be daunting, but it can also be empowering. You can chat to the most amazing community of YA readers and writers by joining in with #UKYAchat on Twitter. You can find out who else is going to be a first-timer at Harrogate, and get some Dutch courage together. You can receive beautiful fanart from a reader and thank them personally – it’ll make their year.
5. Any advice for people looking to get involved in digital marketing? in publishing?
Look at what your favourite brands (not just publishing ones!) are doing online. Make a Pinterest board full of thing you want to steal. Learn a bit of HTML. Muck around on Reddit. Make silly things on Photoshop. Become a Snapchat pro – you’ll probably know more about it than the people interview you.
Most importantly: whenever you click on something, buy a product because you saw something online, or open an email, think about what it was that made you do that.
If you’re interested in digital marketing, you’ve probably done most of these things already – don’t stop! Even if people tell you you’re going to get a Vitamin D deficiency.