Winner: Non-Fiction Narrative Book of the Year
The publication of Michelle Obama’s Becoming wasn’t just the biggest publishing event of 2018: it seemed to be one of the major social moments of the year, too. The media and public frenzy on her arrival in the UK and at events steered by Penguin Random House was at a level more usually seen for film or music stars than for authors, and the sales numbers generated by Becoming were near-unprecedented in narrative non-fiction.
The book proved to be more personal and passionate than many had expected, full of honesty and emotional subtlety. It was a timely insight into big issues around race, gender and inequality, too. But while its popularity in the US was guaranteed, the success in the UK was surprising and remarkable.
Penguin General can take a lot of the credit for that, having dealt with numerous headaches around embargoes and security to give the book the best possible launch. It meticulously built a buzz way out from publication, and targeted infrequent readers and BAME communities in particular. Marketing didn’t let up after Obama went home, with sales snowballing right up to Christmas.
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