By Caitlin Davies, Danielle Hernandez and Georgia Rees
2021 saw an array of highly anticipated returns and stellar debuts on our shelves, with a range of innovative marketing campaigns. This week, the Marketing Campaigns Team are looking back upon some of last year’s highlights and their favourite, unforgettable campaigns.
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
2 March 2021, Faber
Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun has been one of 2021's stand-out fictional works, longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize. No stranger to literary accolades, this was Ishiguro’s eighth novel and first novel published since receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017.
Whilst bookshops remained closed, how do you market such a renowned author? With the release date set at 2 March 2021, this required a unique and flexible campaign that could excite readers despite the UK being in lockdown. As bookshops were closed for browsing and events taking place virtually, Faber, along with the rest of the industry, were facing unprecedented obstacles for new titles.
Klara and the Sun’s marketing strategy can be summarised as two-fold: focusing on the aesthetics of the hardback copy and Ishiguro himself. Ishiguro attended numerous interviews and public appearances, including an in-conversation with his daughter, Waterstones’ Zoom meet and greets and profiles in several UK newspapers. The abstract yet minimalistic front cover took centre stage, attracting our attention across various media. The cover reveal initially took place on a large billboard, along with an illuminated billboard in Shoreditch during March 2021. Readers scrambled to access special edition proofs and cover variations of five different coloured covers. In conjunction with the release of Klara and the Sun, Ishiguro’s backlist was re-released with similar styled covers.
This campaign was indicative of our increased interest in the aesthetics of book covers and sharing them on social media. It demonstrated how the publishing industry aimed to adapt to changing reading habits and new challenges.
Once Upon A Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber
29 December 2021, Hodder and Stoughton
An eagerly anticipated 2021 release in the young adult and fantasy genre was Once Upon A Broken Heart, Stephanie Garber’s prequel to her bestselling Caraval series. Garber and the team at Hodder & Stoughton, began posting about the upcoming stand alone in plenty of time for its release on 30 September 2021, revealing both the title and the cover step by step over on Instagram. Garber’s fourth novel was an instant hit, becoming a Sunday Times bestseller and being nominated as one of Amazon’s Best YA Books of 2021. Once Upon A Broken Heart was so well received, in fact, that many retailers sold out of the first print run within the first week.
Key to the marketing strategy behind Once Upon A Broken Heart was the emphasis on this "unforgettable fairytale." An enormous amount of detail went into the design of the cover and the book itself. Peeling back the cover of the UK first print run edition revealed one of four stunning foiled covers underneath the dust jacket, with readers only finding out which they had once they had received the book. Both the Barnes and Noble exclusive edition and the Fairyloot exclusive edition were a shimmering pink, to tie into the character of Evangeline Fox, whilst the Fairyloot edition also included stunning illustrated end papers and bonus content.
Garber is very active on her Instagram account and has teased fans throughout the process of writing Once Upon A Broken Heart. Prior to release, Garber posted 'map mondays,' in which she shared an exclusive section of the map alongside a quote from the book.
Once Upon A Broken Heart is a prime example of the magic and excitement that a good marketing campaign can inspire.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
3 September 2020, Penguin
I always find the tell-tale sign of a good marketing campaign is when I pick up a book I usually wouldn’t even consider. Something from a subgenre I don’t typically venture into, and yet it ends up in my shopping basket anyway. For me, this past year, that was The Man Who Died Twice. I’m not usually a reader of crime or mystery novels but, like many others, have been swept up into the success story of Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club series.
Osman’s debut novel presented a unique challenge for the marketing team in avoiding the pitfalls of “celeb fiction.” While instinctively wanting to take advantage of Osman’s celebrity status, Penguin were also keen to keep the book community involved in these releases. The compromise created was a stand-out campaign that blended traditional TV and radio publicity with organic word-of-mouth. Using NetGalley to their advantage, Penguin sent out advanced reader copies to general fictional readers, building pre-publication excitement for the new title and accumulating a large number of consumer reviews to accompany the mainstream chatter from Osman’s interview appearances.
And with this author brand established, Penguin had to simply build on this impressive success with a similar marketing strategy for the sequel. Everything from the September release date to the striking cover, which mirrors the same distinctive design of its predecessor, immediately marked this book out on the shelves as the much-anticipated sequel to the bestseller.
What could have been another celeb book with fleeting success has instead gone on to produce one of the fastest-selling novels since records began. Penguin have combined their marketing and publicity efforts to create a trademark brand with this series of books that cannot be missed.