Children's Book Publisher Dedicated to Marketing Children's Books in New Ways

Laura Rivas Candlewick Press
Laura Rivas
Candlewick Press

I had the pleasure of spending some time speaking to Laura Rivas, Publicity, Brands and Consumer Outreach Director with Candlewick Press. Candlewick Press is an unusual entity in the world of children’s book publishing. They are an independent publishing house and are employee-owned.  Candlewick and its sister companies in the United Kingdom and Australia make up the Walker Books Group. Candlewick and its sister companies do one thing and only one thing – books for young readers.

In full disclosure, I should let you know that Laura and I worked together on a recent promotion with one of the many well known characters in Candlewick’s list of children’s books. Laura and I worked on a project with Borden Dairy on a summer promotion with Megan McDonald’s title character, Judy Moody. It was a lot of fun putting that promotion together and I would like to share more about Laura and her role at Candlewick with you.

Q. What is your role at Candlewick Press?

A. As Publicity, Brands, and Consumer Outreach Director I work with my colleagues on the Marketing and Publicity team to spread the word about our books to both the book trade and consumers.

Q.  Do you have specific brands or titles you work with?


A. I work with a number of Candlewick authors and illustrators as well as handle some of Candlewick’s key properties such as Judy Moody and her brother Stink. In fact it is going to be a big year for Stink Moody in 2015; we’ll celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Stink series in the spring so we have a lot of marketing plans in the works. Each and every year, new and exciting materials come our way; it could be a fun new title within an already established brand or a completely new property with a lot of potential that we have the opportunity to develop and market.

Q. What’s it like working within an employee-owned organization?  Do you think you hire or recruit differently because you are a private company?

A. I suspect people at Candlewick feel a responsibility to the company and our co-workers more strongly than at other organizations because we are employee-owned. I enjoy that we are independent and have freedom to be creative and explore new approaches to working with our books. Also, because there are only 90 employees at Candlewick, I can easily see the people I need to work with to move a project along every day. That said, I started working here right out of college so I don’t have experience at a publicly traded organization for comparison.

Q. What is Candlewick Press’s target audience?

A. We sell children’s books for readers of all ages, from the youngest reader of board books to young adult readers. Our audience reaches well into adulthood.

Q. How do you determine the best plan of action for each of your properties?

A. That is part of the fun of this business! We craft marketing plans designed to reach the specific readers and consumers of our books. For board books and picture books, for instance, we are often trying to connect with parents through advertising, events, media coverage, social media channels, etc. For a young adult novel on the other hand, we will have a very different plan of action, because we will frequently work to reach teens directly.

Q. What types of marketing do you do for your books or characters?

A. I work on marketing our books both to the book trade and to consumers. We have additional marketing teams at Candlewick that focus on schools and libraries.

Q. How do you market to the trade?

A. We attend book trade shows, such as Book Expo America where publishers, booksellers, librarians, authors and illustrators all come together. In addition, our books are exhibited at regional tradeshows each year.  We also work closely with trade journals such as Publishers Weekly and Shelf Awareness. And a crossover method is working with bloggers.  There are some very passionate and knowledgeable book bloggers that address the trade and the consumer alike.

Q. How do you market to the consumer?

A. On the consumer side of the business we also work with bloggers, for example we do a lot of outreach to parenting/mommy bloggers. We also work extensively with consumer media such as magazines, radio, TV, newspapers and online outlets.  Book signing events with authors and illustrators can be very successful in connecting directly with readers. On any given weekend we may have up to a dozen book signings happening around the country, at bookstores, libraries, and festivals. Generally Spring and Fall are the busiest seasons for author appearances.  We have also found social media to be very important in the introduction of a new book or new author, and we have a team devoted to Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, FourSquare and everything social media related.

Q. How has the e-reader changed your business? Is it different or the same as e-reader publishing in non-children’s books?

A.  E-readers are an exciting realm for children’s books. Especially as the picture quality on e-reader devices has improved, e-readers are providing new opportunities for illustrated books, in addition to our fiction titles. Also, we can now enhance e-books with extra bells and whistles and that is an area that we look forward to continuing to explore. E-readers are a new way to read, but interestingly many people still return to the tactile elements of books, especially when it comes to children’s reading.  Think about the act of reading with your children:  there is connectivity in holding the book together, and lingering over the pages while snuggling with your children that somehow the e-reader can’t yet replicate. It’s that communal family activity that people often return to with printed books.

Q. Recently bloomfield knoble and Candlewick (you and I) worked on a really cool promotion with your Judy Moody and Stink properties and Borden Dairy. It was a really well-rounded promotion (if I do say so myself) that included: exclusive story written just for the Borden Dairy promotion, bloggers, internet advertising, paid advertising, trade advertising, trade publishing author interview, on-pack labeling, in-store floor and dairy case graphics, Candlewick and Borden newsletters, product sampling with handouts, social media, public relations, redeemable reading and activity materials and a sweepstakes for a hardback, autographed Judy Moody and Stink library. Do you do many of these promotions?

Summer 2014 Promotion Judy Moody & Borden Dairy
Summer 2014 Promotion
Judy Moody & Borden Dairy

A. We were delighted to work with Borden and bloomfield knoble on the Judy Moody summer reading promotion, and so pleased with the way the plans all came together to make a really big splash this summer. The promotion’s success is a testament to what can happen when different entities join forces wholeheartedly, sharing resources, insights, and ideas. We do work with third-parties on special promotions, though they’re often not as extensive as the Judy Moody summer reading promotion we did with Borden and bloomfield knoble. When a partnership makes sense it can be a wonderful tool for all organizations involved.

Q. What is your biggest frustration in this job?

A. Sometimes for whatever reason, we find a book that we have high hopes for just doesn’t take off in the way we would wish despite our best efforts. When you love a book and hope the world will come to love it as well, it can be a letdown when it doesn’t happen.

Q. What is your favorite part about your job?

A. I love the people I work with! My co-workers, and the authors and the illustrators I work with make my job a joy.

Q. You’ve spent your entire career at Candlewick. How has your job changed you, or your life changed your job?

A. I have a new perspective on my job now that I have a 2-year old daughter. I experience first-hand how impactful books can be on children and have a new appreciation that at Candlewick we bring together families through the power of story.

Thanks to Laura for her time. The passion for great children’s books really shows at Candlewick Press. The stories they bring to the world have an impact on so many families with children of all ages. I look forward to seeing what new properties they bring forward as I purchase classics and new books for my one-year old great-nephew and great-niece.