Posted On May 11, 2011 by Print This Post

Q & A with Douglas Mendini, Kensington Publishing

Doug Mendini, National Marketing Manager of Kensington Publishing, joins us today. He has generously agreed to answer our questions and give us a behind-the-scenes look at marketing on a national level. Welcome, Doug!

RU: How many romance books a month do you take to your accounts?
How many typically sell?

DM: Kensington publishes ten or more romances per month in either hardcover, trade paperback or mass market formats. Luckily our accounts take all of our books, just not at the same level. A superstar author naturally receives a buy much larger than someone who is brand new.

RU: Is there anything an author can do to make their book more attractive (besides writing an awesome book)?

DM: The writing is the most important factor than any author can contribute to a book’s success. But assisting in the marketing can make the difference in a book’s success. Reaching out through social networking, hometown or school resources helps sell books.

RU: What was the most effective pitch (for a romance) you’ve used with an account?

DM: That’s easy: “Here’s a New York Times bestselling author’s newest book.” Apart from that, discussions about the category/sub-category, the cover treatment and the positioning of the book really matter the most. Before you ask: Positioning? What does it mean? This is where the conversation goes to “lead” book or not. Often this is followed by Promotional Opportunities for the book. Or not.

RU: Is it unusual for your accounts to request a book cover change to make it better fit their audience?

DM: It happens. But the Kensington Art Department and our Editors really know what they’re doing, so it happens infrequently. Our erotic romances sometimes push the envelope too far for some accounts.

RU: Do you meet with the Kensington editors and decide how many slots are available to publish?

DM: No. These sorts of things are decided in scheduling meetings.

RU: Do you track the number of sub-genres Kensington publishes? Do you strive for a particular balance?

DM: We track the sub-genres of all publishers. What’s new out there? Who is doing something different? Can we do the same? Not to be self-aggrandizing, but I suspect our sales department knows more than other companies’ since we follow closely what our competition is doing. We work closely with each other. We share ideas. We get out in front of trends. We strive to make bestsellers out of what is hot at the moment.

RU: Do you read the books you promote or look at a spread sheet…are the books just “units of production” in your position?

DM: All of us at Kensington read at least part of our books. Two salespeople here are Romance experts, reading them all the time. Personally, I read our Thrillers and our Romantic Suspense titles. But I’d be lying if I said I read every one of them. It’s just impossible. But I’ll read large chunks of books. My personal reading tastes run to Thrillers and Mysteries as a rule.

RU: How long before the book’s actual publication date do you contact the bookstores?

DM: This is how I remember it. It’s simple: It’s June in January, like the old song lyric, which is followed by the line, “when you’re in love.” So that’s the length of time between the sell-in and the publication date.

RU: Who do you deal with at the bookstore—the store manager, or a corporate person for the larger chains?

DM: Bookstores as well as chains have buyers that are dealt with on a monthly basis. And of course at chains there are the buyers’ bosses who we deal with at times, too.

RU: How about independent stores? Does your staff just call or email the individual stores about new releases?

DM: We have reps who call on independent bookstores. This is done in a variety of ways. Some get actual face-to-face visits once a month or once a quarter or even once a year. Other stores get called on the phone. It depends of the store.

RU: What kind of materials do you provide in order to convince a book store to carry a particular book?

DM: The most important devise we have at our disposal is the cover proof. We also have authors’ histories, meaning sales histories. We have plot descriptions. We have marketing plans. Occasionally we offer cookies and candy to sweeten the deal. But only on holidays!!! Kidding.

RU: What are your top three suggestions for authors who want to develop a marketing plan?

DM: First of all, talk to your editor before your proceed on your merry own. There are definite DON’TS. When you visit a bookstore, always be generous of spirit, always thank them for carrying your books. Reach into your imagination and think of ways to build a bestseller in your neighborhood, in your community, in your town, in your county/state. Work with bookstores and/or libraries. Offer to do readings alone or with other authors. Yes! Reach out to the author community. All of you are in the same boat.

RU: How long before a book’s publication date should an author start marketing the book?

DM: Once you sign the contract and deliver the book on-time to your editor, you can start. But the book and the writing comes first. Make sure you make your deadline with your editor. All else will follow in the natural course of events.

RU: Would you comment on the state of the brick and mortar booksellers?

DM: They’re in a state of flux. I’m sure you would like more information than that, but every day something is changing.

RU: What role do the smaller chains play in the publishing landscape?

DM: More than you realize and thank you for the question. Everyone is geared to one large chain or another. There are two medium size chains in America that hardly ever get written about. And there a several small, regional chains, too. While their purchasing power isn’t what the big guys’ are, all are important in creating a writing career for a new author.

RU: What are the successful indie book sellers doing to stay alive?

DM: Off-site signings come to mind immediately. These usually only include hardcover and/or trade books, though.

RU: Is there anything you’d like to add that we haven’t asked about?

DM: Enthusiasm offered in a useful way can make a huge difference.

***

Thank you so much, Doug! Do any of you have additional marketing related questions for Doug? Would you like to take the discussion further on any of the topics Doug already discussed? We have two recent Kensington releases to give away to two lucky commenters: Mary Jo Putney’s NOWHERE NEAR RESPECTABLE and Fern Michaels’ SOUTHERN COMFORT.

Jordan McCollum will be back tomorrow with her critiques of three websites, and on Friday Julia Coblentz of Barnes & Noble’s PubIt! will join us See you there!

***


Doug’s Bio:

I’ve been with Kensington Publishing Corp. for nearly 21 years, all within the Sales Department at various levels. I had my own publishing company when I was 10. I think I wrote and sold total 25 copies. Believe me, I’ve done better for Kensington. I’ve published articles in “Life,” “Entertainment Weekly,” “Country Living,” and many more magazines. I’ve had fiction published in literary magazines, too. As Julian Biddle, I’ve written three non-fiction titles.

Check out Kensington’s full list of books and authors here:
http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/

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24 Responses to “Q & A with Douglas Mendini, Kensington Publishing”

  1. Hi Doug,

    Welcome to RU and thank you for answering all of our questions! You mentioned medium-size chains that rarely receive attention. Can you share the names of those stores, so that we can put them on our radar if we haven’t already?

    Where do the box stores fit into the equation (Wal-mart, Target, etc.)? Recently, on one of my loops, someone heard that their book would be in Wal-mart and the tone of the conversation made it sound as if this was difficult to do. Is this true?

    Thanks!
    Tracey

    Posted by TraceyDevlyn | May 11, 2011, 4:34 am
    • Hastings and Books-a-Million are great regional chains. I like to think of Hastings stores covering the Louisiana Purchase states, while B-a-M is the southeast quadrant of the country

      Posted by Doug Mendini | May 11, 2011, 8:12 am
  2. Thanks for answering all of our questions, Doug! I’m curious about the fiction books you wrote as Justin Biddle – did your inside knowledge of the publishing industry help when it came to writing and selling your own books?

    Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | May 11, 2011, 7:17 am
    • Julian Biddle ONLY writes non-fiction. I use my own name writing fiction as well as some other outlets. For instance I wrote under my own name in LIFE magazine. I think anybody would do that!!

      Posted by Doug Mendini | May 11, 2011, 8:13 am
  3. Morning Doug!

    My big question of the day – the state of flux that the big bookstores are in – what difference has that made in YOUR life at Kensington? Have you had to change the way things are done? Look for different outlets? And yup, that was three questions, I got carried away! =)

    Great post! Thanks for being here with us today!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | May 11, 2011, 7:21 am
  4. I used to have a full head of jet black hair. Anyone who knows me today would laugh at that since I’m nearly 100% silver/gray. Seriously, we look every day at what is working in traditional bookstores and try to grow genres/gather ideas from that. Publishing, though transitional at the moment, is always growing in new directions. We have to keep up–daily–with what is going on.

    Posted by Doug Mendini | May 11, 2011, 8:16 am
  5. Hi Doug.

    I always find it interesting when someone who works for a publisher is also a writer. Does it help or hurt your writing?

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | May 11, 2011, 8:21 am
  6. Good morning, Doug. Thanks so much for being at RU today.

    Could you talk just a little more about positioning?

    You said: This is where the conversation goes to “lead” book or not. Often this is followed by Promotional Opportunities for the book. Or not.

    When you say “lead” book, do you mean a particular book that you think will have the best sales out of the group of books you’re pitching to the stores?

    Thanks again!
    Kelsey

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | May 11, 2011, 8:25 am
    • The schedule of our books indicates which title is and is not a “lead” for the month in a particular category. But since not all accounts behave the same way, some books move to the front of the line, while others, necessarily, move down. Some hot romance categories work well in some accounts and don’t do nearly as well other places. So a Paranormal Romance, which might not be the actual lead, will move up to the front of the line at an account that does will with PR.

      Posted by Doug Mendini | May 11, 2011, 12:28 pm
  7. Doug – I Googled your name and found all kinds of articles you’ve written. I had no idea you were so prolific!

    I shared this link on my Facebook page, where the wonderful Wendy Corsi Staub has been singing your praises. She said she’d stop by later and join the conversation. :-)

    Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | May 11, 2011, 9:42 am
  8. Hi Doug. Thank you for being here. Wonderful interview. Do you have any advice for debut authors regarding the number one thing they can do to help market their book (aside from nailing their revisions, of course. LOL)?

    Thanks!

    Posted by AdrienneGiordano | May 11, 2011, 10:32 am
    • Adrienne,
      A couple of things. One is very subtle and it is: having a book published does not change the world. Sure, it’s great to have an accomplishment like this, but don’t expect to retire to the Bahamas … well, it’s nice to dream, though. A more direct bit of advice: bookstores can be your friend. Reach out and be gracious to all that you meet at your local/or wherever bookstores. As the saying goes, you only have one chance to make a good first impression.

      Posted by Doug Mendini | May 11, 2011, 12:33 pm
  9. Thank you for your article, Douglas.

    I could ask you lots of questions, but that would hog the discussion. So here’s just one: What trends in romance fiction do you anticipate in the coming year or so? For example, which subgenres, central themes, and character types will be hot? Which have outstayed their welcome? What about e-publishing—wait, maybe that’s too big a topic for a quick comment. Whatever. Any feedback you offer us will be most appreciated.

    Keep up the good work!

    Posted by Mary Anne Landers | May 11, 2011, 1:53 pm
    • Sub-genres. Hmmm. Let me see. I was up all night worrying about this once. Then it came to me: vampires. They vont be going away anytime soon. And as Paranormal Romance continues to evolve, it seems that the sky is the limit. I didn’t think dragons were going to catch on, but they did. Would would have said just a few years ago that the word shapeshifters would come into common usage? I can’t predict the future, alas. But I will say once again, vampires will never die.

      Posted by Doug Mendini | May 11, 2011, 2:09 pm
  10. Hi Doug:

    I’m late as usual. Are there certain segments of the country that prefer a particular genre of book? For instance, to thrillers sell better in the NE as opposed to the west coast? Are romances a bigger seller in the south as opposed to the the NE?

    Thanks for answering all of the questions. This is an informative and insightful post. (Great questions, Becke!)

    Posted by jennifer tanner | May 11, 2011, 6:06 pm
  11. Hi Doug ! I enjoyed your interview ..what do you think of ebooks ?

    I just read ‘Southern Charm’ and LOVED it ! I hope everyone will take the time to read it, was one of the best books Ive read this year :)

    I enjoyed the questions you asked Becke ! ( thanks for reminding me to stop by, I need to daily ! )

    Posted by kym Amaral | May 11, 2011, 7:24 pm
  12. Thanks so much for responding to all our questions and comments, Doug!

    Posted by BeckeMartinDavis | May 12, 2011, 10:53 am
  13. Late to this party, unfortunately! I just want to say, again, that Doug is terrific–over all the years that I built my career at Kensington, I came to rely on his energy and enthusiasm and of course, sparkling sense of humor. :-) Kensington Authors, I assure you that you are in great hands!

    Posted by Wendy Corsi Staub | May 13, 2011, 8:03 am
  14. Hey doug, i’m not sure if you recognize my name or not but Tom and Carol Gibbs are my grandparents. My grandma had let me barrow a few of Lisa Jackson books that she’s read over the years and i had a favor to ask. If you could please email me back as soon as you can i’d greatly appreciate it. Thank you very much!

    Posted by Kaitlyn Gibbs | August 21, 2013, 5:53 pm

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