Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Industry Insider: Bethan Hilliard Mills & Boon Marketing
What does a marketing person do with respect to the books? And how much of your work is in conjunction with editorial? (ie authors often hear of Marketing referred in an almost Godlike tone so what is your responisiblity?)
Wow – where to start?! We work really closely with editorial and are in a constant dialogue with them, but in terms of responsibilities it goes something like this:
All editorial decisions such as which authors to buy, series scheduling, author development and so on are taken by the editorial team. So, in essence, editorial are in charge of the content of the book. Marketing is responsible for the rest of it – how the books look (so if you don’t like your cover, it’s our fault J ), how we communicate in the books, how we advertise and promote the books, authors and Mills & Boon in general.
How did you get into marketing books? Was that the traditional route?
No – I definitely didn’t have the traditional route! By training I am a lawyer and I worked for a big corporate finance firm before realizing that I’m not motivated by equity finance and quitting my job without a clue what to do! But as luck would have it, a good friend of mine who was an editor at Mills & Boon suggested that I would love publishing. I originally started in editorial, making the move to marketing after a couple of years and I have to say that that time working with the books and the authors has been invaluable in my current role.
What is a typical day like?
One of the best things about this job is that there is no typical day! There’s a huge variety of work that we do, from formulating PR plans with the folks at Midas PR, to having ‘Vision Meetings’ with editorial so that they can brief us on book covers, to sorting out our latest Clubcard campaign with Tesco! The one thing I do every day though is log on to facebook and twitter as I’m the voice of Romance HQ J I really love getting the gossip!
What is your favourite part of the job?
How can marketing support authors who want to raise their profile? How do you find out about these authors (ie should authors tell their editors?)
Social Media (ie blogs, Facebook, twitter and M&B Community) is now a big part of marketing books and it is something that authors can take part in. However authors also need to spend time writing their books. What three things should authors do to maximize their Social Media experience and not let it become a time suck?
I’m a big fan of social media and I think it’s an incredibly powerful marketing tool, but yes, it can definitely be a ‘time suck’ so you need to be careful. So, what I would recommend is:
1) Be disciplined! Check facebook / twitter only a certain time of the day. Unless something big (such as New Voices) is going on, I only look at our accounts first thing in the morning and mid-afternoon. It’s too tempting to just be on there all the time! If you’re worried about missing something on twitter for example, which is so fast-moving, set up a list of your ‘must-follows’ so you can keep abreast of what it going on.
2) You only get out what you put in. To be truly effective, social media should be regarded as a conversation – so you need to respond to people’s comments and thoughts. That doesn’t mean being a slave to it! But the ultimate aim of social media is to engage your audience so if someone asks a question, you need to answer it, otherwise it really is a waste of time. Actually, I think that this is something our authors really well!
3) Be careful and be clear. Because social media is so fast-paced and things ‘disappear’ from your feed really quickly it’s tempting to be off-hand and flippant in the way that you communicate. But remember, in reality tweets, posts and updates can last forever in the internet super-highway and therefore come back to bite you! There have been some spectacular examples of someone not thinking before they type with dire consequences! It’s also tempting to just chat away with no particular aim, but if you want to use social media as a marketing tool, I think it’s important to think about what you want to say to your audience and how you would like to be perceived. Treat it as carefully as you would a press or TV interview.
What other things besides the internet can authors do to help raise the profile of their books? In particular how can overseas authors help to raise the profile of their books or series in the UK?
I think that having a strong local profile and making friends with your local paper is a really good way to start. So, pop down to your library and let them know you’re a local author and happy to do events. Or accept that invitation to open the school’s fete – it really is a case of every little helps. Local press coverage can really help us to secure broader national coverage for authors, so it’s worth doing and most editors love the idea of a Mills & Boon author in their vicinity!
Outside of the internet,(which can help enormously) it’s pretty tricky for overseas authors but if you are over in the UK and want to see if there are PR opportunities while you are over here, it’s worth letting your editor know.
And Mills & Boon is currently running a really exciting contest called New Voices. Can you explain how people (the general public and authors) can become involved in that?
The deadline for submissions (from non-published authors – see Ts & Cs for further details) is 11.59pm GMT on 22nd September, so I guess anyone wanting to enter better get their skates on! You just need to submit your first chapter, and that shouldn’t take too long – right?! But whether you enter or not, please do stop by to tell us what you think, to read the awesome hints and tips from our editors and to help us decide who should win! http://www.romanceisnotdead.com/
Thank you so much for stopping by, Bethan. It is really great to get a better insight into what Marketing does!