AAUP 2013: Boston or Bust!
Written by: Rachel E.
Inside Academic Publishing
Publicist Rachel E. discusses her first trip to the annual Association of American University Presses conference in Boston, MA and how the industry is starting to think about the future of books marketing.
This weekend, my colleague Frances and I traveled to Boston for the annual conference of the Association of American University Presses. What followed was a long three days of train rides, panel discussions, industry parties, trade tips, and so much seafood (that part had less to do with the conference than with the fact that Frances and I used our downtime to organize our own high-speed culinary tour of Boston).
As the resident publicists in Cambridge’s New York office, Frances and I typically split our days between traditional publicity efforts like writing press releases, mailing review copies, and arranging interviews and the emerging digital side of publicity, like editing the blog, organizing social media campaigns, and managing accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. At AAUP, we heard a lot of chatter about the new challenges of marketing in the digital era and the consensus was that we have a lot more work to do—literally.
Between new social media platforms and today’s 24 hour news cycle, university presses are promoting books longer and harder than ever. In an age when we can design beautiful webpages, why wouldn’t we, if it will help sell books? Why wouldn’t we film an author video when the newfound ease of this technology can connect audiences with the author? Why not create a stunning infographic for a book if readers will click on it, pin it, and share it? It’s a brave new world, especially when we’re still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. The question everyone was asking was “How do we know it works?” and the answer, unfortunately, is that it’s really, really hard to figure out.
But behind the questions, strategies, and tips lies the reason university publishers gather every year at AAUP: we like what we do and we want to do it better. We pitch, we post, we pin, we plan, we pursue that elusive “media coverage” to find our readers. They’re out there—browsing through a bookstore, clicking away on a hidden corner of the Internet, reading their newspaper on the train, scanning the library catalog for help with a paper—and we do what we do because the books we publish and the ideas they disseminate matter to those people. Thankfully, our industry is filled with devoted presses and employees happy to offer advice and share their experiences, so that publicists like me can come home with the tools to work better to ensure our books find their way into the hands of the people who care about them.