5X5S | The Bookseller’s Marketing and Publicity conference turned to indies, giving insight into making marketing work on miniscule budgets. Here are a few:
Scum Revisited: Verso’s Sarah Shin and Jennifer Tighe discussed promoting and selling a freely available and very controversial text (that calls for the death of all men). The Scum Manifesto is an outrageous and violent radical feminist manifesto. So how do you promote a controversial book?
They promoted it alongside their other books, giving 50% off all books if they bought SCUM. They preempted the backlash by discussing the manifesto critically and historically, both where it is problematic and the goodness in there. They were in control of the story.
They shared badges saying with some offensive taglines on them before the contextual posts, so received some backlash, but they learned that timing is key with sensitive material. Engage with the controversial elements – “always start a conversation, don’t shut it down.”
The Facts Behind the Fiction: Scribe’s Sarah Braybrooke chatted about using historical backstory to promote debut Mrs Engels. It was their first literary fiction story – they thought “how rare! A main character in a book that’s the wife of a historical character”. Turns out it had been done, once or twice (or a million times) before. So how do you make it stand out, with a £100 budget?
How can you dig deeper? They got 30 reviews, 15 print and online interviews – they targeted International Worker’s Day for release as that tied in. They had factual endorsement, blog tours – they also lucked out by Penguin’s Little Black Classics releasing the Communist Manifesto, and so they tied it into that, handing out free copies of the Penguin book with theirs.
Taking on a Cult Classic: Serpent’s Tail’s Anna-Marie Fitzgerald and Flora Willis talked publicising a title so rude, the Bookseller wouldn’t write it on their programme. But I can write it on my website. It’s I Love Dick.
“It feels good to say,” they start. “And better to tweet a picture of.” And therein lies its simple beauty: it’s a playful and creative campaign that people want to share. It’s a Christmas gift for cool girls and guys. It sends radio producers running. Press for a 20 year old book is not priority for an author, so instead you need to find champions.
A Guardian article changed it all, published just days before its release date, calling it a book “that everyone should read”. It was perfect and led to major reviews across Stylist, Grazia and more. They had a tiny budget and so social media became key: with a name like I Love Dick, and badges and book covers galore, it didn’t take much to get people sharing and talking about their book.