Campaign Spotlight: Weyward
By Caitlin Davies, Amy Greensmith, Danielle Hernandez and Georgia Rees
Weyward, the debut novel from British-Australian author Emilia Hart was published in the UK on 2 February 2023 by Borough Press, an imprint of HarperCollins UK. On 7 March, it will be published in the US by St Martin's Press, an imprint of Macmillan. Spanning five centuries, Weyward recounts the stories of three generations of women who draw on witchcraft and the natural world in an attempt to reclaim their autonomy from the confines of patriarchal control. The novel combines elements of historical fiction, women’s fiction and magical realism to create a moving story of feminine power. Permeated by the theme of witchcraft, Weyward is a feminist novel touching on a number of themes relevant to the current zeitgeist.
According to HarperCollins UK, Hart’s novel is “2023’s biggest debut.” Given this bold statement, it is no surprise that Weyward has been the centre of an expansive campaign comprising an array of marketing methods. Weyward’s marketing and publicity teams have evidently been successful in generating substantial excitement for the book. Two weeks after its publication, this witchy debut novel shot to the number two spot of The Times’ hardback fiction bestseller list. Furthermore, the novel has won the praise of numerous critics and been chosen to be part of BBC Two’s Between The Covers book club.
In- Person Marketing
An array of bookshop launches and events promoting Weyward are indicative of current marketing trends and consumer buying habits. As sales of print books continue to soar and post-pandemic footfall increases in bookshops, particularly independent stores, this is a great example of marketers utilising physical spaces to connect with readers.
Weyward was a key player in Borough Press’ #BoroughDay. This was the literary imprint’s largest ever proof drop, targeting booksellers and key influencers across the country. Along with advance copies of Yellowface, Rootless and Two Sisters, the novel was distributed to thirty-three shops, with tote bags and bookmarks. From Hatchards in Piccadilly to Waterstones in Chester, Borough Press put booksellers at the heart of their campaign.
Mailing boxes were another important part of the UK marketing for Weyward, as well as in the US for the St Martin’s Press imprint. Boxes contained a proof copy of the book, a fantasy-esque potion bottle, lavender potpourri, a locket and a beeswax candle. A crow symbol was also heavily featured, referring to the US cover, contrasting with the bright pink theme featured in the UK design. Borough Press delivered boxes of proofs, badges and seeds, whilst also providing the opportunity to win a spare mailing box in a giveaway competition.
A successful book launch was held in Goldsboro Books, an independent bookshop in London specialising in first editions and signed copies. Copies of Weyward were prominently displayed in the shop window. You’re highly likely to spot the novel in your local bookshop window over the coming weeks, with impressive displays being curated up and down the country. Events celebrating the new publication were also held at Waterstones Westfield, along with panels at Waterstones Liverpool and Cambridge, in discussion with Simon Savidge and Beth Underdown, and Laura Purcell and Rosie Andrews respectively.
Social Media and Digital Marketing
The social media campaign for Weyward has been huge, with it being a focus publication for HarperCollins and receiving plenty of support from bookstores. If it feels like Weyward has been everywhere recently, that’s because it has. Emilia Hart’s debut novel was first posted about on the @harperfiction and @boroughpress Instagram accounts on 19 May 2022, nine months before publication, with a striking pink animation and cover reveal. This vibrant hot pink colour has been a central theme of the marketing campaign, appearing both on the proof and in the final cover design, as well as on POS and all social media posts. A traditionally ‘feminine’ colour, this pink has been used in the design for a few recent witchy feminist books, with themes of female power and sisterhood, including Juno Dawson’s Her Majesty’s Royal Coven, and this seems to be a trend that we will see more of. Harper Fiction have built on this, using it to keep Weyward at the forefront of our minds, with their “Go Pink” for publication day campaign, providing exclusive social media logos and “Bewitched by Weyward” banners for users to add to their profiles, something that a lot of bookstores and industry professionals have been doing. Seeing an opportunity to stay on theme, they also posted Weyward for Galentine’s Day, as “the perfect gift for the inspiring women in your life” (@HarperFiction on Twitter).
As with most highly anticipated publications, a mailing box was sent out to book bloggers prior to release day. These hot pink boxes contained a copy of the book, Weyward badges, wildflower seeds and an exclusive Weyward t-shirt. Followers of Borough Press’ Instagram also had the opportunity to win one of the spare boxes. Similarly, followers of HarperFiction’s Twitter had the chance to win prizes including a National Trust membership and Biscuiteers butterfly biscuits by tweeting photos of #WeywardInTheWild.