Sales & Marketing with authors at its heart

When I was younger I always imagined being an author was the most glamorous thing. How lucky they are to spend all day in front of a (then) typewriter, making up stories that hoards of fans will read. In my mind they went to posh dinners, fancy clubs and never had to worry about a boring day in an office.

When I started working in publishing, many moons ago as a marketing assistant, authors continued to be swathed in mysterious glamour, protected from us marketing folk by editors and agents, meeting only at the annual author party where we spent a day studying our catalogue for who’d written/illustrated what so we could be trusted not to say the wrong thing on the one day we were allowed to TALK TO AUTHORS.

As my career progressed through various marketing departments and companies, my involvement with authors in turn increased and gradually I started to see through the curtain of mystery. And, I started to realise that being an author is actually quite hard (much like publishing is hard – see here, and here) and in most cases, not glamorous at all.

This has become more evident in recent times when I surprised myself (not to mention colleagues) by accidentally falling for one of these strange, mysterious author beings, and now being the girlfriend of a full time writer. (For those of you who don’t know / hadn’t figured it out from Twitter – it’s teen thriller author Will Hill, who’s epic second book Department 19:The Rising comes out this week). Suddenly I see first hand the ups and downs of the life of an author: I see and share in the delight of a great review, a lovely email sent by a fan, a fantastic event, a foreign rights sale, the proud moment the finished copy arrives from the printers. But I also see and feel the stresses and pressures: how many times in one day an Amazon ranking might get checked; the worries that come near book release that people will like the book, and better still, buy a copy or two; the occasional calculation of how many books need to be sold before an advance will earn out; the challenge of keeping an inbox under control and replying to all those ‘when you have a sec, would you mind sending me…’ emails that come from people like me, who before now didn’t consider that the recipient of said email is also trying to write a book, with all of these things going on in the background.

And being involved in an author’s life, has suddenly gained me access to a whole community of other authors, all of whom share the same worries, joys and stresses. In fact, even here at HKB, we have two secret authors in our midst – in her previous days at Working Partners, Sara O’Connor created the middle-grade My Sister, the Vampire series and wrote four of the books, and our Publisher, Emily Thomas, is *drum roll* behind the scenes, actually author Lee Monroe, of Dark Heart Forever and the other Dark Hearts books.

It’s funny that marketing and sales people tend not to get too close to authors in some companies because as soon as you do, you start to think differently about the way you approach your job. It means that on our first week, we decided it was important for our authors to know who we all are in sales and marketing, and whom they need to speak to if they have any problems/concerns.  It’s also why, when our website launches, it will have a special section just for our authors, where they’ll be able to access marketing materials, sales reports, and event dates from wherever they are, without us spamming their inbox and interrupting their writing time. It’s a small thing, but when I ran the idea past the author I live with, it certainly got a BIG thumbs up from him.

Authors have so many options open to them about how to publish their books than those days when I pictured my heroes swanning around at literary dinners. It’s the role of publishers to make life easier for authors, not harder, and we can only do that by understanding and making them part of the process as much as possible. So to our authors, and future authors – we’re here, we get it and we can’t wait to start telling people about your books.

And until then, I’m off to check the Amazon ranking of The Rising.