Interview: Jaime Mendola, Asst. Manager, Advertising & Promotion

(Pictured: Jaime with her 2 BFF 4 Life, Nora Roberts & J.D. Robb)

Jaime Mendola has a BA in English from Ohio University and an MS in Publishing from Pace University. She's an Assistant Manager of Advertising and Promotions for the mass market section of Berkley Publishing, one of the imprints over at Penguin Group. Jaime's main focus is producing promotional items, to include bookmarks, postcards, store displays, and catalogs for the sales force. She also oversees the development of various print ads and online marketing campaigns. Some of her major authors include Nora Roberts, Tom Clancy, Christine Feehan, and Anton Strout.

When she's not exploring promotional opportunities for authors, Jaime's unknowingly drafting hockey players with head injuries to her fantasy hockey team. Born in Buffalo, NY, she now resides in New York City.

A lot of writers come to us here at the League to learn just what the hell goes on in the secret non-writerly portion of seeing a book go to press. One area I'd love to demystify a bit is the world of Advertising and Promotion. I think it's a bit of a gray area for most of our readers, all three of them. So tell me: what is the difference between what Advertising and Promotions does to promote a book versus what a Publicity Department does?
Let me start with what Publicity does - they contact radio shows, television shows, newspapers, and magazines to see if they're interested in interviewing the author/writing a review of the book in question. They also organize author tours and make sure that the author is getting press. They basically facilitate relationships between authors and the media and hope that the media will, in turn, promote the book and give it good press.

What does an Advertising and Promotions department do? We use MONEY to try to accomplish our goals. We PAY for magazine advertisements, radio advertisements, television advertisements. But we also DESIGN these ads ourselves (or use an outside ad agency and then approve their designs) and therefore can control the content of what runs. Publicity may solicit a review from a major magazine by sending a book their way and calling them to see if they had a chance to pick it up, etc., and that major magazine may, in turn, run a horribly scathing review of the book that gives it nothing but bad press. But our ads will always give glowing assessments - which is probably why a book buyer will pick up a book based on a review and never pay attention to an ad. Sigh.

But we also create other forms of promotional items that go into bookstores and reach the consumer - displays, shelf-talkers - and we create promotions that will get the books into the stores in the first place. The catalogs and cover proofs that Advertising and Promotions create are used by the sales force to convince bookstores that they want to stock up on the book.

So let's say Publicity has sent a book to People magazine and People calls it a "fresh take on relationships." We'll put that quote in our catalogs, on our displays, on our bookmarks and postcards, even in an ad that we run in an issue of another magazine, just so readers and bookstores/bookbuyers alike will know that People, a trusted source who was NOT paid to review our book, did in fact find it worthwhile.

What is your favorite flavor of PEZ? I prefer lemon myself. I found this soap, coconut verbena, and the verbena smells so much like PEZ I have to constantly fight the urge to eat the soap.
Strawberry - no contest. In fact, I'm not really a fan of lemon PEZ, so I'll be sure to share with you the next time I purchase an assorted multi-pack.

There's a Yankee candle that smells exactly like lemon PEZ, and while it's not my favorite flavor, you better believe me when I say I bought that candle and have held it to my nose for hours on end. It gives me the sugar shakes just thinking about that candle.

Outside of me lurking down the hall and constantly pestering you for both day job-related catalogues and author-related stuff for my own selfish needs, do you get to interact much with other authors? What type of input do they have about how they are promoted?Editors and publicists are the ones who generally maintain relationships with authors. If an author wants a promotional item created, we'll generally hear about it from our coworkers and not the authors themselves - which is unfortunate, because I would love to tell a few authors how I feel about the hairstyles they're rockin' in their author photos. And THAT is why I'm not a publicist or an editor.

Every so often an opportunity will arise for me to work with an author directly. For example, I helped one of our Young Adult authors with the revamping of her myspace page. And next week, I'll be babysitting Nora Roberts grandkids. It just might be the highlight of my career.

Before Nora Roberts started writing paranormal books, wouldn’t you have said I was the Nora Roberts of the paranormal writing world? Be honest!
UNFORTUNATELY FOR ME, I have yet to read any of your work! Although I must say, the catalog copy and the postcard copy for your new title, Dead to Me, have me quite intrigued. But would I call you the Nora Robers of the paranormal writing world without any actual knowledge of your skills? Definitely. Without a doubt. No contest.

Maybe it's just me, but for years I felt that publishers didn’t quite know what to make of this new fangled interwebs or what to do with it. Can you talk about how the Internet has affected advertising books?
In so many ways! For one thing, now we can throw money away by advertising online! But this internet you speak of has also allowed for a more organic approach to marketing. By having our authors blog we can create additional content for readers, which can definitely drive sales. Author websites/myspace pages/facebook pages also help with author exposure and create new sales opportunities, since these pages can link directly to the publisher's site - where you can buy the book - or another online venue like Amazon.com. (This was not an Amazon plug, by the way. I remain impartial when it comes to booksellers.)

I think a key thing to keep in mind is that the lack of an online presence can actually HARM your book. So many people are online and choosing to get their information from websites, and not having your own site - or advertising on a billboard instead of buying a banner ad - could stop you from gaining ridiculous exposure. So in advertising a book, we need to alert readers of the book, but we also need to alert readers of an author's website so that they can find out more.

I've seen authors push themselves in a million directions to promote their books. Bookmarks, postcards, tote bags, coffee mugs, chocolates with their covers printed on them... effective strategy or not?
It depends - who are you giving these promotional items to? Do you know a zillion people who will carry your tote bag or mug and increase exposure, or are you a recluse who will probably keep these items under your bed for five years? Also, everyone loves to get an additional item, but be honest with yourself. When was the last time you bought a book because you received a chocolate with that book's cover on it at some convention? Probably doesn't happen. But if that promo item has some good content - perhaps an intriguing synopsis - and it gets into the right hands, a book might be sold! It's all about who you know and how you can exploit them, in my opinion. And at the end of the day, you need a good product or no one will care.

Let's assume for a second that an author isn't Nora, Clancy, Feehan or me... What would you tell authors to do to help themselves in the promotion of their books?
GET OUT THERE! Go to bookstores, offer your services for signings or lectures and make sure your book is there to sell! Find websites where your core audience might lurk and blog about your book. Blog about it on your site. Blog about it on your mom's dentist's bestfriend's brother's site. In my old age I'm discovering that everything - from getting a good job to finding a good apartment - can come down to who you know. So find those people in your life who know TONS of people - who have ridiculously large social networks - and ask them to tell their friends about your book. You'd be amazed at how word of mouth can be your best marketing tool. Read The Tipping Point and you'll know what I'm talking about in terms of how powerful these people can be. And I guess my best advice for authors who aren't blockbuster bestsellers would be to keep writing good books. Eventually, your words on the page will really speak for themselves.

Thank you, Jaime! You heard it here first, folks! People who haven't read Dead To Me love it!

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