The Bookseller #mandp14 interviews: Sophia Blackwell of Kogan Page

In the run up to The Bookseller Marketing and Publicity Conference, we’ll be running a series of interviews with some prominent and interesting figures in the book publishing industry. Asking them about their experiences and expert opinions on book marketing and what we can learn from campaigns they’ve seen so far.

Our second interview is with Sophia Blackwell, who started her publishing career at Taylor and Francis in Oxfordshire and has since worked at Macmillan and Bloomsbury. She is currently Marketing Manager at Kogan Page, as well as heading a host of literary and musical events, Head Curator of the online Empathy Library, and author of two books. She tweets at @SophiaBlackwell, is 2014’s Marketing and Publicity Mentor for the Society of Young Publishers and watches lots of bad TV.

1. How does marketing a series of books differ from marketing a one-off title?

The advantage of marketing a series is that you can obtain large amounts of information and data from what worked and what didn’t work for the first book, which makes your marketing strategy for the next books leaner and smarter. The challenge is to sustain the momentum and save some of your best ideas. If you can keep that creative spark and you know where your communities are, you’ve got it made.

2. What do you need to consider when marketing a big release?

Discoverability, most of all. Your messages need to be in the right place, whether that’s a Tube platform, a radio show or an online banner ad. Timing is crucial, but I’d argue that a lot of time is spent on fiddling with the creative for ads and not enough trying to find the best place for them to be. If you do have a decent budget, do something innovative; the industry, as well as the customers, should be aware that you’re throwing everything behind this title. A big release should also be as global as you can make it. Nothing says success like bestseller lists in different time zones.

3. How big a part does social media play in your marketing strategy?

A huge part. Lots of influencers are online, but of course print media also feeds in to social media. These days, one of the most important metrics is depth of engagement, and with a perfectly crafted message, the right call to action and a handily placed share button, you can be recommended by people your readers trust.

4. Do you get many pre-orders? And do they impact subsequent marketing plans?

Yes, but I’ve never had a volume of pre-orders that’s substantially changed what I was planning to do – I start planning early! I think all book marketers have to operate on a more reactive model because we can see pretty much real-time information, so if you can see orders going through the roof, you might turn around from what you were working on and invest a little more time and money in that title. You have to be used to not working in a linear way, while still observing the correct timings; it’s a balancing act.

5. How involved do you get in editorial decisions about which books to publish?

In the companies I’ve worked for, that’s varied from ‘completely’ to ‘not very.’ I have been at meetings where books have been taken off the table purely because of feedback from Marketing and Sales. Publishing should always involve an element of gambling – no one knows quite what’s going to take off, and sometimes it’s best to strike out rather than emanating the trends that will have cooled off by the time the book’s published- but at the same time, ignoring the data and feedback from Sales and Marketing isn’t the way to go. It’s better to pass on your authors than to drag them on a journey that will disappoint them in the end, unless this is the only shot you have with them, in which case you just need to cross your fingers and decide.

6. Finally, what is the best book marketing strategy you’ve seen? What can be learnt from it?

I like strategies that are interactive and involve a mixture of the social and experiential, so I really liked the ‘real-time’ sinking of the Titanic campaign that the History Press did at @TitanicRealTime. I also enjoyed Hodder and Think Jam’s campaign for Miranda Hart’s ‘Is It Just Me?’ with the hashtag #noitsustoo, and the ‘opposing points of view,’ poster for Gone Girl. There’s so much information and so many innovative ideas online, but you get the sense that some of the best ideas came out of people talking and thinking and living these books, not just staring at a screen. They need to come from somewhere deeper. Also, look at what other industries are doing. They’re bigger and badder – there’s a lot we can learn!

Want to learn more about our new product BookSnacking, the best way to promote and get your book discovered online? Arrange to meet our very own @LauraAustinNow, YUDU‘s Head of Marketing, at #mandp14 by emailing click here to email.

Photograph courtesy of Naomi Woddis – see website here or follow on twitter

Categories: eBooks, Experts

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