Ellen Graf-Martin has over a decade of experience in marketing and publicity. Primarily in the Christian market place, but since going out on her own has branched out. She is an avid reader and always has a book she wants' to promote and suggest. She usually has piles of books on the go and is dedicated to promoting the books and authors she appreciates.
1. With a background in Cross Cultural Communications and Criminology how did you end up working in the publishing industry?
My Cross Cultural Communications internship actually took me on this path - starting me out with an organization called OM, which had it's own publishing division and was committed to making great available books to people countries around the world that were unable to affordably produce or import books. I joined their publishing division in the USA in 2000 and worked in editorial and marketing roles over the course of 4 years. In 2004 I moved to Ontario and joined a national inspirational book distributor, and worked there until September 2008 as Marketing Manager and then Manager of Media & Consumer Relations. At that point I started out an entrepreneurial journey, founding Graf-Martin Communications - an agency specializing in literary publicity & marketing, most notably in the inspirational products market.
2. What is your favorite part about working in publishing?
I love connecting readers with a fantastic book that equips them to grow personally & professionally or just be wonderfully entertained! This is also an industry that people stay in - I have loved the opportunity to work with former colleagues in new roles and different companies over the scope of my career!
3. What is your least favorite part about working in publishing?
Tough question - perhaps, as a publicist, it could be cranky, unaccessible, diva-style authors. Overall, media consumption changes have meant that a publicist's workload has almost doubled. It is wonderful when an author understands the 'help me, help you' partnership philosophy.
4. What is the most obscure thing you have had to do while working in the publishing industry?
Good question - perhaps the most absurd thing I have had to do was find a specific shampoo and scented candle for an author on tour - or stay up all night waiting for a passport to be hand-delivered by someone on a flight from California to Toronto for an author who forgot he needed a passport to get into Canada!
5. If you could only recommend 10 books to a reader looking to be a well rounded and whole person what books would you suggest?
I'm not sure that this is possible! Overall, I'd say: - A great poetry anthology containing pieces from a number of different time-periods - A theatre script (with Cliff notes for explanation), followed up by a live performance of the same piece of work to see how closely you understood it (I love Oscar Wilde's 'The Importance of Being Earnest'). - A piece of Regency literature (I'm a Regency-era fan) - A piece of ancient literature - Something explaining the history of the area you live in, or are from - or both - The Bible
6. What would you recommend as your top ten all time Christian fiction recommendations?
Too many to pick.
7. You now hold the title of Founder & Managing Director of Graf-Martin Communications. What does your average day look like in that role?
There truly is no average day, but my day may include reading industry updates, making a number of phone calls between television producers and authors to book authors on a television program (and then often re-arranging those same interview segments), connecting with print publications to arrange excerpts from new titles or interviews with authors, coffee, coffee, and more coffee, reading through blog review posts, reviewing new title lists from publisher catalogs, writing book publicity and marketing proposals, joining an author at the Crossroads studios, reviewing publicity efforts and as the managing director - handling all the business elements that keep a small business alive (bookkeeping, HR, etc.). They are long days and long weeks - but I love my job!
8. What does your typical day or week look like?
See above - multiply by 5 and add meetings, phone calls and about 150 emails a day to the mix.
9. You formerly worked for the largest Christian marketing and Distribution Company in Canada. After their collapse, what inspired you to step out on your own and found your own firm?
Publishers asked me to! When two of the largest Christian & Inspirational publishers in the world ask you to keep working for them, and ask if you'd start your own agency, you take it seriously! This was an under-served market in Canada, and my husband and I really didn't want to lose any traction I had gained in my 4.5 years developing a media & consumer relations strategy for these publishers!
10. What was your favorite marketing campaign to work on and why?
I don't honestly know if I have a favourite! If I had to pick, I'd say the campaign for Operation World by Patrick Johnstone & Jason Mandryk. It was my first full campaign and I learned a ton from this first campaign. And I'd happily do it all over again!
11. What is the hardest part of working in publishing and marketing?
See Question #3.
12. I know some Canadian authors who are frustrated that eBook rights are so different in Canada compared to the United States or the UK. How long do you think until eBooks become universally available?
Don't have enough information to answer this properly.
13. What were some of your favorite books and authors as a child?
I read incessantly - don't know if I had favourites! I read everything and anything! My 2nd grade teacher has said that she is not at all surprised where I landed up in my career.
14. What were some of your favorite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?
Meeting Guelph author Jean Little at the Vancouver Island Children's Book Festival made me realize that authors were real people - and may have helped encourage my launch into this industry.
15. Who are some of your favorite authors or books now?
Gosh - this is hard! I read between 1 - 3 books a week, and like so many different authors and genres. I'm excited about some of the beautiful, profound and authentic female voices coming out of the (in)Courage blog world - can't wait for Emily Freeman's new book, Grace for the Good Girl, to release September 2011 and for Greg Paul's Close Enough to Hear God Breathe to release in October 2011. For fiction, Colleen Coble and Julie Klassen are perennial favourites.
16. What are some of your favorite contemporary religious authors and books to read?
See above but add this - Max Lucado is a perennial favourite - and has been for years and years.
17. If you were not working in publishing what do you think you would be doing?
Working in a non-profit organization in strategic planning, marketing or communications.
18. Completely off topic but what TV shows or movies do you enjoy?
No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, The Office, Celebrity Apprentice
19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?
Tough question (like choosing your favourite children), but they'd include: The Bible Loving God by Chuck Colson In the Grip of Grace by Max Lucado Gone with the Wind & Scarlett Pride & Prejudice Some survival guides since I'm not really an outdoorsy-type person.
20. What advice would you give to someone who aspires to work in the publishing industry?
Be humble, flexible, always learning, willing to volunteer and work for free at first (although this isn't the world's most lucrative industry), do hard things, and read, read, read - books, industry reports, industry blogs, anything you can get your hands on.
21. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists particularly those looking to have their art reflect their faith?
Love your craft, build your skills, build your platform, join a faith-based writers group, attend a writers' conference, read publishers catalogs to see what books are being published and bestsellers lists to see what readers are buying! And again, read, read, read - write, write, write. Do it because you love it, not because you want to make your life's fortune. Few authors strike it rich, so don't quit your day job (until you've got 5 or so titles that sell well and provide you with a steady income).
This is the first in the profile series of someone who is not an author or works for a major publishing house. So thank you Ellen for taking some time to answer questions for the readers at Book Reviews and More.