Without strong visuals everything becomes more forgettable, audience hears at annual BMS/PPC book fair gathering

POSTED ON: 24/03/17 TAGS: London Book Fair PR Visuals publishing

by BMS

by Sue Stephens

The Publishers Publicity Circle and Book Marketing Society joint event at the London Book Fair was absolutely packed and this year the subject was The Visual Life of Campaigns. Thanks to everyone who came – you can see the conversations around the event on #visualcampaigns but some brief notes below if you weren’t able to attend:

Preena Gadher chaired (MD and co-founder of the award-winning arts and culture communications agency Riot Communications), leading first onto…

Jack Smyth (a designer from Dublin who has worked in-house and freelanced for Little, Brown Book Group, Tower Records, Wagamama and Cath Kidson amongst others. He currently designs book jackets for Simon and Schuster)

Jack addressed visual language and how we can bring our books to life using visual techniques. He had particular concerns about how we often tend to create our own camouflage.

Jack states that nobody wins in this scenario and that we lose ingenuity, fun and sense of experimentation; it’s creating an environment which is incredibly difficult to navigate around. He also takes exception to pack shots.

Packshots are on virtually all book advertising. This says we are selling a product when what we really should be doing is selling a story. We don’t need to shout; be more brave, be more subtle – be more inventive. We don’t need to give all of the information: there needs to be a bit of mystery to make people want to find out more. There is obviously sometimes merit in riding a market that is newly created to benefit from a cultural phenomenon, but these tend to have a lifespan and then: how do you go beyond that? What you can do is just take a small divergent path to create something entirely new.


Jon Slack (presenting for Naomi Bacon, freelancer and co-director of a consultancy specialising in Marketing, PR, Social Media, and Creative Strategy)

The Power of Pop-ups and immersive events

Visual campaigns can take many forms, Naomi refers to ways in which events can make a difference. She encourages everyone to create events that you yourself would like to go to. We’re all used to a glass of warm wine in a bookshop for a launch and this has its place and will attract the usual book crowd.

But to bring in a wider readership, make more use of partnerships – not just drink sponsorship but lifestyle brands that might be able to create a launch that appeals to a different set of people such as the art, fashion or music crowd.

Two examples that she pointed to were the launch she organised for The Muse; as well as focusing on the book, the event included poetry and discussions, and allowed for shareable content through Snapchat filters and Instagram cards.

And the amazing launch at the Hackney Empire for debut author Robyn Travis – read more about the event here


Julia Kingsford (co-founder of Kingsford Campbell, a literary agency and marketing and publishing consultancy launched in 2014. Prior to this, she was Marketing Director at Foyles before helping found the reading for pleasure charity World Book Night and becoming its CEO in 2011. Julia has also worked at Random House, the BBC and the Barbican).

Julia talked about the smallest and simplest ways in which you can create visual engagement. There are some brilliant online tools that anyone can easily use to make a difference visually. Julia wrote a great blog piece afterwards read here about her presentation and, inspired by the subject, says she will be doing a workshop in the near future with the BMS (stay tuned!)

The big mistake that many make is not to be aware of the space in the timeline when tweeting an image. So you can get unintentional results… an unfortunate example below:

A way to avoid this is to make more use of quote cards and respect the safe space:

Also, to be aware that what really engages is emotion:

Make the audience engage and want to know more:

Experiment with video by creating enchanting visuals through stop motion and BookTubers.

GIFs allow for the life of a book and its marketing campaign to be extended by generating conversations around it.

Find good tools and utilize them, such as Pablo and Stop Motion Studio.

Analyse social media data and decide whether your content should be driving impressions or engagement.


Key Takeaways:

  • avoid the camouflage
  • sell the story not the product
  • be more brave – don’t need to give all of the information, create elements of mystery, less SHOUTING
  • cropping – think about the safe space
  • events – don’t just target the book crowd, find elements that have a wider appeal and create new environments for new audiences
  • ‘immersive’ is a bit overused but create events you would like to go to – Hackney Empire for debut author Robyn Travis – read here
  • make it more than the sum of its parts
  • visual storytelling
  • make use of online tools such as Pablo to create more shareable images


You can link to Naomi Bacon’s slides here

and download a copy of the event’s full presentation.


(thanks to Siobhan Rothwell for her notes contributing to this report)


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