Nathan Bransford, Author


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Guest Blogger: Ms. Sally Spitfire on a Day in the Life of a Book Marketing Manager

In honor of Book Roast, anonymous publishing insider Ms. Sally Spitfire was gracious enough to stop by and share with us a day in the life of a marketing manager at a major publisher. Enjoy!

My luvin' cuzin Suzy,

I'm so sorry that I had to cancel my trip to visit you and the family for this upcoming weekend! I know it's simply dreadful, but I just have so much on my plate right now between work and life... I think it would be a more enjoyable trip for everything if I came when I was less distracted and more in a vacation frame of mind. Maybe mid-July? The heat here in NYC is unbearable that time of year anyway...

In place of my visit, I thought it would be fun to send you--my email--a little tour of the office where I work. I usually use these letter to you to talk about one specific detail of my job, but sometime I wonder if I'm neglecting the whole picture...

You know, of course, that I work as a Marketing Manager for one of the top ten commercial publishing houses. In case any of the crazy cousins ask "what that really means," just tell them that, in brief, the marketing manager must figure out: 1) WHO the target audience is for each book 1) how to make that book APPEAL to that audience (think book format, cover art, etc.) and 3) HOW to reach that audience (think advertising, blogger outreach, etc.)

So that's the BIG picture.

But how does it work on a day to day basis?

My job is, as Dolly Parton would put it, basically "Workin' 9 to 5... barely gettin' by..." That being said (or sung), I prefer getting to work an hour early when possible, because it's the only peaceful time of day at the office. So, every morning around 8am, I ride up the 9 floors in the quiet elevators, clutching my to-go tea from home (now cold) and my e-reader (never far from hand) and step into the narrow, white hallway that has become a home away from home...



Even though I do an incredibly wide array of tasks, from overseeing cover design, to choosing advertising for books, to contacting bloggers, 75% of my day is spent sitting in one place: at my desk. Honestly, Suzy, I can't imagine how people did this job before email.



I'm lucky in that I have a very close relationship with my direst boss. Although for the most part I manage my own projects and time, I go to him with any questions that seem beyond my experience and make a concerted effort to keep him in the loop for all major projects and any important accomplishments. Here's teensy peek into his office...of course, the bigwigs get the really niiice office furniture. Someday, I aspire to leather couches.



Let me just say, before we move on to the next stop on my tour, that I secretly LOVE working in an industry where every single office is required to have multiple bookshelves. I try to keep at least two copies on my bookshelf of every current project I'm working on. It's not at all unusual for a sales rep or a publicist to come to me in dire need of a copy to send to a bookseller or magazine reviewed.



Sometimes, I get a bit protective of my books. Too many just seem to disappear without any explanation...



You asked me once for my favorite and least favorite parts of my job. Without a doubt, my least favorite thing about my job is working this copy machine. I've never seen a machine that has such a simple job to do that makes it so complicated. Paper jam! Needs new toner! This machine has as many emergencies as the publishing industry itself.



My favorite part? FREE BOOKS! Have I ever told you about the free book boxes? There's usually one per floor--give or take--and everyone piles it with books that they don't need or want any more, some from the office and some personal from home. Anyone can take them and, once they get so full they begin to overflow, one of us boxes the books up and sends them off to charity. Money doesn't grow on trees but, in publishing, books spring up in bushels! Love it!



Back to the tour: One of the most important promotional objects created by the marketing team is the ADVANCED READERS' EDITION for an upcomign book. At any given time, I usually have these advance copies (also known as galleys or ARCs) for 3 or 4 different books, waiting to be sent to bookstores or to early reader programs (such as Amazon Vine, Goodreads Early Reader or Library Thing Early Reviewer). I keep them all stacked along the hallways outside my office.



And, of course, where would we be without office supplies? Ah, how I wish I had time to write an ode to the office supply cabinet where all wonders reside--for free (to me)!--just waiting to be snatched and used.



And that's it, Suzy. I hope you haven't been too bored. Even more so, I hope that you'll come visit in person some day! For all my humor and sarcasm, I do love it here...



Lots of Love from your NYC Cousin,

(Ms.) Sally S.






71 comments:

Chris Eldin said...

Thanks Nathan and Ms. Spitfire!!!!
:-)

Sarah Laurenson said...

Wonderful post, as always, Ms. Spitfire!

Justus M. Bowman said...

Thanks for the tour.

Kelly said...

Great tour! Love the bushels of books!

Anonymous said...

Very enlightening & perhaps a bit less glamorous than I might've imagined. How about the "Cocktail Hour" in the Life of a Book Marketing Manager? Surely some hobnobbing must be done then?

RW said...

Ms. Spitfire, you probably have addressed this elsewhere, but I'm curious what you contact the bloggers about and how much you think lit blogs effect sales vs. traditional print media.

Mira said...

How fun, a tour - with pictures, even!! Thank you, Ms. Spitfire, that makes it all feel very real. It was very fun to read your 'e-mail,' you sound like you really enjoy your job, and are dedicated to your work.

I'm sorry to hear about the Book Roast closing - but thank you for all that you and others did on that site!

I do have a few questions about marketing in the industry. I wonder if you're answering questions? I'll come back alittle later and post them.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Thanks Ms. Spitfire,
You have de-mystified what a marketing manager does. I'm so sorry for the long white hallway and obstinate copy machine, but any place that has multiple bookshelves and overflowing boxes of free books is heaven to me!

Deb said...

I could live in an office like that. Although a leather couch here in the southwest would make me sweat and I'd slide right off. Yuk. What a great tour. I loved the glimpse into your workplace. Next time, could you poke your head into the art department and take a couple of pics? Thanks.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I would like also to second the question from RW. What tips would you pass on to blogging writers?

justine_hedman said...

Loved the tour. It sounds to me like you've got one of the best jobs out there. Free books, free office supplies, multiple book shelves in every room. You've got a little slice of heaven here on earth. At least you know it, it sounds like you really enjoy what you do.

Melanie Avila said...

Oh, I dream of having that many books at my disposal.

Fun post!

csmith said...

Ah Ms Spitfire, it is nice to see someone with a similar looking desk/office to mine.

Thank you!

And thanks Nathan for posting this.

Anna said...

love all those free books!!

ta loves for the insights...

Laura Manivong said...

Excellent tour...I'm lusting over those boxes of books!

Rick Daley said...

That was a pleasant treat, thank you!

Ms. Sally Spitfire said...

Thomas, Thanks so much for your suggestion! Although all of our office furniture is ordered through our office services dept., maybe I can find some fun additional stuff to replace the ugly, generic stuff we get through them.

Anonymous, Yes... I do occasionally attend some sort of networking or drinks event after work but those evenings are few and far between and really not part of my day to day job. Publicists do a LOT more of that type of thing than marketers.

RW, I contact bloggers whenever I want a book reviewed. It's that simple. And whether it makes an effect on sales, I'm not sure I have a good answer for that. Depends how MUCh online coverage you get and from where. For some books, it really works and for some not at all. I think a lot depends on who the audience is for the book and whether that audience is already active online.

Tricia, My tips to book bloggers: post a stat meter on you blog so that people can see how much traffic you get (unique monthly visitors is the preferred stat meter), make it easy to figure out how to contact you, post regularly, do book giveaways, try to engage your readers so that they comment frequently. That's about it. Maybe make it clear what sort of books you cover, if appropriate.

Keep the questions coming, guys, I'll try to pop by at least once more before the end of the day, if not more.

Dara said...

Very awesome tour! And I definitely understand the lack of love for the copy machine; I think I've become the office "tech" for ours for the amount of time I've had to fix whatever random errors come up :P

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Was this office the set for Britney Spears' "Womanizer"?

That Xerox machine looks VERY familiar!

Laurel said...

Ms. Spitfire,

Bookroast is closing? I just found it through Chris Eldin! Say it isn't so!

I spent the morning at a preschool function mumbling "family jewels" and laughing like a crazy person. It was fun for me although somewhat alarming for the other grownups, who kept their children close and under a watchful eye.

Ash D. said...

What a fun post! Thanks, Nathan, and Ms. Spitfire!

Rebecca Knight said...

Thank you for the great post, Ms. Spitfire!

I was drooling over the pictures of the bookshelves and free book box, though. Off to the bookstore!

Patrick Rodgers said...

This brings up an interesting question I had when I started first reading Nathan's blog. I sent the question to Nathan but didn't get an answer so I didn't email him again not wanting to be a pest.

How helpful is it if a potential writer designed their own Jacket for fun and as a promotional tool to help sell the book. I have a bachelors in Computer Information Technology with an emphasis on Visual technologies meaning I have taken numerous design classes. On a whim one day I decided to design my own jacket for fun and maybe to use as a promotional tool of my own (actually I designed four with slight variations).

I hate a lot of jacket designs and the overuse of photoshop effects and what is referred to as the floating head design. I actually use gimp which is basically a rip off of photoshop but free and while I had most of those effects at my fingertips I prefer simple designs, I think they are more stark and look vastly better than what is normally produced.

I wonder if an author would be allowed to submit his own design or even idea for the design, whether it would help selling the book to an agent or a publishing house or if I just had fun doing my own design which there is no harm in.

Malanie said...

Thank you for the tour!

Mira said...

Ms. Spitfire,

Thanks so much for answering questions. Marketing for books is something that really interests me. I'm pleased to talk to someone who does this for a living.

My questions are:

a. I was happy to see an ad recently in T.V. guide with the slogan: "Get caught reading." Changing the public image of reading - similar to the 'got milk' campaign - could really increase potential readership. I'm curious about the effect that 'Get Caught Reading' has had, and how supported it is.

2. I'm curious as to why there is such a lack of mainstream advertising for books. Other than the review section in newspapers, I have seen very few print ads for books. I've never heard an advertisement for a book on the radio or television. I've never seen any type of audio/visual advertising for books at all, really.

Why is this? I read an article by an insider once that said it's 'conventional wisdom' that these forms of advertising don't work for books. Is that the industry stance? Has that 'conventional wisdom' been market tested? Because my common sense actually says that T.V., radio and print ads would be very effective. I'm wondering about your take on that as a marketing expert.

Thanks so much for considering my questions!

Carrie said...

Cool! Thank you!

I have a friend who recently signed a project with Tor, and he swears that access to their free book box when he visits is one of the coolest things about getting published with them...

Bane of Anubis said...

Thanks to both of you for more insight into the netherworld of publishing.

Sally, how much influence does the typical author/agent have in the marketing side of things?

Thomas Burchfield said...

Thank you very much, Ms. Spitfire who shining a light on that far mysterious corner. I hope my book is good enough so that we meet . . . soon . . . .

Brigita said...

Great post! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Very illuminating, Ms. Sally Spitfire. Many thanks.

Natalie N. said...

Thanks Ms. Spitfire! I think that people tend to glamorize the jobs they don't have. This goes along with Nathan's post about happiness and how you won't ever be happy if you're always looking for the next thing to make you happy. The reality isn't always as good as you picture it will be.

Anonymous said...

I'm lucky in that I have a very close relationship with my direst bossThey're all dire, but this one's the direst.

;)

Laura Martone said...

Thanks, Nathan, for posting a guest blog - and thanks, Ms. Spitfire, for the informative tour (the photos were especially entertaining).

As with Bane of Anubis, I wonder how much influence an author/agent has on the book's design. I know that, in the travel writing world, I have had some influence on the cover photo choice for my guides... but certainly not the final decision.

Also, how important is it nowadays for an author to have an ongoing blog? I know a website is essential, but I wonder how often an author needs to be communicating with his/her readers. As you and Nathan both know firsthand, hosting a blog can be a very time-consuming endeavor.

Thanks for your insights!

P.S. I echo everyone else here when I say - free books! What an awesome perk!

Walter said...

Very cool. Thanks!

irishoma said...

Thanks for the great post and helpful information.

Lunatic said...

And here all this time I thought you guys were just like authors, sitting in your skivies at the computer on a Saturday morning, hair mussed, coffe mug warming your hands, trying to stretch the sleep out of your fingers before you start typing. Come to find out it's a real job. Oh well.

Fred

Jil said...

Many thanks, Mrs. Spitfire. The photos, especially, made your world more down to earth than the far off halls of my imaginstion and I appreciate that.

Jil said...

May I just mention the death yesterday morning of Sister Carol Anne O'Marie. author of the Sister Mary Helen Mystery series. She was a neat lady.

Cathryn G-rant said...

Thanks for a peek behind the curtain, Ms. Spitfire.

ryan field said...

This was a nice post and nice change of pace.

Scott said...

Great post, cool job. Thanks, Sally!

JuLo said...

Since so far I've only frequented blogs that cover the agent side of the writing world, it's so wonderful to get a peek into the actual publishing side. I'm still very in the dark on what goes on after a book is actually sold to a publisher. So great post! Thanks!

Like others have mentioned, I'm also interested on how much say the author gets in the cover design. I only dream of actually having a book to sell to a publisher to get a cover design, but in that dream, there's always a touch of nightmare that I'm going to get something ugly and off-putting. I'm sure all pesky writers think they know what cover design is best when they really don't, but how much do they get to input? Is that something that is part of contract negotiation, and thus can vary deal to deal? Personally, I would be willing to forgo money upfront if it meant I liked the product better when it was out.

Other Lisa said...

Mmmmm....free books....

Jen P said...

Any tips on what writers should include with a query to a publisher regards marketing - should / should not include any thoughts / work done so far / web / blog details / ideas for marketing that the author would undertake - or leave it all well alone and that's the job of the marketing department?

Sad to see BR is being put out. Thanks for all the insightful fun over there.

Venus said...

I had to bite my lips to keep myself from screaming at the thought of free books! Free books by the bucket too! mmmmph

It's a lovely post.

Jen C said...

Hahaha, I have similar feelings about our printer here in the office as Ms. Spitfire does about the copier! It is such an attention seeker, not a day goes by when it doesn't beep at me over something. Run out of paper, change the cartridge, add more toner, paper jam etc. My favourite is when it says there's a paper jam and you pull it apart and there IS NO PAPER JAM, and then it goes brrrrrrrr and starts working again.

It's evil, I tells ya, pure evil.

Anonymous said...

Good article.

Jim Thomsen said...

Sally, I'm curious about two things:

1. How you got your job (what your qualifications and political connections are).

2. How you keep your job (given the collapse of the market in recent months).

No hostility intended, honestly, but it seems like what you do is the publishing equivalent of playing blackjack in Atlantic City ... with other people's lives and money.

Chris Eldin said...

Thanks everyone for your support and positive feedback!

Ms. Spitfire did a huge favor for the Book Roast blog by posting about the publishing industry--in her 'spare' time. I'm so glad that we kept her anon, given a recent comment.

That's all I'm going to say, but I didn't want to leave Ms. Spitfire undefended. And Nathan will be in and out, but what a nice gesture on his part to leave these comments open, expecting all of us to behave.

Mira said...

Yes, Chris, I agree.

Jim, I'm not sure where exactly you're coming from....? Marketing is a crucial and honorable part of any business. And if you are ever published, you'll appreciate the marketing department - that's for sure.

I also think it was very kind of Ms. Spitfire to guest here and share her life in such a down-to-earth way. I feel as though I have a better sense of 'what it's like' than I had before.

She may not have had time to answer all the questions, but I really appreciate her visit.

Laura Martone said...

I agree with Chris and Mira. Despite your intention, Jim, to not sound hostile, I think your comment seemed quite venomous indeed. From my own limited publishing experience, I can tell you that, while authors rely heavily on book marketing experts like Ms. Spitfire, their own marketing efforts can play a huge role in the success of their books - from arranging book signings (which I've had to do on my own) to hitting as many blogs and websites as humanly possible. But, believe me, you want experts like Ms. Spitfire on your side... I don't think she'd appreciate being likened to an irresponsible, uncaring gambler. But that's just an educated guess.

Anonymous said...

Here's to Ms. Spitfire!

Ms. Sally Spitfire said...

Man, Mira, you've asked some tough questions. Frankly, since I'm not a part of the advertising or marketing team for "Get Caught Reading", I'm not sure how it has had an effect on whatever statistics that team was measuring. No idea whatsover.

As for the print advertising, it HAS been tested, multiple times and frequently, whether print advertising has an effect on books and the answer is--sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't and it's just accepted that there's no real way to test it or predict it. But the real truth as to why it's not done more? It's wicked, wicked expensive. I think you could rent a 3-bedroom in Manhattan for a month on the cost of a full page full color ad in the NYT... ;-)

Patrick, While I admire your enthusiasm and creativity to want to design your own cover, hearing it from an author I work with would make me cringe. Although you may not be won over by their designs, per se, the art dept. at a major publishing house has years and YEARS of experiencing what art and covers make a book SELL. The dirty truth is, if you want your book published commercially, it becomes a commercial product... Sad, perhaps, but true.

Bane of Banubis, It depends on the situation, of course, but I'd say that an author can have immense impact--whether in a bad way (opposing every decision made by the professional publishing team and therefore causing such a traffic jam of opinion that no really good decisions get made) or in a good way (by being available for blog interviews, engaging in social media, talking to book clubs on the phone, i.e. being willing to be involved with the work of making a book sell). Just depends...

Laura, I think it is important for an author why wants to write multiply books to connect personally with her public in some way. For each author, this is different: some maintain blogs, some call in to book club discussion regularly by phone, some go on lecture tours. I know I'm a broken record... but it just depends on the author!

Julo--Sorry! I actually don't know why some authors get more say in their cover design than others. Is it just that one is more pushy than another? Or do agents negotiate different "approvel" rights in the contract?? Ask an editor...

P.S. I will get to the rest of the questions I haven't answered yet later tomorrow. I know it's late and some of you may miss then, but I'm exhausted, just got home from staying late at work, and need some down time! THANK YOU SO MUCH to all of you who defended me, in my absense, to Jim. Perhaps I don't always know what I'm doing--but I do work my hardest for my authors and use what experience I have built up, over years in the industry, to bring an authors words to those who want to read them.

Shona Snowden said...

Hi Miss Spitfire! Love the office tour! All that paper and all those books - wonderful.

Laura Martone said...

Thanks for answering our questions, Ms. Spitfire. I appreciate your time and expertise. Sweet dreams!

Patrick Rodgers said...

I guess we'd have to leave it to Nathan whether including your own designed jacket might make you more marketable or eye catching as far as acquiring an agent goes.

I love the answer though Ms. Spitfire because it sounds like from a publishing side of things and as far as publishing houses go its probably not the best of ideas. I guess if you get big enough you can make all the noise you want and publishers would just have to endure your creative wants. But for a first time unpublished author you are better off likely taking the advice of the art department for numerous reasons it sounds like.

I love that you took time to answer these questions though. So I just need to make a checklist. First acquire agent, second sell book, third become big enough so that I can make them go with my designs and creative input.


Ok so followup question. Do you think simple designs sell better than the normal photoshop or floating head designs. I don't like the twilight books but I absolutely love the Jacket designs. They are so simple and they are so eloquent and that is what I would want and they have sold wonderfully.

Mira said...

Ms. Spitfire, thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I realize expense is a factor in advertising. I just wonder if it might pay off over the long haul. But I completely understand that it is really hard to measure results, so it could be hard to justify the expense without a guarantee.

You sound like such a nice person, truly. I hope that if I ever get published someday, you're on my team. Or I'm on yours, or whatever way it works....

Then I can ask some more hard questions. ;-)

Have a nice relaxing evening.

Other Lisa said...

I was so busy drooling over the prospect of free books that I forgot to thank Ms. Spitfire for her lovely post and for the great follow-up comments answering everyones' questions.

And now that I've read it, I too am pretty stunned by Jim T.'s "questions." It seems to me that in-house marketing is usually crucial to the success of a book - and as a writer, though I expect to do my bit to promote my work, I would really want to have experienced professionals on my side, doing their work and helping me understand what I can do to help my own cause.

The First Carol said...

Ms Spitfire: I'm intensely curious how you reach the desired target audience. Quick, give me three ways you advertised the book you're holding in your hands and the best idea you ever came up with. Okay, you don't have to share any trade secrets, but really, how DO you advertise?

Can I say I LOVED the pictures. I'm such a grade-schooler.

Bane of Anubis said...

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Awesome. Thanks!

Guy Russell said...

How do you break into marketing? What qualifications would I need?

T. Anne said...

Tank you Ms. Sally. I visit Book Roast often and even won a free book there! Can't wait to be roasted myself in the future. Careful, I can get a bit spicy now and again...

Hywela Lyn said...

Thank you Ms Spitfire, that was a fascinating tour. Like many others, I know, I'll miss you and the Book Roast.

Ana V. said...

Congratulations! I have chosen you to receive the “Premios Dardo” Award. Please check out my post at: http://www.thewritertoday.com/2009/05/premios-dardo-award.html

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mira said...

Anonymous, you're misunderstanding.

She's humanizing it, and talking about a day in the life. She's not going into the details of marketing.

Why not just ask her rather than accuse her?

Sheesh.

Claire said...

Thanks for tearing down the bewildering, yet exalted "Emerald City" facade that has the unpublished writer awestruck. The whole writing business doesn't seem so intimidating now.

:)

Damien Grintalis said...

Thank you for taking us on the tour, Ms. Spitfire. Best wishes to you!

Sandra G. said...

I love walking in the shoes of a marketing manager for a day - what a treat!

Thank you to Ms. Sally Spitfire and to Nathan for a fresh and lively post. The photos of the copier kept it all in perspective - I might imagine a glamorous job with authors vying to get my attention, and then it all comes back into focus with the picture of the dang photocopier.

Even those at the top of the game have to content with these machines!

Love the post - thank you!

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