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Megan Barlog Hughes empowers authors in digital age through Purple Shelf Media

Dressed in a purple top, Megan Barlog Hughes stands outside as she smiles for a photo. The alumnus is the founder of Purple Shelf Media, a marketing company for children’s and young adult books. (Courtesy of Megan Barlog Hughes)

By Sanjana Chadive and Katy Nicholas

Oct. 23, 2023 6:05 p.m.

Megan Barlog Hughes is fully booked getting stories from the shelves to the readers.

The alumnus of UCLA’s Screenwriting: Film & TV Comprehensive intensive is the founder of Purple Shelf Media, a marketing company for children’s and young adult books. Barlog Hughes said she works with authors who want to expand into the social media space but have no experience. With her knowledge in publishing, she said she knows what publishers want and their limits, so she is able to give authors the marketing expertise that is not available to them.

“Their publisher has 100 people they’re trying to publish books for – there just isn’t the time or bandwidth to handhold authors through what they really need to do on social media,” Barlog Hughes said.

[Related: Daily Bruin alumnus K.X. Song releases debut novel ‘An Echo in the City’]

Barlog Hughes said she has experience with the limits of publishing companies because prior to founding Purple Shelf Media, she worked in publishing at HarperCollins. She said authors are often handed a one-page overview of what they should do on social media, but this can be daunting since many authors have never even used a social media platform. She said she decided to reroute her career during the COVID-19 pandemic and started freelancing for a publishing company doing their digital marketing. She said she now has the ability to bridge the gap of knowledge for authors.

Barbara Fisch, Barlog Hughes’ colleague who works at Blue Slip Media, said Purple Shelf Media fills a much-needed niche in the writing world. Barlog Hughes added that publicity has to do with outreach to bloggers and newspapers, whereas marketing covers everything from social media advertising to postcards and posters. Authors therefore need services from both Blue Slip Media and Purple Shelf Media, and the companies end up referring clients to the other depending on what the authors want to do with their book, she said.

“Depending on their budget and depending on their goals some, (authors) only … want to get as many people as possible,” Fisch said. “That’s when we’ll suggest things that Megan could do that could really help and complement what we do.”

Passionate about helping all authors, Barlog Hughes said she emphasizes working with any budget to help sell books. Lower list authors do not have the same six figure budget as New York Times bestsellers, so she said she prioritizes making every cent of their own invested money count. She said she is able to pivot based on budgeting and predict when email marketing, influencing or ad campaigns will have the best return investment.

A lot of the work Barlog Hughes said she handles is influencer work. She said she has her own list of book influencers who she has connections with and pitches different titles to for review. Susie Wilde, one of these influencers, said Barlog Hughes gave her not only the skills but also the confidence to expand into social media.

Wilde said she originally reviewed books in newspapers but was able to keep up with social media and switch her route due to Purple Shelf Media. Barlog Hughes said she holds one-on-one coaching for authors and reviewers through different social media platforms and helps them design ad campaigns. She is hoping to release an instructional video library and video courses similar to her one-on-one coaching in the near future.

Having loved books since childhood, Barlog Hughes said working with children’s and young adult novels has given her a new appreciation for the joy and escapism these genres provide. She said one of her favorite recent projects has been an ad series for a children’s picture book series called “Money Tales.” These stories introduce children to financial concepts, such as inflation, in a lighthearted way involving princesses and wizards, she said.

“You’re almost always guaranteed a happy ending,” Barlog Hughes said. “Even if it’s not a fully happy ending, it feels resolved in a way. I think adult novels sometimes forget to have the joy in it.”

[Related: Book Preview: Fall 2023 to see Britney Spears’ memoir, return of Percy Jackson]

With three published short stories and a novel in the works, Barlog Hughes said she uses the experience of authors she works with as lessons about the professional writing business. She said starting her own company gave her more time to work on her own writing in general, and it also allowed her to take the screenwriting intensive at UCLA.

Barlog Hughes said her work gives her perspective into what is currently trending, which she is able to translate into her own writing. She said getting involved with the author community from behind the scenes offers invaluable experience in knowing when her work is ready and when it might need a little more time.

“It’s been really fun because I get to make all these connections with people who have already succeeded, and I feel like I’m in the group even though I haven’t published a full length novel yet,” Barlog Hughes said.

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Sanjana Chadive | Lifestyle editor
Chadive is the 2023-2024 lifestyle editor. She was previously an Arts staff writer from 2022-2023. She is a third-year comparative literature student from Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania.
Chadive is the 2023-2024 lifestyle editor. She was previously an Arts staff writer from 2022-2023. She is a third-year comparative literature student from Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania.
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