Gecko Press nips out of the rough

Children's book publisher CEO Julia Marshall talks about her new digital campaign that is driving people to stockists around the globe

Julia Marshall Gecko Press portrait books

A new digital strategy and campaign is helping children’s book publisher Gecko Press drive traffic to bookshops worldwide both in person and online.

Gecko Press translates and publishes a small number of carefully chosen children’s books into English from the best writers and illustrators in the world, selling them directly in New Zealand, Australia, North America and the United Kingdom.

Gecko Press also publishes three or four New Zealand books each year, and sells rights to them to the rest of the world.

Gecko Press Dorothee de Monfreid dog illustration

To help keep the Gecko Press book market afloat during challenging times in its overseas markets especially, Julia has tapped into WellingtonNZ’s resources and funding.

She used those funds to work on her digital marketing strategy with Wellington agency Digital Cafe.

“We developed a social media digital plan that allows us to target people who live close to specific bookshops in key cities anywhere in the world where our books are sold.

“We can then encourage these people to visit their local bookshop to ask for Gecko Press books,” explains Julia, the 2021 winner of the Margaret Mahy medal for contribution to children’s literature in New Zealand.

“What I like about it is that instead of trying to drive traffic back to ourselves, we are supporting our bookshops to sell more of our books.

“This approach allows us to be tight with our social media budget - it is a quick way to spend good money otherwise.”

Digital Cafe helped to set up the campaign and monitored it to allow Gecko Press to apply what it learned to other projects and to create templates for different scenarios.

“This digital marketing funding was really helpful - it was strategic and helped us prepare for implementation, which means we can do more, test things out and extend the campaigns.

“It gives us great flexibility and control of that part of our marketing spend.”

This year Julia says Gecko Press is all about implementing its overall digital marketing strategy as it looks to support the many bookshops and online stores globally that are challenged by Lockdown and to respond to the seismic shift to online shopping in all markets.

It’s also about supporting the company’s own sales teams that are unable to present books in person to key accounts for example, as they used to.

“In New Zealand, we are lucky thus far that people can still visit their bookstores - online or in person,” says Julia.

“It is really important that New Zealanders support New Zealand bookshops so we don't continue to lose ground to the likes of Amazon and Book Depository, who threaten the livelihood of our local book market.”

Gecko Press was launched in 2005 by Julia, who chose to live in Wellington after years of living in Stockholm. She loves that it has a centre, is walkable, and is built around the sea.

Julia Marshall Gecko press

“It’s a great size for doing business. It’s easy to meet people doing different things – art, tech and business.”

More than 15 years on Gecko Press’ criteria for publishing books remains largely unchanged.

“We select, translate and publish books by the best illustrators and writers in the world, that are original, warm and child-focused, often funny or asking big questions – books we think will contribute to growing resilient, thoughtful children.

“We look for books that reach to the heart of children and childhood.”

To stay true to the Gecko Press vision of publishing these “curiously good books”, Julia is firmly focused on building the Gecko Press brand in her own way, made extra possible with help from the likes of WellingtonNZ, NZTE and CreativeNZ.

WellingtonNZ has worked with Gecko Press since 2011. Gecko Press was part of Creative HQ’s regional incubation programme supporting new companies to start and grow. In more recent times WellingtonNZ has helped the company with introductions to student projects and digital marketing support.

“We are truly grateful for the help we have received this year – particularly as it has been so practical and has helped us go up a couple of notches in how we communicate with our customers and readers," says Julia.

“This new approach means we can move ourselves forward, learn how to do things and get them done, instead of just talking about things.

“It certainly is a year of focus, of using our time well and not going down rabbit holes, which will translate into more people around the world loving our particular sort of books.”

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