Marketing: It all started with LEGOs, probably

When I enrolled for the MLitt in Publishing it was because I wanted to have fun. Sure, it was also a career change—I had about a decade’s worth of work experience at my back, my most recent stint being in bookselling, which is what inspired me to finally take the leap to go into publishing—but most of all? I wanted to have fun

Ever since I had computer lessons as a small and bright-eyed five-year-old in first grade—this was around ’92 or so—and we were typing in command prompts to make the computers go, I’ve been just a little bit fascinated with words that make things happen.  

Maybe I was lucky, being in schools that let us learn these things, having parents that let me take further computing courses outside school, having internet access at home (dial-up, may your memory be a blessing) as early as ’94 while also still working on a typewriter, being able to lock myself in my room with four large hand-me-down boxes of LEGOs that my cool big brother didn’t want anymore, growing up with a mix of analogue and digital technology and early pedagogic interactive narrative games that couldn’t accommodate the grammar of the Icelandic language. I learned very quickly how to input the words I needed at the beginning of the game so that they would appear in the narrative later in the correct form, like I also learned very quickly that most games had cheat codes. 

As a teenager in the 00s, I took physics modules in school that let me build LEGO robots and taught me how to programme them to navigate mazes imitating the Mars landscape (we all remember Spirit and Opportunity, don’t we?), I taught myself HTML and CSS to build basic websites and layouts for social media platforms and to format fanfic for posting online (and turning them into ebooks, before AO3 and its easy download protocols were a thing), I taught myself regular expressions to make the process go faster, while also not really bothering to learn the difference between HTML and XML since I’m very good at googling what I want and then just taking that code and running with it. 

I got lured into Finnish by the promise of complex grammar and morphology, and I got a BA and MA in this wondrous wonderful brick-by-brick language, with its straightlaced rules and infinite ways of expression. What is Finnish, if not an abstract box of LEGOs?  

This term I got to play around with code and get credit for it; I made a twitterbot, I put together a spooky little interactive narrative, I made an ebook from scratch—manually, no conversion software—and brushed up on my regular expressions. (Fun in My Digital Publishing Module? More likely than you think!) 

Oh and, I also bought a 3-in-1 LEGO kit from Lidl for £6.99. I have thus far managed to build five alternative models in addition to the three the instructions in the kit tell you how to make; airplanes and Star Wars fighter jets and speed boats. I think next time I want to try to make a parrot. 

This term I am also one of two marketing managers for Stryvling Press. I get to manage the twitter account (come and say hi!), plan marketing activities for the press at large, plan the launch campaign for Time And Tide, make new connections for our little press (if you haven’t checked out Made in Stirling yet, please do!) and learn more about the publishing process through a hands-on approach. It has been—and continues to be—a wild and exciting ride. In reality, marketing is its very own box of LEGOs, full of marvellous pieces in odd sizes and weird shapes, that you get to put together into something that resembles a campaign. You get to play with words and images and effects—whoever said copywriting is boring was wrong—and watch the engagement rates go up or down, your words be shared wide and far, and reap the joy that comes from knowing you’ve done good work.  

As a marketing manager you are responsible not just for communicating the book to the wider world, but for the image of the publishing house. It’s an exhilarating challenge to put together a tweet or facebook post that says what you want it to say, in a way that reflects positively on not just the book, the story, or the author—but also the publisher. My main piece of advice for anyone who wants to get into marketing is that you have to remember that you are the face. Your work is often what other people see first. When you establish relationships with external actors, you represents the press. Be kind, considerate, and generous. 

Getting to play with these particular building blocks has been an invaluable learning experience and more fun than I even dared hope for. I can also honestly say that I don’t see myself in marketing long-term. I’ve had fun with this internship, don’t get me wrong, and I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to learn more about marketing books. I do want to keep playing in this particular box for a while. I want to play in other publishing boxes, play with different tools, build different things with different blocks.

I think what has been most valuable to me about not just this internship, but also the MLitt in Publishing, is that I’ve learned so much about the entire publishing process that I have a better understanding now than I did last September of which aspects of it I’d enjoy the most.

What I really want to do?  

Make ebooks. (HarperCollins, please call me back.) 

I want to build things. I want to make words go. I want to create something from scratch and make it look nice.  

In another life, I might’ve become a software developer, nuclear physicist, or a linguist—all three professions obsessed with building blocks and patterns and creation. Or maybe I’d have worked for the LEGO company. 

Publishing is close enough, I think.  

I’m having fun

K Rós Kristjánsdóttir, marketing.

Find out more about K on our Team page!

Time and Tide is out now

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