#76: Behind the Slice Literary Writers’ Conference: An Interview with Little, Brown Deputy Marketing Director Miriam Parker, by Liz Mathews

Marketing: an incredibly important department in the publishing world. But what, exactly, does the marketing department do for a title? Or for the author of that title? And what can you do for the marketing department when it comes to your book?

We spoke with Miriam Parker, the Deputy Marketing Director at Little, Brown, to get some insight on how she approaches her marketing work, and what she hopes you’re willing to do to help her help you get your book out into the world of readers and bookstores.

And for more from Miriam, check out the Don’t Be Creepy panel at the Slice Literary Writers’ Conference in Brooklyn on September 12. You can find the full panel lineup here.

From your perspective as a Deputy Marketing Director, what’s one thing you wish all debut writers would know or already be doing, before you start working with them?

Making friends. We might not know you yet, but it’s not like you’re surprised that you’re working on a book! It takes a long time, so why not spend some of that time laying the groundwork for your future? And the Internet is pretty egalitarian. So, as you’re writing, buy a book at your local bookstore and befriend some folks there (you could even work there!). Tweet at some authors. Attend events. Network a little. Before your book is acquired, nobody even knows that you’re networking, they just think that you are nice and a fan. It’s great to have someone walk through the door and say, “I already know this bookseller, chat with this author/blogger/reader on Twitter, and I comment on these blogs.” That said, I’m about to moderate a panel called “Don’t Be Creepy” at the Slice Literary Writers’ Conference and really, that’s good advice, too. Be cool. Be a friend. Don’t be a stalker.

How important are blurbs from other authors, particularly for a debut book? Do you have any hints on how a new author can secure some of her or his own, before working with the publisher on it?

Blurbs are very important! They tell booksellers what the book is and they generate excitement. We work really hard to get the exact right ones. This can go along with the above networking question—if an author knows writers from getting an MFA or taking a class, or being on Twitter, that’s great. Your editor also knows writers, as does your agent. So everyone works together to make things happen. But this is really more of your editor’s job.

Is there any one marketing campaign you worked on that stands out in your memory as the most creative to work on? What made it so unique?

Oh, there have been so many. Probably the one that changed my perspective the most was the campaign for GRAIN BRAIN by Dr. David Perlmutter. We started REALLY early, basically from the minute we acquired the book, to build his online presence and it took off. By the time the book came out, the Internet was clamoring. It was a really fun, creative and exciting campaign to be a part of. The ideas from that campaign have been applied to many others that I’ve worked on since.

Do you like it when authors are prepared with ideas on how they’d like to market their new book?

Absolutely! Bring it on! I love author ideas and I love engaged authors!!

Are there limits a debut author needs to keep in mind so they aren’t disappointed by what the publisher is willing or able to do for them?

Publishing a book is a partnership between the author and publisher. Instead of focusing on limits, I like to focus on what we DO do. We love authors and we want to help them get their books into the world (we wouldn’t work in publishing if we didn’t!).

Each project is different and exciting. And I think it is useful to know what a major publisher will definitely do for you when publishing your book: give you an advance against royalties (aka Cash Money), edit your book, copyedit your book, have a professional book cover designer design a cover for you, lay out the interior of your book, create an eBook of your book and distribute it into the supply chain with agreements that make it so it’s PRETTY hard to steal it, print your book on beautiful paper, bind it up, warehouse it, send a huge sales force out into the world to pitch your book to bookstores, PAY THE BOOKSTORES TO DISPLAY YOUR BOOK, ship the book to those bookstores, have a publicist who is an expert in publicizing books do everything s/he can to get your book in major national, local, and online publications and include your book in their social media. That’s BASIC. And that’s AWESOME. Anything they do beyond that is gravy. And publishers do lots of things beyond that, but I think someone giving you money and then doing all of those things I listed above is pretty incredible.

If you could pull out all the stops for a book, what would your dream marketing campaign look like?

This is sort of a complicated question because it honestly really depends on the book. Would I like to send a celebrity author on a 50 city tour on a branded bus with their photo and book cover really big on the side of the bus and have them read from their book to sold out 3000-seat theaters and have every person in that theater have bought a book with the price of their ticket and that book sale reports to the New York Times bestseller list? Yes.

Is that a reasonable idea for a debut novelist? No. That would be the most depressing and lonely idea that I could have ever thought of for a debut novelist (unless that debut novelist was Taylor Swift).

The more books that we can get out into the world and the more noise we can make about them in the media and online is really the best thing these days. An NPR interview, a New York Times review, a mention in Parade Magazine, lots of chatter on Facebook and Goodreads and Twitter and Tumblr. That’s gold right there. I love social media advertising. And I love publicity. I think those are the two things that really move the needle. It’s all about the conversation. So, my ideal marketing campaign makes it so people come up to me and say, “Wow, have you heard about this book? It’s really good.”

Miriam Parker is the Deputy Marketing Director for Little, Brown and Company and the Marketing Director for Lee Boudreaux Books. She has spent the past fifteen years building author brands, creating online communities and social media for Little, Brown and Mulholland Books and such authors as J.K. Rowling, Malcolm Gladwell, Donna Tartt, David Sedaris, James Patterson, Michael Connelly, Sidney Sheldon, David Baldacci, George Pelecanos, Nelson DeMille, Brad Meltzer, Lauren Beukes, and many more. She has a BA from Columbia University and an MFA from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.

Liz Mathews is a former publishing veteran recovering from her years in New York by living in Minnesota. After years as a copywriter for a science fiction and fantasy publisher, she now attends science classes, thinks about statistics, and sells books to business people in her spare time.