Industry Insights with Jenna Houston, Marketing Executive at Boldwood Books
By Aimee Whittle, Karoline Tübben and Zahra Islam
This week Jenna Houston from Boldwood Books shared with us her experience of working in marketing…
How did you get your first publishing job as a Sales and Marketing Intern at Boldwood Books, and more specifically, how did you decide that marketing was the strand of publishing you wanted to pursue?
I didn’t always know I wanted to work in publishing, but during lockdown I set up a bookstagram account to document my reading and give me something to do and I ended up really enjoying being a part of that reader community. This eventually manifested into an interest in publishing as a whole and I loved the creative side of bookstagram: making flatlays and reels, looking at post analytics and scrutinising the reach of my reels. I decided to look into marketing jobs in publishing because I thought it was the area my skills were best suited to. I applied for so many jobs and didn’t get a single interview which was really disheartening. I knew I needed some work experience, but during the pandemic, that was difficult to find. I then came across Boldwood Books, and I knew they worked remotely, so I reached out to their Sales and Marketing Director to ask if there were any opportunities for work experience, and there was! I joined the team for three weeks initially, but that was quickly extended to six weeks, and I ended up interning there for five months in total before moving on to a permanent Marketing Assistant role elsewhere. The internship at Boldwood was the best thing I ever did to kickstart my career in publishing.
Can you tell us about a campaign you’re working on now?
I work on lots of campaigns simultaneously, so it's difficult to pick just one! I’m responsible for marketing campaigns for over thirty-five individual authors and work on campaigns for books in all kinds of genres; Romance, Crime and Thriller, Cosy Crime and Historical. However, as I write this, it's publication day for a brilliant psychological thriller I've been working on called The Silent Friend by Alison Stockham, which features a compelling anti-heroine. Creating marketing materials and planning newsletters for this campaign has been so exciting, but honestly, every single campaign I work on gives me such a buzz. I love it all.
Given your vast experience as a Marketing Intern, Marketing Assistant and Marketing Executive, are there any future marketing trends you think will be more mainstream/popular in 2024?
Given the recent introduction of Threads from Instagram, I think this could definitely be the next platform to take off in the book world and it could start to overtake Twitter eventually. In terms of trends, I've noticed lots of publishing houses piggybacking on wider pop-culture moments to promote their books (a great example being the recent Barbie movie with publishers featuring their pink books etc.), so I think this will be something that will continue into 2024 for sure.
What is the most unexpected or exciting thing you have experienced during your time in the industry?
A few things! The Boldwood Summer Party is always a highlight, getting to see everyone (authors, agents, designers, copy editors/proofreaders) in person when you work remotely is such a wonderful feeling. Boldwood also recently won Small Press of the Year at The British Book Awards, which was both unexpected and really exciting! And lastly, I went to the London Book Fair for the first time this year and really loved going to a few conferences and also meeting some lovely publishing folk.
What would you say is your career highlight thus far as a Marketing Executive?
Working on my first number-one bestseller last Christmas! I worked on Let It Snow by Beth Moran last Christmas and when it went number one the whole team and Beth were all over the moon. It was the best Christmas present I could have asked for! Another highlight was re-launching Boldwood's crime and thriller newsletter. I re-branded, came up with the strategy and launched our brilliant crime and thriller newsletter, The Murder List, in September 2022 and it has gone from strength to strength. I'm really proud of it!
Are there any key transferable skills you’ve learned during your time working in customer service that were beneficial when you started working in publishing?
People skills and communication are the main ones! I worked in a really busy cafe and talking to my team/customers all day really helped me grow my confidence. It's a job I'm so glad I had because it's helped me in so many ways – a big part of my current role is attending marketing meetings with authors and providing exceptional author care and my experience working in hospitality equipped me with the skills to do this from day one. Hospitality jobs are also really hard work (both physically and mentally tiring), so it really instilled in me a strong work ethic and determination, which has carried over into my publishing career.