Marketing Strategy of the Year


Although the pandemic upended publishers’ carefully laid marketing plans for 2020, it also left consumers eager for the distraction of books, and spending more time online than ever. These ten campaigns capitalised on that, finding new ways to reach readers. In-person marketing will return in due course, but teams have learned some valuable new digital tricks about building awareness and making connections.


Matt Clacher, Lindsay Terrell & Olivia Marsden for The Mirror & the Light

Fourth Estate

Waterstones’ James Daunt described the release of Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light as “the literary event of our bookselling careers”. In one way, such anticipation made the book’s success inevitable — but it also piled enormous pressure on Fourth Estate to deliver a publication that fitted the occasion.

The marketing team of Matt Clacher, Lindsay Terrell and Olivia Marsden did so by making the release not just a literary event, but a cultural landmark for the UK. It started well over a year out from release, and took cues from major-league entertainment marketing in activations such as a billboard teaser in Leicester Square and a projection of the cover onto the Tower of London on the eve of publication.

Retail activity included backlist promotions, a new “reader’s guide” to Mantel, a blizzard of point-of sale material and a Waterstones gift card to get people buying the book as a Christmas present. Not even the lockdown, and closure of bookshops just after release, could stop the marketing juggernaut, as Fourth Estate doubled down on social media, online ads, influencer targeting and many more digital elements of the strategy.

The result? More than 50,000 pre-orders, well over a quarter of a million UK hardback sales across the year, and over half a million in all of Fourth Estate’s markets. The Mirror and the Light was still in the top 10 six months after release, and the previous two books in Mantel’s trilogy added nearly 200,000 further units to the tally.

“It was a note-perfect campaign… stylish, focused and a masterclass in marketing,” said the award’s judges. “It turned publication into an event that other publishers will be trying to emulate for years, and kept the sales momentum going brilliantly despite the pandemic.”

The Shortlist

  • Georgia Taylor & Ellie Hudson for The Thursday Murder Club
    Penguin General
    It was hard to miss Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club in 2020, thanks to Penguin General’s superbly pitched campaign. Starting right from acquisition and working out from his TV and social media profile, it has created an author mega-brand for years to come.
  • Amelia Fairney & Rose Poole for A Promised Land
    Penguin General
    Barack Obama’s A Promised Land had been keenly anticipated for years, but Penguin General had barely two months to mount a campaign between delivery and publication. A hectic news cycle and Obama’s absence added more pressure, but creative digital, retailer and audio work delivered 400,000+ sales.
  • Matt Clacher, Lindsay Terrell & Olivia Marsden for The Mirror & the Light
    Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light was always going to be a big deal, but this campaign made it a cultural occasion. Mass advertising, powerful partnerships and a cover projection onto the Tower of London built buzz, and when shops closed HC scrambled digital plans into action.
  • Joanna Rose, Janet Aspey & Jen Callahan-Packer for Skincare
    HQ’s campaign for Caroline Hirons’ Skincare went far beyond the trade to reach occasional buyers. Facebook and Instagram activity, major magazine promotions and—a rarity in publishing—a prime-time ITV ad helped it to sell more than 150,000 hardbacks by the end of the year.
  • Tom Noble & Lucy Cameron for A Song for the Dark Times
    Reaching new readers with the 23rd book in a series is no mean feat—especially with bookshops closed and events cancelled. Orion pulled it off by making its marketing more female-friendly, creatively building pre-orders, promoting extensively with Waterstones and offering clever collateral like a Spotify playlist.
  • Alice Shortland, Vicki Watson and Alan Trotter for The Midnight Library
    Canongate added fiction to Matt Haig’s conquering of non-fiction and children’s markets with a strong campaign for The Midnight Library that targeted Waterstones and indies. It spent three weeks on top of the hardback fiction chart—and this February the paperback led the Bookseller’s all-titles Top 50.
  • Amy Fulwood for Kim Ji-Young, Born 1982
    Simon & Schuster
    A translated Korean debut literary novel was a tough sell, especially with no author access. Simon & Schuster rose to the challenge through effective use of outdoor and social media ads and collaborated with Waterstones to exceed expectations for Cho Nam-Joo’s Kim JiYoung, Born 1982.
  • Joanna Olney & Stevie Hopwood for The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates
    Usborne went all out to make Jenny Pearson’s The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates its biggest fiction release yet. Proofs, bookshop visits, school samplers and lively POS built a trade buzz, before coverage across children’s media and a YouTube campaign brought in the sales.
  • Kate Neilan for The Roasting Tin Around The World
    Vintage’s campaign for The Roasting Tin Around The World cemented Rukmini Iyer as a distinctive brand in the ultra-competitive cookbook sector. It used data-driven strategies to grow her core market of families and young professionals, via colourful content on Instagram in particular.
  • Jessie Sullivan for E-book Lockdown Promotion
    Head of Zeus
    Head of Zeus’ e-book lockdown promotion was a nimble response to the shutdown of retail and the surge of people reading digitally. On a modest budget it made very smart use of consumer data to identify which titles to target and how.