Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Maegan Roper, Abingdon Press Marketing & Publicity Manager



An "All You Want to Know about Abingdon Press" Interview of Maegan Roper
Abingdon Press
Marketing and Publicity Manager
by Gina Welborn

What a week this has been so far! Like Susanne, I'm a pastor's wife so when I found out the title of Jen's book, I was immediately hooked. In honor of Jen's new release, I thought you wonderful readers would like to learn a bit more about Jen's publisher, Abingdon--one of the new kids on the Christian Bookseller's Association block. Who better to ask to share? Well, how about a chick whose job it is to promote Abingdon books.

GW: Hi, Maegan! I'm thrilled you could join us today. Some of our readers may be unfamiliar with Abingdon Press. Can you tell us a little about the company and the kind of novels it publishes? Feel free to brag.

MR: Well, for those that have never heard of Abingdon Press, it is the book publishing arm of the United Methodist Publishing House headquartered in Nashville, TN. It was founded in the early 1900's by the Methodist Church. Its retail division is "Cokesbury" although many retail distributors nation-wide carry our products. We publish all types of books such as reference, devotional, non-fiction, Bible studies, Bibles, curriculum and church resources, Vacation Bible School material, ect. In the fall of 2009, Abingdon released their first ever Christian Fiction line with a list of 6 titles. This spring will be our second line with a list of 10 titles.

For the Fiction line to be as new as it is for Abingdon, its thriving success continues to grow and each of our authors prove themselves to be exceptional in the work they produce! We’re incredibly blessed.


GW: I just have to ask. What lead you to work for Abingdon instead of...say, Starbucks? After all, not just anyone can brew coffee, whereas just last week when I was in Whole Foods I saw tons of marketers.
MR: Well, while I secretly always wanted to work at Starbucks (did you know you’re required to memorize the ingredients to every single mixture?) I do love the marketing & publicity side of book publishing. Prior to coming to Abingdon Press, I worked for Thomas Nelson Publishing in marketing for Bibles, Reference, and Curriculum. It was there that I discovered my passion for making the inspiration of God’s truth known through the written word. I have dear friends who worked at Abingdon Press and had nothing but incredible things to say about the publishing house and the new Christian Fiction line as a whole intrigued me.

GW: Is your job the same as a publicist? If not, what are the differences besides the wardrobe allowance?

MR: Love it :-)  Yes, there are several similarities to what I do and what a publicist does, only I manage all of Fiction’s marketing initiatives and strategic planning as well. It’s a large responsibility, but so fun to put on both hats while brainstorming innovative ideas for my authors and positioning their titles in the marketplace. Both aspects should work hand in hand anyway.

GW: And now for the "how many big words can Gina use in a sentence" question of the day: Is there a certain type of promotional activity that sounds good in theory but doesn't produce effective results in practical aplication?

MR: Publishers conducted a survey last year for market research data, primarily among the CRS market, to find out the most effective promotional strategies in terms of generating sales & awareness. I was surprised to learn that the top least effective was author signing tours. While we’re all aware of the digital shift, this just reiterates that shift of thinking within the marketplace as well. Not to say that book signings aren’t worth doing any more, but it’s generally one of the first promotional activities that marketers and publicists will invest in when we are finding blog tours, internet campaigns, and traditional radio & print interviews to be just as, if not more effective.

GW: What is the best--oh, scratch that--what's the easiest and cheapest thing writers can do to help market their books? Maybe I should change that to "simpliest and frugalist."

MR:  Develop a social media plan and presence. Make your content memorable, measurable, build relationships & a fan base, pay attention to what’s shared within your fan circle, be relevant, be where your audience is. Our authors are great at staying engaged within their fan base, while continually making themselves available to reach outside and find new opportunities to network and make connections. You can’t be shy… some of the most successful authors are also marketers and self promoters :-)


GW: So, what is the greatest challenge in marketing a new author?

MR: If that author is willing to be flexible, engaging, and innovative then I don’t see it as a challenge but an opportunity! :-) This really refers back to the previous question in the importance of being willing to tap into where you want your audience to be. Developing that audience is the challenging part; however, digital media & social networking makes that so much easier now. Several of our fiction authors are debut novelists and because they have been enthusiastic in managing their content and sharing that via web promotion, they have quickly risen to the occasion and developed a well established tribe and fan base. This essentially is the basic building block for the success of all their future novels.


GW: I'm hearing "fan base" over and over. Now, do you do anything differently with an established author?

MR: Not necessarily. Actually, with established authors it can be more difficult to tap into an audience or marketplace that is new & different. Once they’re established, finding new promotional strategies that position them to a different target group can be really challenging.


GW: Inquiring writers just have to know: To agent or not to agent when it comes to submitting to Abingdon?

MR: That just depends on personal preference and how much you’re willing to invest. Some authors are so busy they don’t have the time to invest themselves so it’s more effective for them to invest the money in an agency, while others do not have that option. I do my best to give each author equal opportunity promotionally and while I know there are misses that we have along the way, we certainly invest all we have and are able into a promotional strategy that serves all our authors well!


GW: Let's get to the nitty gritty. How many novels will Abingdon Press release this year, does the genre influence the amount of books published, and is that number going to change next year?

MR: For Fiction, a total of 20- ten in the spring and ten in the fall *(I can’t speak for the last part of the question).


GW: How can readers find out about upcoming releases/events?

MR: You can go to www.abingdonpress.com/fiction where you’ll find a digital version of our spring sampler. You can also preview book trailers and there are direct links to our author’s personal sites where you’ll find event and book signing info!

GW: I've considered thinking about pondering the idea of starting a book club where we discuss books while eating cheese (or chocolate for the vegans in the group). What kind of resources does Abingdon Press have for book clubs that may or may not eat during their meetings?

MR: Book clubs and reading groups is actually a huge focus for us this year. We did some research and found that 1 in every 7 churches has a Christian fiction book club or reading group so we are trying to engage customers and readers to start a club if you can’t find one to tap into within your area! Abingdon has several tips, suggestions, and fun ideas how to promote a book club, choose a book, and jump into one where you are if you’re not already involved. Just click here: http://www.abingdonpress.com/forms/fiction.aspx?pageid=526&id=104. All of our fiction authors are actually very willing to be accessible when it comes o making book club appearances or participating in group discussion via live web cam, email, or i-chat. Please contact me if your book club would be interested! mroper(at)umpublishing(dot)org

And Gina, we also have fun recipe ideas as well so incorporating food is TOTALLY encouraged! :-)


GW: One in seven churches has a book club. That's fascinating! I wonder if my church does. Guess I'll need to ask around during the Ladies' Fellowship I'm going to tomorrow night. Just between the two of us, do you "get to" read the books you market? Or do you "have to" read them?

MR: I “get to” read them, as it is definitely a pleasure but it’s also encouraged :-) The more I know about the content of the book and my author’s writing style, the better I can position their titles promotionally in the marketplace! I can’t complain b/c it’s so fun :-)

GW: Now for the most important question of the day: Where can our readers purchase an Abingdon Press novel, especially Jennifer's release THE PASTOR'S WIFE?

MR: You can purchase at www.abingdon.com/fiction, www.cokesbury.com/fiction, or http://www.amazon.com/


GW: Thanks, Maegan, for the fun interview, insights into Abingdon Press, and for helping us celebrate The Week of Jennifer AlLee.

MR: You’re so welcome! My pleasure :-)


20 comments:

  1. Maegan, thanks for visiting. I'm so glad to see that books signings are on a downward trend. I've read so many bad stories about them.

    I hear you're having a baby soon, but if you're out there today, what are two or three adjectives that would best describe what Abingdon is looking for in a novel?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great to read this. The Abingdon authors look forward to having Maegan back with us soon, but meanwhile we're glad things went well with the birth of her baby girl. Congratulations, Maegan!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Good morning! Wow, I can't believe I beat Deb to the comment page.

    What awesome news, Richard! A new baby girl! Congratulations to the Ropers! Praise the Lord.

    This was a fun post and I appreciate the opportunity to learn about Abingdon. Very interesting info on the market too. I've heard so many mixed things about book signings.

    Jen, if you're out there this morning, how are you feeling? Hope your cold is better.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hey Jen,
    Sounds like Maegan has welcomed a new baby into the world. Congratulations to the Ropers!

    Okay, Jen. Here's a question for you. If you could get anything you wanted regarding the publicity of your novel what would it be? Let's say the top 5 things in order of most importance on down. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Good morning all. Maegan, if you're reading, congratulations on the baby!

    I do have a question if anyone from Abingdon is reading this. I was a little confused about the agent question/answer. Do you have to be agented to submit? Or can you query without an agent. Thanks in advance for any answers.

    ReplyDelete
  6. A big thanks to Meagan for taking the time to answer our questions. And even bigger congratulations on your brand new baby!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Baby Roper is so savvy she made sure her arrival did not interfere with Mom's blog interview!

    I love the variety of the Abington releases. Check out their site. They have a cool catalogue that tells about each author as well as their book.

    Like Dr. Mabry for instance!

    Welcome Maegan!
    We're pleased to have your interview. But I'm sure you're more excited about the new addition to your family. You can read this at 3:00am. That's the beauty of blogs.
    Gina--nice job! I'm glad to see you're not afraid to ask the tough questions...

    ReplyDelete
  8. Congratulation Maegan, and thank you for sharing this information about Abingdon. Very helpful!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Suzie, I can answer the agent thing. At this time, Abingdon only accepts submissions through an agent, or by request after meeting at a conference or other such event. For those of you who know that I don't have an agent and are wondering how I got my book to Barbara, I'll share more about that... tomorrow :+}

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hey Susanne! My head feels much better today, but part of the cold decided to take a trip to my eye, so I'm going to see the doc today.

    And speaking of docs... Great to see you, Richard! Everybody be sure to look for his new Abingdon release, Code Blue, coming out in April. I can't wait to get my hands on this new medical thriller!

    Dina, I'm with you on the book signing thing. I have two signings scheduled now, but one is tied to a speaking even at my old church in CA and the other is part of a local, multi-author event. For the most part, I'm focusing my marketing energies elsewhere.

    Jill, you asked a great question. I've got to run out now and take my son to school, but I'll ponder it and give you my answer when I get back.

    ReplyDelete
  11. OH MAN... can't forget to thank Maegan for visiting today! I'm sure she's so enamoured with her fabulous new girl that blog tours are the last thing on her mind (as they should be). But thanks so much for taking time to do this interview before going on maternity leave. And thanks for all the help getting the word out about The Pastor's Wife. Like Richard said, we look forward to having you back, but pray many blessings for you and your family :+}

    ReplyDelete
  12. Ok, Jillie, I'm back.

    Your question was the top five publicity related items I would like from my publisher... Let me say first that Abingdon has been awesome! They've sent out ARCs to reviewers, scheduled The Pastor's Wife for a Christian Fiction Blog Alliance tour, and supported me in the blog tour and giveaways I set up on my own. And there are things they've done on the retail end that I don't fully understand, but appreciate :+} I'm pleased as punch with their efforts.

    When it comes down to it, there's only one thing I can think of that I have no way of getting but would be huge from a promotion standpoint...

    TV appearences - What author wouldn't love to sit down with Oprah? Kelly & Regis? The ladies of the View? Conan? (Oops, he's gone now... but when he comes back someday, somewhere, I'd be thrilled to sit with him!) Talk about exposure. Word of mouth is the best advertising, and talk show sit-downs let you hit a huge audience. But realistically, I don't ever expect to be making the rounds... unless The Pastor's Wife is made into a movie... be still my heart! :+}

    ReplyDelete
  13. Congrats on the new baby, Maegan.

    Gina, thanks for doing this interview. Sounds like it's a great opportunity to work with Abingdon.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Television! You're not an introvert are you, Jen?:) I guess I could do that under the right circumstances.:) So what is the question you would want them to ask you and what's the question you would hope to avoid?

    ReplyDelete
  15. My favorite thing on the Abingdon website is the link where you can download a sample of their spring releases. Jen's book is in there.

    I've never enjoyed pleasure reading on the computer so I was a tad hesitant about reading the sample packet. Oh silly me! The program was easy to use, easy to read, easy to enjoy.

    I tried to include a link in Maegan's interview. Sadly, blogger wasn't cooperating with me.

    Congratulations, Maegan, on your new release. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  16. Gina, thanks for letting folks know about the fiction sampler on the Abingdon site. They did a great job on it. But... you need to know that the first chapter of my book in the sampler is NOT the first chapter that ended up in the real book. It's one of those things where the sampler was made far in advance, before The Pastor's Wife went through the editorial process. In the real first chapter, Maura doesn't start off in the car. If you want to read the REAL first three chapters, go here: http://issuu.com/abingdonpress/docs/pastors_wife

    ReplyDelete
  17. Jill, the funny thing is that I AM an introvert. It's torture for me to go to an event where I don't know anybody and try to make small talk. Truly painful. The difference with a TV appearence is that you've got a purpose set out. You know what you're there for and you know the person you're sitting with actually wants to talk to you.

    I'd like them to ask questions that would interest people in the book, obviously. Perhaps how I developed the book, and how I came to sign with Abingdon (which I'll share more about tomorrow.) I wouldn't want them to ask questions in which the answer would embarrass anybody I know. And don't ask what I weigh. I won't give a straight answer :+}

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm with you Jen. I hate small talk, but I'd looove a TV appearance. Oops. Need a published book first, don't I. LOL.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Good interview, thanks!
    Blessings,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  20. Great answers on the tv questions, Jen. You can pave the way for the rest of Inkies. :) Looking forward to finding out more about you and The Pastor's Wife tomorrow.

    ReplyDelete