Libraries can be your secret promotional weapon … and other things we learned at our Trade Marketing Masterclass

How to get the most out of working with retailers and other partners (like libraries) was the theme of our masterclass this month.

The campaigns under discussion:

  • Joanna Rose(Divisional Marketing Director of HQ, HQ Digital and Mills & Boon) on the opportunistic campaign for A Royal Wedding in response to a national event.
  • Vicky Abbott (Head of Marketing at Headline) on the campaign for Taking Nothing With You by Patrick Gale with its beautiful, expansive videography.
  • Chloe Healy (Senior Marketing Director at Vintage) on the extremely creative campaign for The Mermaid and Mrs Hanock with experiential and online activation.

As well as deep-dives into some exceptional campaigns (thank you Joanna, Vicky and Chloe!) we were joined by special guests from Waterstones and Tales on Moon Lane for a rich roundtable discussion about all aspects of this crucial area for marketers.

Here are a few of James Spackman‘s key takeaways from the session


You can be a disruptor in real life – Joanna Rose (HQ) described how effective their royal wedding POS packs for libraries had been, including highly disruptive Prince Harry standees.

Libraries can be your secret weapon online – when they adopt a hashtag as they did with @ MillsandBook’s #RoyalRomance, the word was spread far and wide.

Talk to your retailers about marketing early. All three campaigns involved early conversations with key channels (Waterstones, Asda) to check what kind of assets would really work; they didn’t just make them and hope retailers would use them.

A double-sided poster costs almost the same as single, but you can put a topical message on one side (eg royal wedding) and a timeless one on the reverse …

Retailers are wonderful places to create online assets. From the simple-yet-authentic Waterstones “video shelfie” to high concept launches like Chloe Healy (Vintage)’s The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock; invest in a classy and creative event and the video will be worth sharing and repay your investment

Marketers can advocate for assets to be used widely; Vicky Abbott (Headline) persuaded BBC Breakfast to show her Patrick Gayle video as well as interview him.

Work with what you’ve got … including your author’s relationships. Headline put time and resources into helping Patrick Gayle reconnect with loyal bookselling fans, through store visits, dinners, and personalised proofs.

Sometimes consumer advertising is also trade advertising. Headline’s quote-led press ads for Patrick Gayle were partly aimed at showing Waterstones that they’d backed a winner.

Engaging libraries can unlock local PR. Mills & Boon royal wedding displays and activity made it into many a local paper – not always an easy PR target.

Be flexible and open to opportunistic activity. Even though The Times isn’t an audience bullseye for Mills & Boon, when they got a good contra deal on an ad they made it work for the younger end of their audience.

There’s power in a theme. Marketers struggling with tiny budgets for midlist titles can emulate indies by creating themed and/or topical promotions to make the money go further.

(Old) money talks. Vintage’s successful pitch offer for The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock was made in guineas.

Be open to all when you brainstorm. Early creative work on The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock campaign embraced a wide range of staff at Vintage, leading to exciting ideas, useful connections and a totally bought-in team. They invested time, resources and priority in the process which yielded lasting results.

Much good trade marketing can be converted for consumers. Will Rycroft (Waterstones) found it simple to turn the Mermaid booksellers’ walking tour into a strolling interview with the author for the retailer.

Get beyond the bookstagrammers. Some of the best online engagement with The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock came from historians and lifestyle accounts.

Mills & Boon brings its books to market like a magazine publisher: Two-week on-sale slots, forensically optimised email marketing and an ultra-efficient e-commerce platform all working in concert.