By Amy Greensmith, Danielle Hernandez, Emily Lavin and Georgia Rees
Alice Slater – former bookseller and host of What Page Are You On? podcast – has burst onto the contemporary fiction scene with her debut novel Death of a Bookseller. Published by Hodder & Stoughton, the thriller follows Roach, a socially isolated bookseller with a penchant for true crime and all things morbid. Although content with her life of solitude, Roach cannot help but become enamoured with Laura – a new hire at the bookshop. Roach’s fascination is spurred by a suspicion that Laura’s sunny exterior masks a darker and more sinister disposition. As Roach’s fascination turns to menacing obsession, the thriller reaches its boiling point.
Prior to its release on 27 April 2023, Death of a Bookseller had been lauded by early reviewers for its skilful examination of social isolation, morbid obsession and dark inner lives.
The marketing campaign for Death of a Bookseller includes active social media promotion and an extensive tour of both major and independent bookstores throughout the UK. Moreover, bookstores across the country are awash with eye-catching neon displays promoting the new novel. This article will explore all avenues of Death of a Bookseller’s marketing campaign.
A large part of the Death of a Bookseller marketing campaign has taken place online, with author Alice Slater being particularly active across her social media platforms. The tagline “horrible little book” has been used often in PR packages and on posts across socials, cleverly summing up Slater’s debut in three simple words. The vivid pink and green of the UK cover – incidentally representing the characters Roach and Laura – has been splashed across our timelines with ads, merchandise and PR goodies all sticking to the colour palette. Slater first revealed the eye catching cover, designed by Lewis Csizmazia, on Halloween – 31 October 2022 – choosing the spookiest and most true-crime day of the year. Playing into the characters’ propensity for a night out, Slater also posted themed character cocktails to her TikTok account, with Laura’s featuring rose petal vodka and rose syrup to reflect her rose-scented perfume, and Roach’s being just a can of Strongbow Dark Fruits – her drink of choice.
As a treat for the indie bookshop customers, the publishers released a limited run of reverse colourway pink and green covers, featuring special endpapers and each coming numbered and signed. Each indie book came alongside a pin-on snail badge representing ‘Bleep,’ Roach’s pet snail, and also the snails that have infested Laura’s flat. To incentivise pre-orders, Hodder & Stoughton created a competition whereby customers who pre-ordered the book had the opportunity to win a Kindle Scribe worth £350. The marketing team also created an online interactive quiz linked to their Twitter where users could find out if they were a Roach or a Laura, and were in with a chance to win a National Book Token if they posted their results to Twitter.
In the week leading up to publication, Alice Slater joined The Book Fairies (a campaign launched in 2017 to share great reads by hiding books across the globe for lucky readers to find) to leave a trail of books across the UK. Copies were hidden in many locations referenced in Death of a Bookseller, creating a literary scavenger hunt, from the Devonshire Arms in Camden to several places in Walthamstow – including a graveyard! The Book Fairies are a great way to create buzz for upcoming releases and give readers a chance to find a copy for themselves.
Alongside the book trail, the marketing team at Hodder Fiction have devised a packed book tour for Alice Slater all over the UK. Beginning her series of promotional appearances, Slater was joined by fellow author Bethany Rutter (Welcome to Your Life) to discuss her debut novel, at a sold-out event at Daunt Books Summertown, ahead of publication. The tour will continue with Waterstones Gower Street hosting the book’s launch (another sold-out event), as well as a sentimental visit to Waterstones Deansgate where the author began her career as a bookseller. Slater will also appear at Edinburgh’s Portobello Bookshop, with Kirsty Logan (Now She is Witch) – an event that offers the opportunity to attend via livestream – and The West Kirby Bookshop, with Simon Savidge (Savidge Reads), which includes a copy of the book, a goodie bundle and cocktails inspired by the novel.
Perhaps the most exciting event on this book tour is Slater’s final appearance at Phlox Books, London. The independent bookshop, closely located to the main settings of the book – Leytonstone, Walthamstow and Waltham Forest – promises a book event unlike any other. Phlox has organised a night that consists of author conversation, audience questions, a pub quiz, Cluedo and (most importantly) cocktails!