Is there anybody out there? | The Bookseller’s Marketing and Publicity Conference featured a case study on Canongate’s success with Matt Haig’s book Reasons to Stay Alive. Their ambitious and varied campaign is one that’s seen Matt’s book become a bestseller, and one that was discussed by Publicity Manager Jaz Lacey-Campbell and Head of Marketing Vicki Watson.
They sought to keep Matt’s words at the heart of the campaign. His book is one that details his own life and battle with depression, with honesty and wit; but even that brought an ironic problem: the stigma over the word depression – is it used in a campaign? How do you get past that?
Their main asset was Matt’s writing, and its honest and witty approach. It was his words, his voice, and his story. And so the campaign followed suit: they didn’t lead off reviews, but serialisations and interviews – they focused on what he said, and not others. Matt has videos talking about the book, all the social media cards and images used his quotes, it’s always his voice.
Some time ahead of publication, they began working with mental health charities, earlier than they usually would with partnerships. Going early in terms of support and finding the right people for Reasons to Stay Alive was paramount. They sent a large number of proofs to people they knew who already liked Matt from previous work, pulling a string of impressive quotes for the title’s release.
When running a year-long campaign, it’s about balance. If there’s a quiet month, you up the paid spend; if there’s events and press, tone down that side of things. In their team, marketing and press work closely together, so can make smaller budgets go a long way when needed. But then came momentum, and they knew this was going to be big, so they managed to get more to spend.
Everything from his events, to giving the Siobhan Dowd lecture at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, helped to promote Reasons to Stay Alive and spread the word in these important conversations, by simply letting Matt tell his story. With the paperback release at the end of last year, they kept on with the same strategy.
So some take aways? Start early and involve the author when working with charities, trust your influencers, work seamlessly as marketing and publicity, and stretch your campaign budget.
Back to the main question: did using his voice help? A resounding yes.