Riverhead Vice President & Editorial Director Rebecca Saletan, Mohsin’s longtime editor, shares her insights on Mohsin Hamid’s new novel: “I have had the enormous privilege of publishing Mohsin Hamid for the entire span of his extraordinary writing life, some twenty years now. He has the rare and precious gift, never more evident than in this new book, of being able not only to see into the future but to imagine, in the shape of real human lives, plausible and humane alternatives to the dark places where our worst impulses could lead us.”From the internationally bestselling author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Exit West goes on sale from Riverhead Books on March 7 and is an astonishingly timely love story that brilliantly imagines the forces that transform ordinary people into refugees — and the impossible choices that follow — as they’re driven from their homes to the uncertain embrace of new lands. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, this book tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time. Exit West has been lauded with tremendous advance praise. Here is a sampling: “Mohsin Hamid’s dynamic yet lapidary books have all explored the convulsive changes overtaking the world…His compelling new novel, Exit West, is no exception…Writing in spare, crystalline prose, Hamid conveys the experience of living in a city under siege with sharp, stabbing immediacy….Hamid does a harrowing job of conveying what it is like to leave behind family members, and what it means to leave home, which, however dangerous or oppressive it’s become, still represents everything that is familiar and known.” –Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times “[A] thought experiment that pivots on the crucial figure of this century: the migrant… [A] wry, intelligent novel… brilliantly managed… Hamid’s cautious, even fastidious prose makes the sudden flashes of social breakdown all the more affecting,” the author continues. “Evading the lure of both the utopian and the dystopian, Exit West makes some rough early sketches of the world that must come if we (or is it ‘you’?) are to avoid walling out the rest of the human race in the 21st century.” –The Financial Times “Writers should be wise, and Hamid is wiser than many… No novel is really about the cliche called ‘the human condition,’ but good novels expose and interpret the particular condition of the humans in their charge, and this is what Hamid has achieved here.” –The Washington Post “Hamid’s prose powerfully evokes the violence and anxiety of lives lived ‘under the drone-crossed sky.’ But his whimsical framing of the situation offers a hopeful metaphor for the future as the ‘natives’ come to accept their new neighbors.” –TIME Magazine Learn more about the book here:
Editors get very passionate about books they work on – the Editor’s Desk series is his or her place to write in-depth about what makes a certain title special. Get the real inside-scoop on how books are shaped by the people who know them best. When a surprising trend takes hold, it’s easy to think of it as something unprecedented. But sometimes it seems that way due to our own limited perspective. Much of fashion in any field is the re-introduction of things that were popular once upon a time—and such is the case with the adult coloring book trend, which has so affected the publishing business in recent years. Not long ago, a fellow editor shared with me an article in the New Republic about adult coloring books. Putting the fascination with meditative examples of the category in context, the article described a moment in the 1960s when grown-ups were crazed for coloring books, many of which were powered by provocative—even subversive—humor. I hadn’t been around to witness the first big boom of adult coloring, so I was intrigued by the article. Then it identified the genre’s genesis: an incendiary little thing called The Executive Coloring Book. The Executive Coloring Book by Marcie Hans, Dennis Altman, and Martin A. Cohen was published in 1961. It begins this way: “THIS IS ME. I am an executive. Executives are important. They go to important offices and do important things.” The work of three young advertising copywriters, it became a surprise bestseller and debuted on the New York Times list just a few slots down from Franny and Zooey and To Kill a Mockingbird. On every page, the authors struck innocent-looking line drawings against deadpan captions. The spark that results is a fierce humor that skewers an era but also comments on the more general phenomenon of corporate culture that is alive and well today, 55 years later. The genius of the thing is that that humor feels perfectly current. So many of today’s biggest companies could stand in as targets for these darts, and so many executives (from the commander-in-chief on down) could benefit from such needling. So we saw it as our joyful duty to bring The Executive Coloring Book back. After all, while this book might not be a vehicle for meditation, in worrisome times what better therapy is there than humor? The Executive Coloring Book is on sale March 28, 2017. Stay tuned for more on how to participate in the re-release of this classic coloring book!
Editors get very passionate about books they work on – the Editor’s Desk series is his or her place to write in-depth about what makes a certain title special. Get the real inside-scoop on how books are shaped by the people who know them best. Last fall, we celebrated New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the Inspector Montalbano mystery series Andrea Camilleri’s 90th birthday with the publication of A Beam of Light. This year we’ve hit another incredible milestone—A Voice in the Night is the twentieth novel in his Montalbano series. Having the opportunity to work on a beloved cult classic like the Montalbano series is truly a privilege. The novels sensuously capture the sense of Sicily, from the sun-soaked buildings and seaside views, the simmering food on Montalbano’s plate, to the do-as-you-please attitudes of its inhabitants. The books are translated from Italian, and Stephen Sartarelli’s skill as a translator is on ample display in the ease and rhythm of the quick-witted and wryly humorous dialogue. In reading the first draft, I found it fascinating to consider the nuances of translating from the Italian, as Camilleri often employs several Sicilian dialects within a single novel. I do wonder what cultural idiosyncrasies are lost in translation, but am always pleased that the humor and warmth translate fully. A Voice in the Night brings us back to the Sicilian town Vigàta, where Montalbano’s moody demeanor has taken a dive as another birthday rolls around. To cheer himself up, he deals with a young driver’s road rage in his own way, and surprisingly, finds himself confronting the young man once again, this time as the suspect of a gruesome murder. Many of the series’ trademarks make a welcome appearance in A Voice in the Night—lighthearted spats and make-ups with Livia, Catarella’s mispronunciations as unintentional linguistic jokes, the seemingly omnipresent influence of the mob in both the streets and halls of government. And of course, there is the food. (A particularly memorable scene casts a two-foot octopus as murderous foe before vengeful food dish.) Camilleri’s charming creation, Inspector Montalbano, continues to delight and surprise me. Flawed but lovable, the Sicilian Inspector is great company, and it’s with a lot of enthusiasm that we get to share this series with English speaking readers. A Voice in the Night won’t disappoint longtime fans of the books, but it’s also a good jumping-off point for new readers to acquaint themselves with Montalbano’s Sicily. Luckily for me, and for you, dear reader, this isn’t Montalbano’s last case.
Editors get very passionate about books they work on – the Editor’s Desk series is his or her place to write in-depth about what makes a certain title special. Get the real inside-scoop on how books are shaped by the people who know them best. Among the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris last November 13 was a young mother named Hélène Muyal-Leiris. That night, she went to the Bataclan concert hall, while her husband, Antoine Leiris, stayed at home, looking after their 17-month old son, Melvil. Three days after the attacks, Antoine wrote an open letter addressed directly to the terrorists who had murdered his wife, which he published on Facebook. You may have read it at the time. It was titled “You Will Not Have My Hate” and within days had been shared millions of times and reported on across the world. “Victim’s Husband Tells Terrorists, ‘I Will Not Give You the Gift of Hate’,” read the headline in the New York Times. Afterwards, Antoine continued to write about caring for his son alone and burying Hélène. His account of the days and weeks following the attack was soon published in France as book with the same title, You Will Not Have My Hate. When I was sent the manuscript by the French publisher, I read it with tears in my eyes, and more than once, as I worked with the translator, Sam Taylor, I felt overcome by Antoine’s bravery and kindness. His words of grief are startlingly simple and direct, which made the translation process quite straightforward. There were only a handful of instances where Sam and I had some uncertainties about the best phrasing in English (and every time Sam found the ideal solution). Like his letter, Antoine’s book has received passionate gratitude the world over. It will be published in 24 languages and is already a bestseller in multiple countries. This success is because the book is extraordinary, full of heartbreak and sorrow, but also love and hope. It is inspiring. Antoine describes one of the letters he received after he published his open letter, in which a stranger wrote to him, “You are the one who was hurt, and yet it is you who give us courage.” I think there’s a tendency to consider something that has been published as a book as completed, as the past. But it has been less than a year since the attacks in Paris. For those of us who weren’t directly affected, the events have perhaps already been displaced in our memories, pushed to one side as horror has struck again and again. In Orlando, San Bernardino, Nice, Baghdad, and elsewhere. It can seem like we barely have time to mourn one attack before another happens. But You Will Not Have My Hate reminds us sharply of the inconceivable pain of such tragedies. It is both a private story and a universal one. Both a love letter and farewell. To read it is to grieve for a stranger with all one’s heart.
Sophia Amoruso, the New York Times–bestselling author of #GIRLBOSS and Nasty Gal founder, is back with a beautiful, ambitious book. We spoke to Kerri Kolen, the editor, to find out how an art book like this gets made: The book is so distinct in look and feel – what made you zero in on this style and vibe? Like any book, some of the style and vibe came along organically as the book morphed from an idea to a real book. But we always knew we wanted the book to be unlike anything else out there. There are so many other coffee table books, style books, photography books, fashion/lifestyle books. Sophia really wanted this to be its own thing—not like any of those but a mashup that more appropriately reflected the inspiration that she sees in the world—as she has experienced it. It was also important to both of us to include the essays—in the midst of all the style, there are real nuggets of wisdom and hilarity that Sophia wanted to express but that didn’t have a real place in her previous book, #GIRLBOSS. How would you describe your collaborative process with Sophia? The conversation is very open and fluid but also traditional in a lot of ways. For this book, we brainstormed the larger goals, overarching look and feel, and pulled inspiration together and discussed it all in very broad terms. Then Sophia went off and started collecting and creating the pieces of the book. We had a live working document in Google that we both had access to. Sophia would work on it pretty much daily and I would go in every few weeks at the beginning and make comments, notes, ask questions, make suggestions, etc. In this way, the book and its contents kept changing. Once the content felt mostly in place, we started doing the same thing with editing and making final selections, reordering, finding new images and replacing some images, etc. Eventually it felt finished enough to move to a “working manuscript.” Once we had this in place, we would each go off on our own to make notes and then get on the phone to go through the whole book—page by page—discussing our notes in detail, until the next round. We did this until there were no more notes…which was pretty much right up until the end. With so many photos, designs, letters, and more, what was the biggest challenge in making this book? Editing! There were so many great individual pieces that felt worthy of inclusion so the weeding out process felt a little grueling sometimes, though necessary. Plus, every time one design element changes, the whole book changes, and needs to be looked at again as a whole. What’s your favorite piece of advice in this book? There is so much great advice in this book. Sophia is terrific at packing a lot of wisdom in her own pithy anecdote. The essays in Nasty Galaxy are small but pack a lot of punch. I think my favorite piece of advice, though, is in the essay “On Fear”: “Get attached. Stay attached. Just don’t forget to keep evolving.” I also like her instructions for How to Check Out of a Fancy Hotel because I couldn’t agree more. Why do people still go through a formal check-out process? What is your horoscope according to Nasty Galaxy? Apparently I am an “intense mother*cker,”: really good at getting people on my side and have some jealous tendencies. I’d say it’s all true. What would surprise readers to know about the making of this book? It was harder to write and edit than #GIRLBOSS! Find out more about this beautiful and unique book here:
Editors get very passionate about books they work on – the Editor’s Desk series is his or her place to write in-depth about what makes a certain title special. Get the real inside-scoop on how books are shaped by the people who know them best. It all started with a title on a manuscript submission I couldn’t get out of my brain: Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. OK, I admit to a certain obsession with the British icon–but his secretary? What must it have been like to work during Britain’s darkest hours with that flamboyant, irascible, outrageously complicated figure? Biographies and memoirs abound of Churchill’s generals, his family, his aides. We know all about his pets, his bathing habits, his socks, favorite drink and books. But his secretary? As I turned the manuscript pages, I was hooked. For this debut novel wasn’t merely about life in the shadow of Winston Churchill during those scary, dangerous days of what became known as the “false war”—it was the captivating story of a brilliant, college-educated, ambitious young woman with a flair for math and codes…who found that the only job opening for a woman in wartime UK government was typing and filing: Talk about a glass ceiling! And, she wasn’t even British. She was an American. An American woman in the Blitz, working at the side of the seminal power makers of the period, forced to elbow her way into a man’s world….And crimson lipstick and cocktails…. What’s not to love? Over the course of six award-winning novels, Susan and her marvelous creation, Maggie Hope, continue to enthrall me. In these gloriously researched capers, Susan has led Maggie and her spellbound readers down the bomb-torn alleyways of London, into the heart of the UK’s spy network, parachuting into enemy headquarters, conspiring with Eleanor Roosevelt in the very corridors of the White House. She’s crafted an intimate glimpse of young Princess Lisbeth and the Royal Family at Windsor; cavorted with Fala, FDR’s Scottie; and courageously shown us the suffering of those in the concentration camps. More important, she’s stripped away the bald historical facts to inveigle us deep into the hearts of women during war: women making tough choices and sacrifices, surviving, fighting back, courageously holding together their lives and their jobs and their families under unspeakable pressures. There was a real Mr. Churchill’s secretary, a woman named Elizabeth Nel who worked for the Prime Minister from 1941 to 1945 and even wrote a memoir of it, which begins: “It doesn’t really matter who I am or where I come from. Without undue modesty, the only thing of real interest about me is that during World War II I worked for four and a half years as one of the Personal Secretaries to Sir Winston Churchill….” But Susan MacNeal has proven, time and time again in her marvelous, intriguing novels, that the women behind the scenes did matter. And that’s the real triumph of the Maggie Hope novels. Learn more about the Maggie Hope books below!
Editors get very passionate about books they work on – the Editor’s Desk series is his or her place to write in-depth about what makes a certain title special. Get the real inside-scoop on how books are shaped by the people who know them best. The concept isn’t novel, yet it’s still so often surprising—and always, always, important. The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis embodies this theme in many different ways. Firstly, there’s the title itself. “The Dollhouse” was the nickname for New York City’s iconic Barbizon Hotel for Women– called such because of all the pretty young things that lived there. But the Barbizon housed more than pretty faces: from 1927 to 1981, the Barbizon was a safe, respectable haven for young women looking to make their mark on the city as models, actresses, editors, secretaries, or wives. Many were successful, including Joan Crawford, Grace Kelly, Sylvia Plath, and Candace Bergen– all residents of the Upper East Side’s most coveted sorority. It’s a glamorous history, and what drew me to the novel in the first place. And in that regard, The Dollhouse delivered: I read it in one sitting, entranced by famous musicians in seedy jazz clubs, fashion shows in solariums, and the descriptions of delectable spice blends you can almost taste as you turn the pages. But looks can be deceiving, and The Dollhouse is so much more than glamorous. It’s a mystery; it’s an exploration of the changing rolls of women in the workplace, and what it means to be fulfilled as a woman; and it’s an ode to the many sides of New York City. And for these reasons, the Dollhouse is a novel that has stayed with me ever since I first read it over a year ago– and I know will continue to stay with me for a long time to come. The Dollhouse is a dual narrative, centering on three fictional women who are tied together not only by the Barbizon, but by a hidden tragedy that occurred there. There is shy Midwesterner Darby, who arrives at the famed hotel in 1952, determined to become a secretary and secure lifelong independence without a man. Instead (in scenes that highlight the power of female friendship), she befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid looking to become a star, in spite of prejudice against her as a Puerto Rican immigrant. Esme introduces her to another, darker side of the city— not to mention a boy who just might change Darby’s mind about remaining single. Fifty years later, the Barbizon, now gone condo, is home to journalist Rose, until she is unceremoniously dumped by her live-in boyfriend, leaving her homeless as well as heartbroken. She crosses ethical boundaries in her desperation to distract herself with a juicy story: the truth behind her elderly neighbor Darby’s rumored involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952. The tension of the mystery simmers throughout the novel and kept me flipping the pages as Darby’s and Rose’s stories intertwine to reveal the shocking truth. Rose’s fascination with Darby opens her eyes to the rich history of the building, and her research into the elderly denizens of the Barbizon– like Darby, all single women who never left the former hotel, now in rent-controlled apartments on the fourth floor– inevitably causes her to look inward. Is this her future? Is she destined to be lonely and forgotten? Rose’s story is one that resonates in today’s world: What roles do relationship status, career, and autonomy play in living a fulfilling life as a woman? Can women “have it all” … and can they be happy if they don’t? As Rose digs deeper, including talking to Stella, another Barbizon resident (and one of my personal favorite characters in the novel!), she is treated to a wealth of insights on life, happiness, female agency, and empowerment… from women she herself had dismissed for their age and single status, for how they appeared on the surface. And then there’s New York City. From the cloistered Barbizon (“God forbid we venture into the real world and buy something inappropriate,” a character named Charlotte wryly observes to Darby while they attend a fashion show within the hotel) to the uninhibited jazz clubs, from the city’s charms to its dangers, from the 1950s to today, The Dollhouse truly captures the beautiful, fickle, and ever-changing heart of Manhattan. It’s not an easy task, but Fiona’s passion for research— she, too, is a journalist— and writing skill bring the city as alive as any one of her nuanced characters (another moment here to appreciate Stella, for it is not only the protagonists who are incredibly drawn in the novel. I could take the time here to tell you why Stella is so fabulous, but a character that wonderful is best experienced for yourself). When I first received The Dollhouse on submission, I knew it was something special. But looks can be deceiving, and I didn’t know just how special until I fell into its pages. I hope you too have a chance to read this glamorous, suspenseful, romantic, thoughtful, and affecting novel. Learn more about the book below!
We’re going deep inside the making of a book, with interviews from Penguin Random House employees in editorial, marketing, sales, and more. If you’ve ever wondered about all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making your favorite books, this is the series for you. Take a look at the first post in this series here. Today, we’re featuring an interview with the editor of Gemina, Melanie Cecka-Nolan. Read below for her inside scoop. This book is part of a very non-traditional trilogy. How would you describe Gemina to someone who has never heard of it before? I would say Gemina is science fiction for people who don’t think they like science fiction, and I say that because I don’t think of myself as someone who likes science fiction. This is the series that really turned around my thinking about the genre. When The Illuminae Files was first pitched to me, the agents positioned it as Battle Star Galatica meets 10 Things I Hate About You. That did a really good job of setting up the story for me– action-based and stuck on a spaceship but with the intensity, the humor, the love and romance of a relationship story. When I read the manuscript for the first book, I felt like I’d ingested a drug. I was just bouncing off the walls. And I remember thinking, if I can have this kind of reaction to it as a non-sci-fi person, everybody would. For those who don’t know, an editor will have a relationship with an agent and the agent pitches manuscripts to the editor that they think they’ll like. So why do you think that this agent sent you this book? Knopf is known for being very literary, but also for taking chances with its books and authors. I think agents are always looking for someone who is going to respond with the right combination of vision and instantaneous love—especially with unusual projects. So although The Illuminae Files may not have been my typical kind of book, I think the agents saw Knopf as the right publisher. What’s a book or a series that you’ve worked on that you think is more of your type or style? I tend to be drawn to books that are girl-centric. I have a little boy at home who has opened my eyes to a much broader range of reading, but I’m always a thirteen, fourteen-year-old girl at heart. Mouse Scouts is one of my favorites; it’s about a troop of little girl scouts who happen to be mice, that’s kind of me in a nutshell. There are some editors who excel at really gritty things, edgy teen fiction, male-centric narratives—and that’s not really my core strength. But the Illuminae Files was so immediately accessible and the female characters were so well-drawn and felt like friends – it broke though and worked, even for a “girl” editor. What was your favorite part about Gemina or something that surprised or interested you about this second book? Well it’s a trilogy, and I knew the second book was going to introduce a new set of characters and situations as well as advance the larger story. I think what has surprised me is the way the authors continue to one-up themselves. There’s are a couple of big plot twists in Illuminae and there are three or four twists in Gemina. As a reader I didn’t see them coming, and even as an editor who went into the story with a sense of how events were going to play out, I still didn’t see those things coming. That’s a huge treat– to go into a book with a certain set of expectations and having them completely blown apart because what comes in is so much more entertaining. InIlluminae the protagonists are sort of like the hometown sweethearts: They are great kids, very engaging, very personable. InGemina the “heroes” aren’t set up the same way. The female lead isn’t particularly likable. She’s spoiled, she’s very pampered, she very me-centric. The male lead is kind of the lovable anti-hero. He’s a gang member, he’s covered in tattoos that allude to a violent history, he deals drugs, so on the surface he’s not necessarily someone you see emerging as the hero. But you’re so swept up in who they are and how they change and grow over the course of the story that it completely changes your perception. People tend to think “editor” when they think of publishing, but many may not know the details of your job. So: when you get a manuscript what happens next? How do you start making a book? It starts with a lot of dry administrative things; we sign the book up, we go to a contract, and then I start by working backward from when we anticipate that we want the book to come out. We work with our internal production and design groups to mastermind a schedule. Because this is such a complex book visually, the design aspects require a lot more time than a typical book might, with its tidy lines of text on a page. For Illuminae and Gemina, literally every page is a different design. The authors were also heavily involved in the design inspiration for the book, so we had to factor them into the blueprint when we were setting up the schedules. Once we had a schedule down, it was easier to address the more straightforward editorial things with the authors. We communicate primarily through email because they’re in Australia, which is a fourteen-hour time difference. I went through the book with big-picture things in mind, like what could be improved and what did we have questions about. Once we feel like we’ve really gotten a story in the best possible shape, it goes over to the copy editor who knows how to do everything I don’t know how to do in terms of grammar and consistency. It’s really cleaning the text for things we might not have caught in the editorial process. Copyediting a book of this size takes about four to six weeks. The manuscript then goes back to the authors so they can address any queries that the copy editor has found. They generally have about a month with it and then we send it to our design group. And from there, the book needs a minimum of ten months to come together before finally going to the printer, with numerous passes and reviews by everybody in between. These are two original concepts we tried for the jacket: Given the non-traditional reading experience and the fact that the whole conceit of the book is based on documentation, we wanted to find a way to present all of those documents visually. These ideas got dismissed very early on, but they ended up inspiring the case cover design, where designer Ray Shapell was able to let loose with the whole idea of redaction, leaking classified lines, and showing hand-written communications from the characters. Although abandoning the original jacket designs felt like a setback initially, the process brought us directly to final packaging. These cover concepts look a lot more like traditional sci-fi to me. They do. At the time the first book, Illuminae, was coming together, we hadn’t really seen sci-fi break though on a young adult level, so we were trying to arrive at a cover look that wouldn’t scare off readers who aren’t traditional fans of the genre. But I think these books have really broken the mold. I think a lot of people wouldn’t realize an editor not only deals with the content of the book, but that you have a say in the cover design and you’re a big part of those discussions. Is there anything else that would surprise someone outside of publishing about your job? I don’t sit at my desk and edit. 99% of my editorial work takes place at my kitchen table or my couch on the weekends. Most of my editorial life in the office is spent at meetings or answering emails, and I need to disengage from the office in order to really get into a creative mind space. Photo Credit: Christopher Tovo Why do you think fans are responding so strongly to this series, outside of its non-traditional layout? I think anybody who has met the authors in person feels like they’ve met characters from the book. Their personalities inform every single character in the story; they’re funny, they’re intense, their rapport together just makes you want to sit back and watch them talk to each other. Their writing process involved sending each other blind chapters, and they wrote some passages by text messaging each other rather than sitting side by side, nursing every line in a common voice. So their individual writing personas feel intact and their living, breathing process gets contained in the book. I think that’s something readers can sense when they read it – It’s just a very personal reading experience, and they make it super accessible. I remember saying to someone, “it may be 600 pages long, but you could easily give it to a reluctant reader,” because there are all these different visuals to break up the reading experience, and the humor and voices and the pace just sweep you along. Is there anything else people might like to know about the book? A slightly non-standard occurrence happened this summer when we sent the authors some pre-press pages to sign—4,000 pages, to be exact. UPS got the address wrong, and Jay was running around trying to locate the boxes. One thing you have to know about Jay is that he’s a big guy and he does a really amazing job of pulling off a badass author persona, but the truth is he’s a total sweetheart. So when he emailed to say that he had found the boxes and stole them off of someone’s porch, I just had to laugh. That’s the kind of stuff that happens working with these two: petty theft might be involved. There’s always something slightly unusual that comes together. Read more about Gemina and Illuminae below, and be sure to check back soon for more behind-the-scenes interviews! Follow along: #Gemina, #Illuminae, #IluminaeFiles Follow the authors on Twitter (@AmieKaufman, @misterkristoff) and Instagram (@amiekaufmanauthor, @misterkristoff) Visit the website here: illuminaefiles.com
We’re going deep inside the making of a book, with interviews from Penguin Random House employees in editorial, marketing, sales, and more. If you’ve ever wondered about all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making your favorite books, this is the series for you. Take a look at the first post in this series here. This is part 2 of our round-table discussion with the digital marketing team. For part 1, click here. Describe Gemina in one sentence. Kate: “Fast-paced page-turner” Cayla: “I don’t know what’s faster – whether it’s your heart racing when you’re reading it, or how fast you’re turning the pages” Stephanie, what was the best part of making the website? Stephanie: One of the interesting parts about this website project is that we weren’t coming to it with a clean slate; a website already existed for the first book in the series, Illuminae. Therefore, when planning the website for Gemina, we really had to look at the Illuminae Files website and see how we could update it to work for both books. We did a full redesign to incorporate the new blue elements from the Gemina book cover, and we developed a plan for exclusive content we can bring to the website. You really want to make sure that a website is an ongoing part of a campaign to ensure that users have a reason to come back to your site, and we’re really excited about all the great content we have planned for this site. Cayla: Yeah, the website is something you’re going to want to keep your eye on. A really cool sweeps we had a couple months ago let people enter for a chance to have their name on the casualty list in Gemina, and the excitement around that was really cool.
Did anything surprise you about this project? Was anything hard or especially fun? Cayla: I’ve never been a big sci-fi reader, but once I got going and realized it wasn’t anything I thought it would be, I started to have so much fun. I guess that’s also a hope for me: I want people to discover The Illuminae Files and Gemina and realize, “Oh, I’m enjoying this book and surprising myself”. It’s because of the style. That was an intial challenge that turned into something I truly loved. Stephanie: I can’t really say what the most fun part is going to be yet – because it’s going to be website updates that I can’t talk about yet! Kate: I was excited to make the site better and to become more strategic about how we were driving people there. That’s a big thing for digital marketing: we create a lot of beautiful things but if no one sees them, what’s the point? We wanted to make sure we were getting people to see all the content we make. It’s also always a pleasure when you work with authors that are willing to do anything and eager to participate. That makes the job a lot easier… not just a good book! Any last words? Cayla: Well, every morning when I get my desk, I open a tool that aggregates the images people tag with #Gemina or #IluminaeFiles, and I push the new content to our website. The amount that comes in each day is so inspiring – it’s not just a US fan base, it’s international, and it’s real a thrill to see it. It’s a really great way to start the day, and it reminds me how passionate people are about this book. Read more about Gemina and Illuminae below, and be sure to check back soon for more behind-the-scenes interviews! Follow along: #Gemina, #Illuminae, #IluminaeFiles Follow the authors on Twitter (@AmieKaufman, @misterkristoff) and Instagram (@amiekaufmanauthor, @misterkristoff) Visit the website here: illuminaefiles.com
We’re going deep inside the making of a book, with interviews from Penguin Random House employees in editorial, marketing, sales, and more. If you’ve ever wondered about all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making your favorite books, this is the series for you. Take a look at the first post in this series here. Gemina is a very unique book, so our employees need to be big-thinking and creative. We sat down for a round-table discussion with the digital marketing team at Random House Kids to find out exactly what they do to support a book. Please introduce yourselves and explain your work in this group: I’m Stephanie McKinley, Technical Producer at Random House Children’s, which means that I handle all of the technical projects for the digital marketing team. Before I started, all technical projects—even a copy edit on a website—were completed by outside developers. Now that I am here, we’ve been able to bring a lot of these projects in-house. The Illuminae Files website is one of the projects that was initially created by an outside developer that I have since updated for Gemina. I’m Cayla Rasi, Senior Digital Marketing Manager. My job here is to dive into our digital projects – I work closely with Stephanie and our Director, Kate. I do a lot of social: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it. We’re always thinking of really cool ways to reach our readers. I’m Kate Keating – director of Digital Marketing here at Random House Kids. I oversee the department, and we basically touch everything digital. Email marketing, websites, social media, we oversee all digital strategy for the department. What do you think is special or unique about this book? Why will readers want to get their hands on it? Stephanie: The book is just so different in the way that it’s written. With all the art elements inside, it’s just a completely different reading experience than anything you’re used to. Cayla: Of course, it’s the format- It’s just so wild, it’s so cool. But from a social media perspective, the most special part about this book is the authors. They are so engaging, they love their fans, and they’re kind, generous people. Their social presence is magnificent, and they’re so fun! You can’t help but fall in love with them and their book. For people who aren’t following them on Instagram and Twitter – you’ve got to. Their personalities just shine. Kate: Well, It’s not like any other book I’ve seen, especially for this audience, and people are so hungry for the second book after reading Illuminae. I love how into the characters everyone is… they feel really connected to them. I love that the authors are willing to do anything and they understand social media… they really get it. Everyone in-house is saying it’s the book for people who don’t necessarily know they like sci-fi. What are some of the steps you take when you first start working on a title? Cayla: I start by reading the book. I find inspiration from between the pages. Then, I love looking at the fans and what they’re saying online. The fans give me that fire in the belly, they get me excited to work on a project: I love being able to see what they are talking about, what matters the most to them. Kate: Our marketing process starts with list launch meetings, when the editorial group presents all their titles for that season. Later on, we have meetings with publicity, editorial, sales, and marketing groups. We talk about comparative books in the marketplace, and how we felt about our readings of the book. Afterwards, we create slide presentations to flesh out ideas for a marketing campaign – at this stage, it’s still loose and flexible. The next round of big meetings is called pre-sales: that’s when we present our ideas to the field sales representatives and our president. They give us feedback, and we tweak our plans accordingly. We also have author meetings to figure out challenges they’ve faced in the past, or things that have worked well for them before. Next up is sales conference – at that point, everything need to be pretty finalized because editors have to send final concrete marketing/publicity/sales plans to the authors and agent. A big part of our team’s work is prioritizing tasks, because the digital landscape changes so quickly. Sometimes we may have a whole plan that we’re starting to execute, but will suddenly need to do finish is much faster than anticipated. We try to plan as much as possible, but we do have to react to things quickly. Cayla: Social changes all the time – so we make plans, but there’s also so much shifting and changing so we have to stay very creative and nimble. But really it’s a matter of being able to do both: plan in advance and also work in real time. Check back in the coming weeks for the inside scoop from the Gemina team! Follow along: #Gemina, #Illuminae, #IluminaeFiles Follow the authors on Twitter (@AmieKaufman, @misterkristoff) and Instagram (@amiekaufmanauthor, @misterkristoff) Visit the website here: illuminaefiles.com Read more about Gemina and Illuminae below.