Martyn Beeny – Cornell University Press

More than anything else, we believe it is the people who make publishing. On the blog, we’re taking the opportunity to really get to know those who make our partner AUPs what they are by asking them to write about a Day in their Life for us. First up is Martyn Beeny, Marketing and Sales Director at Cornell University Press.

I like to get to the office around 8:00am. Sage House, the beautiful Victorian mansion that houses our offices is still quiet at that time. If it’s nice outside, I take my laptop and my coffee out on the balcony and let ideas that have wormed their way into my head overnight stir while I check email. 

As my team makes their way in over the next hour, we catch up, check in with each other and the Marketers of CUP kick into gear. We meet to brainstorm for an hour or so. The creative juices so essential to marketing flow strongly in my group and we have all agreed this is one of our favorite moments of the day. We discuss the next big campaign, perhaps something even bigger and better than Pay What You Want, or how we take advantage of our 2020 Experience or what’s next in book marketing. 

I have phone calls with a couple of forthcoming authors. We send our marketing plan to each author about four months ahead of publication, and I like to call to chat through what we’re going to do and to see what ideas they might have. Invariably I learn something important about the book and the author I would not otherwise have known, and I like to think they get a better sense of the marketing and sales team, our ideas, and hopes for their book.

From there, I turn my attention to the books we’re launching this week. With five or six new books, I need to spend time preparing for our Big Tuesday Meeting, in which the acquiring editor and the marketing team discuss the subtleties of the book, how we want to position it, our marketing strategy, the author’s hopes and dreams, how we might print it, what the cover should look like, and so on. I check the Expected First-Year Sales tool that I’ve developed using various datasets to project what we can hope to sell in those crucial first twelve months after a book is published. I run a P&L using various publication strategies and price points, looking for the sweet spot for any given book that will ensure its success in both sales and widest dissemination access. I’m ready for when we gather, but I’m not alone in making these decisions for each book and I look forward to hearing from my team about their particular area of the marketing plan and their thoughts more generally about the books we’re going to publish ten months later.

With 175 new books a year, our acquisition editors are constantly bringing potential projects to our attention. As a member of the Preboard group that meets once a week, I need to make sure I’m ready, so I turn my attention to preparing my marketing and sales thoughts on the books that might go to the next the faculty board. At this stage in the book’s life, much is speculation, but I thrive on the potential of these projects, and I enjoy the process of projecting the audience, how widely the project might be used, what marketing strategy we might employ, and so on. When we all meet this week, I’ll be ready.

As I head back upstairs, I try to stop in at a couple of other offices, looking for colleagues from other departments to see what they’re up to and to get a feel for the pulse of Sage House. It always amazes me how talented our staff is, and I’ll come away from those chats with tidbits to pass on to my team when I meet with them next. Which is where I’m off to now. Back up to the third floor and a bi-weekly meeting with one of my staff. I value these formal meetings in different ways to the informal chats we have every day. They are an opportunity for my team to speak in confidence with me, and for me to mentor them, which is one of my favorite aspects of being a leader.

“Such is the speed of progress and change in marketing – far quicker, perhaps, than the rest of book publishing – that staying on top of what is happening and learning from experts and change agents is something I value highly.”

I’ve scheduled a call with one of our service partners. This time it’s our order and fulfillment team, Longleaf Services. But it could just as easily be one of our overseas partners such as CAP or maybe a potential new provider that has a product I’m interested in learning more about. I love to learn and I think it’s crucial to do so in marketing in particular. Such is the speed of progress and change in marketing – far quicker, perhaps, than the rest of book publishing – that staying on top of what is happening and learning from experts and change agents is something I value highly. After the call, I take a moment to read a marketing blog or a few pages from the latest marketing book that’s on my desk.

I make time to run some sales reports, looking for trends, concerns, and opportunities. How are our marketing efforts affecting sales? Are there trends we need to take immediate advantage of? Did something happen so that an order didn’t go through? Did the backorders I’d been promised at my sales meetings in New York City come in yet? I don’t focus too much on the day-to-day sales; I’m more interested in the bigger picture, the longer-term sales. Are we on course to meet or surpass our sales budget? Speaking of which, I’ll also run a quick check on the marketing budget. I like to make sure we’re sticking to it, which in the days of reduced marketing spend is ever-more important. We’re always looking to get the best ROI on our marketing spend, so it’s good to see how we’re performing against expectations from time to time. 

I turn to my ideas board, a “chalkboard” I’ve painted on my office wall. It’s a little old-school, but I love it. Those ideas that surfaced in my early morning slumber have had time to form and now I want to spend some time refining them. My illegible scratchings on the chalkboard might not mean much to anyone standing there looking at them, but to me they are a way to visualize what’s in my mind but needs space to become more concrete. Perhaps, I’ll tinker with one of the ideas my team came up with in our brainstorming meeting. No idea is too crazy for me; you never know how it might grow and what it might become. I take a photo of the chalkboard, storing it in my ideas file, a melding of the old and the new, ensuring I have a record of my thinking to return to when I need to wipe the chalkboard down.

As the day begins to wind down, I check in with my team again, making sure their day has been what they hoped, offering advice, or simply asking if they have plans for the evening. I believe in the power of the group, the team, as a marketing force, and I think it is essential to cultivate the group ethos, encouraging each individual to be the best, most effective, creative, and innovative marketer they can be. These little chats ensure they know I’m there for them and that they have my support as their own careers progress.

“We take the thoughts, ideas, and words of authors throughout the world, craft them into a book, and then spread that knowledge far and wide.”

As I turn off the lights and head down the grand old staircase, I’m reminded that we’re pretty lucky to do what we do here at CUP. We take the thoughts, ideas, and words of authors throughout the world, craft them into a book, and then spread that knowledge far and wide. I’m fortunate to do something I love – book marketing – in the company of intelligent, talented, and surprising people in Sage House, and far beyond, every day.

Martyn Beeny is the Marketing and Sales Director at Cornell University Press. Before that he was Marketing and Sales Manager at the University of Nebraska Press and Marketing Manager and Associate Editor at South Dakota Historical Society Press. Born and raised outside of Cambridge, England, he’s lived in the US for the past fourteen years with his amazing wife, Hilary. When he’s not marketing books, you can find him watching Arsenal or out on his sailing boat on the many lakes in central New York.