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Marketing's Role -- Part One

One of the goals of this blog is to offer a forum where we can talk about the various responsibilities of each of the key areas and job functions within a publishing house.  Over the past few months we've had posts on the author's role, the acquisitions editor's role, the development editor's role and the sales rep's role.  The rest of this post is Part One of marketing's role, brought to you by our Director of Marketing, Ellen Gerstein:

Marketing - The View From 30,000 Feet
Part One

Ah the life of a marketer! 

Remember the Dilbert cartoon several years back where Dilbert was being transferred from engineering to marketing?  The final frame of the cartoon shows  Dilbert walking amongst these ethereal white-robed creatures in marketing, below an enormous banner that proclaims: "Marketing Department: Two Drink Minimum."

Admit it.  That's what you think when you hear marketing.  Most marketers when asked to talk about what he or she does on the job will fall into the trap of compensating for, or worse apologizing for what they do - that's it's really a lot of hard work, it's not all sunshine and swag, and you really don't know the half of what we have to do...blah...blah...

Well, I'm not going to do that.  Well, maybe just a little.  Because in my most humble opinion, because I am in marketing, I have one of the most exciting jobs in the building.   And yes, it's really a lot of hard work, it isn't all sunshine and sway, and you really *don't* know the half of what we do.  My team and I often hear from other employees that they want to come into marketing "because we have so much fun."  I'll admit through it all, we do have fun, but it's still a job. 

So what does a marketer do?  Traditional marketing talks about the Marketing Mix or the 4P's - product, price, place (distribution) and promotion.  These are the parameters that the marketing manager looks to control, subject to the external constraints of the marketplace.  For the most part, even if we are not conscious of it, we go about our planning in these parameters.  For me to get into that mindset, when I think about a new book, series or project, I always ask myself three questions:

1. Who is the customer?

2. Do they want/need a book?

3. How do we reach the customer?

With every proposal, if I cannot answer those questions, there is a problem.  If I don't know the answers, I can't tell the sales reps the right pitch to use to sell the book to the bookstores, and I can't truly support the book in the marketplace.  Once we have these questions answered, everything else falls into place. 

Wiley's unique in the industry, at least based on my experience in other publishing operations, and talking to my friends who are also in the business.  We operate in a collaborative model, which means that marketing works with editorial, production, sales and publicity together on a project from the get go.  When an editor is working with an author on a proposal for a book, we're right there with editorial, talking about who the customer is, what the size of the prospective market is, and how we are going to get the word out about the product to the marketplace.  At other houses, it's been more of a relay race.  Think of a book as a baton - the starting runner is the editor, who then passes it to the next runner, and so on and so on.  That doesn't work for me, for a number of reasons.  In our model, we're collaborative, and the book becomes OUR book.  Taking ownership of something is empowering for a book.  You know that you have the ability to affect the success of a book, and that makes you work harder.  You also know a lot more about a book which is also good for everyone involved. 

So, how do we go about market planning?  Our group publishes over 400 books per year.   For the purposes of selling to accounts, we divide the calendar year into 3 "seasons"- Fall, Winter and Spring.  No, that does not mean we take the summer off.  June and July books are considered Spring, August books are considered Fall.  Each season, we produce a catalog that lists all our titles.  These, along with other selling materials, are used by sales people  to present books to accounts, from major chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders, to online accounts like Amazon and The Bookpool, as well as independent stores like SoftPro and Quantum. 

Used to be that we would look at every season as a list, and try and slot books so that we had books spaced nicely through the months and that we were not publishing too many big books in one month.  For the most part, the marketers on the general interest and business programs still do that.  They can look at a business book and say that November is a bad month to publish it, and if it cannot come out sooner, it should be moved to February for better sell in and sell through potential.  In tech, we do not have that luxury.  Tech books can be like corn - once you pick them, they start to turn to starch fast, so you want to get them out in the market as soon as possible.   The other lines have more "shelf stable" product.*

*Note - Most marketing metaphors, and we have a ton of them, involve food.  Marketing is all about our next meal.

In the seasonal selling, this is where the "universal translator" function in marketing come in.  It's up to us to take what the editors tell us about that book, and craft that into something that conveys the true benefits to the customer of a book for sales to use with their accounts.  This is our chance to influence the sell in, as much as it is possible.  It's our opportunity to convey the excitement we have for a title to the sales force and start laying out what we want to do in our marketing activities.  If you get this right, it's a great way to kick off a successful book campaign. 

Next up - To market to market....How we promote books in the marketplace and set our go-to-market strategies.


Alison Clarke

Thanks, Ellen. As a newbie to marketing I found this introductory summary helpful. I look forward to the next one!

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