The Publishing Post
Campaign Spotlight: Old Babes in the Wood by Margaret Atwood
By Amy Greensmith, Danielle Hernandez, Emily Lavin and Georgia Rees
Hailed as “the outstanding novelist of our age” (The Sunday Times), Margaret Atwood’s latest publication has suitably generated a lot of buzz. Published in the UK on 7 March 2023 by Vintage, Old Babes in the Wood is Atwood’s first release since 2019’s The Testaments, and her first short story collection for a decade.
Although best known for her speculative fiction, Atwood is also a prolific short story writer. Her latest collection boasts fifteen “deeply personal” (Penguin) stories, offering reflections on the human condition and marriage. Dedicated to her partner Graeme Gibson, who passed away in 2019, Old Babes in the Wood is structured in three parts. A healthy serving of short stories is sandwiched between the tale of a lengthy marriage between characters Nell and Tig which we follow from its early beginnings to the very end. As you’d expect, this release was hugely anticipated, with a two of the stories already appearing in both The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine.
Margaret Atwood has collected a group of loyal readers from every generation. With such a varied audience to engage with, it is no surprise that the Marketing team at Chatto Books, an imprint of Vintage, have taken their campaign to a wide range of channels, including digital.
As always, digital marketing is aided by pleasing visuals. Thus, Old Babes in the Woods’ stunning cover, illustrated by Noma Bar, cannot go unmentioned. The design drew on the imaginative motifs in the book, whilst also complementing the new covers created for several of Atwood’s other titles. Leaning into the powerful legacy of her work by tying these stories together with similar covers was a clever move that helped to encourage readers to share photos of their copies.
Similarly, social media also played a key part in creating buzz around this release. Bookstagrammers posted images of their proof copies and bookshops promoted signed copies as well as posting photos of the live events hosted for this release. At the end of February, just weeks before the release of her latest collection of short stories, readers were given the chance to win a bundle of Atwood’s books, including Old Babes in the Woods, on Instagram. Twitter was also used by the publisher to spark conversations about the new release.
Another notable element of the campaign was the exclusive excerpt that was released in The Guardian. The newspaper has written several articles on Atwood over the years, from announcements of her releases to interviews with the author, as well as review of her work and guest edits from the author herself. Targeting the loyal readership of this newspaper surely would have helped expand the campaign's reach significantly, building excitement around the release.
When working on a release by an author as internationally acclaimed as Margaret Atwood, it is understandable that a large bookshop tour is not always possible. However, the Marketing team at Chatto did take advantage of the popular ‘In Conversation’ events at Waterstones. The team paired Atwood with fellow writer Pandora Sykes for an evening of celebration at London’s Emmanuel Centre. The event was also livestreamed for those who could not be there in person. All ticket holders were offered the chance to purchase a copy of the book, with in person attendees able to have their copies signed by the author.
Following the event with Pandora Sykes, Atwood was also present at another exclusive live event. Held at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall, the event saw the author in conversation with
television presenter Kirsty Wark about the creative process behind her latest collection of short stories. The audience were also treated to a Q & A session and a live reading by actress Maxine Peake. A similar display was held in New York at Symphony Space on Broadway. A variety of actors joined to perform a selection of “funny, thought-provoking, terrifying, and touching stories” from Old Babes in the Wood.
Since the book’s release on 7 March, the Marketing team at Chatto Books and Vintage have continued to promote Old Babes in the Wood with podcast features on BBC 4’s Open Book and Talking Scared (episode 134). With a steady presence after publication, it is no surprise that Atwood’s latest release has once again secured her a spot on The Sunday Times’ bestseller list, as well as an editor’s choice pick in the New York Times.