3 S.R. Johannes: Marvelous Marketer: Jill Santopolo (Executive Editor, Philomel Books)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Marvelous Marketer: Jill Santopolo (Executive Editor, Philomel Books)

Hi Jill, Thanks for joining us today.

Can you tell me a little about yourself?

I'm a newly-minted executive editor at Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group. Before I came to Penguin, I worked at HarperCollins for seven years, starting as an editorial assistant at Laura Geringer Books and working my way up to a senior editor there. I held the same position for a year at Balzer + Bray after Laura Geringer left the company.

I'm also a writer and a writing teacher. My books The Nina, The Pinta and the Vanishing Treasure and The Ransom Note Blues were published by Scholastic, and I teach a children's novel writing class twice a year through Mediabistro. I have an undergraduate degree in English Lit from Columbia and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. I also have a certificate in Intellectual Property Law from NYU, but only really use the info I learned there when I'm talking to in-house lawyers about contracts.

As an author and editor, what do you think are the top 3 things every author should and must do to promote their book?

1. I think all authors should have a website that they update as often as they can with new content to keep readers invested (I'm not particularly good at this, but I try).

2. I think all authors should try to coordinate appearances where they get to meet their readers face-to-face. I think middle grade writers especially should try to book as many school visits as possible.

3. I think all authors should do something special for the launch of each book they write--a big launch party in their home town, a contest online, a blog tour--basically anything that drums up excitement for the publication of the title.

How important is technology to an author’s marketing plan?

I think technology is especially important for authors writing for teens. It's a good way to get the word out to teachers and librarians about books for younger kids, but with books for teens, it's a way to get your book in front of the eyes of your target audience and allow them to connect with other fans to form a community around a certain book or a certain author.

As an author, did you think about marketing before your book was published? Did you start prior to getting an agent or selling your book? If so, when and what did you do?

I didn't start thinking about marketing prior to getting an agent or selling my book, but I did start prior to publication. I made a website, organized a publication party at a local independent bookstore along with my publisher, and organized an online blog tour/contest (also along with my publisher). I created tote bags with my book jacket on it to give out at the book launch and as part of the blog tour/contest, and I used my contacts in the educational world to arrange for school visits. I probably should have done more with stock signings at book stores, but I dropped the ball a bit on that one.

How do you feel about group promotion? Is it effective?

I do think it's beneficial for authors to team up and promote as a group. First, I think it's always good to pool brain power. One person may come up with an idea that another person would never have thought of and vice versa. With more people working together there will likely be more out-of-the-box, interesting ways to promote titles. Also, if a reader likes one particular author, he or she may show up for an event to see that person and then will be able to learn about other authors and other books and enjoy reading them too. I see group promotion as a way to merge fan bases and merge ideas so that all authors benefit and can expand their readership.

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 don't Google an author unless the agent makes a mention in a pitch that the author is part of such-and-such blog or so-and-so website--or if the agent says that the author is already published. In both those cases I check out the blog or website mentioned or look to see what the author has done online for previously published books. I probably should Google everyone, though. I bet it would give me insight into authors' brains a bit.

What other advice do you have for authors/writers regarding marketing?

My biggest piece of advice is that as the author, you will be your book's biggest champion. Your agent and your editor and your publishing house will do the best they can because they want your book to succeed too, but the more you can do the better. One caveat: make sure to run everything by the publicist your publishing house assigns to your book, because you don't want to step on anyone's toes or make any enemies. But once you have a good relationship going, and you know what it's okay to do on your own, go for it! Your book is your baby, so do what you can to get the word out.

And finally, everyone wants to know,
what are you looking for? What are you interested in?

I'm looking for good books for middle grade girl readers. I'd love a contemporary, realistic, commercial series or two that focus on a core group of friends--something that would be today's equivalent of The Babysitters Club. I love well-plotted mysteries and kick-butt female protagonists. I'm also looking for standalone literary novels with a strong concept and strong character. But mostly all middle grade and all for girls.

Thank you for taking time out to answer these questions for us!

Thanks Shellli!


Lynnette Labelle said...

Great interview. I don't write for middle graders, so I'm out, but it was an interesting read.

Lynnette Labelle

Tess said...

As a MG writer of more literary-for-girl stuff, this was good to hear :)

And, I'd be curious to know what Jill thinks about Skype and how that can play into author school visits. It's just something I've been musing on lately...

Christy Raedeke said...

Great interview! I'm wondering how Jill is already so accomplished when she looks about 22?

T. Anne said...

Great interview! It's great to hear from an editors POV. Too bad we can't bypass the agent and submit straight to her!

Kim Kasch said...

Great info - thanks for sharing.

Lazy Writer said...

Thanks for another great interview!

ElanaJ said...

This information is priceless. Thanks Shelli and Jill!

Diana Paz said...

Another fantastic interview, thanks for the tips and insight. That was good advice about cross-checking marketing ideas with the publicist assigned to your book...hadn't thought of that one but it makes sense.

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Another winner. This is such a service to the writing community!

Solvang Sherrie said...

Great interview!
Too bad I write for boys--Jill sounds like she would be a great editor to have.

Suzanne Young said...

Wow! What a great interview. You're a master at this! And I loved her comments about marketing

Crystal said...

Wonderful interview, Shelli! Very informative . . . Thank you, Jill, for the great advice!

Andrea Cremer said...

Hi Jill! Hi Jill! *jumps up and down waving* (She's my editor and she's AWESOME)

Jennie Englund said...

I LOVE when editors are also writers, and Jill is a writing TEACHER, too?

One word: credibility. For sure.

Anita said...

Looove this interview! Interesting about the visiting school thing...I wouldn't have thought this would have big pay-off. Also interesting she doesn't visit Web sites and blogs...guess I might only be blogging for the fun of it?! Still totally worth it.

Much thanks for the interview!

JennyMac said...

She is so versatile! Love the interview.

Shelli said...

thanks guys for coming! :)