Interview: Theresa Delucci (Tor)


Theresa Delucci is the Associate Director of Advertising and Promotions at Tor, the publisher of many notable authors, including Steven Brust, Orson Scott Card, Terry Goodkind, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.

Follow Theresa on Twitter: @tdelucci

EH: What is your job at Tor, and what does that mean you do in the normal course of your work?

TD: I attend many meetings over the course of a publishing season so I can plan advertising and marketing campaigns for all of our books. That starts with making in-house materials for the sales team to use when they sell our titles book retailers. A big chunk of my work goes towards marketing to people in the bookselling trade and libraries, not consumers. Marketing to consumers is a lot more fun, especially as I’m a genre fan myself. The biggest consumer advertising I’m in charge of is putting together our booths at San Diego and New York Comic-Con. Comic-Cons are a gigantic amount of work and a big team effort with a lot of moving parts, but the shows themselves are a blast and come with perks that make it worthwhile. (Like hanging out with authors and giving Joss Whedon a hug on a crowded dancefloor.)

EH: Did you go to school for this type of work? If someone found your work interesting, do you recommend they pursue a particular type of education, or do you feel it’s best to ‘work your way up’ using practical experience?

TD: I was an English major in college, but was terrified of being a stereotype, so I worked really closely with my college’s career services department in the hopes that I would have a job when I graduated. I also worked full time at Borders (R.I.P.) where I shelved the science fiction section and read a lot on the sly. So when my college hosted a mock job interview event with a lot of publishers, I knew which ones published the books I loved to read and made a beeline for those booths. Tor didn’t have any editorial positions open, which was disappointing at the time, but they had something entry-level in ad/promo, so I when I was lucky enough to land the job, I hoped I could move departments at a later date. Because it’s most important to just get a foot in the door. This was in 2000 and I never had an internship, never worked in an office, didn’t know many people in the genre or publishing in general and this was before social media (which was how I found my current awesome, amazing assistant.) I didn’t even know how to use Excel. The horror!

So I started at Tor in a very different environment. However, I am strongly of the opinion that pursuing a degree in publishing, such as the ones offered by NYU, are kind of a waste. I think they’re best for networking and getting internships — which seem to be more important now than they were in the past — but college is really expensive and publishing traditionally doesn’t pay as much as other fields, so you’re going into debt to purposely break into an industry that will not help you pay off your debt quickly! It means very little on your resume and can even be an active strike against it. Those programs can’t really prepare you for how the publisher you’ll hopefully be working for actually works or how fast the industry changes. Read trade pubs like Publishers Weekly, Shelf Awareness, and Locus (for genre trade) and follow publishing lists on Twitter. Learn what you like on the job and tailor your career accordingly. I did get offers for editorial work after a year in ad/promo, but by then it turned out I much preferred being on the marketing side.

EH: What types of in-house materials do you typically create for your sales team? What skills (copywriting, graphic design, etc) are useful during the creation process?

TD: I oversee the production of sell sheets, brochures, and Edelweiss catalog pages. Sometimes, certain books get special tchotchkes — it took me about 5 years to spell that word correctly — like the keychains we did for John Scalzi’s Lock In or the cool messenger bags for The Wheel of Time. Copywriting skills are definitely a must, some good intuition for knowing how to speak to a salesperson versus a more casual consumer audience, and of course, bargain-hunting skills are needed when shopping around for vendors to produce items.

EH: In your experience, how does marketing to libraries and the bookselling trade differ from marketing to consumers?

TD: Librarians seems to value good reviews from other librarians and their trade magazines, sales likes to hear about how the author has performed in the past or what established author they can compare a new author to and for consumers, we can have a little more fun. Especially in the genre. It’s a little more casual. I’d sell a book to them like I would a fellow-minded friend.

EH: You mentioned your booths at San Diego and New York Comic-Con. What is your goal when attending these shows? Are you focusing on making sales? Gathering contact information? Offering a venue for the general public to meet your authors?

TD: We don’t normally sell Comic-Cons; the booth duty is stressful enough! We developed the “First in Series” promotion to get around this. At Comic-Cons, we let attendees who stop by our booth pick out one free book and it’s the first in a series. So we hope that by giving someone a free copy of The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson or Ironskin by Tina Connolly, those readers will be more inclined to actually buy the next book. Or ten. We also host author signings and meet with business partners. Comic-Con is a lot of serious work mixed in with a lot of fun.

EH: When you have a job opening, do you frequent job fairs at universities, hiring fresh talent straight out of school? Do you rely on head hunters to search out more experienced prospects?

TD: At this point, I’m not sure how involved out company is with universities. When we have a job opening, we let HR post it on our behalf at various job boards and we reach out to Twitter. Then HR filters the resumes, giving us only the most coherent-sounding ones.

EH: Would you consider hiring someone who had never gone to college? If so, what experience would you look for in lieu of a degree?

TD: A bachelor’s degree is required of everyone working at Tor. I didn’t make that rule, but I have to follow it.

EH: What would an entry-level position look like in your department?

TD: Hell! Because I’d be torturing you all day. Also, you’d have to process all of our department’s invoices. But you’d get to do what I did and get involved with other departments as projects allowed and find out which career track you might want to get on more long-term. Ad/Promo at Tor talks to editors, publicists, sales people, and the art department.

EH: You mentioned Twitter lists. Do you have a couple links to public lists that you would recommend?

TD: Not really. Just follow John Scalzi, Publishers Weekly, and Neil Gaiman. They’ll invariably point you towards the right people.

EH: Technology is everywhere – from email newsletters to live-streaming video channels. How do they fit into your marketing plan? Have they reduced your reliance on more traditional marketing tactics, or do you still lean heavily on analog marketing, even in our increasingly digital world?

TD: Digital marketing makes up a huge part of my marketing plans and even analog advertising, like print ads, often have a digital component — like entering sweepstakes or asking people to sign up for author alerts and our newsletter. Digital offers something extremely valuable: quantifiable results. While Macmillan is not set up in a way to see if we sold books directly by clicking through one of our ads, we can at least gauge where an author’s most engaged audience might be and how we can continue to grow that author there. Traditional marketing still has a big impact on buyers — some authors and agents feel like we did nothing for them if we didn’t run a big New York Times ad, so it goes a long way towards relation-maintaining, too. And we feel it is important to support Locus, science fiction’s version of Publishers Weekly, so we always take print ads in trade magazines.

EH: At Tor, you’re operating on a level many others can’t, with resources that may be hard to match. If you were at a smaller publishing house, what would be your strategy? Where would you allocate your (likely) more limited resoures?

TD: Tor is in fact a subsidiary of Macmillan, but with a smaller house feel and given a lot of autonomy by Macmillan. But we do operate with a higher budget than a smaller publisher. If I worked at a smaller house, I imagine a lot of my job would also include publicity, and I would pursue as much publicity as possible – review copies to the right places, blog tours, guest posts on bigger sites. A well-placed interview or a starred review is basically free advertising. Galley or promotional piece mailings in IndieBound boxes are good, too, for the cost. I would tell my authors (the ones who are known for being engaging online personalities) to continue building their followers on Twitter or Tumblr, without spamming or oversharing — some people are not so self-aware. For advertising, I would focus a lot of money on e-newsletters and social media, either by sponsored Facebook posts and promoted tweets or SEO ads. They have low costs but can yield some good results, especially if you have a solid call to action like “Read an excerpt” or “Win a free copy” “or “Now available as a discounted e-book for a limited time.” I also like to buy display advertising on sites that publish genre fiction because a) a lot of our authors have published in those venues and visitors would be familiar with their names and b) it supports the places where our future authors could come from. These sites are usually a bit smaller, so the costs seem reasonable for such a highly targeted audience. It’s super important to consider as specifically as possible where you think the audience and word-of-mouth for a book will come from – consumers, YA librarians, indie booksellers , etc. and spend as big a percent of your budget there first. Costs are higher for targeted audiences, but the chances of good results are higher too.

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