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!
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:
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