Sofie Samuelsson in the Publisher’s Chair

Sofie Samuelsson in the Publisher’s Chair

An interview with Sofie Samuelsson, Digital Marketing Executive at Boydell & Brewer

What does your role as Digital Marketing Executive involve?
My role is very varied and there are two sides to it, which I really like. On the more traditional marketing side, I look after certain books each month and market them on social media, through blog posts and academic journals. I speak to the authors, help with book launches, adverts and graphics. I’m essentially trying to publicise the book and tell people about it.

On the digital side, I mainly look after the website and am in touch with Supadu. We have created virtual booths on the website and have started posting our catalogues online. We are trying to display them virtually whilst also keeping the essence of the catalogues. I really enjoy the split and it’s nice to mix the traditional marketing with some more modern projects.

How did you find your way into digital marketing?
I studied publishing as an undergraduate degree and then did a masters in linguistics. I’ve always loved publishing, reading and languages and writing. Right after my masters I saw an advert for a digital marketing agency to work with SEO and the advert specified that the role involved a lot of writing which I thought would be perfect. I went along not knowing a lot about SEO but because it was a small agency, I got to experiment with the website, blog writing, content writing and it really opened my mind up to the digital world. I then started as a Marketing Assistant as Boydell & Brewer and an opportunity arose for a more digital position and here I am now!

What sort of books do you like reading?
I read more or less everything! I love Romance and Nordic Noir. I recently read Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid which I really enjoyed. It’s written in an interview format which was cool. Now I’m reading a book about Swedish forces in Afghanistan, so I like a real mixture of genres!

What books do you publish at Boydell and who’s your main audience?
Boydell is an academic publisher so our main audience are scholars and academics. Our core topics are medieval studies and medieval literature, but we also publish music, literature, German studies, African studies, Hispanic studies, to name a few.

Do you read the Boydell books you’re marketing?
Usually when we’re in the office, we get sent the books but now that we’re working remotely that’s slightly harder. We always get to know the books that we’re marketing as best we can. That’s why it’s really nice to do the author interviews and the blogs too because it gives us even more information about the books.

Can you tell me about your blog, ‘Proofed’?
‘Proofed’ started in 2018. We work closely with our authors and editors as well as special interest groups for our blog. We try to create a strong sense of community as well as share exclusive content from authors and editors. It’s a place where authors can share extra content about their book, perhaps about areas which didn’t make the final cut or areas of particular interest. Most of our readers are authors so it’s really inspiring for them to read. We also offer special discounts to readers through our blogs.

How did Boydell & Brewer start?
Boydell Press was founded by Richard Barber and D.S. Brewer was founded by Derek Brewer. Barber and Brewer were both scholars and decided to merge their companies together to create Boydell & Brewer. We had our 50 year anniversary in 2018 and Richard Barber is still very active within the company.

How does being an independent publisher affect how you market your books?
Being independent allows us to provide more of a personal experience to our authors which we are really passionate about. It also allows us to work closely with every department in the company which is great. We can follow our own agenda and we don’t have to compromise on the quality of the books. We maintain a good reputation by staying flexible and approachable but are still able to do our own thing.

How successful is Boydell internationally?
The company has always marketed and sold books and ebooks worldwide. We have an office in Rochester, New York and sell our books all over the world; US, Australia, South Africa, China, Japan, Hong Kong, to name a few. We have a great team of representatives across the world who work really closely with our distributors.

Our marketing is intended to work worldwide and we have dual pricing on our website. For example, China is a big market for us and our distribution works really well there. We are trying to ensure our relationships stay positive globally and that we can still support our representatives and reach other markets.  

What’s been your favourite marketing campaign at Boydell?
Very recently we created a marketing campaign for one of our books, Medieval Pets, which I really liked working on. We noticed a lot of people posting pictures of books alongside their pets on Twitter so we asked our Twitter followers to show us their pets and we would choose a winner at random who would receive a free copy of the book. People went crazy for this and absolutely loved it. There were so many pictures of pets and people got really creative with their photos. There was a turtle, horses, cats, dogs and even a bee! We then chose three people at random and they each won a copy of the book. It was a great way to bring attention to the book and we definitely reached more people than our normal followers. It was also just a fun campaign rather than a hard sell which really worked for us.

How have you changed your marketing strategies in the last year with the pandemic?
We’ve really had to adapt our marketing strategies and move more things online. Before Covid a lot of our marketing took place at conferences and events where we could meet our readers, authors and editors. That was an easy way to find new authors and for current readers to discover books that they might not have been interested in otherwise. We’ve had to be far more creative with the way we do things online. We’ve done virtual booths but it’s difficult to find a way for them to be interactive and fun, and not just a page of books. Overall, it’s forced us to take more risks and think outside of the box.

What tips would you give other publishers to maximise on digital marketing?
Take chances and try new things. The same thing doesn’t work for every book or every company, and we’re still working out our best approach. Look at your competitors and don’t be afraid to get it wrong. Social media can be difficult because you can’t take it back but do your research and experiment.

Looking to the future, do you have any new plans for Boydell and for your role specifically?
We want to see where the new website will take us and to bring more people to it. We have a large mailing list so we want that to continue to grow and provide a way to stay in touch with our readers and authors. We are investigating our online catalogues and want to grow our Open Access program to ensure our books are accessible to everyone who needs and wants them.

I love that my role is so varied and that the digital side keeps changing. I also really like the books we publish so it’s fun to keep marketing them and see how our list changes!

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