On the afternoon of April 16th I drive into downtown Toronto for my very first Big One – HarperCollins Canada. I park underground and when I emerge I’m immersed in a world where I feel very much like I don’t belong. I got on my black slacks and button-up shirt, but I just don’t carry myself the same way as the people darting past me. Every time someone looks at me I wonder, do they know? I feel unpolished. Do they see it?
There is a tower on either corner of Bloor and Yonge. One is east, the other west, but I don’t know this yet. I go up to the 20th floor in the west building. When the elevator door opens I see no sign of books, but also, I don’t feel any books. I start to question if I’m in the right place.
Another hint: a woman from behind an office door yells to her colleague, “Ohh Emm Gee, I am soooo bored. Like… really, this is so boring!”
Nope. I make my way back down to the ground floor, cross the street, find the entrance to the east building, and make my way 20 floors up again. This time, when the elevator doors open, it’s like cracking the spine of a fresh book; I know I’m in the right place.
Cory Beatty, Marketing Director for HarperCollins Canada greets me at reception and brings me to a boardroom. I am sad to hear that I’m a day late for cereal day.
Cory came to HarperCollins Canada after an inadvertent game of hard to get. Having already done an internship at Tundra for a year (after completing his education at Ryerson), he was offered a five-day (per week) internship with HarperCollins Canada. The idea of not only yearlong internships but more than one blows my mind. How can anyone afford to do that? This was Cory’s concern too, and he actually turned HarperCollins Canada down and took a three-day (per week) internship at a vanity press instead. Two weeks later he got a call. HarperCollins Canada had a full-time marketing position open. That was nine years ago.
So, straight up, what’s the deal with multinationals. Right?
Here’s the deal (in very, very brief):
They import books from outside of Canada. They are a large part of the reason why readers get access to books by non-Canadians. Liked Lord of the Rings? You can pick up the trilogy thanks to HarperCollins Canada. BUT. This multinational is not just a distributor of non-Canadian content; they also publish Canadian authors. In fact, half the HarperCollins Canada office is dedicated to the acquisition and publication of Canadian-authored books. Of course those books generally make it across the border the other way, too.
Social media marketing becomes a major topic in my conversation with Cory. He’s seen it go from an email newsletter that was one part of someone’s job to working with full-time digital marketing specialists. He remembers the, what he calls, eureka moment about social media at HarperCollins Canada. On a day where they had some renovations happening in their office, Cory took a picture of the plastic sheets covering the construction area and posted a picture to Facebook that said: “We’re building a Dexter room.” People loved it. People were commenting and liking, authors made jokes about hoping it wasn’t being built for them. That’s when HarperCollins Canada realized that the right message in the right way could translate into more publicity and more sales.
HarperCollins Canada has been able to track its success in relation to social media campaigns, but Cory looks forward to a day where it becomes even more measurable. For now he says knows that when it comes to digital marketing, HarperCollins Canada is the best at it.
So, what I’ve learned about smaller presses is that competition is nearly non-existent. Does that hold true with the big kids, though? If HarperCollins, Random House, and Simon & Schuster all walked into a bar at the same time, would things be okay? Or would a fight break out on Yonge street?
Cory assures me that while of course there are levels of competition between the multinationals, it wouldn’t result in any black eyes or bloody knuckles.
“The health of the [publishing] industry is more important than any one company.” – Cory Beatty.