Monday, June 29, 2009
Marvelous Marketer: Mary Kate Castellani (Walker Books for Young Readers)
Hi Mary Kate. Thank you for joining us today.
Before we get started, tell me a little about yourself.
I’m an associate editor at Walker Books for Young Readers. I worked as an assistant to a literary agent for a year before joining Walker & Company, where I started as an editorial assistant. Being on both sides of the process has really been helpful when considering manuscripts and making deals.
In your opinion, how important is social networking?
Social networking can be a really great tool for reaching readers directly. Teens and tweens are constantly online and being able to access authors’ information is a great way for authors and readers to interact, but also distanced enough that both parties feel comfortable.
How important is technology to an author's marketing plan?
I’d say that the importance of a web presence is certainly growing, but it’s important that authors be comfortable in how they extend themselves online. Blogs are great because fans can get a slice of life for their favorite author, but it’s important to keep your audience in mind. If you’ve written a young adult novel do you think teens will be reading your blog? Or if you have a picture book or middle-grade novel, do you think it will be mostly educators and/or parents checking in?
Once published, it’s important to keep in mind that you might have to start tailoring the material on your blog to reach that audience. Blogging isn’t for everyone, however, and so I don’t think it’s an essential tool. At the very least a web site with updates about your books is the best place to start and then it’s good to think about how you can extend that reading experience for your fans. I’ve seen authors include elements like playlists that their characters would listen to, quizzes to see which characters readers are most like, and features that give the back story about writing the book. It should be fun for both the author and the reader!
Do you feel it is beneficial for authors to team up and promote books as a group?
Teaming up can be really helpful for authors because they feel like they are a part of a supportive and enthusiastic group. Beyond the kind of marketing push that a publisher can give a book, the most beneficial aspect of this is being able to cross-pollinate audiences between one author and another. If readers like one author and his or her work, they usually take further reading suggestions to heart and this is a great way to lead readers from one book to another.
When evaluating whether to take on an author or book, do you ever google them to see if they already have a web presence or platform?
I usually do check first to see if an author has a web site just to see how far along they are in the process. It’s not essential that a writer has a web site at the time of acquisition, but it’s always a bonus to be able to say that an author has already created a web site—especially because it’s a tool we’d want them to have at their disposal in the future. Knowing that the url is reserved and that at least the bare bones of a web site are set up means that when it comes time for the book to publish there will already be an option for a stepped up web presence.
A really good example of this is Walker’s author Simone Elkeles. When we acquired her novel, Perfect Chemistry, she already had a great web site for her previous titles. Then she created an excellent book trailer that got a lot of attention and drove the sales of her book. It was a great combination of online elements that really came together to spread the word about her book.
What things do Publishers offer in contracts in terms of Marketing? What does the average author receive or is it different, depending on the book?
Just as books differ from each other, no two books have the same marketing plan. What is most important to us is not how much marketing we put behind a book, but how specifically we target the areas where we know a book will have success. This means figuring out how best to reach the market for a book. Since resources are limited publishers pay close attention to making the best use out of allotted resources in very focused ways.
For example, is a book one that we know will have direct to teen appeal? Then perhaps a Facebook ad or a blog tour would do well by that title. Or is it one that is best served by appealing to the gatekeepers (teachers, librarians, parents). Perhaps then we’d focus efforts on getting the word out at educational conferences. Our marketing department tries to be as creative as possible, and is always thinking of new ways to try to make the potential audience as broad as possible.
What are you looking for? What are you interested in?
I acquire books for all age levels, and especially likes quirky, kooky picture books that celebrate personality, and middle-grade fiction with a light-hearted, honest approach like my current middle-grade project The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. I am also looking to find new YA voices for the Walker list, especially ones that have a more literary feel, but I also like issue-driven stories, such as my upcoming project Dirty Little Secrets, a story that explores the effects of compulsive hoarding on a family. My acquisitions wish list also includes historical fiction with a strong hook, coming of age stories handled with humor, and explorations of spiritual or cultural identity.