3 S.R. Johannes: Marvelous Marketer: Christy Webster (Random House Children's Books)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Marvelous Marketer: Christy Webster (Random House Children's Books)

Special Announcements

A Big Thanks! First, I want to thank all my loyal followers! I adore you guys and thanks for coming by often. I just reached 400 this weekend and have decided when I reach 500, I'm going to do a "Thank you" Giveaway! Stay tuned!

2009 Interview update: Secondly, this is the LAST marketing interview of 2009. It's been a great year and we've had some great interviewees. I want to thank all of them and let you know the interviews will resume on Jan 4th, 2010 with a brand new format and lineup!

Marketing Interview

Hi Christy! Thanks so much for coming and answering questions about marketing for us. It's always nice to get an editor's perspective. First, tell us a little about yourself as an editor.

I’ve worked at Random House Children’s Books for about four and a half years. Between my own books and the books I’ve assisted my bosses to edit, I’ve tried my hand at almost every kind of kids’ book there is. Baby to YA, licensed and non-licensed, fiction and non-fiction, new and reissued, you name it. I come from Maine. Oh, and everything I’m about to say is my opinion, not my employer’s. (Sorry).

In your opinion, after watching a book go through the publishing process, what are the top three things an author can do to help promote their book?

1. Be available to your readers in a way that makes most sense to you, your book, and your publisher. Whether it’s touring, school visits, an online presence, or something else, a personal connection is a wonderful thing.

2. Talk to people about your books, and books in general. Connect with people who love books and stories as much as you do.

3. Be nice to everyone.

I assume the last pertains to any online interaction as well as in person. I think some people forget to be as nice in Twitter as they are in person. Based on that, how can an author utilize social networking to build an audience and what should they keep in mind when doing it?

I think an author (or anyone) should put effort into social networking only if they enjoy it on its own merits. By all means—check it out, give it a chance, see how people are using these various services. But the people who find success connecting with their audience on these websites are the ones who are using them in a similar way to their fans—to connect with people, to learn new things, to share information, and to have fun.

Those who are using them as a marketing tool only? People can tell they’re not that into it, and I don’t think it’s as useful that way. Your readers want something authentic, and if social networking just isn’t your bag, it’s OK—you don’t want to fake it. Find other ways that are more you. But I definitely think it’s worth checking out and seeing for yourself. It’s one of those things that you need to try hands-on before knowing what it’s all about.

I’m on Twitter. I’ve found it to be a really neat way of keeping up with other folks in the publishing industry, from fellow editors to authors, librarians, and reviewers. But it also keeps me up on ALL my interests, as I can follow my favorite TV critics, reporters, bloggers, comedians and so on.

Sometimes I feel badly for authors that follow me, because I think they’re expecting publishing tips, and then I spend the day talking about getting my ears pierced or something. But then, that’s what it’s all about—a slightly more personal connection. I use Facebook mainly to keep in touch with family and old friends. I use GoodReads exclusively as a way to remember what I’ve read. If I don’t keep track, I forget, and that pains me. Plus I love to look at all the covers together.

I to believe you use social networking in an authentic way to meet people not for sales. It seems with all the social networking in today's environment that technology is becoming more and more important to an author’s marketing plan.

Yes, but it’s as important as you make it. There’s a bare minimum, I think. You have to have a website, with up-to-date information about your book and yourself. You have to have email that you keep up with, to keep in touch with your agent, editor, publicist, and anyone else involved with helping you market your book.

Beyond that, the sky’s the limit, and it’s a very individual thing. Some authors blog daily. Some post videos. Some do fun giveaways of their books. Some do virtual author visits. If you do the things that most interest you, you’ll do them enthusiastically, and people will respond to that.

But even if your personal proclivity is toward in-person activities, making yourself at least minimally accessible online greatly increases your chances of being contacted about in-person opportunities.

Another marketing technique seems to be around group book tours. How do you feel about group promotion?

I love that so many authors recently have teamed up to promote their books together. This is one of the things I love most about the children’s book world—there is true and sincere camaraderie. When someone in children’s books—an author, a bookseller, an editor, a librarian, whatever—loves a book or believes in an author, they will enthusiastically spread the word, regardless of any circumstances that might otherwise lead to competitiveness. Most of us know that any book doing well can be good for all books, and most of us also just put a love of stories above all else. That works out really well, because word of mouth is by far the best way for a book to gain attention. I think about how I discover new books for my own pleasure reading.

Before you can decide whether to read something, you have to first hear of it. So if someone I know is talking about about a book, or if an author whose work I already follow is talking about a book, or if an author I don’t know is at a reading with authors I do know, then I hear about it. And if it sounds like something I’d like, I read it. It’s a simple, natural thing that makes a big difference.

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

Try not to worry too much about the marketing experience being different from what you expected. Remember that it's not about who gets the multi-city tour and who doesn't. It's about getting books into the hands of the readers that are going to love reading them.

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?

Yes, I do check out their web presence. I don’t go looking for a platform, per se. If they have some kind of platform that relates to the book in question, they should have mentioned it when submitting. If they did mention some credentials that would have a real impact on whether we’d take the book, then I’d definitely do some research to make sure it’s legit and find out more about what it is and how it could work for a book. But honestly, that’s a pretty rare thing. With the vast majority of kids’ books, we’re looking for a great story, not an area of expertise.

Can you give us an idea of the types of marketing or publicity Random House may offer to authors? Is there a standard or is it just based on the book?

We do a lot of different kinds of books, and each category has some kind of standard marketing plan. I can’t go into a lot of specifics, but an example would be sending out ARCs for original novels, that kind of thing. And the standard plan is quite good on its own. Beyond that, our marketing and publicity departments work hard to identify which books would benefit most from specific types of extra strategies, and that varies widely and depends on the book. Some traditional strategies aren’t right for some books, and other books can sometimes naturally call out for something more offbeat. The main thing is that they have a lot of magic to work with a small budget, and they really do try to make everything they do make as big a difference as possible.

What things do you and RH expect an author to do on their own?

The only thing I truly expect from an author is to write a great story, let us know what their availability is for promotion, and provide an author photo when the time comes. They should also be maintaining their own web presence in some way. But when an author has other ideas for things to do on their own, I'm thrilled.


Shannon O'Donnell said...

Thanks, Shelli and Christy. I always love the marketing interviews - so much great stuff I feel like I need to take notes! ;-)

Catherine Denton said...

Way to go on your 400+ followers!! These interviews have been so helpful. Thank you for sharing with us. I look forward to reading more in January.

V. S said...

Congrats on your 400 followers! Great interview, fantastic post as usual!

Unknown said...

Congrats on 400 followers and thanks for a great interview.

I had the honor of meeting with Christy at a conference and it was a wonderful experience - she is a wealth of information!

Christina Lee said...

GREAT interview--thanks!

Crystal said...

Great interview, Shelli & Christy! And CONGRATS to you Shelli on the 400 followers . . . I've really enjoyed these Monday interviews; they've been so helpful and informative and always gave me something to look forward to after the weekend! I do so look forward to the ones you have scheduled so far for 2010 . . . a great lineup, Shelli! :)

Anonymous said...

This is such a great interview! :)

Donna Gambale said...

Congrats, Shelli!

Loved the interview, as usual. Especially when group promotion was brought up --- I'm a huge fan of how supportive the children's/YA community is. We all celebrate together!

Ellie Kings said...

Great interview! It definitely answered some questions. Though I can't keep up as fast as others, I try. Congrats Shelli, dear, on your 400+ following. Nice job, girl. :)

lisa and laura said...

Fabulous interview, Shelli! I never get sick of reading these.

Susan R. Mills said...

Great interview. I love the advice about being nice to everyone. How true is that?????

Kelly H-Y said...

Fantastic interview!!! Thanks so much for the great advice/information!

Sherrie Petersen said...

And to think, I knew you back when...

You've done a great job of growing your blog. These marketing interviews are fabulous and so helpful.

You're well on your way to world domination with LiLa :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great interview. And congrats on reaching 400 followers Shelli.

Hardygirl said...

Great interview! I love that the only thing she EXPECTS from authors is a great story plus some minimal publicity stuff.

Congrats on your huge following!!


Jennie Englund said...

Love Tip Number 3 in particular! Great general rule!

Anonymous said...

Hey Hey! Greatness as always! =D

Love all your followers--that's super awesome numbers!

And I nominated you for a blog award! Head on over!


Kelly said...

Great advice here. Really enjoyed reading it. THANK YOU!


Kelly said...

Great advice. Really enjoyed reading it. Thank you.


Christina Farley said...

Great advice Christy. And Shelli, congrats!

Stina said...

Great post Shelli! Guess it's time I update my facebook page, especially since I keep getting friend requests.