Karen Sullivan is the founder of the independent publisher Orenda Books (and Orentober!). Karen moved to the UK from Canada at the age of 21 and worked for a small independent publisher before forging a career as a health editor and writer. In this interview Karen explains how Orenda’s autumn marketing campaign Orentober began, and what its aims are.
What is Orentober, and how did the idea come about?
Two bloggers – Danielle Price from The Reading Closet and Kelly Van Damme from From Belgium with Book Love – came up with the idea after watching the success of Fahrenbruary, which was organised earlier this year for Fahrenheit Press. The idea is a month-long celebration of Orenda Books – the authors, the books, the company itself. We were thrilled with this idea!
Who is involved in Orentober?
The organisers have created an incredible programme, including interviews with all of the people who work for and with Orenda, reviews of new and past titles, series spotlights, cover reveals, reruns of our popular Orenda Books at Bedtime series (on our social media platforms and YouTube channel), extracts, book trailers, a rebrand launch, multiple giveaways (including our Big Book Club Giveaway, offering book clubs in the UK a chance to win up to 10 free copies of selected titles every week), gossip, chat and more! All of the authors, retailers, our vast community of excellent bloggers and many, many readers are involved. Everyone is welcome and we are gobsmacked by the overwhelming support from around the world!
How important is brand-building to your strategy at Orenda?
It’s an essential part of our strategy. The idea has always been to create a trusted brand – we want readers actively to seek out and read the next Orenda book and know it will be brilliant, regardless of their usual choice of genre and the book’s provenance (i.e., international). So far this has been hugely effective. A glance on retailer sites that list ‘also bought’ indicates multiple Orenda titles purchased. We see lots of chatter on social media from readers, bloggers and booksellers suggesting that they would buy an Orenda book without even reading the blurb! And that is exactly what we were hoping for!
What do you think other publishing houses could learn from your community-building techniques?
It’s a tough market at the moment and retailers are cautious and often quite risk averse. It makes sense to appeal directly to readers and to those who influence book purchases (booksellers, bloggers, etc.) to create a buzz and encourage a sort of ‘team’ spirit, if you like. Our authors are hugely engaged and love chatting about their books (and everything else!) and creating a close community within which everyone can share the ‘book love’, as they say, strengthens our position within the market and ensures that people are actively talking about our books. We have also nurtured a close community because everyone benefits – authors and readers.
Will you be running Orentober next year? Or something completely different?
If the ladies are up for it, I would definitely love to do it again. It’s been a bit tricky with Frankfurt Book Fair falling smack in the middle and I had to get some social media support for the period that I was away, but I have loved every minute of it and we’ve seen sales and followers skyrocket! We are, however, always thinking up new ideas, and there will be other celebrations coming up, too!