An "All You Want to Know about Abingdon Press" Interview of Maegan Roper
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.
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 :-)