Tag Archives: sales

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The Life of a Book: An interview with Celeste Ng, author of LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE, and Jaya Miceli, cover designer

Ever wonder how a book makes it from the author’s mind to a reader’s shelf? We’ve we delved deep into two very different books before: But What If We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. This time, we’re so excited to host an interview series all about Little Fires Everywhere, the second book by Celeste Ng. Her first book, Everything I Never Told You, was a smash hit and ever since fans have been waiting with bated breath. This final post in the series features a podcast interview with Celeste Ng all about her book, and the designer responsible for the beautiful cover, Jaya Miceli.   Listen to Celeste talk about family, secrets, empathy, and activism:  A Q&A with the designer behind Little Fires Everywhere’s beautiful cover art: 

Did you interact with Ng when planning your design?

I worked closely with the art director, Darren Haggar. We bounced around ideas and tried to figure out a mood/setting that would best capture the closeness and secrets in this particular town. I came across Amy Bennett’s artwork and we both felt we’d hit upon something.

What were some ideas for this book that you didn’t end up using?

Some of the ideas were very abstract and some were too specific to the book. I painted some tudor homes. 

What is your favorite part of your job? What’s the hardest?

I love reading the manuscripts. The hardest part is creating a cover that fits the tone of the book and that is also visually striking.

How has your approach to designing covers changed over time? What did you most want this cover to convey?  

I was especially pulled into Ng’s book. I really loved the compellingly intricate and complex storyline and characters. The hard part is the process. I do a lot of art/photo research and sometimes create my own illustrations or hand-lettering, which can all take time. For this particular cover, finding Amy Bennett’s artwork was a perfect fit for Ng’s book. The evening hues, the aerial view of winding roads and the light in the homes, the idyllic sweet suburban street. You know that all can’t be right here. 

Thank you so much for following along with The Life of A Book! Be sure to grab a copy of Little Fires Everywhere, especially now you know all the behind-the-scenes work that has shaped it.  
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The Life of a Book: An interview with Assistant Director of Publicity at the Penguin Press, Juliana Kiyan

Ever wonder how a book makes it from the author’s mind to a reader’s shelf? We’ve we delved deep into two very different books before: But What If We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. This time, we’re so excited to host an interview series all about Little Fires Everywhere, the second book by Celeste Ng. Her first book, Everything I Never Told You, was a smash hit and ever since fans have been waiting with bated breath. In the coming weeks, we’ll interview different people who have been a major part of making the book: a marketer, the book designer, a sales representative, and finally, Celeste herself! This week’s interview is with Assistant Director of Publicity at the Penguin Press, Juliana Kiyan. What do you think is special or unique about LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE? Why will readers want to get their hands on it? I think I can only start with its author, the wonderful Celeste Ng. She’s an incredibly thoughtful and keen observer, expert craftsman, and indefatigable worker. These qualities all shine through in Little Fires Everywhere, but it’s just as important to note that she embodies them off the page as well. (I’d be shirking my duties if I didn’t say to check her out at @pronounced_ing!) She’s been a terrific partner to all of us at Penguin Press and PRH since the early days of Everything I Never Told You, and it’s a thrill to be a part of this next step in her long career. Celeste is a bona fide talent, and Little Fires Everywhere is a seriously unputdownable read. How did you market this book differently from Everything I Never Told You? Launching a second novel is a very different process from a debut. With a debut, the goal is to introduce a new literary voice to a wide audience and persuade people to take a chance on the book. We were fortunate to achieve this with Everything I Never Told You, as readers from all over were just as taken with Celeste’s gorgeous writing and the Lee family as we were. With a second novel, we certainly want to reach the fans of the first book and expand upon that, while also making it clear this isn’t Everything I Never Told You 2.0. The reasons why you fell in love with the first book are in the DNA in Little Fires Everywhere, but this is a wholly new story. In terms of publicity, the first item on my check list was easy, thankfully: people were eager to read the new book! Celeste’s profile has risen since her first book published, and many were looking forward to her next work.
Juliana Kiyan
How would you describe your job and how you worked on this book to a layman? What are some of the steps you take when you first start working on a title? Ultimately my job is to help get a book out into the wider world in ways that compel readers to check it out and hopefully buy it. As a publicist, I work on connecting with media and with booksellers. On the media front, we aim to secure reviews and interviews with outlets that people know and trust and that have a wide reach. We line up as much media as we can at publication in order to get the book in front of a wide range of potential readers, and we continually build on those opportunities from there. With booksellers, we plan events that bring the author out to different parts of the country to connect directly with fans and customers. Booksellers are among a book’s earliest readers, and it’s incredibly exciting to hear from a bookseller who fell in love with a book and is eager to support it by hosting an event, by handselling, by writing a staff recommendation. My colleagues and I pursue all these avenues and more to, essentially, get the word out. With a beloved author like Celeste, this was all a lot of fun. We began working on the publicity and marketing campaigns for Little Fires Everywhere relatively early, maybe about nine or ten months before publication in earnest. We had a rich foundation from our experiences with her first book, and we laid out our top goals and priorities. Early on in the year, Celeste visited the office, and that was the first of many productive discussions we’ve had as a team. It’s hard to believe we’re finally at publication. Describe the book in one sentence. Through the lens of the placid suburb of Shaker Heights and a deeply human cast of characters, Little Fires Everywhere is a finely observed examination of privilege and identity, words and action, secrets and belonging, and what it means to be a mother. How closely do you work with the editor, art department, etc. when working on a title? We all work very closely together. Both Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You were true team efforts from beginning to end. The publicity and marketing generally come in closer to the book’s pub date, but in the case of Little Fires Everywhere it was all hands on deck from the day of acquisition. We all loved the first book and couldn’t wait to dive in right away. Celeste’s editor, Ginny Smith Younce, and I have spoken and emailed more about this book than either of us could ever count—we always want to make sure we’re on the same page. Same with our marketing team: Matt Boyd, Caitlin O’Shaughnessy, and Grace Fisher. Marketing and publicity are very intertwined, and it’s important that we connect regularly since our efforts play off of and benefit each other.  Marketing is also doing the crucial job of working with sales to make sure booksellers and accounts have everything they need as we approach publication. We’re all on Team Celeste and proud by association. Anything else you think would be interesting for readers to know? If it ever comes up in casual conversation, perhaps ask Celeste about her former career as a miniaturist. She is a fountain of information when it comes to teeny tiny physical recreations of objects from everyday life. Tune in next week for the next interview in this series, and learn more about the book below:  
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The Life of a Book: An interview with Sales Manager Megan Sullivan about LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

Ever wonder how a book makes it from the author’s mind to a reader’s shelf? We’ve we delved deep into two very different books before: But What If We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. This time, we’re so excited to host an interview series all about Little Fires Everywhere, the second book by Celeste Ng. Her first book, Everything I Never Told You, was a smash hit and ever since fans have been waiting with bated breath. In the coming weeks, we’ll interview different people who have been a major part of making the book: a marketer, the book designer, a sales representative, and finally, Celeste herself! This week’s interview is with sales manager Megan Sullivan.

When you describe Little Fires Everywhere to book buyers, what is your hook? What is memorable or unique about the book? Why would they want it in their store?

First a little back story. I had been a buyer and bookseller at Harvard Book Store for many years and when I was hired to be his co-rep in New England, Karl Krueger invited me to an author dinner with Celeste and a bunch of booksellers even before I was a rep. I was excited to meet her as she lives just minutes away from me. Her book Everything I Never Told You was the first book I read as a PRH rep and is special to me for all this, so when I heard she had a new book coming, I hounded the editor (okay, asked politely a lot). I read Little Fires Everywhere as soon as the manuscript was posted, about 4 months before sales conference and I was immediately hooked. A sophomore novel can often slump a bit relative to an author’s first book. Not so this one—it dazzles. Rich characters and sense of place, Celeste is able to make you see the story from a variety of perspectives. I told my stores that this will be one of the biggest books in the fall and they should pile it up.

Megan's Workspace
Megan’s Workspace

What do you like about this new book? Do you have a favorite moment or line? Were you surprised by anything?

I think the character development is richer in Little Fires Everywhere. And there are so many moments to pause and think that I don’t have a favorite. Elena Richardson, the mother of the Richardson clan, surprised me. She could have been written as a cookie-cutter wealthy woman, unaware of her privilege, but I felt Celeste wrote her with some compassion.

What’s your favorite thing about your job? What would surprise a layman to know?

I love getting to read books so early! It’s so much fun to talk with booksellers when you know one of their favorite authors has a book coming. I often feel like I’m a bookseller still just in a slightly different role.

Do you have a favorite bookstore in the Boston/Cambridge area?

I love all the stores around here, but I spent 14 years at Harvard Book Store and it’s part of my DNA now.

Tune in next week for the next interview in this series, and learn more about the book below:
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The Life of a Book: An interview about Gemina with Senior Account Manager, Kimberly Langus

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 Senior Account Manager, Kimberly Langus. She joins us to talk about sales, bookstores, and accounts. Read below for her inside scoop. 

How would you describe your job to a layperson?

The easy answer is that I sell books to Barnes & Noble, but it’s a little more complicated than that!  It’s about positioning Random House Children’s Books in the market and making sure that each book has the best merchandising possible.  And then once a book is selling, it’s all about trying to maximize those sales.  I work with Marketing, Publicity and Social Media to use every tool and opportunity available to drive consumers to buy our books. 

When you describe Gemina to the book buyers, what is your hook? What’s memorable and unique about the book – why would they want to sell it to readers?

Well, Gemina wasn’t too hard to pitch to the buyer because the first book, Illuminae, had done so well.  It was more of a challenge to position Illuminae when I sold it in last year.  On the one hand, it was really unique and Barnes & Noble is always looking for unique formats and different ways of storytelling. This was definitely that. There was nothing else like it in the teen marketplace in my experience. It had all these elements that they were looking for, but on the other hand, it’s the sci-fi genre and that’s a really tough genre in teen. 

Really? That’s shocking! Why?

Yes, it is shocking. There are very few teen sci-fi books that have had wide commercial success in recent years. Fantasy, action, adventure, survival stories- all of those are popular for teens, but for some reason sci-fi has been slower to resonate. So the account was taking a flyer with Random House in supporting Illuminae in such a big way, and it definitely paid off. So, when I went in to sell Gemina it was a much easier sales pitch.

Why do you think it performed so well?

It’s a combination of factors. First, there’s the amazing story and unique format. It had a really striking package. It also had great positioning and merchandising in the stores. And you have this  amazing author team who were really involved in social media and also really successful on their tour. Then there’s word of mouth combined with a great Marketing and Publicity campaign.  So you can’t pinpoint any one thing that made the book a success. 

Speaking of amazing social media and exciting special features, readers can pre-order Gemina here, and  also see the rest of Marie Lu ‘s unbelievably beautiful and complex illustration of the Heimdall space station!

Heimdall Station drawn by Marie Lu

And when did you first hear about the book?

I know it sounds crazy, but I actually remember the editor’s pitch of Illuminae. I’m going to paraphrase, but basically she said, “I’m not a fan of sci-fi but this book is so much more than that”. I do like sci-fi and had just  read The Martian so I was already in the sci-fi mode.  It didn’t take a lot of convincing for me to pick up Illuminae after hearing Melanie’s pitch. I think one important thing to note is that when an editor is so passionate about a book and gives such a great pitch it really does affect how the sales team feels about that book and sells it to their accounts.  I remember the editor’s pitch for The Book Thief and I heard that presentation over 10 years ago.   I remember the pitch for The Maze Runner. I remember these presentations because the editors were so passionate about the books that it seeps into how I feel about them too. 

What do you like about Gemina in particular?

Well I think what’s amazing about Gemina is that it could have been a repeat of Illuminae because it’s the same kind of storytelling conceit; It’s told in texts, redacted transcripts and memos. The danger is that it might not feel as fresh as the first book.  Also it’s a sequel and uses completely different characters, which is also a little dangerous  because readers get invested in the protagonists of the first book and they’re expecting those same characters to be in the second book.  When they’re not there, it’s almost like starting the series again from the beginning.  But somehow the authors were able to pull it off and Gemina  is even better than Illuminae. I think they actually improved upon what they had done the first time. You get just as invested in these new characters. It’s so fast-paced; you just can’t stop turning the pages. I’m so in awe of their writing and imagination and storytelling and how they collaborate together.    

How do you work with editorial, marketing, and publicity?

I work with all those groups in the regular course of business-  talking to publicity about author events and working with marketing on sales materials and galley mailings. What I find most exciting about working with those groups is when you can create unique merchandising or marketing for the accounts. That gives me an opportunity to really be creative and to try to shape the B&N experience of the book that’s different from the Amazon experience, or the Target experience, or the Indie experience.  Here’s one example:  I had worked with B&N on B-Fest which was their nationwide  teen book festival this past June.  One of the items we created was a Penguin Random House ‘Insider’s Guide to B-Fest.  And it featured a lot of great content, including a piece from Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. 

I was actually in the B&N in Yonkers on the first night of B-Fest and there was this group of teens that were looking in their guides and they turned to the Illuminae /Gemina  spread and one of the girls cries out , “Oh my God, Illuminae! You guys have to read this!” That is probably the best part of my job, it was like everything coming full circle. To set up Illuminae last year, to help position Gemina this year, to bring exclusive content to Barnes & Noble, and to get readers excited about it. It was everything that you could hope for as a Sales Manager.

That’s great to hear! Do you have anything else you’d like to share?

I’d like your readers to know that what I love most about my job is being  surrounded by people who love books and who love to talk about books. I know everyone says that, but it’s true. Also it’s wonderful to be a part of bringing books to customers. To know that a book reached their hands because of something I contributed is really exciting and rewarding.   

Follow along: #Gemina, #Illuminae, #IluminaeFiles Follow the authors on Twitter (@AmieKaufman, @misterkristoff) and Instagram (@amiekaufmanauthor, @misterkristoff) Visit the website here: illuminaefiles.com
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The Life of a Book: An interview with Sales Manager Justin Goodfellow

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.   Today we’re featuring our interview with Justin Goodfellow, who sells But What if We’re Wrong? to bookstores, and is here to give us a sales perspective.  What does your job entail? 

I have the great fortune of being a Sales Manager for Penguin Adult books! In this role, I present all of the upcoming titles from Penguin Books to independent bookstores in the New York metropolitan area. In other words, I’m a bookseller to booksellers! During the course of a year, I meet with various book buyers to discuss and select the titles that will eventually be on their shelves for readers to purchase. The part about these meetings that I love so much is that I get to be involved in curating the store along with the buyer. Every independent bookstore is unique, and it is my responsibility to learn as much as I can about the stores so that the books I sell them will reflect their personalities. 

I also work extensively with the other departments in publishing like editorial and publicity. Editors will often let sales people read manuscripts so that we can offer feedback or let them know about a store that will be particularly excited about the book. And then there is publicity! Publicists are dear friends to Sales Managers because we work together to setup author readings and signings at different bookstores across the whole country. In my opinion, there is no better way to spend a weekday evening than to attend a reading at your local bookshop.

When you describe But What if We’re Wrong? to bookbuyers, what is your hook? What is memorable or unique about the book? Why would they want it in their store?

You would probably laugh at how little of a hook I need for Chuck Klosterman a lot of the time! His reputation precedes him, and I often sell the book well by simply saying, “Look, it’s the new Chuck Klosterman!” But there is so much more that I get to tell my booksellers about. When it comes to But What If We’re Wrong?, I feel like Klosterman has explored a question that covers an impressive number of topics. From a conversation with Neil deGrasse Tyson about the multiverse to reasons why the NFL could potentially fail, But What If We’re Wrong? is genius in its breadth, and that is going to bring an entirely new audience to Klosterman.

There are so many different reasons for why independent bookstores love Chuck Klosterman! One thing I’ve heard that cracked me up is that many view Chuck Klosterman as a hipper Malcolm Gladwell. Now while I personally think that Gladwell is plenty hip, I also feel like I understand the deeper sentiment underneath that opinion. There is a level of access that every Klosterman book achieves, and it results in a sincere investigation about a topic. Reading Klosterman doesn’t feel like reading an author who is analyzing something from the outside; it feels like reading the carefully considered meditations of someone who is intimately involved with what they write about. That sincerity can’t be faked in a reading experience because it is simply the result of skillful writing.  

What’s your favorite thing about your job? What would surprise a layman to know?

What continues to strike me about my job is that I get to connect people who all love books. My publishing house considers me a specialist on the bookstores I work with, and in turn, my bookstores view me as a specialist about the publishers and all of the different titles we bring out. It is a singular role, and I love the opportunity to continue learning from the books and the people that participate in the world of literature.

You’re a fan of Chuck Klosterman – what do you like about his writing? What do you like about this new book? Do you have a favorite moment or line?

I love that Klosterman always feels like he is writing directly to me. It creates an experience that not many authors can bring to the page. Sometimes this occurs through those passages that directly address the reader, but more often I feel addressed by a line of thought. It’s as if a good friend of mine is laying out an issue before me with perfect pacing and allowing me to fully grasp his point of view. 

My favorite part of But What If We’re Wrong? is this amazing section about television’s ability to capture and portray a time period. The quick take away from the chapter is that while everyone might love Mad Men and think of it as crowning accomplishment that captured the 1960s, many historians of the future would probably disagree. The perceptions that created Mad Men came from people living in the early 2000s instead of the actual 1960s. Everything about Mad Men is too perfectly considered and too meticulously constructed with hindsight to be genuinely natural. Instead, a show like Roseanne offers a much more realistic portrayal of its time period. Like many families living in the 1990s, Roseanne showed a chubby American family trying to get by with okay jobs while living in a kind of messy house. For many, that is an accurate picture of life in the 1990s, and Roseanne was able to capture all of this unknowingly. The show was just created in the very same time period its characters lived in!

Read the first post in this series here, and part one and part two of the Q&A with Klosterman’s editor.