Take it away, Tara!
Happy New Year from Paper Lantern Lit! We’re excited to be back on Publishing Crawl for the second post in our “Behind the Page” series. If you missed our first post on editing for a book packager, click here to recap.
Today, our in-house marketing maven, Tara Sonin, will share a bit about how marketing differs between a packager and a publishing house and her top 5 tips for authors looking to give their brands a boost in 2016.
I have a confession to make: while my business card says Marketing Manager, it may as well say “Professional Fangirl”, because that’s what I am, and I am proud of it.
So, what does a Marketing Manager do, exactly? Here’s how I like to break it down:
Social Media + Campaigns
My job is to maintain all of Paper Lantern Lit’s platforms including our Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram. But if there’s one thing I can share with you about social media, is that it always changes. I’ve got to keep my finger on the pulse of trending books and authors, what’s NOT popular, and most importantly, what the people viewing our feeds want to see. That means constantly adapting my strategy, experimenting with new kinds of Tweets or photos, and making sure the feeds are fresh and inviting. Sure, I want people to buy PLL books, but more importantly, I want them to trust that PLL is a destination they can come to for all things YA lit.
A campaign is basically a way of saying that each PLL title gets its day in the sun. I develop a marketing plan for each of our titles which includes social media messaging, giveaway plans, pitches to bloggers and major media, school visits, and more. This is one of my favorite parts of the job; it requires me to be creative and think outside the box of traditional book promotion. Some campaigns I begin brainstorming over a year in advance, while others I start 4-5 months out from publication, which brings me to…
Publisher and Author Support
Here’s where marketing for a publisher and marketing for a book packager differ slightly. Every publishing house has their own internal marketing and PR team that is in charge of coming up with campaigns for their titles. But when a publisher and a packager work together, they’ve got an extra hand in brainstorming and implementing those plans. I love working with our publishing partners on media pitches, blog tours, and brainstorming fun contests, quizzes and swag to promote our books!
It’s also my job to be an extra layer of support for the author. The big five publishers are called “the Big Five” for a reason. They’re big! One of the unique things about working with a packager like PLL, which is small, is that authors can email me about any and every marketing question under the sun—and know they’ll probably get an answer from me that day. It’s important that the publisher be able to rely on me to give our authors social media training and coordinate their marketing deadlines. I love seeing my authors tackle new social media challenges and cheer them on as they become more confident.
Evolving Brand Identity
The word brand is something you hear bandied about a lot in marketing; but really, I like to think of the word brand as synonymous with identity. My job requires that I communicate PLL’s identity to our readers on a daily basis.
So what IS PLL’s brand? Because PLL is a relatively new, small company, our identity changes all the time—and I love that! But there are some things about PLL’s identity that should always stay the same: our commitment to telling compelling stories, our writer-friendly process, and our all-around love of all things YA. We are the Story Architects, and that will always be the foundation of our brand.
In 2016, I’m really excited to share with our audience some fun developments in the evolution of our brand. We’re re-designing our blog and Tumblr, upping our Instagram game, and there may even be a new video series in the works…so stay tuned!
Finally, if you read our last post on the editing process, you learned a bit about how development works. Even though I’m on the marketing track, I still get to be part of editorial brainstorms. There’s actually a reason why I think this works, and why more editorial teams might consider including the input of marketing personnel: we’re on social media every single day interacting with readers, interpreting their interests, and of course, reading the most popular books each month. When I come to brainstorms, I’m not only coming to the table with my own interests, but with a concrete idea of what readers want to see. That makes the marketing angle valuable to development. When an idea of mine makes it into one of our books—for lack of a better term—it gives me all the feels.
Well, if you’ve made it this far, then you’ve earned what comes next: here are my top five tips for authors looking to give their brand presence a boost in 2016!
- Start by being consistent. Just like any New Year’s Resolution, consistency is key. Develop a daily series of Tweets/Tumblr posts with an accompanying photo on a certain theme. David Levithan’s Twitter is a great example of this; each day he posts a new word with a brilliantly composed definition. Once you’ve got your schedule down, then you can start riffing!
- Instagram is the Twitter of tomorrow. Twitter is still a widely used social media platform, but there’s so much more organic discovery on Instagram. Plus, people have more patience to scroll through a feed of images than a feed of tweets, so what you have to say is more likely to be seen! For more Instagram tips, keep an eye out for when this free course is offered next.
- Don’t put pressure on yourself to blog—use that energy elsewhere. If regular blogging isn’t your thing, don’t force it. Think about taking that time and effort and channeling it elsewhere—perhaps on a local mini-school visit tour where you can a) connect directly with readers b) almost ensure at least a few purchases of your book!
- If possible, outsource the time-consuming elements. In the new day and age of self-promotion even for traditionally published authors, the reality we have to face is this: we can’t do it all, and especially not at once! If you’re feeling bogged down by the thought of organizing your own blog/school tour (or you know, buying your groceries) consider hiring an author’s assistant on a task-by-task basis. Many of them are available virtually and charge reasonable rates. This way you can focus on what matters most: the writing.
- Create concrete goals. I’ve saved the most important for last. Break down your large goals (“Increase my twitter following”, “Post more photos on Instagram”) into smaller, more manageable ones. Try for “Gain two new Twitter followers per week” or “Post one new photo per day on Instagram.” Once you get specific, you’ll find the task much easier to complete—and you’ll have more reasons to celebrate when you succeed!
There you have it, marketing from the packager perspective. If you have any questions on this, our previous post, or publishing in general, please leave them in the comments below. Our final post in this series on 2/5 will answer them all!
TARA SONIN is the Marketing Manager for Paper Lantern Lit. She received her B.A. in Theater and English with a concentration in Creative Writing from Barnard College, Columbia University. Tara recaps The Vampire Diaries for Vulture Magazine and writes romance under the name Taryn Scarlett. When not dreaming up catchy marketing campaigns and reading all the books she can get her hands on, Tara is usually found in Zumba classes or singing an eclectic repertoire of show tunes.