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The Life of a Book: Part 2 of an interview with the Digital Marketing team behind Gemina

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

The Life of a Book: Part 1 of an interview with the Digital Marketing team behind Gemina

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.

The Life of a Book from Manuscript to Bookstore: Gemina

Ever wonder how a book makes it from the author’s mind to a reader’s shelf? Last time we delved deep into a book, we focused on the fascinating But What If We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman. You can explore that series here. This time, we’re taking a sharp left turn with one of the most exciting and nontraditional series on the market. The second book in The Illuminae FilesGemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, has been hotly anticipated by fans ever since Illuminae ripped onto the scene last fall. Full of spaceships, evil corporations, and deadly viruses, the plot is heart-pounding. However, it’s the format and design of this series that really makes it stand out – no one page is like the next. It’s a collection of files, announcements, data, memos, text messages, photos, and illustrations, all meshed together to give the reader an experience like no other. Gemina is set to be even more jaw-dropping, so follow along to discover the hard work and inspiration that goes into the making of this unique book. gem In the coming months, we’ll talk to the editor, marketing team, a sales representative, and other people who help make a book… a book. Read more about Gemina and Illuminae below.

Writing Tips from Alison Goodman, author of The Dark Days Club

We know readers tend to be writers too, so we feature writing tips from our authors. Who better to offer advice, insight, and inspiration than the authors you admire? They’ll answer several questions about their work, share their go-to techniques and more. Now, get writing!   How would you recommend creating and getting to know your characters? I have a particular method that I have used for a very long time now. I call it the portal method. The first step is to think of at least three important events that have happened in your character’s past. They can be good or bad, but they have to be significant. These are the portals through which you look when you are planning a particular scene. For instance, in The Dark Days Club, my main character, Lady Helen, lost both her parents when she was ten. They drowned on a yachting trip and their bodies were never found. So out of that comes a whole slew of character traits and information, all based on what I imagine would be the psychological consequences of that event. For example, the loss makes Helen feel a sense of abandonment, it has made the idea of family very important to her, she does not like doubt, and she has grown up to be quite cautious. When it comes time to writing a scene that has a link to family – perhaps between Helen and her brother – then some of those traits would come into play. I focus the scene through that “Family/Loss” portal. It provides a base line from which to build the character’s responses, and because these are fixed events in the character’s life they provide cohesiveness to the overall characterization. After developing an idea, what is the first action you take when beginning to write? I always start by researching – many, many months of reading books about my era and searching out primary resources. As I’m doing that, I’m also creating a storyboard and scene breakdown of the plot. Then, when I get to a certain stage in that process, I start writing the first chapter to test out the voice and tone. I keep rewriting that first chapter until I have the voice and tone in place, and I have worked out most of the main plot points on the storyboard. Then off I go, writing the novel. However, that does not mean the research or the storyboarding stops; they continue throughout the whole writing process. There are always delicious new facts to discover and blend into the narrative, and, as I move forward through the manuscript, the interaction between character and plot can sometimes create shifts in the storyline that require a rethink of action sequences or scene placement. What’s the best piece of advice you have received? Every writer rewrites. The first thing that comes out of your mind may be good, but it is not finished. One of my bugbears is the notion that if something is going to be good, then it should arrive perfectly formed. That is absolute 19th century Romantic nonsense. That initial, wonderful rush of ideas is a great start, but the real work is in crafting all that excitement and energy into a meaningful emotional journey for the reader. Describe your writing style in 5 words or less. Fluid, suspenseful and slyly humorous. What are three or four books that influenced your writing, or had a profound affect on you?
  1. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I was about thirteen and had been dragged along to a dinner party by my parents. While the adults ate prawn cocktails, beef stroganoff and talked politics, I took refuge in the living room to finish The Outsiders. I ended up sobbing my eyes out in my borrowed bean-bag, partly because of the sad ending but mainly due to the realization that a good deal of my devastation had been created by the terrible beauty of the book’s circular structure. That’s when I truly wanted to become a writer.
  2. These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer. Again, I was twelve or thirteen years old. My mother always gave me a book for Christmas and this one came at exactly the right moment—I was ready for well-researched history and dashing romance. I was besotted by the exciting blend of adventure, humor, and buttoned-up characters coming undone by love.       This was the beginning of my love affair with the 18th and 19th centuries, which has now come into full bloom with The Dark Days Club!
  3. If On A Winters Night A Traveller by Italo Calvino. This was one of the texts I read in college. It is a postmodern masterpiece, and has everything you’d ever want to know about creating poignant relationship triangles in fiction, all explored in beautiful prose.
Learn more about The Dark Days Club below.

Learn all about Sabaa Tahir, author of An Ember in the Ashes

Sabaa Tahir wrote the popular new Young Adult novel, An Ember in the Ashes last year. On Word and Film, she shared some of her inspiration and background as a writer.
“I grew up feeling voiceless and powerless as a kid. I turned to books – fantasy books, in particular – to give me comfort. As I grew up I realized I could find that sense of power and voice if I simply started writing.”
Read more about Sabaa here and listen to her fantastic interview on Beaks and Geeks!