Category: Features

What made the Lowborn campaign such a success?

Lowborn - Kerry Hudson

Lowborn - Kerry Hudson

Earlier this year, Sophie Painter of VINTAGE won the Best Guerrilla Marketing Award (April-June 2019) for her campaign for Kerry Hudson’s Lowdown. The judges said this was:

A stellar example of a campaign delivering on some clear objectives with a small budget and within a very short timeline. They not only conceived and delivered a campaign to support an important social justice campaign, but also made use of high profile partnerships with relevant charities to deliver a wide range of events and reach new audiences for this book.

But what did Sophie think the key elements of the campaign were? Here are her key takeaways:

  • The best campaigns are created when the author, agent, editorial, sales, publicity and marketing all agree and work towards the same goals from the outset. This was a hugely collaborative campaign based on the plans we set out to author and agent nine months ahead of publication. It’s especially important to have built this trust early on when a book is so personal to and difficult for the author.
  • In order to draw non-traditional book-buying audiences to events the key things to consider are the accessibility of the location, price and format.
  • You don’t need a huge advertising budget if you can work with large charity partners in a meaningful way, but your activity has to be led by their campaigns.
  • The personal recommendation of booksellers is central to this kind of narrative non-fiction in hardback, it can be time consuming to reach out to individual bookshops but their passion will sustain the sales once all of the publicity and marketing has run.

8 takeaways from Michelle Obama’s Becoming campaign


Last month, Amelia Fairney and Rose Poole from the Penguin General marketing team presented some of the highlights of the huge campaign they ran for Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming. Even if you don’t have a former First Lady for an author, there is plenty to learn for people planning for event publications:

1) Early consumer insight / analysis is really worth it

9 months ahead of publication, the team went out to speak to people and find out what Michelle Obama means to them. This informed the strategy around the campaign.

They took a film crew to create voxpop videos. These were used as part of the digital campaign further down the line, reaching over 500k people, and are still being used now.

2) Pull in colleagues from across the company

A taskforce was created from across the whole of Penguin Random House – the only criteria for entry was that you had to love Michelle Obama.

This taskforce brainstormed ideas and also gave feedback on the Marketing & Publicity campaign presented to them.

They felt invested in the book from the beginning and acted as both a sounding board and a great source of ideas.

3) Speak to retailers early

When the cover was ready in Spring 2018, the team went on an UK-wide tour of bookshops. This allowed them to ask questions and tailor specific plans to customers.

In turn, bookshops felt real value and were kept constantly updated.

Waterstones was the biggest retail partner and their support was crucial. They ran an exclusive pre-order competition to win a trip to New York and also held a big author event with them.

4) Start advertising early

The social advertising started in May, and audience groups were built depending on response, with the team really responsive to results.

There were 150 creatives and they saw 45k clicks to retail for a spend of £8k.

5) Create a news moment

There were no firm publicity commitments until late in the day and so the team needed under the radar ways to engage people.

A giant mural created a news moment. The team partnered with Dreph, known for his empowering portraits of black women. He chose what to draw – he didn’t want to just recreate the book jacket.

It was very authentic and he also did interviews about it for publicity, becoming a spokesperson for the book.

Candice Carty-Williams – a Michelle superfan – also did a live review on the Penguin website.

6) Identify the right partners

The team worked with The Advocacy Academy, a social justice fellowship for young people from marginalised communities in London.

They ran an event to fundraise for the Academy selling the book for £5, and also ran a staff book sale with proceeds going to Academy.

The Academy came and spoke to staff at PRH and some of their advocates attended the South Bank event. This relationship, set up for the book, is now ongoing, and has also provided a legacy which is an issue so important to Michelle Obama.

In the week leading to the Michelle Obama visit, the team partnered with GalDem. They partnered on a pop-up shop in Bloomsbury with a programme of events themed to issues that Michelle Obama cared about.

The team also identified the top influencers in different segments, putting careful thought into how to reach and work with them. With the book under strict embargo, they weren’t able to offer much apart from enthusiasm!

7) Don’t forget the audio

Read by Michelle Obama herself, the audiobook was a way to reach non-traditional book buyers. The team devised a plan for the year, including pre-order advertising and early excerpts online. They also offered an exclusive extract to Apple News.

Radio ads sampled the audiobook on Classic FM, and podcast activity has included sponsorship on biggest book podcasts.

BOTW on Radio 4 coincided with launch of the BBC Sounds App – a happy coincidence but also another chance to use the audio.

8) Maximise events

There were two events – one with the Elizabeth Garrett School and a sell-out event at the Southbank Centre.

The team worked with PRH Audiences at both events – capturing content and data, and leading the conversation online. The school talk was videoed and bundled with curriculum resources to send to teachers for classroom use.

Giant banners provided great photo opportunities while they were able to invite Influencers to the Southbank as a thank you for all their support.

Those are the things WE took away, but we’d love to know: What were your key learnings from the presentation?

#BMSShoutOuts: the campaign work we loved from March and April 2018

#BMSShoutOut is a chance to celebrate great work from across the industry and inspire the campaigns we’re working on now. See the latest shoutouts we pulled together and presented at the March and April 2018 member meetings.

If you have something you want to show off or have seen someone else worth talking about, be sure to add in #BMSShoutOut on twitter/FB and instagram.


March 2018

Suicide Club by Rachel Heng

  • Sceptre marketing
  • Slipcase proof & pin badge Online influencer activity

Series of gifs and photography for social, and lots of Bookstagram activity already generated for this lead titles

How to be Famous by Caitlin Moran

  • Ebury marketing
  • Slipcase proof

Gorgeous slipcase proof and a Spotify playlist from the author



Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

  • Penguin General marketing
  • Interactive poster display, with Audible tagging

Penguin worked with Jack Arts to create an interactive poster installation on Commercial Street, London for Exit West. Using book jacket artwork, book extracts and cityscapes from locations in the book. Functioning doors open onto the posters. The campaign strapline read: “You sometimes need a way out. You always need a way in.” 

Six Tudor Queens by Alison Weir

  • Jo Liddiard, Headline marketing
  • Spillboard


Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge  Genista Tate-Alexander

  • Bloomsbury marketing
  • Interactive poster

The well-known Shoreditch High Street poster site featuring an extract from the book and the now widely-recognisable jacket approach, live for paperback release

April 2018

The Words Podcast by Dawn Burnett & Richard Vlietstra

  • Simon & Schuster
The Words Podcast launched in January from the Simon & Schuster team. Presented by journalist Rosie Goldsmith. 3 episodes so far
  • Benjamin Zephaniah, Rupi Kaur on poetry
  • And a detective constable, criminologist and crime scene journalist as guests for the crime fiction episode
  • Laura Bates on sexism

Described by one customer review on iTunes as ‘like something that would slot right in between women hour and you and yours.’

Perhaps the S&S team can come and talk in another session around their strategy behind the podcast, that would be great.


 Circe by Madeline Miller & Rachel Wilkie

  • Bloomsbury
  • Social assets, POS and windows

Congratulations to Rachel Wilkie and Bloomsbury marketing on their number 2 bestseller with  Circe. Highlighting their grecian photography social media asset design, POS and Foyles window here


The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

  • Cornerstone marketing
  • Oval Office at LBF

Huge shoutout to Cornerstone’s Marketing team for bringing the #PresidentisMissing Oval Office to life at London Book Fair to announce The President is Missing by James Patterson and Bill ClintonEnabling ultimate selfie moment on an epic scale, they painstakingly reconstructed the Oval Office and Rose Garden and manned it throughout the fair. A Trump look-alike, Gif machine, mini golf, badges and a recorded message from Bill Clinton on the desk phone, ensured the activity made the book the talk of the fair.

Where are the readers?* and do we still call them readers?

Authenticity in the age of big data
by Niamh Murray

Data, data everywhere – no time to stop and think.

If we’re living in the data age, where consumer metrics and engagements rule the roost, where readers are being called ‘users’* and where we’re constantly measuring performance, what numbers actually matter? And which can you trust?

Let’s take a look at 2016. It’s worth remembering that a data-led approach to human behaviour can be a risky business. At Profile we’re liberated from the tyranny of a data-focused approach by our publishing, which rarely sorts our books into silos of digestible genre-based chunks. But as for 2016: here are things that the numbers, for the most part, promised us would be impossible.

Data and data analysts failed to tell us that 2016 would bring about unholy upset in the form of …

… Trump
… Farage
… and Brexit

In an age of big data and big data fails, it’s worthwhile being skeptical. Readers – and yes, us folks at Profile Books still call them readers – are also humans. Irrational, unpredictable, like-Gilmore-Girls-while-also-loving-thrash-metal, change-their-minds-several-times-over-the-course-of-a-conversation, humans.

We’re living in an increasingly loud, busy, and overwhelming age. It’s no coincidence that mindfulness and colouring-in are two of the stories of our era. So, tweaking that newsletter subject line and repeatedly A-B testing to gain a 1.7% increase in open rate is one way to reach an audience; but, another approach is to remember that what makes us different, awkward and unpredictable will always be a factor, and it is to be celebrated.

We’re not one size fits all.

Things in 2016 which are not driven by (and if you ask me, not necessarily improved by) metrics:

  • Having a distinctive, engaging voice
  • Knowing your audience
  • Publishing brilliant books and making them look like beautiful objects
  • Concentrating on surprising and aweing readers
  • Realising that there’s no substitute for word of mouth. There is no metric that can show which books will achieve it.

It is okay to realise that not all of your books are for people who like contemporary fiction. Or even that all of your crime books are not just for people who like crime fiction. Or even that all of your Scandi crime books are not just for people who like Scandi crime fiction. And that’s okay.

There’ll always be another Girl-Gone-From-A-Train-In-An-Airport-Dead-In-A-Dark-Wood. (Aside: what is it with all these pesky girls and why do they keep dying?) Or even another Norwegian Wood – although that case is more interesting as an example of true oddness standing out and triumphing. You can even flog next year’s spotty teen trying out American snackfood or leisurewear from the luxury of their bedroom via YouTube. But then that savvy audience begins to realise it’s just a moment – and soon they see what is fake and sponsored and ultimately has nothing meaningful to say.

I think people will always search out authenticity. It’s that which makes Mary Beard so brilliant on the telly and forms queues of 2k fans around the block cheering her on when she takes on Boris Johnson (insert pantomime boos here), debating whether the Ancient Greeks or Romans did it better. It’s that which makes Sarah Perry the absolute superstar she is, both on the page and off. It’s that which lends itself to surprise and awe. Authenticity is that experience you can get from browsing in a well-stocked, beautiful bookshop. You can sometimes get it from a lively twitter conversation or emotive YouTube clip. Authenticity is what Lena Dunham delivers brilliantly via LennyLetter, what Melville House does so well, what I am yet to experience in any way from a corporate newsletter – and I’m not just talking about publishing here. Enough of the corporate cotton wool.

Authenticity is best served live – hence the resurgence in events – or in the author’s own voice. That’s why Chris Kraus’s I LOVE DICK found its niche. That’s why there is no substitute for a brilliant author who is willing to engage.

As for finding new audiences – which is not the same as new markets – you need to go low. Around knee height in fact – your new audiences are the same little people who start out with Booktrust’s bundles, sign up for their local libraries, embrace the Gruffalo and graduate to David Walliams, spend a few years in the dark wastelands of the YA novel and emerge on the other side as fully formed readers. If you want to start developing new audiences, look for more kids who aren’t white, middle class, and from north London. Look for the people who eventually grace the pages of books like Nikesh Shukla’s The Good Immigrant. Look for the next incredible, ferociously smart, unapologetic Zadie Smith. Get them early. Treat them like the smart, irrational, creative, brilliant unpredictable humans they are and will become. Nurture their love of reading.

Because we’re people, not metrics. We like stories, and things that are real and personal to us and speak to us on a deep emotional level. We like stories that are real – because we’re real. And that might ultimately define what makes us readers*.

(*The question as to whether we still call our customers ‘readers’ nowadays was posed thoughtfully by James Spackman in a recent post on the Facebook hub of the Book Marketing Society.)


Niamh Murray is the Marketing Director of Serpent’s Tail (now part of Profile Books) driving marketing strategy and managing the marketing teams for both the fiction and non-fiction lists. Successful brand partnerships are a key part of her role as Profile publishes books by Wellcome Collection and The Economist.

Decline of a Captive Audience

by Dominic Gettins

Without a captive audience, advertising isn’t advertising.

The centrepiece of this year’s Oxford Street Christmas lights appears to be a giant illuminated jar of Marmite. It’s fairly unmistakable what this paid-for media content is suggesting we buy.

For the avoidance of doubt, it’s Marmite.

There was little opportunity for much else here, but it is emblematic of modern advertising.

Who needs an illuminating message when you have an illuminating medium?

Or as songwriters Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz asserted at the end of a fruitless day trying to write a country song, ‘You say it best when you say nothing at all.’

Technology has changed advertising to the point at which it doesn’t really exist any more.

Do publishers need to be more discreet about the way they promote their books?

Where advertisers could once sit and wait for a captive nation to read their ads, they now send a logo into space and hope someone trains a search engine on it.

As in the case of call handling software, technology in advertising has turned something simple and intuitive into something complex and inscrutable.

PR agencies, Direct Marketing agencies, Media Buyers and Events Organisers are piling on the grief. Their ideas for give-aways, competitions apps and media spaces are designed for product placement, not for written content.

Dominos can put their logo on a flag in the online game of a player who will soon have to break for food. Dolce Gabbana can hunt down the woman (or man) obsessed with shoes and place their kitten-heels right where it hurts.

The diversification of media has had a liberating affect on the audience, who now can individually browse for information like bees in an infinite meadow.

I, for example, don’t open news stories that involve child deaths, or Somali pirates; I do open stories about transfer rumours and incompetent organisations.

But that’s just me.

The person next to me on the train browses Metro’s ‘Guilty pleasures’ on an iPad, prodding pictures of celebrities to find out what they’ve been up to.

We are no longer a captive audience so we are less open to foot-in-the-door persuasion, as click through rates of 0.1% for banner ads persistently underline (source: Doubleclick). But we are more open to something else.

Like the bees we are naturally attracted to what appeals to us and away from anything toxic or stressful.

Any advertiser trying to get to us in this field had better have some sweet nectar.  We will be drawn to anything that makes us laugh, smile, feel richer, happier, better informed or gives us a guilty pleasure.

Take the illuminated Marmite for example.  It’s not advertising. It’s part of the street furniture, hiding in full view, fitting in.

Writing in ‘Men’s Health’ Will Self recently said:

‘Sinister corporate interests have always understood that the best advertising is lethargic: it hangs around forever, until buying the product concerned has become as natural as breathing (or as unnatural as smoking).

Notice how McDonalds TV commercials have evolved:

  • 1970s: Smiling kids lap up the empathy of Ronald McDonald –
    a bright yellow clown.   Clearly an ad.
  • 1990s.  Comical Dads in comedy situations ending up with
    the kids at McDonalds.  Less clearly an ad.
  • 2010s:  Modern commuters, people in overalls and ordinary Mums
    with kids drop in and eat burgers, with clarinet music.  Possibly a documentary.

It’s as if eating at McDonalds were the most natural thing in the world.

Why would you want to work with Independent bookshops?

By Meryl Halls

The indie bookselling sector is in a state of some flux, and is also a bit schizophrenic about how it sees itself.  It’s weathering a brutal retail recession, there are pressures on rent, rates and high street infrastructure, as well as the onslaught of ebooks and discounting from what’s still quaintly called the non-traditional sector (online and supermarkets).  They are small businesses, run – mainly – for love of the products they sell. Clever publishers looking for a deft, creative and energetic partner could do much worse than cultivate their relationships with them.

This is an oddly buoyant sector – as remarked on by more than one commentator after the recent BA Conference – and the thriving shops now are lean, commercially acute, business-savvy, often peopled by the chain diaspora, creative, hardworking, and committed to books. They are instinctive retailers – and thoroughly embedded in their communities.  It’s here that lies the key to independent bookselling success.  So fleet of foot have indies become that the strangest combinations are now almost de rigeur – books partnered with coffee, with ice cream, with homeware, jewellery, antiques, chocolate, furniture, art, theatre box offices, games, puzzles – even with hats!  If you engage, delight and entertain your community, you are much more likely to prosper, and the indies know this.

I work closely with the BA’s IBF Advisory Panel, 10 fantastic independents that include Patrick Neale, Jane Streeter, Ron Johns, Andrew Cant, Andy Rossiter, Sally Johnson, Sarah Waddington, Catherine Hetherington and Matthew Clarke.  Between us, we drive initiatives and projects for the indie sector, and these bookshops have some great examples of how imaginative partnering can work.

One of the most pleasing for us recently was when Ben Gutcher at Hodder decided to promote Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers exclusively through independents, a move welcome with glee by the indies I spoke to.  We used the IndieBound logo on the press adverts, and a link to the site for a Bookshop Search for those keen to find their local bookshop instead of shop online – it’s not all that snazzy, but it makes the point – and we like the point being made!

Some initiatives we’ve had for Independent Booksellers Week have worked brilliantly. Walker Books ran a “Find Wally” competition this year, where the first 100 bookshops to sign up received a full pack of large Wally, 10 small Wallys and lots of stickers and participation sheets for children.

The idea was that the bookshop hid mini-Wallys in other retailers in the town, and launched the search to find them with customers.  It worked perfectly in so many ways – it connected the bookshop with other retailers, it drove customers into the bookshop, and then into other shops, it created a sense of excitement in the town and a children’s activity around the bookshop. It also created costume character photo opportunities which are so important for local press coverage.

We would love more of the same (and similar) for Independent Booksellers Week next year – running 29th June to 6th July 2013 – it’s a great way to connect with a large number of indies, and really raise the profile of your books and authors in the indie sector.  When indies really get behind a book, it can have a huge impact – look at the Christmas bestsellers every year, which always nestles an unexpected hit, sold quietly but effectively through independents.

Beyond the bigger campaigns, even individual shops can make a disproportionate impact.  Jane Streeter at the Bookcase in Lowdham has had great success with the new Ben Fogle – she ran an event for 450 people this summer at the Lowdham Book Festival (which she helps to run), received extra discount on the paperback from the publisher, and simultaneously offered signed copies of his new hardback for pre-orders placed at the Festival.  There are dozens of independents running festivals, racking up substantial sales for featured books, and they are almost always up for a challenge if you have an idea to take to them.

Mark Thornton at Mostly Books has taken an innovative step forward by partnering with Angry Robots (Osprey Publishing) and selling ebook and paper books in a bundle – exclusively in-store.  Mark has attracted new custom, and the publisher is creating a marketing concept that works for a high street bookshop in a pretty counter-intuitive fashion!

The point I’d really reinforce to publishers is that you should always think about the independents in your marketing cycle  – increasingly they are looking to organize author tours collectively (and the BA could help with this), they are often deeply experienced in events management – and if you take them an idea, they can make it work because only THEY have to make the decision.

If you’d like find out more about working with independents, or taking part in Independent Booksellers Week, email or visit for information on the 2012 campaign.


We found love in a hopeless place. A view from The Clothes Show LIVE.

Picture this scene. You are at The Birmingham NEC surrounded by some of the world’s most beautiful people, wearing the hottest fashions and sporting the biggest hair styles since Dallas (and I’m talking vintage, not Channel 5). On the hour, every hour, Rhianna sings We Fell In Love In A Hopeless Place. The models strut the catwalk. They look sexy. They are fabulous. Celebrities galore from TV, music and fashion also take the many stages while teams of hot dancers parade around them. The globe’s biggest fashion and beauty brands from couture to high street line the arena with eye popping offers.

Then in come 170,000 women primarily aged 17-24 with £16.6m to spend.  And they are all looking for a bargain.

This is the Clothes Show Live and in 2011 Books And The City took a stand.  Why, you ask?  Two reasons really.

  1. Because it is brand partnership HEAVEN
  2. Thousands of these girls LOVE chic lit

Books and the City is an online and direct to consumer marketing initiative set up by the staff and authors of Simon & Schuster who share many passions including [a] food, fashion, beauty, cocktails and most of all chick lit.  With a decline in sales across the genre it is clear that these consumers are not heading to the high street as frequently these days in the economic downturn.  But that doesn’t mean they love their romance any less.  So we felt that going to places where these consumers were heading such as specific exhibitions, trade fairs and media sponsored brand events was the perfect way to engage with new readers.

We took six authors who signed books and met with fans, performed writer presentations and tapped up new brand partners to work with in on-going third party marketing activities. We gave away goodie bags full of books, offered amazing competition prizes and signed up over 5,000 new members to our monthly newsletter.  We sold quite a few books too!

This year we are going again.  We are hosting a Literary Salon where 350 Clothes Show visitors can meet with our authors, many of who also continue to work in the media for a networking event.  We have even bigger brand partnership competition prizes with the likes of Champney’s, Project D, Kandee Shoes and Young British Designers.  We’ll be selling books at hugely competitive prices and we aim to come away with an even fatter contacts book so that we can build wider promotional networks for our on-going marketing campaigns.

We might even find a bit of time to buy shoes and make up too.  *But don’t tell Ian Chapman*


[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Dawn Burnett is the Marketing Director (Adult Division) at Simon & Schuster and for the last 7 years has spearheaded numerous award-winning and bestselling campaigns with her brilliant team. Prior to this she worked for Ebury Publishing and Pan Macmillan. She is currently reading The Knot by Mark Watson. More blogs[/author_info] [/author]


Discovering SEO:
A Publisher’s Guide

Following what was for many (perhaps depressingly) a revelatory talk at the Bookseller’s Marketing Conference in June, Chris McVeigh here outlines the ‘immeasurable benefits’ that SEO tools can offer.

There’s a lot of talk at the moment about the declining sales of publishers’ print backlists as the popularity of eBooks continues to rise.

David Shanks, CEO of Penguin GroupUSA, laid part of the blame for their recent steep drop in profits on the declining value of backlist print sales:

“With literally millions of titles available online, the chances that someone will find your book are decreased immeasur­ably,” Shanks explained. “There is just too much to choose from. How many screens do you browse before you get tired and just pick something that you have seen.”

Perhaps one answer to this issue of backlist discoverability is for publishers to learn a simple truth that most other industries in the business to consumer sector (B2C) learned many years ago – effective Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) coupled with a well thought out Inbound Marketing strategy is the key to visibility on the web.

The publishing industry is almost unique in its’ widespread failure to grasp the benefits of SEO and inbound marketing. Pretty much every other consumer-facing sector, from property, personal finance or travel through to the automotive and consumer electronics industries – all rely on sophisticated SEO & Inbound Marketing strategies in order to ensure the discoverability of their brands and products in the online environment.

So what exactly is Inbound Marketing and why should publishers use it?

“Inbound Marketing is a marketing strategy that focuses on attracting prospective customers by offering useful information in contrast to outbound marketing where brands “buy, beg, or bug their way in” (via paid advertisements, issuing press releases in the hope they get picked up by the trade press, or paying commissioned sales people, respectively).” – Wikipedia

Who has more ‘useful information’ to base a well thought our inbound marketing campaign than publishers? Publishers have buckets of the stuff. Millions of words of well edited, well researched, well written content that could be placed in front of consumers for their consideration. When this content is coupled with an effective SEO strategy it becomes possible for publishers to draw consumers into their websites in greater numbers, much more easily and with much greater effect than a ‘like’ on Facebook or a ‘retweet’ on Twitter.

How can this help boost backlist sales?

One of the problems of falling backlist sales is that publishers (and to a lesser degree, consumers) are almost drowning under the sheer weight of books now tumbling into the digital sales environment. Understandably most of the marketing effort goes into promoting new titles but often that means that backlist titles struggle to gain any useful degree of visibility. The irony here of course is that traditionally it’s often the backlist that keeps publishers profitable in lean times.

Here’s a real life example of a non-fiction publisher who had begun to notice a year on year decline in the value of their backlist sales.

This company published approximately 80 new books per year and had around 400 titles in their backlist. Over a period of 3 years their turnover had stalled at around £1.2 million and the proportion of backlist sales had fallen from around 58% to 42%.

There were many reasons for this change, many of them structural – in fact the two main reasons – growth of online book-selling and changing stock holding policies in terrestrial book stores – were both beyond the control of the publisher.

The simple fact was that although online book-sellers listed all the backlist titles on their sites, the serendipity had been taken out of the book buying process and the backlist titles (without the promotional budgets of the frontlist titles) were sinking into invisibility. The fact that this was happening at the same time as terrestrial bookshops were savagely cutting the number of titles they kept in stock, only added insult to injury.

How then to raise awareness of these backlist titles without assigning large amounts of (unavailable) promotional budget? The answer lay in SEO & Inbound marketing.

  • We took small selections of content, no more than 10 pages or so from 100 of the publishers most successful backlist titles.
  • We used this content to increase the extent of the publisher’s website to include a ‘Guides’ section.
  • We augmented this content by applying tried and tested SEO techniques to ensure that these new website pages figured highly in search engine results pages.

After 6 months, the results were astounding. Website visitors had risen from around 6000 per month to just over 100,000 per month.

After 12 months we could see the full results of this experiment.

Website visitors had risen to over 200,000 per month (an increase of 4000%) and sales had increased by 12% (£146,000). Crucially most of this sales increase was focused on the backlist titles featured in the trial.

Within 12 months, the proportion of frontlist/backlist had shifted significantly.

2009-2010       58% Frontlist / 42% Backlist

2010-2011         49% Frontlist / 51% Backlist

This publisher is now continuing to add to their inbound marketing strategy with more content and latest figures are backing up and even improving upon the original experiment.

These are real numbers from a real publisher. There is no need for complicated analytics or metrics to measure the success of this sort of campaign. Actual double digit growth on the balance sheet and a ROI over 12 months of 1360%.

It seems clear that publishers underestimate the real value that is locked in to their content libraries. Value that is easily unlocked by applying tried and tested techniques which have been in wide use by other industries for almost a decade.

Obviously SEO and Inbound Marketing are not magic bullets. These techniques on their own won’t solve all the problems of discoverability and visibility faced by publishers but they can help immeasurably. In addition, as things stand at the moment, so few publishers have genuinely engaged with these tools that the ones that do will be almost certainly be rewarded with enormous first mover advantage.

Find out more on, or you can get in touch with Chris via Twitter on @SEOforBooks


[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Chris McVeigh spent a decade working within major publishing corporations, notably Elsevier and Thomson. In 2003 he established himself as an independent consultant assisting publishers on marketing issues and emerging technologies. During this time he became a vocal advocate on the benefits of SEO for publishers and is regarded as a pioneer in this field. Now based in Los Angeles he acts as a business analyst advising media and technology companies on opportunities in the publishing sector. [/author_info] [/author]


The Age of Flashmobs

40 orange umbrellas?  Check.
Video camera fully charged?  Check.
Note to company to wear running shoes in case we have to leg it?  Sent.
100 copies of The Age of Miracles delivered to every desk in the company?  Check.
Simon & Schuster:  We are ready to flashmob!

Three years ago we did something a bit naughty for Philippa Gregory’s advertising campaign of The White Queen.  We projected her book jacket onto The Tower of London and The Houses of Parliament.  It was exciting.  It was dangerous.  It was teetering on the edge of legality, verging on breaking local authority regulations even if it wasn’t quite breaking the law.  But for a bunch of middle-class publishers who read books, wear glasses, don’t throw litter and pay taxes… this was ANARCHY!  And it felt good.

In June on the longest day of the year, Simon & Schuster organised its first flashmob for The Age of Miracles which has been one of the most talked about debut novels of 2012.  There was the usual advertising mix of outdoor posters and traditional press but what generated the most chat was the video and photos of our entire company, clad in orange outfits, sitting in Trafalgar Square reading a copy of this brilliant novel.  Tourists took our photos.  Strangers asked us what was going on. A handsome Italian man asked us for our books (and our phone numbers). We were spreading the word, especially across Twitter where our activities were being picked up and commented on by our customers, competitors and bloggers alike.

The only fly in the ointment was the Trafalgar Square ranger having a very stern word with our MD Ian Chapman and telling us to clear off otherwise there would be trouble.  Ian didn’t wear his running shoes.  The rest of us left him for dust.

Have you got a Flashmob story? Let us know in the comments or tweet to @BMSoc!


[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Dawn Burnett is the Marketing Director (Adult Division) at Simon & Schuster and for the last 7 years has spearheaded numerous award-winning and bestselling campaigns with her brilliant team. Prior to this she worked for Ebury Publishing and Pan Macmillan. She is currently reading The Knot by Mark Watson. More blogs[/author_info] [/author]



CASE STUDY: Lord of the Flies cover competition

The Lord of the Flies Cover Competition for 13 to 16-year-olds ran from September 2011 to January 2012, in partnership with Guardian Children’s Books. It was at the heart of a campaign to promote the Centenary Edition of the book.

The central idea was to invite a new jacket illustration for an Educational Edition (to be published September 2012) from students encountering the book at GCSE level. The campaign hoped to ignite conversation about this classic novel, and generate a significant amount of PR, both online and off.

Though not a particularly unique concept – we admit this freely! – there were a number of factors that made the competition a success. Paramount to this was the book itself. As well as being a dream campaign for a Faber marketing manager, the ubiquity of Lord of the Flies meant that it needed no introduction. Our artists and illustrators were likely already reading it, and would be re-imagining it, crucially, for an audience of their peers. The book’s reputation was also a huge advantage when seeking press coverage.

Getting started

We took the decision early that the competition would be run online through a custom website ( We commissioned an identity, distinct from any archive or current jackets, with the aim of making an impact with a demographic that spanned teens as well as teachers, librarians and educators. Encouraging social sharing at all points in the campaign was crucial for our teen demographic, so entries were managed online and via a public gallery, each piece of artwork being supplied a unique URL and its own sharing buttons. The site also featured a set of bespoke digital resources for young illustrators, all posted on familiar platforms (YouTube, WordPress, Vimeo, Flickr). As well as good collateral for teachers, our aim for the resources was to create content that invited sharing. Bringing together a set of archive Lord of the Flies jackets alone garnered over 13,000 views on Flickr.

The major partnership with the Guardian – in which the competition featured heavily as part of the newspaper’s Books Season, as well as through a series of features and social media updates over four months – gave the campaign its running start. It also sparked a generous amount of follow-up press. Overall, the Guardian accounted for a meaty 29% of our referral traffic to the site, followed by Wikipedia (13%), where the book’s listing already sees high traffic, and Twitter (10%), where most of the competition updates and discussion took place.

Reaching teens

The Guardian was also central to the awareness campaign aimed at teachers. Its messaging to its own Teachers Network was teamed with our PR and email activity to teachers and educational bodies. A partnership with The Reading Agency gave us access to libraries, which, in a brilliant coup for traditional offline marketing – in this case a flyer in a library – was where our winner Amy Baxter found out about the competition.

So after an extended wait in which it dawned on us that teens do, in fact, work right up to deadlines, the last two weeks saw a flurry of entries. Our final tally was 277, with a high proportion being submitted in classroom-sized batches by teachers. The winner announcement gave us a second bite at publicity (which included coverage on the Guardian, culture, design and literary sites, and an appearance by our winner on BBC Breakfast), resulting in our highest single day traffic coming unusually at the end of the campaign.

There is a nice and rare sense of longevity in this project that owes much to its source material. The site and resources will hopefully remain a lasting part of the online presence for Lord of the Flies, and the entries are a fascinating glimpse into how young readers experience and interpret this classic novel.

The Lord of the Flies cover competition was Highly Commended in the Sept-Dec Seasonal Marketing Campaign Awards. 

Marketing: Silvia Novak & Susan Holmes
Publicity: Rebecca Pearson & Rachel Alexander
Website: Omni Digital (

View all of the cover design entries, the winner and shortlist, at


[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Silvia Novak is Consumer Marketing Manager at Faber and Faber, where she has commissioned a number of interactive projects and direct-to-consumer campaigns, including the online story and experimental poetry site[/author_info] [/author]