4 things authors can learn from the Sally Rooney marketing campaign

Did you get one of the hats? How about a branded tote bag? Did you spend £50 to make a candle in a very tangential workshop in east London? Or buy a coffee from one of the Beautiful World branded coffee trucks? Did you queue up early to get your copy?

Whether or not you did any of these things, the Sally Rooney marketing campaign has been pretty unmissable over the last month or so.

Beautiful World, Where Are You is the most obviously massive marketing campaign that I can remember since Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments. They have clearly thrown everything, including the kitchen sink, at it. And it is paying off. People, maybe even non-publishing people, are talking about the campaign. The Sunday Times bestseller figures are released tomorrow and I would be *shocked* if it isn’t number one.

I wasn’t a huge fan of either of the previous books (they were good! But not for me). But I have LOVED watching the Sally Rooney marketing campaign this time around, and I am SO CURIOUS to know how many copies it sells over the next few months.

I can’t pretend that this blog post is going to help you replicate that success (soz!). But if you are an independent author without such a giant budget, or getting a much lower level of support from your publisher, here are some things you can learn from the marketing campaign:

Pop-up shops (and partnerships) can be fun

Sam Missingham asked people to share what 3 things would be in their book’s pop-up shop and I WANT ALL OF THESE PEOPLE TO LAUNCH POP-UP SHOPS! So much creativity and some of them sound genuinely brilliant.

Maybe the investment in a brick-and-mortars pop-up shop is too much, but – could you approach a small business that aligns with your book’s audience and sell your book alongside their stuff? Could you join forces with some other authors, or other businesses, and promote one another’s stuff on your newsletters and social media? Could you give a non-book partner some copies to giveaway to their audience? Maybe you could do a QVC-style live where you interview one another.

Partnerships can be a great way to reach a new audience. The trick is to make sure that your audience and your partner’s audience, match up, and that you are offering something of value to them. (And by them I mean both the potential partner, and the audience you’re trying to reach).

To find someone good to work with, you need to know what kind of stuff your audience is into. I’ve got a free download here to help you figure out your target audience, if you need help with that.

All publicity is good publicity

Have you heard about how our Conservative government launches campaigns they know liberals will find infuriating, just to spread their message wider? I started to spot this regularly after reading Hayley’s article.

It feels like half of the tweets I initially saw around this campaign were about how OUTRAGED people were by the marketing. Spending so much money on an already successful author! Launching a pop-up shop when indies need more support! CANDLES!? Etc.

It all did the job of telling people that this book was coming and you should be paying attention.

This is clearly a very risky strategy for a book, and I wouldn’t generally recommend it. BUT, it could be a fun brainstorming exercise to think about, even if you didn’t implement any of the ideas. How could your marketing campaign inspire people to hate share your book? Sometimes this kind of ‘opposite’ brainstorming can help you come up with ideas that are viable and a bit more positive.

People love merch

It’s a cliche that publishing produces too many tote bags, but to be fair, I’ve still got all of the tote bags I’ve ever created. I love them and they are super handy. And every time I’m out and about, I’m like a walking billboard for whatever’s on the bag.

(Of course, there’s a separate conversation we could have here about whether billboards sell many books, but that’s for another time).

Getting some book branded notebooks or badges or EVEN bucket hats doesn’t need to cost a lot of money.

They likely won’t get lots of people trilling online about how much they want one, unless they are particularly beautiful, or your book is particularly coveted already. But they are a nice way to say thank you to the people supporting you and can make your book stand out when you send it to bloggers and reviewers. They won’t sell books on their own, but they might get you an extra review or two, or just generate some good will.

Social media can exist about your book without you

Sally Rooney isn’t on social media, and is an intensely private person. Now, she has sold millions of books and had a TV show based on one of them. So, that’s a luxury you might feel she can afford, but you can’t.

Fair point. BUT social media can exist about your book without you. I have loads of ideas for ways you can promote your book without social media here, but here’s one I don’t think is in that download:

Send everyone on your mailing list Twitter and Instagram story images that they can share on their channels. If they tag you, and use your book hashtag when they share the image, they’ll be entered into some kind of giveaway.

They can spread the news about your book on your behalf without you having to shout about it all the time.

Have you spotted anything in the campaign that you’re going to try in your own marketing? I would love to hear your thoughts.


I’m hosting a workshop next week – want to come?

If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy my upcoming free workshop: 3 simple ways to grow a sustainable author platform. I will NOT be talking about the Sally Rooney marketing campaign again (actually, I might, but just for a minute or two, I promise), but I will be talking about how authors of all backgrounds – already published, self-published, still writing their book etc – can grow their author platform.

It’s on the 23rd of September at 11, and you can come along, for free, by adding your details below. Want to know more before you sign up? Click here to read a bit more.

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What authors can learn from the Sally Rooney marketing campaign


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