Guest blog: Anansi's top 3 digital marketing tips


Today's guest post is from Neil Wadhwa, the Digital Marketing Manager at House of Anansi Press and Groundwood Books. He holds a B.A. in Communications and Sociology from Wilfrid Laurier University (2010) and has previously worked in advertising and software. In his spare time, Neil can be found reading the works of George Orwell. Get in touch with Neil at or on Twitter @neilwadhwa.

Fans of publishers are weird. Interacting with a publisher on social media is like bypassing the athlete, the team he or she plays for, and instead deciding to root for the ownership at the top—it’s like interacting with MLSE instead of the Toronto Raptors or DeMar DeRozan.

The “weirdness” extends to the transient nature of these fans: there’s no specific loyalty to one publisher or another since no reader buys from one publisher at a time. As a result, working as a digital marketer in publishing means being aware that your brand ambassadors are also brand ambassadors for several other publishers.

Knowing this, it’s best to focus on what you can control, and that’s how people interact with you (the publishing house) and your content. Stay at it long enough and your fans will become brand advocates.

The digital marketing team at Anansi and Groundwood is comprised of two people (one being an intern), so we’re always moving and always agile. Here are three things we do at Anansi and Groundwood that are simple to implement, effective, and recommended for any small digital marketing team:

Be (overly) conversational.

Digital marketers at publishing houses get to work in an environment surrounded by books and book lovers. As an extension of this environment, and the industry itself, being overtly serious with your tone and messaging while speaking to your audience can be disregarded (there are always exceptions, of course, like for institutional publishers, or when discussing books that are somber in nature).

Being conversational lets your audience establish a level of comfort and interact more freely with you on social media, while simultaneously making all your content more engaging, readable, and sharable. Audiences will advocate for publishers that make an effort to be advocated-for, and dull, self-promotional engagement methods don’t do the trick.

The publishers that are best at the conversational approach become conversational to the point of not needing to use their social networks or in-house content to push authors or titles. It’s not marketing with a goal to simply sell more books; it’s marketing to connect with your audience over the love of books. 

Get your authors involved.

Each publisher has a distinct advantage over others: easy access to the authors it publishes. Dedicated readers often want to know more about the books they read, such as the inspiration behind the book, the author’s writing process, and more. Take advantage.

Authors are generally willing to help with digital marketing initiatives, as it’s another way for them to connect with their established fan base, while simultaneously introducing themselves to a new audience. I’ve found that author interviews provide the perfect blend of insight into the author as a person while also exploring themes and topics related to the books they’re set to publish (author guest posts and workplace “behind the scenes” are also effective). It’s simple, but the small act of getting your authors involved gives your content a huge boost.

There are other ways to get your authors involved that require a bigger time and personnel commitment such as video interviews, social media takeovers, personalized e-blasts to your mailing list(s), and more. No matter what form the author contributions take, your content will be sharable, unique, and timely, thanks to you drawing directly from the author.

Don’t be afraid to try new tools.

In the early stages of Anansi’s move to 128 Sterling Road, Carolyn McNeillie and I did a walkthrough of our soon-to-be new office with Anansi’s president Sarah MacLachlan on Periscope, an app that allows for live streaming. Our soon-to-be office had nothing in it. Construction had just started and we were months away from moving in. The 15-minute live stream consisted of us trailing Sarah through the new empty office while she told the small Periscope audience about the move, what the office might look like in the future, and even included a look at our washrooms.

One of the people watching happened to be a writer for the Toronto Star. The writer reached out to Sarah via email after the stream ended to learn more about our new office plans, and how we were going to help shape the future of Sterling Road. A month later, an article appeared in the Toronto Star Life & Entertainment section all about our new space.

It’s unnerving trying new tools knowing that you might only be reaching a handful of people—but every company once started out with zero Twitter followers, zero Facebook fans, and zero newsletter subscribers. Don’t be afraid to try new marketing tools, even if you’re an early adopter, because it gives you an opportunity to reach new people and build a bigger fan base—and you never know who might be watching. 

To delve deeper into ace marketing and discoverability strategy for small publishers, don't miss Sarah MacLachlan, President and Publisher of House of Anansi, at Tech Forum 2016. There is still time to register, so don't miss out!