(This post really should be subtitled ‘How Bloomsbury Publishing marketed a title so well that I was compelled to write about it!’ Read on and you’ll understand why.)
My publisher Charlotte Harper of Editia is located in Canberra so it’s not that often we see each other in person. Last week we spent some time together and she passed along a package sent to me via her office.
The parcel was beautifully wrapped with a tag on the outside:
On opening the parcel there was a book proof. Ok, at this stage you may be thinking – ho-hum, what’s the interest in that? But wait, there’s more….
The proof for My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff (release date June 2014) came with a personalised letter. While I may deduct small points for the fact that they spelt my surname McGuire instead of Maguire, I’m awarding bonus points for the content of the letter that came from Alexandra Pringle, Editor-in-Chief of Bloomsbury Publishing.
The letter starts out:
“You always remember your first job – your first step into the world of publishing. Reading this wonderful memoir, My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff – her account of her first job for an old-established literary agency in New York in the 1990s – I was transported back to 1978.”
The letter then continues with a personal story of Alexandra’s first job in publishing when she was 24 years old. She captures so perfectly the experience of a young worker (or as she explains her job, “Office Slave”) and the menial tasks, along with a few mishaps.
The letter says:
“We know that you are fully-fledged in the world of publishing now
and that’s why we wanted to share this with you!”.
Ok, how do they know that? As far as I know, no friends or former colleagues work at Bloomsbury. Someone has done their homework! And I like that. It makes me feel that this has been really well targeted and it’s personal.
Another thing I really loved?
“Here is a proof to enjoy, to cherish, to share – and to take you back.”
Now let’s just focus on the ‘share’ bit of that sentence.
Bloomsbury have included in the proof a ‘Pay it Forward’ concept along with a library-like card no less for people to sign and date!
Will I do that? Hell yes! I will absolutely be reading this book, filling out the card, and passing it along to someone else to read. Preferably someone who has worked in publishing! And I hope they ‘Pay it Forward’ by loving the concept as much as I do.
Now do you see why this post should be called ‘How Bloomsbury compelled me to write about My Salinger Year because they marketed the book so well!’
Have I read it? I’ve started but I’m not through it yet. But that is, only because I have a pile of ‘To Be Read’ March release books by some of my favourite Australian authors. Will I keep reading My Salinger Year? Of course, I’m loving it. But before I read a word did I expect to like it? Absolutely. That is already half the battle won.
I am enjoying hearing of Joanna’s start at her first job. She captures perfectly the uncertainty of the newly employed and the absolute lack of knowledge of what others assume to be basic tasks. It reminded me of my very first job (not in publishing) and how embarrassingly bad I was at typing letters. On typewriters, with carbon paper to create copies. Yes, that’s how long ago it was! But it also reminded me of being in senior management positions and helping work experience people work use the photocopier. For instance, when you place a manuscript into the automatic feeder it’s important to have the paper facing in the right direction if you don’t want a whole ream of blank paper to be copied.
So apart from compelling me to write this post and promote their book, Bloomsbury also made me think about my first job in publishing!
But they also have made me think about the way that books are marketed in the digital age, and how in this instance the memoir was targeted so well.
This form of targeted marketing is not always possible from a cost perspective. I know that. Someone had to research the mailing list, find out who had a history in publishing. Someone had to hand write the ‘Pay it Forward’ cards, stick a small envelope to the inside of the proof, nicely wrap the book with the tag on the outside and post it. All of this on the off chance that someone like me would want to write about My Salinger Year.
But the result is the marketing worked. It elicited an emotion in me that a Netgalley proof just won’t do. Before starting to read the book, the presentation and thoughtfulness stirred some desire to write about it.
Such manual labour intensive marketing effort makes me question – in the digital age – how best should publishers and authors promote their books?
This has been the eternal question for writers and publishers – the most brilliant book in the world by an unknown or mid-list author won’t sell unless people know about it.
But lets focus on the fact that Bloomsbury has not only made me want to write about their promotion but also transported me back to my first job in publishing.
I was 21 and I’d just moved from the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney up to Palm Beach. I was looking for a job in North Sydney and not too focussed on what it may be. One day I saw an ad for a job as Assistant to a Publisher. Knowing nothing else about it, I knew I wanted the job, badly. That job changed my life because it set me on my career path.
It was in an old building* behind a petrol station in North Sydney working with small start-up within a magazine publishing company. Working for a kindly Publisher, I wasn’t in the hot and fast world of trade – that came later. The book team was responsible for creating recipe and craft books with content initially mostly drawn from Family Circle and Better Homes and Gardens. The book-publishing arm was called Advertiser Books and in those heady days were the first books at the supermarket checkouts. They were running out the doors they sold so fast. With the company later purchased by Rupert’s Nephew (aka ‘The Man from Uncle’) it was rebranded Murdoch Magazines, with the publishing arm called Murdoch Books. We moved to a much slicker Artarmon office although I soon departed to live in Melbourne for four years. Of course times have changed, and now Murdoch Books has been acquired by Allen & Unwin.
My first job in publishing was to support the kindly Publisher and the nice Production Manager in mostly secretarial tasks. My joy was being able to work with the editor and (excitement) write captions and help with photography styling in minor ways. I loved dealing with every aspect of the publishing and creation process. I progressed through to Editorial Assistant and then, following the opportunity that arose, Production Co-ordinator. That set me on my path of working in production with jobs in business publishing and illustrated until I DID work in the hot and fast world of Trade Publishing. Books. Precious Books. (Cue Gollum speaking and substitute the books for the ring and you’ve more or less got it.)
In the book blurb for of My Salinger Year it talks about the ‘old fashioned world of publishing’. It reminded me that nowdays not all remember the days before digital layouts. A time when a concern when sending book boards with bromides to the filmhouse (remember them?) was the potential of a folio slipping if the wax melted in transit. Yes, there may be books out there with that quaintly old fashioned production issue. I remember when working at another illustrated publisher when we first started doing book layouts in house. Hell, I’ve been around so long I can remember the huge time savings when our office got a fax machine and we could deal with our overseas and interstate suppliers more easily. And for those of you who are too young to have lived through this time I can assure you that there was a lot less time wasted in the office because there WAS NO SOCIAL MEDIA! But possibly a lot more consumption of cakes.
Through my career I’ve detoured at various times, away from book publishing, although I’ve always worked with content production. I’ve worked in the early days of online publishing and mobile content development – in a time when phones were only used for phone calls. I’ve project managed technical projects. I’ve developed a passion for crowdfunding and authored a book about it. Naturally enough, with my crowdfunding interest I pay particular attention to the books/publishing + crowdfunding space. But always I have one or more books on the go and feel very grateful to the writers who create the worlds I inhabit for a while. A long time ago I wrote about just why books are important to me and you can read about this here.
While working for that kindly publisher wasn’t my very first job, it was the job that changed my life. Before that I didn’t have any burning passion or career aspirations. But the moment I started there I knew publishing was my place.
Thanks Bloomsbury for taking me back!
My Salinger Year is a June 2014 release
* In a strange coincidence when that old building was redeveloped it was where my most recent job in publishing was located – at Random House Australia.
I have two questions and I’d love to hear from you in the comments:
- What was your first job in publishing (if you have worked in publishing)?
- What form of marketing books works for you as an author (if you are a writer) and a reader?