November 14, 2022
As the Editorial Director of commercial publishing at Doubleday Canada, I oversee and articulate a clear vision for the commercial titles in our program, focusing particularly on genre fiction (thrillers, romance, book club fiction, and mysteries), as well as memoirs by big names.
As an avid reader of these kinds of books (I grew up on Marian Keyes, Emily Giffin, and Luanne Rice), I want to create a publishing home for writers (particularly those who identify as BIPOC) who are living and creating in these spaces; a home where each book is considered holistically and singularly in its publication, fuelled by a marriage of editorial support, strong collaboration with our authors, marketing ingenuity, intelligent market research, and a commitment to consistent post-mortems on our publishing efforts. Part of this approach is thinking beyond our traditional readership and finding a new one: meeting readers where they’re hanging out these days, be that on Instagram, or TikTok, or on Spotify listening to podcasts.
Over the last year, one of the books I’ve been working on is Two for the Road
, a rom-com by Toronto writer and TV personality Chantel Guertin. This is the second in a two-book deal, and we’re publishing it on the heels of a soft sales track for her first book, which went on sale in the middle of the pandemic. In publishing Chantel’s new novel—which, truly, has all the captivating rom-com tropes you can imagine, all in perfect harmony—we’ve had to examine our efforts for her first book and have some honest conversations about what worked and what didn’t: where we missed the mark and how we can use those insights to sharpen our approach on her new publication.
So, for Two for the Road
, with the insights and skills of virtually every team in the building, we’re now planning a publication campaign that feels one-of-a-kind and nuanced, targeting all the areas that we missed with the first book. We’re leaning deeply into all we know about the rom-com category, what’s working right now, and positioning the book exactly for our
market here in Canada; we’ve given the book a different title from our publishing partner in the US, as well as a cover designed precisely for this readership. In terms of marketing, we’re capitalizing on certain themes in the book (like the English countryside setting and road trips) and leveraging our author’s platform to help broaden the book’s reach. And, my favourite: we’re in the process of finalizing a preorder campaign that will treat readers to two audio chapters of a fictional novel that the protagonist in Two for the Road
reads in the book. It’s not just a fun bonus for those who preorder, but it’s also an interesting project for our fantastic audio department, which has been producing some amazing work.
(photo credit: Ketan Manohar)
November 14, 2022
Sofía Lecumberri with Arturo Pérez Reverte
As Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial’s National Sales Director, I have the considerable responsibility for setting and leading the trade-marketing strategies, implementations, and distribution, as well as the monthly sales budget, for our publishing programs in Spain. It has been a terrific opportunity for me to engage interactively with our publishing colleagues about the books that inspire their passion, and with our booksellers and salespeople, to bring these titles to readers across the country.
It was a particular pleasure last September for me to oversee the sales launch of “Revolution,” the newest work by one of our biggest-selling authors, Arturo Pérez Revert, who is one of the world’s bestselling Spanish-language storytellers—and a personal reading favorite of many us at the company. It's a coming-of-age novel set partly against the backdrop of the Mexican revolution.
To enhance the engagement of independent bookstores and major accounts we organized an exclusive presentation for these clients with the author at the Casa de México in Madrid (which is part of the Mexican Embassy). The author introduced the 35 booksellers in attendance to his novel and spoke to them about the most important points for selling the novel. Afterwards, he had a conversation with the booksellers and signed copies exclusively for them.
November 14, 2022
I work in DK’s International Publishing & Licensing (IPL) team in London. As a team we oversee sales of DK books both in translation, partnering with local co-edition publishers and distributors, as well as English language export sales out of the UK and US warehouses. Specifically, I am responsible for DK sales in Asia, with a team based in London, as well as Beijing, Tokyo and Hong Kong. Together we work with local publishers, retailers and distributors to bring our DK books to readers across the region.
This year we have had particular success across Asia with THE NATURAL HISTORY BOOK—not only has it sold over half a million copies in China this year, but it has lifetime sales across our global translation territories of almost 3 million copies and is published in territories as far apart as Argentina, Iceland, Spain and Vietnam. It’s especially rewarding to see a title like this published across so many territories (21 and counting), as for each new title DK publishes, the IPL team feed back to our editorial team on the content and structure of the book, bringing in feedback from our international partners to help shape and create the best book on the subject. This title took around 3 years to create and can take even longer to translate. So, when it finally hits the shelves, you have a great sense of satisfaction.
THE NATURAL HISTORY BOOK is now on its 2nd edition in the English language. Each new update gives us a chance to reposition the title internationally, and as a team we collaborate to build international co-edition print runs so we can print as many editions and in as many languages as possible at one time.
IPL works closely with the local publishers in each market to provide production, marketing and sales support. Our particular success in China this year has been down to the marketing initiatives to help drive the sales. This includes working with our local publishing partner and local KOL’s on Dou Yin (the Chinese Tik Tok platform) who live stream educational content using The Natural History Book and selling copies directly from the platform during the streams. During just one weekend of these live streams, over 40,000 copies were sold!
November 14, 2022
I look after the In Market-team, which is a multidisciplinary team of marketers, publicists, and a designer. We manage campaigns for bestselling backlist across international and local publishing, new releases published under the Penguin Publishing Lab imprint (a local imprint specialising in authors with built-in digital audiences), and opportunity titles as identified by data. We are responsible for all Penguin-branded activity, including promotional campaigns at key sales periods such as Christmas.
The In Market-team works at two key paces: always-on
The always-on campaigns carry out our year-long strategy for bestselling backlist titles and series, whereas we approach opportunities reactively.
A great benefit in working this way is the ease with which we can double down on opportunities by effeciently transitioning them to an always-on campaign. Best of all, we can use the data collected during the opportunity phase to guide further marketing and publicity decisions. WHY HAS NOBODY TOLD ME THIS BEFORE
by Dr. Julie Smith is an example of this approach.
Originally published in January 2022, this practical and positive toolkit for better mental health struck a chord with Australian audiences. A burst of local media interviews aligned with Mental Health Awareness Week in May shot the book up into the Amazon top 10, and by June we were doubling down on this title.
Working closely with Sales and Digital Sales colleagues in the weekly Data Informed Opportunities-meeting, we identified a cross-format tipping point. Audiobook sales exceeded the physical sales by over 40%. We also identified high reader and listener engagement through positive reviews online.
As this kind of sales pattern and audio review engagement was last identified on the phenomenally successful ATOMIC HABITS, we devised a marketing and publicity approach to specifically convert Dr. Julie Smith readers to the physical format to grow market share and saturate mass retailers.
We rolled out podcast advertising, Google Display Network digital advertising, and META dynamic display advertising. By updating the Amazon A+ assets, we were able to increase conversions from 6% to 14%. We took this optimisation learning to other retailer websites and our own.
Throughout August, Dr. Julie Smith’s digital presence exploded, and a TikTok video on depression amassed 16 million views (her highest to date). Weekly tracking of her TikTok hashtag views showed sustained growth. In response, In Market-team switched from marketing to publicity to localise this international attention.
September was the strongest sales month for the book since publication, and we continued to increase promotions with a major online native content partnership and digital display advertising.
To date, we have generated over 1 million impressions through our digital advertising campaigns and reprinted the book six times.
Looking forward, WHY HAS NOBODY TOLD ME THIS BEFORE will be a lead title in our Christmas campaign, with out-of-home digital screens, digital display, and native content advertising. At the beginning of 2023, we will be cementing the title as the ultimate way to kick off a new year of better mental health.
It has been wonderful to work on driving awareness and sales for a book with such a positive message and genuine impact on readers!
November 14, 2022
I work on non-illustrated books about politics, history, biography, sport, and personal finance. My main role is to shepherd projects from manuscript delivery to print, although I also get involved before and after the editorial stage. I work with in-house and freelance editors, proofreaders, designers, typesetters, indexers, and lawyers.
One of the books I worked on this year was BLACK BEACH: 491 DAYS IN ONE OF AFRICA’S MOST BRUTAL PRISONS
. It’s the extraordinary story of Daniel Janse van Rensburg, a South African businessman who sourced aeroplanes for a politician in Equatorial Guinea off the west coast of Africa; a deal that went very, very sour. On a trip to the country’s island capital, Malabo, the politician declared to Daniel that the deal was off, and that he wanted his money back. Daniel couldn’t pay it back because he’d spent it on aircraft, licensing, and other costs. He was promptly arrested and thrown into the notorious Black Beach prison. The book, ghostwritten by Tracey Pharoah, is Daniel’s harrowing but inspiring account of how he survived 491 days in that brutal place.
The original manuscript was a formidable 148,000 words long, so my first step was to make suggestions on where cuts could be made. The authors managed to reduce it to a more manageable 115,000 words.
The book is told in Daniel’s voice, and is written in the present tense, which gives it a thrilling immediacy, but also provided editorial challenges in how to handle the passing of time, what to do with statements about future events, and how to sequence short-term event-based chapters versus longer-term, thematic ones. On top of that, Daniel’s memory of events was not always perfectly clear, as a result of the trauma he experienced in prison. We had to look out for internal inconsistencies, as well as external evidence for the order in which events occurred. One of my in-house editors, Alice Inggs, did a sterling editing job.
Many of our books require a legal read, and our lawyers advised us how to rephrase certain passages to minimise the legal risk. This involved some toing and froing with the authors and lawyers.
The cover was created by our designer Ryan Africa, using an image of Daniel in prison that a visitor had surreptitiously taken with a watch camera. It was a very low-res image that required a lot of work, but which formed the basis of two powerful cover options. I oversaw a fairly spirited cover approval process (one of the challenging aspects of a managing editor’s job!), with opinion firmly divided among our CEO, sales, and marketing managers, and even between the author and ghostwriter. We have a fine back-up option if we ever translate the book!
Lastly, we decided to intersperse the text with letters and sketches that Daniel made in prison, which gave the book additional authenticity. It also provided some late clues about the precise chronology of events, and required my typesetter to shift a couple of chapters around.
The final result is a powerful book that I’m proud to have worked on, and which I hope reaches a wide audience.