My First Book: Women and English Piracy, 1540-1720: Partners and Victims of Crime

How do people discover books? Or in a more poetic sense, how do books discover their readers? This is a question that preoccupies me on a daily basis, being someone who works in marketing in book publishing, and it is a question I would recommend those who are searching for their first job in the marketing department of a book publisher to seriously consider.

That’s the reason I have chosen the fabulous Women and English Piracy: 1540-1720: Partners and Victims of Crime by John C. Appleby for my #Boydell50 blog post. It’s a book in which I haven’t been involved in the marketing for, but a book which found me as a reader, and now holds a proud place on my bookshelf (with the generous help of my staff book allowance!).

When people ask me what it’s like to work in academic book publishing, I often think about Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman, an excellent collection of essays written for bookworms, which I discovered on Book Riot’s Instagram. One chapter, called ‘My Odd Shelf’, talks about a habit most bibliomaniacs practise: filling a shelf of your bookcase on a specialised, niche obsession. In Anne Fadiman’s case it’s polar exploration, in mine, it’s pirates!

However, when applied to academic book publishing, the ‘Odd Shelf’ expands to a whole bookcase, or a library (take a look at the art history collection at the Rijksmuseum Research Library in Amsterdam) and it’s wonderful to work with communities of people across the world, who have taken their specialised subject, and expanded it into a lifelong pursuit (or treasure-hunt, pirate reference one of many!).

The Rijksmuseum Research Library
The Rijksmuseum Research Library

Trends in marketing are becoming more personalised. Facebook’s Data Centres reveal a long line of Monolith-like machines which use learning algorithms to match content to each one of their 2.3 billion users. Twitter has recently opted for a user-tailored newsfeed, an annoyance for those who prefer to view their tweets in chronological order. Feeding this back to how companies like Boydell & Brewer fit in, it’s important for book publishers to get to know their readers, and provide them with content which adds value to their experiences, and speaks to their preferences, whether it’s the finished book, a social media campaign, a blog post, or email marketing. This is something Boydell & Brewer has worked hard to achieve over the last 50 years, and I hope that we will do so for many more. We have a wonderful community of readers and I enjoy helping them discover new books for their “Odd Shelf” collection every day.

My Reader Persona: Imprinted by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island at an early age, a passion for books about women in history, and the curator of an ‘Odd Shelf’ purely devoted to seafaring, swashbuckling, and adventure!

Catherine’s Odd Shelf

Interesting Facts from Women and English Piracy

  • Maritime folklore was profoundly superstitious regarding women aboard ship, seeing them as a potential source of malevolence or bad luck.
  • Women pirates were highly unusual; however, they did exist. For instance, the coastal raider, Grainne O’Malley, carved out a role as a political and seafaring leader. Her adventures at sea have been celebrated in folklore, and several times “Ireland’s Pirate Queen” has served as a figurehead for Irish nationalism.
  • Piracy on the River Thames, in London England, offered a rare opportunity for women to participate in piracy, either as the plunders, or the recipients of the stolen booty. For instance, in September 1638 Jane Randall and Margaret Pope were both charged with suspicion of piracy, for stealing various cottons, wool, goat’s hair, valued at £40, out of a lighter on the Thames.
Catherine Watts, Marketing Executive
Women and English Piracy, 1540-1720
by John C. Appleby
Hardback, 9781843838692, £35.75 or $61.75
Paperback, 9781783270187, £13 or $16.87

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