After tickets to Michelle Obama’s sole UK appearance to promote her forthcoming book, Becoming, sold out within minutes, her publishers have undertaken to make "as much content as possible...widely available" after the event.
The London event, featuring the former First Lady in conversation with novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on 3rd December at the Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall, was only announced a week ago. But following the release of tickets to the 2,700-seat capacity venue to the general public at 10am on Thursday morning (8th November), Southbank Centre announced as soon as 10.30am the same day it had completely sold out.
Tens of thousands of punters were left disappointed, and many took to Twitter to express their frustration, with some saying they wished a larger venue than the Royal Festival Hall had been booked. A petition to livestream the event in wake of “enormous unmet demand” was also launched.
A Penguin General spokesperson commented: “We’re absolutely thrilled that so many people share our love for Michelle Obama and are excited to hear her story.
“We wish we could have given more people the opportunity to see her live, but we were restricted to a single date so had limited options.
“We will work with Penguin Live to make sure as much content as possible from her event is made widely available once it has happened.”
Obama’s appearance features in the midst of her 10-stop North American tour, which kicks off in Chicago on the book’s publication day, 13th November, and wraps up on 19th December in Brooklyn, New York.
Ticket prices to her UK event ranged from between £30 and £125, but tickets started appearing on Viagogo for sale for thousands of pounds. In a tweet Southbank Centre said it has asked the site to remove the tickets and that tickets bought from unauthorised third parties will be cancelled and invalid for entry.
Tickets went on general sale on Thursday after the venue's members were given priority on a certain number of tickets the day before. 300 tickets were held back to give away free to school students and charities.
Becoming is the beneficiary of Penguin General’s biggest marketing spend to date, Viking told The Bookseller this week. An extensive National Rail and London Underground campaign has been booked on top of promotions with Amazon and commercial radio, as well as social media and podcast advertising.
Campaign highlights have already seen Obama’s portrait appear as a mural in Brixton and, still to come in partnership with gal-dem and Waterstones, a pop-up shop stocked with books by women and non-binary people of colour will open in central London for one week from 23rd November. A special “I am Becoming” podcast has also been developed as well as vox pops footage with members of the public to use as part of the publisher’s promotional activity. More details about the record-breaking campaign can be found here.
Penguin Random House secured the memoir in a global book deal, worth a rumoured $65m, that also includes a forthcoming book from former US president Barack Obama.