3 S.R. Johannes: Marvelous Marketer: Alyssa Eisner Henkin (Trident Media Group)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Marvelous Marketer: Alyssa Eisner Henkin (Trident Media Group)

NOTE to all all my readers: I have a massive deadline to super agent this weekend so I may not be visiting or blogging much this week (except for my regularly scheduled Monday and Friday marketing posts) Please bear with me. I promise I'll catch up on your news next week. :)

Hi Alyssa, I know you are extremely bus
y, (especially helping me edit my book :) so thank you for taking the time to share your tips with us.

I know- just from talking with you - you are very conscious of how an author and a book needs
to be positioned in the marketplace.

So before we get started, tell us a little about yourself and Trident.

I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and The Radcliffe Publishing Course. I worked as an editor for over seven years at Simon & Schuster’s Books for Young Readers imprint. In December of 2006, I joined Trident Media Group as an agent specializing in children’s books.

Trident Media Group was the number one in the world for sales of book contracts in 2008, according to Publisher's Market Place. Com. This is the eighth year in a row for Trident to retain the number one position in sales of all Literary Agencies.

Based on your publishing and agency experience, what are the top 3 things every author should and must do to promote their book?

In today’s climate, I definitely think it’s helpful for authors to maintain websites through which readers and fans and those seeking authors for speaking engagements can reach them.

For many authors writing for children and teens, I think blogging, Facebook, Twitter etc. are incredibly helpful in reaching one’s readership since kids and teens spend a lot of time online.

I also think a willingness to go to book festivals, signings, and other events where books are sold (as well as classroom visits) can be enormously helpful and definitely sends a message both to the publisher and to the readers that the author is doing everything in his or her power to connect with readers.

Of course sometimes all the promotion in the world cannot guarantee a book’s success in the marketplace, and it’s important that writers don’t get so caught up in the promotion that they in turn don’t have enough time or energy to write the next book! For that reason, I think Skype is a great and cost-effective invention, and one that enables authors to connect with a book club or a group of readers, without needing to leave the comforts of their own homes.

In your opinion, how important is social networking?

I think connecting with readers and other authors in all of the above ways can be instrumental in establishing an online presence and a reader fan base. I’ve had authors tell me that they love connecting with their readership in the less formal and more fun Facebook context because they get to know the way their readers talk and think and what makes them tick.

Some have even told me that this type of communication helps inspire their writing! And whereas when I was growing up it might have taken a very long time to hear back from an author whom I wrote a fan letter to, now technology can enable more direct communication that makes an author feel less like a fossil in a museum and more like a real person.

Some authors of course are a little more shy in nature and don’t necessarily feel as comfortable with sharing on Facebook or Myspace or through blogging, because they feel like they have to write a whole long entry, when they might simultaneously be on a tight deadline to finish their next book. Twitter, for this reason, I think is a fantastic invention. It has brevity that enables authors to multi-task and still stay connected, but in seemingly doable increments.

Do you feel it is beneficial for authors to team up and promote books as a group?

I’ve seen much good cross-promotion result from collaborative efforts. I’ve read very impressive blog interviews in which authors standing in more established shoes do everything to champion debut writers in whom they believe. And I’ve read several good news articles about authors that are linked for one reason or another (all debuts, all writing in the same genre, all in the same age range), and the newspapers or magazines might have been less likely to run those stories if they focused on just one author as opposed to three or four.

I’ve attended panels and heard of SCBWI weekends that were wonderfully successful because the authors who attended pitched themselves together to book the gig, and this nurtured a robust, funny, tag-teaming kind of Q&A presentation.

At the same time, it’s always important to consider the number of hours in the day, and I do think it’s similarly beneficial for authors to brand themselves as individuals, too. Even though Dorothy Parker used to hang out with the other authors at the famous Algonquin Round Table, we still remember her name alone.

What other advice do you have for authors/writers regarding marketing?

I advise authors to market in whatever style best suits their needs and their lifestyles while taking cues from their publishers about what is most beneficial and most appropriate at each juncture. Sometimes authors feel the need to start working on marketing over a year before a book’s publication. And while it can be highly useful to start thinking about and implementing website designs or book trailers, and establishing a blog or creating an e-mail contact list that far in advance, it’s not necessarily an ideal time to talk to local reporters.

Remember much marketing and publicity is geared towards getting consumers to buy the book itself, and for that the book must be available. Also, if you are a more private person or one who does not thrive on blogging or twittering or Facebook it doesn’t mean that your book is destined to be a friendless failure. Just as every writer work hard to perfect a voice that is all his or her very own, I encourage cultivating a marketing style that feels similarly authentic, comfortable, and unique.

When evaluating whether to take on an author or book, do you ever google them to see if they already have a web presence or platform?

Very often. When you spend all day sitting in front of a computer it’s easy and fun to Google the name at the bottom of a compelling query and see if you can find out anything intriguing about the person who wrote it. There have been times I’ve stumbled upon potential clients websites and been so impressed by the wit, the clarity of thinking, the online presence or other impressive skills that I think to myself, “wow this person’s got a really compelling package.”

Of course no matter how wonderful the website or the blog, the manuscript itself needs to entice and intrigue me, and make me certain there’s a sale potential there. I’ve also signed on several authors whom I’ve sold in successful deals who did not have websites or blogs or platforms to speak of at that time, but they had great manuscripts. And the fact that they did not have a web presence ahead of time really just created more of an air of mystery before we had that initial "get to know you" phone call.

What are you looking for? What are you interested in?

I’m always on the lookout for great, commercial novels. I would personally love to find more mystery for tweens and young adults—it’s one of those genres that sometimes authors shy away from because it’s often very plot-driven and meticulous to write and therefore not as “freeing” as more voice-driven pieces can be, but it’s an area that I love and many editors have told me it’s a genre with room to grow.

I’m also a big sucker for YA romance that is not paranormal, but contemporary set or even epic, in the vein of Nicolas Sparks and The Notebook. I also personally love manuscripts with a strong sense of place and a regional flavor about them—from Dairy Queen, to Peaches, to my newest fave, Kathryn Stockett’s women’s fiction masterpiece, The Help. I’m indeed a sucker for a strong sense of place.

Finally, finding a select number of author/illustrators to add to my list, both in the picture book and graphic novel-inspired vein, is something I’m on the watch for.

Thank you for stopping by!

Thanks Shelli! Now get back to work. :)


Tess said...

What a fun interview -- and good news for this MG mystery writer :)


Caroline Starr Rose said...

Great interview. Thank you for your email and this insight on Alyssa.

C.R. Evers said...

awesome interview!

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Great interview. How wonderful to have such a super agent in your corner!

Irene Latham said...

How fun was that -- interviewing your very own agent?? I too love PLACE in a novel...

Kimbra Kasch said...

Thanks for sharing all this great info.

Robin Mellom said...

Great interview! I love the idea of using Skype for school visits.

Diana Paz said...

Thanks for the super informative interview, and thanks for following my blog too :)

Robert W. Leonard said...

As always, a fantastic interview. Thanks to both of you for taking the time. I enjoyed the part about new authors trying to market in groups. That's an angle I haven't read much about.

Sherrie Petersen said...

I love that you featured Alyssa on here :) You're obviously with a great agency and I love learning more about agents.

Christina Lee said...

Thnaks for this great interview!

Corey Schwartz said...

She sounds awesome. No wonder you love her so much! :)

Kelly Polark said...

Great, informative interview! It sounds like you have a fab agent!

Jessica Leader said...

The kind of interview that makes an author feel that everything is doable and positive! Thanks, Alyssa and Shelli!

Jessica Leader

Hardygirl said...

Such a great interview. I love the idea of using Skype for book clubs and school visits! Very cool.

Also, I'm thrilled that Alyssa is such a big fan of my friend Kathryn Stockett. Yay, Southern writers!


Anissa said...

You always have the best interviews! Thank you.

Crystal said...

What a wonderfully informative interview, Shelli & Alyssa! Thank you both so much! :)

kathrynjankowski said...

Always interesting to get another agent's insights. Thanks, Shelli.

Elana Johnson said...

Awesome interview. Thanks to Shelli and Alyssa for the time it took to do this. :)

Jessie Oliveros said...

Your agent interviews are great, Shelli! Good luck on the edits.

Anonymous said...

Lots of good advice here. Much obliged!

Jennifer Shirk said...

Very informative! Thank you!

* said...

Enjoyed reading this interview. Great pointers!

daphne grab said...

awesome interview!!