Out West student blog

Behind the scenes of book marketing

a student stands with arms spread wide in front of massive tree roots
Malia Maxwell stands before large tree roots in La Push, Washington, home to the Quileute Tribe. Photo courtesy of Malia Maxwell.


Malia Maxwell, '23 
Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Area of Study: English 
Intern, Heyday Publishing

Malia Maxwell reflects on her summer internship in marketing and development at Heyday

How do you hear about a new book? Do you see an ad online? Does TikTok read your mind and deliver a perfect pitch to you in between bread-making videos? Or do you pick up a book on a whim, walking through a local bookstore? It might seem serendipitous when you find a new book, but, through my time as marketing and development intern with Heyday this summer, I learned how much design goes into even getting a reader, library, or bookseller to know about a new title. There’s a whole world working behind-the-scenes to help you know a book is out there.

Early on in my internship, Heyday’s marketing and publicity manager, Kalie Caetano, explained to me that there are three different types of publicity: earned media, owned media, and paid media. Owned media and paid media are relatively straightforward. Owned media comes down to what the publisher has available to them within their own organization: in this case, Heyday’s website and social media presences. Paid media is any sort of advertisement. But earned media is the broadest, and, in my opinion, most exciting category. Helping Heyday with earned publicity opportunities was also where most of my work was directed this summer.

Earned media is essentially all the media coverage that isn’t owned or paid for. Book reviews and book awards are both types of earned media. Your recommending your favorite book to a family member or friend is earned media, though you probably don’t think of it that way. In order to support new books in getting earned media, I worked on a variety of projects.  

A lot of my time went to working on media lists, the lists of contacts a publisher will try to reach out to about a new book. When it comes down to media lists, we already had some people we knew we wanted to reach out to—people who have reviewed Heyday books before or who have strong connections with the authors. But one of my jobs was to research and add names to these lists. That meant thinking in the broadest terms: who would like this book and knows people who also like it? I researched bloggers, newspapers, radios, podcasts. I also suggested adding BookTokers and Bookstagrammers to another media list I worked on. I had a lot of fun getting to know what sort of books other people liked and imagining if I could hear them speaking as passionately about Heyday titles. 

Other projects included mailing postcards to 200 California libraries so they’d know about the new edition of "Flutes of Fire," and hopefully stock it! (special shout out to Microsoft Mail Merge), and making a database of book awards that Heyday can nominate its titles for. 

This only scratches the surface of the work that goes into spreading the word about forthcoming books, but it has made me appreciate learning about a new book all the more. When you look at the books on your shelf or the books around you, try asking yourself: how did I learn about these?


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