Spring Conference Blog: Campaignspotting

Posted on April 5, 2019 in News & Reviews, Scotland

Panelists:

Carla Hepburn, Senior Marketing Manager, Edinburgh University Press

Jamie Norman, Campaigns Executive, Canongate

Ceris Jones, Marketing and Publicity Officer, Sandstone Press

If I Survive, EUP

First up was Carla Hepburn who discussed Edinburgh University Press’s campaign for If I Survive, a collection of previously unseen speeches, letters, and photographs of Frederick Douglas and his sons. Frederick became the most famous African-American anti-slavery author and freedom fighter in U.S. history, with President Obama quoting from many of his speeches, particularly the line ‘There is no progress without struggle’. The publication marked the 200th anniversary of Douglas’s birth and is considered a necessary work in the current era of Black Lives Matter.

Hepburn highlighted that sometimes you are only limited by your imagination when it comes to marketing a new book. She discussed the title’s publicity at the National Library of Scotland where the collection that the book is based on ‘Strike for Freedom’ was being exhibited showing the synergy and necessity of live events that relate to the content of a new release.

Until preparing her presentation, Hepburn didn’t think the campaign was a total success. This humble admission contradicts future plans for the collection which will be moved to the National Gallery of Arts in Washington D.C. This move is a huge undertaking that will result in Frederick’s book will be stocked in three of the gallery’s large bookshops. Hepburn also spoke about the longevity of the title as a research book that will hopefully become an essential resource for scholars in years to come.

Room to Dream, Canongate

Next up was Jamie Norman who discussed Canongate’s campaign for David Lynch’s memoir Room to Dream. The campaign was built around a the film legend who they met only briefly for a Guardian profile and one interview. With only half a day’s worth of material, the rest was up to Canongate’s Campaigns team.

The marketing journey was not without its stumbling blocks. Due to a global publicity embargo on the title Canongate couldn’t tweet or share anything about the content of the book until the weekend before its release in June 2018. Their solution? An 18-hour ‘Lynchathon’ that involved watching all of Twin Peaks from start to finish in the Canongate office. The event was broadcast live on Twitter and received 5000 engagements. Food was also involved in the campaign effort, in particular, the very ‘lynchian’ cherry pie. Norman and his team engaged indie bookstores during Independent Bookshop Week by sending out cherry pies and coffee – signature Twin Peaks cuisine.

Room to Dream ended up just 27 copies short of being a Sunday Times Bestseller and has sold 10,000 copies to date. Canongate also won the Book Marketing Society award for Best Adult Non-fiction Campaign of the summer. Norman stated that Canongate’s campaign started a conversation and got people talking and judging by the audience’s reaction, it continues to do so today.

The Tyranny of Lost Things, Sandstone Press

Last up was Ceris Jones who spoke about Sandstone’s biggest campaign of 2018 to promote The Tyranny of Lost Things. The novel was written by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, co-founder of The Vagenda blog which has since earned 50,000 followers. Her own twitter account has 15,000 followers, which meant Sandstone already had a ready-made fan base for Cosslett’s new book.

Coslett is an experienced feature writer and as part of the campaign wrote moving pieces about how being a child carer moulded her into the person she is today and about the politics of millennial nostalgia. Coslett doesn’t feel that millennial fiction is taken seriously enough and it’s clear from Jones’ presentation that they have successfully promoted a book that intends to combat this issue.

*

Although they published starkly different titles, Hepburn, Norman, and Jones, all demonstrated innovative ways of finding their readership, despite the competition from the variety of content available online.

Blog by Jack Ferguson, SYP Scotland Conference Committee