Raquel, thank you so much for sharing some of your expertise. Your experiences at Candlewick Press will fascinate our readers who are authors, illustrators, and others from multiple countries around the world. We all share an interest in how to promote the best books for young readers.
Joyce Audy Zarins: What exactly is your role at Candlewick?
Raquel Stecher: I’m the Online Marketing Manager for Candlewick Press. I’m in charge of overseeing our corporate social media including Twitter and Instagram. I work closely with my colleague Ally Russell who handles our Facebook page as well as our social media for the Walker Books US division. In addition to social media, I oversee a wide variety of online initiatives including consumer advertising and I’m very lucky to work with many bloggers and Instagrammers. I’m also a member of Candlewick’s Book Expo planning committee and help coordinate Candlewick’s presence at that show.
JAZ: At what point in a book’s lifespan do you become involved? And how many books are you working with at any given time?
RS: I work more on the tail end of a book’s lifespan. My goal is to get the word out there about our books as much as possible. I am usually working on three seasons at any given time. For example, right now I’m finishing up our Spring 2020 season, finalizing Fall 2020 and planning ahead for Spring 2021. I’m not a publicist so I’m not assigned authors, illustrators or specific books. My goal is to give love and attention to every single one of our books.
JAZ: Do you work primarily alone? If not, how many people are on your marketing team?
RS: I’m a self-starter so I do a lot of my work independently but I also collaborate closely with our Senior Consumer Outreach Specialist Ally Russell. She and I are a great online marketing duo! I work in a department that helps support marketing efforts so I also work closely with our publicists.
JAZ: What range of online media do you develop and which do you prefer?
RS: I work on a wide variety of online platforms including Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, LinkedIn, etc. Instagram has been so much fun to grow but Twitter is my personal favorite.
JAZ: Do you develop the marketing strategy for each title?
RS: We are collaborative so I work with Ally Russell to come up with social media plans for our corporate channels (we also have some excellent School and Library social media accounts run by another team!) and then our plans are incorporated into larger marketing plans for each book.
JAZ: How important are reviews? Book trailers? Author appearances?
RS: It doesn’t matter how big or small the initiative, any way we can let people know about our books is a good thing. Children’s books are different. We want to appeal to children but we also have to make the parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians, etc. happy too! I love to diversify my outreach so I can get as many eyeballs on our books as possible. I’m very blessed to be a champion for books!
JAZ: What unexpected influences have shifted the result of your efforts on a campaign?
RS: With the pandemic there has been more focus on social media and virtual events. It’s been really great to see how these platforms and initiatives can really shine when in real life events are not possible.
JAZ: Presumably, due to Covid-19 you have been working at home. Normally would you primarily be at the company office?
RS: I can comfortably work from home for the most part. I do pop into the office once or twice a month to do book mailings.
JAZ: Which of your campaigns stands out as the most successful or the most personally rewarding?
RS: I love working with Book Riot because they are such big champions for diversity. I work with them on a variety of advertising campaigns and they do such a great job executing them. They have a wonderful audience of readers, many of whom are parents looking for books for their kids or readers who love YA [Young Adult]!
JAZ: What path did you follow to arrive at this kind of work?
RS: I have a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in English from Northeastern University. I applied for a job at Candlewick Press and started just a month after finishing classes. I was very lucky! I also have a Master of Arts in Writing, Literature and Publishing from Emerson College that I acquired while working at Candlewick.
JAZ: Does your love of old movies, as evidenced by your movie blog, ever inform your approach to marketing Candlewick’s titles?
RS: There has been some cross-over which is a lot of fun for me! Recent books including Smile: How Young Charlie Chaplin Taught the World to Laugh (and Cry) by Gary Golio and illustrated by Ed Young*, Daring Darleen, Queen of the Screen by Anne Nesbet and Beauty Mark by Carole Boston Weatherford have all been great to work on.
JAZ: Working with the award-winning books produced by independent Candlewick Press must be amazing. Have you ever found a particular book harder to promote?
RS: I embrace the challenge because it means that I have to use ingenuity to come up with an online marketing plan. It gets my creative juices flowing.
JAZ: Have you ever had a vision for a marketing strategy foiled by practical considerations?
RS: With the pandemic, we had to adapt our plans really quickly. If you had told me in 2019 that in 2020 Book Expo wouldn’t be happening because of a worldwide health crisis I would have been shocked!
JAZ: What metrics help show that a promotional plan is successful?
RS: ROI [Return on Investments] is the holy grail of metrics! I try to focus on engagement. What did our audience on social media respond to enthusiastically? That to me is a sign of a good campaign.
JAZ: Is there something that you wish all children’s book authors and illustrators knew?
RS: That they are the biggest ambassadors for their own brands! Fans want to follow their journey and learn from them.