Keeping your author on the cultural agenda year-round
Jane Acton, Culture Director and Philippe Jeanjean, Digital Director at Kallaway spoke to literary publicists at the Bookseller Marketing & Publicity Conference about building a year-round book campaign. Here’s what they had to say...
An author was speaking at a literary festival recently. She said the publicity and exposure was brilliant, as was meeting and engaging with her fans. However, the period around publication – the interviews, the publicity tours – can be an exhausting experience, both mentally and physically. After all the public exposure, she looked forward to getting back to writing books.
The challenge when publicising a book is to find the right balance of keeping your author in the public eye in a way that is relevant, while also allowing the author to get on with the job of writing. In between the key ‘publishing moments’ of the year, it’s our role as a communications consultancy to keep momentum going to build the author’s brand and one way of doing this is by jumping on the cultural agenda.
You need to think past the period of publication because you cannot build a brand with periodic bursts of activity. By looking beyond the books pages into news and further afield, we open up opportunities that will broaden the profile of our writers and reach wider audiences in a meaningful way. At Kallaway, we work with publishers and authors to build campaigns that raise an author’s profile all year round.
UNDERSTAND YOUR AUTHOR
By taking a strategic approach, really understanding your author and establishing them as experts in their field around publication, you are putting in place the building blocks to keep your author on the cultural agenda throughout the year.
Writers tend to see the world in interesting ways and can be brilliant, articulate and passionate spokespeople for their areas of expertise and the causes they believe in. Sit down with your author, dig deep and work with them to understand what makes their views and position unique. Put them at the centre of your campaign.
BUILD NEWS HOOKS
We worked last year with Macmillan and Ben Judah to amplify the publication of This is London, a book about migrant communities in London. The global migrant crisis was headlining the news and Judah’s first-hand experience of interviewing and spending time with migrant communities made his comment and views more relevant than ever. Between hardback and paperback publication, we identified salient hooks between the social issues in the book and events taking place in London at the time, positioning Ben as a leading commentator across the national press and lifestyle media. Our campaign ensured that This is London became a #1 bestseller on Amazon.
There are several recent examples of writers who have increased their profile in the media by championing themes and causes that are important to them.
Bryony Gordon, Telegraph columnist and author of Mad Girl and Matt Haig who wrote Reasons to Stay Alive have both written honest and personal accounts of their struggles with mental health conditions. Their books put a spotlight on mental health issues, particularly those affecting young men and women, in a way that hadn’t been done before.
Charlie Higson, a TV personality forever associated with The Fast Show, successfully built a profile as a credible writer of children’s books through championing a campaign to get young boys reading.
CHOOSE YOUR CHANNELS
When taking the ‘author as expert’ approach, understand the channels your author feels happiest communicating through and consider the channels most relevant to their audiences. Whilst some writers would happily turn around 500 words for an op-ed piece to deadline, others may prefer the spontaneity of a live radio interview or Twitter.
JUMP ON THE NEWS AGENDA
When taking advantage of current cultural trends, take a journalistic approach. Develop angles and news hooks to make your author relevant – whether this is specialist knowledge, themes from the book or personal interest. We worked with Pan Macmillan and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone to raise his profile and boost sales of his autobiography in the UK. Our approach was to draw parallels between the foundation of Twitter and the challenges faced by entrepreneurs and businesses in the UK, securing appearances on BBC 2’s Newsnight and Sky News.
Timing is everything. A brilliant idea that you’ve cooked up with your author one week, but which has not piqued interest from a commissioning editor, might make a perfect comment piece another week, simply because of the changing nature of news. It may even land you an interview on the Today Programme or a comment piece in The Times.
Take time to plan ahead so you are aware of the key cultural moments that are relevant to your author – whether it’s an awareness week, an anniversary or an historical moment.
Respond rapidly to the news agenda. Expand your contacts books by making the news correspondents, producers and comment editors your new best friends.
USE DIGITAL INFLUENCERS TO REACH NEW AUDIENCES
Social media influencers (such as bloggers and YouTubers) who regularly talk about books are clear targets for the publishing industry. However, by moving past book bloggers and targeting those who are influential across a wider range of topics and issues, publishers can diversify their fan followings.
Identify crossover interests and partner with influencers in those areas. Use analytics to help you to target the right people (such as Facebook’s Audience Insights or the audience creation tool in its advertising platform).
For instance, when looking for influencers for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, we discovered that more than 50% of people on Facebook who were interested in illustration were also interested in fiction books. So we partnered with blogger/illustrator Ella Masters to reach an interested, but totally new audience, for the Prize.
Beyond influencers there are also large fan communities such as Twitter Books (with 6 million followers) and Reddit Books (with 13 million subscribers). Starting discussions with these groups can lead to website traffic and even media coverage.
Tailor online Q&As around topical issues relevant to your author and promote the discussion as a talk along those lines.
Include an appropriate call to action to maximise the opportunity. Whether it’s making reference to the book in interviews, asking for a credit at the end of an article, including links to the website or encouraging follows and likes – let’s not forget, they’re there to sell books.
Want help with building a year-round campaign? Get in touch with Jane at: firstname.lastname@example.org