Old-School Book Promotion
We asked each respondent what promotion was like before social media
became so crucial.
■ Ahmad: Before the advent of social media, our assumption
was that we needed to cultivate a readership one person at a
time—and this philosophy still holds in a digitally oriented
world. We still prioritize cultivating real-life relationships with
booksellers, librarians, academics, and other members of the
literary ecosystem. Publishing is a business of relationships,
and as a publisher we are sustained and supported by venues
like the Queens Library, [black bookstores such as] Eso Won,
and the AALBC [an African-American focused book website],
and aspire to provide them with some level of symbiosis.
■ Hilton: As a millennial in publishing, I have the bittersweet
experience of only having worked in the age of social media. In
the midst of immediate gratification via social media,
though, television and print ads are still very relevant.
Though marketers are able to adequately gauge the
audience size of a particular commercial spot or publication banner, tracking the results which lead to
sales becomes a challenge. I often send snail mail to
booksellers and influencers—I enjoy creating fun
MARKETING PROFESSIONALS DESCRIBE THE BENEFITS AND
CHALLENGES OF USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO PROMOTE
BY DIANE PATRICK
Swipe Right for
Social media—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and other platforms—has transformed the book mar- keting and promotion game for publishers, authors, and readers alike. The ability of publishers and authors to connect with and communicate directly to readers, and track their responses, has helped the promotion of all books, no matter the background of the author. For this article, PW spoke with promotion and marketing professionals to learn how social media has impacted
the way they market and promote adult titles by or about African-Americans. We reached out to publicity professionals from
independent publishers and Big Five houses, Kickstarter, and comics publisher Iron Circus Comics, whose business model
is based on crowdfunding. We solicited responses from Ibrahim Ahmad, editorial director at Akashic Books; Margot Atwell,
publishing director at Kickstarter; Yona Deshommes, associate director of publicity at Atria; Andrew Duncan, director of
digital marketing at Grand Central Publishing; Tasha Hilton, senior digital marketing manager at Atria; Alexandra Nicolajsen,
director of social media and digital sales at Kensington; Spike Trotman, publisher of Iron Circus Comics; and Brian Ulicky,
publicity and marketing director at the New Press.
swag packages that I ship to people that include a copy of the
book. While I ultimately would like the influencer to snap an
image of the package and post it to his or her social media
account, the thought of receiving a package in the mail is intimate and special.
■ Deshommes: Publicity and marketing [at Atria about a
decade ago] were two completely separate functions, and the
two departments never met to discuss plans or had any input
on each other’s plans. Our publisher, Judith Curr, understood
the need for regular meetings where the two departments
would strategize planning. Before that, I recall a lot of work
with book clubs and bloggers, offering incentives for promoting our authors. When magazines started their digital initiatives, we started moving in that direction, offering exclusive
content, contests, and the like on the digital legs of print media.
I still try to find the time to meet with people who are doing
new and fresh things in the market and work on forming
partnerships that are mutually beneficial.
■ Duncan: I wasn’t around in publishing for very
long before social media showed up! But in my experience, with the exception of advertising, marketing
was a multipurpose department whose main purpose