Today we are happy to welcome Cynara Geissler, Marketing Manager for Arsenal Pulp Press! A Canadian-based publisher that’s relatively new to the craft books scene (the first craft title released in 2009), Arsenal Pulp Press is a specialty craft publisher with titles that stand out as edgy or subversive.
Read on for a glimpse at how a marketing team goes about promoting your favorite craft books!
Cynara, welcome to Craft Book Month! Can you tell me a little bit about how you entered the craft publishing business and how Arsenal Pulp Press came to be?
Arsenal was founded in 1971 as Pulp Press and published push-the-envelope literary fiction and irreverent pamphlets. Publisher Brian Lam took over the company in 1992 and broadened the scope to fiction/non-fiction, cookbooks, art books, and visual and cultural studies titles.
The first craft book we acquired at Arsenal Pulp Press was Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti by Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain. Leanne Prain (a graphic artist, writer, knitter, and crafter) conceived of the title as part of a book-publishing simulation project in Simon Fraser University’s Master of Publishing Program. Our associate publisher, Robert Ballantyne, attended the book project presentations and was impressed with Leanne and her (then hypothetical) book on knit graffiti.
Because Yarn Bombing has a strong civic/social dimension (the streets serve as the gallery and the art becomes public) and is quite playful in tone and content, it stood out as a good fit for Arsenal. Leanne brought Mandy Moore into the project, who is well-known in the knitting community, and it worked out perfectly. That was our gateway into the glamorous world of craft book publishing.
Wow, so your first craft book author was actually “discovered” while working on a classroom project. Can you tell me more about where you work? What does a typical work day look like for you?
There are five of us in our office, which is open-concept, so it’s easy to communicate with one another. If I were to take a snapshot of my physical work area right now you’d see a two desks (arranged in an L) covered in files and post-it notes. If you were to zoom in on my computer, you’d note that I have an inadvisable amount of tabs open in both Firefox and Chrome. I’ve also got Excel spreadsheets, Google docs and various InDesign files on the go. If my computer were the Enterprise, Montgomery Scott would probably be yelling at me that I’ve “pushed her as far as she can go,” and that we have “a shortage of dilithium crystals!” right about now.
When I arrive, the first thing I do is read my email (but if I’m being honest, I actually read it all the time: the blessing/curse of smart phone ownership). I respond to media requests for things like book covers, excerpts, interviews and media copies of books. If we have a large review copy mailing going out that day, I try and tackle it early in the day so it’s all ready to go when our mail pick-up arrives.
A typical day in Arsenal’s marketing department involves everything from:
- Editing/creating media lists
- Meetings or phone calls with authors
- Pitching and following up with media about our books
- Speaking with bookstores/venues (to set up events)
- Designing/creating press kits
- Writing event listings and invitations
- Sending out tweets and setting up facebook events
- Posting review copies or awards submissions
(You were all picturing me smoking a cigar, barking orders to interns, and pulling whiskey out of a drawer, before heading off to a booze-soaked book launch followed by a cocktail party on a yacht, right?)
Publicity, as I am sure most publicists will tell you, expands infinitely (like the universe). There is always more that can be done.
“Yarn Boming” book promo, blogged at The New Yorker
That’s quite a list of duties. About how long before a book’s release does a publicist start thinking about creative ways to promote the book?
We think carefully about a book’s audience/community from the acquisition stage, when we’re deciding if the book is right for Arsenal. Our craft books are rich community objects. We’re attracted to books that grow out of craft and artistic communities and speak with and belong to those communities as well. Both Yarn Bombing and Hoopla are books that collect, explore and showcase the work of a vibrant community of artists, creators, crafters and makers: They include patterns and profiles from a wide range of fabric and textile artists from all over the globe.
I usually meet with authors quite early in the publication process (when the book is still in editorial, so months and months before it will be a real, spiney book), especially if we’re going to be planning a tour. We talk about the book launch and events, tabling/speaking opportunities, who should receive review copies, contest ideas, book-related swag.
I’m a one-woman marketing department on most of our titles, so it’s always the best when I can be a tightly-knit publicity tag team with our authors.
What are some examples of ways that you might use online or traditional marketing to promote books vs. non-traditional or relationship marketing?
In terms of traditional marketing we send out review copies to media, take out print/digital ads and we also produce print and digital catalogues in fall and spring which get sent out to libraries, bookstores and the media. We have all of our titles available for direct order on our website and we also maintain a blog, YouTube channel, Twitter account, Flickr stream, and Facebook page. We have monthly e-newsletter. It’s always ideal when our authors have a strong web presence as well.
I think of publicity as what Shannon Emerson at Canada Wide Media refers to as “being in all spaces: online, in print and in person.” You want to create as many opportunities for a reader to discover a book as possible.
Those sound like wise words. So, can you explain how that all plays out?
In Person: For Hoopla we did a multi-city author tour. Because the books are visual and the subject is tactile/about creating Leanne’s in-person events included a slideshow and a craft for people to create as part of the event. For Hoopla, Leanne gocco-printed hoops with a design from the book and we did buttons with subversive embroidery sayings like “Crewel Intentions” and “Boss of Floss” for giveaways at events and book fairs as well as buttons for craft bags and jean jackets. Leanne is very active in the craft/art community she leads (and continues to lead) crafting/embroidery workshops; coordinates knit nights and /craft meet-ups (some of which result in certain public structures sporting unsolicited sweaters). She also attends/presents/tables at craft shows like Vancouver’s Mini Maker Faire.
In Print: With craft books you are less likely to receive “traditional” book review coverage, so we pitched the book for trend pieces, profiles, interviews, Q & As and excerpts.
Online: We (myself, Leanne, and the wonderful contributors) spread the word about the book through our websites, Twitter, Facebook and blogs as well as forums like Ravelry. Global and local craft communities were very supportive with letting us post about upcoming events, hosting giveaways and offering pattern downloads to spread the word about Hoopla. When Leanne brought the Yarn Bombing book to us she was already connected, engaged, and involved with the craft community. She built on those connections through the process of writing her books (and interviewing artists) and the websites for Hoopla and Yarn Bombing and also tweets about crafts, graphic design, and art from her twitter account @LeannePrain.
Hoopla author Leanne Prain signing books, blogged at Unanimous Craft
What do you appreciate most about your job and/or working in the craft publishing industry? Can you tell us the most challenging part of the job?
I deeply value my brilliant colleagues, our talented authors and the brave books we publish at Arsenal. We publish books that challenge, incite and provoke, books that take risks and trouble and subvert norms. I feel lucky to be surrounded by so many creative, professional and intelligent people.
It can be tough–and, to be frank–kind of heartbreaking when a book doesn’t catch on. You have all the ingredients for a success: clever and original content, smart and thoughtful design, an intelligent, charming and energetic author. All that and a dedicated publishing house, and for whatever reason (the sheer number of pitches, bookings being published and books already out there in the wild?) people take a pass.
A bestseller or breakaway is about the book being great (which you can control), but also luck: which you can try to harness by bottling lightning, stroking pink rabbit’s feet, or . . . well, ultimately that part is quite out of your control.
Today, Arsenal Pulp Press is giving away a copy of the book Hoopla: The Art of Unexpected Embroidery to one lucky Craft Buds reader.
To enter to win, leave a comment on this post telling us something you’ve learned from our Q&A with Cynara. We’ll choose one random winner in a week. (Giveaway limited to North America.)
Congrats to commenter #9, Nicole G!
And remember, you can still enter to win:
Beginner’s Guide to Free-Motion Quilting (ends 9/12)
FreeSpirit Designer Solids fabric (ends 9/14)