We haven’t done an interview in a while, and I’m especially pleased with this one because it focuses on an interesting industry: book publishing.
Maegan Chadwick-Dobson manages social media for Tara Books, an independent publisher based in India. Tara Books has an awesome Facebook page with lots of lovely photos of their books, events, and “the Book Building.” The Twitter account shares interesting info as well, and Maegan is behind it all! We asked her about social media, marketing to an international audience, and more.
My questions and comments are in bold.
You share a lot of interesting updates on Facebook. Do you keep a publishing calendar or just decide at the moment what you’re going to post today?
It’s a bit of a mixture. On Facebook we aim to post twice or three times per week. Usually I keep a few posts that are not time-specific “in hand” for weeks when we have less going on, and keep a rough calendar of when I plan to upload them. As and when things happen around the office or in the wider Tara community we seize the opportunity to share that on Facebook. This can be anything from new furniture in the Book Building, a visitor to the office, or a book coming back from the press.
Having all those lovely pictures and designs to share must help? Do you find that your designs get a lot of attention?
Yes, I think that I’m exceptionally lucky in that I have such rich material to work with. As we print all of our handmade books “in house” we’re able to share updates about the production process. The fact that we have in-house exhibitions at Book Building (our Chennai home) also generates a wealth of engaging material.
Interestingly, what I’ve found is that the most popular posts are always those that showcase original art from our illustrators. I think this is because it gives Tara fans an insight into stages of the bookmaking process that they wouldn’t usually see, and also because the Indian tribal and folk art that we work with is so visually arresting.
Having said that, I think that every publisher (or indeed business) has a strength that they can work with in terms of generating material for social networking. It’s just a case of finding what your niche is, in terms of what your audience is going to be interested in hearing about and what you have to share.
I am frequently ridiculed in the office for saying “Facebook!” every time anything of interest happens. This might be the office equivalent of taking photos on holiday rather than enjoying the moment, but what to do? It’s my job.
Do you have different approaches or strategies for Facebook and Twitter?
Yes. We use Facebook just a few times a week, and we predominantly share photos and videos. While we do engage with followers on Facebook – in terms of replying to posts and messages – I’d say that on Twitter, engagement is our primary focus.
To put it another way, we use Twitter to have conversations and to meet interesting individuals and organisations that we might otherwise not have come across.
I’d also say that Twitter has been important for us in securing and maximizing press coverage. We share most of our reviews via Twitter, and have used the platform to reach out to journalists.
You’re on Pinterest as well… but there’s no link on your website?
Pinterest was actually the project of an intern last year, and she did a fantastic job. I think that while we’re happy to have a presence on many platforms, we’re wary of making it the main focus of our website.
We’re actually in the process of fully re-designing our website, which has become a little tired. In-house we had conversations about what should appear on the new home page, and decided as a team upon just Facebook and Twitter. This was so as not to overwhelm the user on the homepage (the design is very simple) but also because as a small publisher we have to choose where to focus our energy.
This in itself is an important point. As is the case in many small companies, we don’t have one person whose role is solely devoted to social media, or marketing and PR. So while I largely look after these areas for Tara, my job also includes assisting with rights sales, overseeing the production of our sales catalogs, some copy editing, and liaising with our distributors.
What social media platform do you personally like best?
While I am very proud of our Facebook page, I’d have to say Twitter, because of the relationships that we (and I!) have developed through it. In fact just this week I met a long standing Tara Twitter friend in person for the first time.
For publishers, which platform do you think works out most effectively?
Honestly, I think that it depends on the publisher, in terms of the type of books that they generate, and the material that they can share. It’s hard to generalize. For example, I understand that Scribd is very important to Pratham Books as they share and distribute much of their material through Creative Commons Licensing. But it’s not a platform that we have a presence on.
You’re in India but marketing to an international audience… Do you find that challenging?
Yes, that comes with its own challenges, but it’s not something that we find insurmountable.
I have bases both in the UK and India, so am able to look after the European and Indian markets. We also have a distributor based in London – Bounce Sales & Marketing – who have been indispensable in helping us with the logistics of selling our books in Europe.
In North America we are distributed by PGW, but we also have a North American Representative, Jennifer Abel, who does a fantastic job of managing our press & sales in that part of the world.
Social media certainly does allow you stay connected to international audiences – you can build relationships on Twitter with people from around the world, and then perhaps follow them up with personal meetings in the course of time. It’s also great that you can time updates on various platforms so that you can ensure that you reach out to audiences in different time zones.
How do you get international PR? Do you just send books to reviewers and hope for the best?
Not usually! As a small, independent publisher we have a constraint on the number of books that we can send out for review. This is especially the case with the handmade titles, which are very labour intensive to produce.
We’ll try to establish if a reviewer is interested in seeing the book first, usually by sending (what we hope!) is a concise but engaging email, with links to carefully photographed product shots and more information. If someone gets back in touch only then will we send out review copies.
We also try to build up long-standing and personal relationships with people we know are interested in the work we do. Whenever we’re travelling we’ll try to arrange face-to-face meetings, as it’s so much easier to explain the work that we do in person. This is one of my favorite parts of the job.
Occasionally I do send out a book “cold” as such, but that would usually be to someone I feel should love our books, but has been perhaps been overwhelmed by the number of emails that they receive. I’m a strong believer in the need to smell and touch our handmade books in order to fully understand what we’re about!
There is not one particular site that springs to mind right now, but I follow links that appear on our Twitter feed to interesting articles about marketing and social media. For example in the last week or so I’ve read an article on the PR Breakfast Club website about the future of Facebook and a piece on Future Book (the Bookseller blog) about marketing principles for authors, much of which was relevant to small publishers. I’ve also enjoyed keeping an eye on the Markitty blog since I found out about it last month!
Ooh, thank you. And what are your favorite online tools – social media, productivity, or anything else?
I don’t think that this is very original, but Google Analytics is an obvious one, as well as bit.ly for checking the progress of links shared (especially on Twitter).
What’s the one thing you hate doing but still force yourself to do every week?
Does it sound horribly smug to say that I can’t think of anything?!
No, just really… enviable! Thanks very much for doing this, Maegan: I love the inside look at what happens in a publisher’s marketing office!
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