Behind the marketing campaign: Ashleigh Barton on ‘Nevermoor’
When Jessica Townsend’s debut children’s novel Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Lothian) was published on 10 October, the buzz around the novel was immense. In the following week it debuted at number eight on Nielsen BookScan’s Australian bestsellers chart, making it the biggest debut children’s book in the Australian market since records began. Books+Publishing asked Hachette marketing and publicity manager Ashleigh Barton what was going on behind the scenes.
Nevermoor is one of those rare, once-in-a-career books that has had everyone excited right from the beginning. As soon as we (Hachette Australia) read it on acquisition we knew it was something really special, and once global deals began to unfold, it became clear just how massive this book was going to be.
It’s this excitement—which kicked off at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2016 and subsequently filtered down through Hachette, the industry and the general public—that has really contributed to Nevermoor’s success and driven our extensive, multiplatform campaign.
Influencer and industry campaigns
We have definitely done a lot of what we’d ordinarily do to promote a debut children’s book, but we’ve also ventured out into things we haven’t done before. For example, we ran our first influencer campaign on Instagram through our media agency and created dedicated Nevermoor stands at trade shows decked out with ‘Welcome to the Wundrous World of Nevermoor’ arches, fairy lights, giant posters, Hotel Deucalion chocolates, umbrellas and piles of proofs. This showed retailers just how much we believed in the book and resulted in early and widespread industry excitement, as well as a lot of social media coverage. A number of booksellers I’ve spoken to over the last few weeks mentioned these trade stands, saying that’s how they knew this book was one to be genuinely excited about.
The other thing that makes Nevermoor and our campaign unique is how closely we’ve worked with Hachette UK, US and New Zealand to promote the book in our markets. This includes everything from the cover design, to elements of our individual marketing and publicity campaigns, and sharing local reviews. This global collaboration has fuelled global excitement, and our initial success in ANZ has helped ramp up the campaigns in the UK and US markets, which have later publication dates.
Overall, our campaign, which started months ago and is still going, hasn’t left any stone unturned. Prior to release, we printed a large run of proofs to ensure as many booksellers, media and readers were reading Nevermoor as possible, and therefore talking about it, reviewing it and recommending it well ahead of publication. Due to demand, we ended up having to reprint these proofs, despite the massive initial run. We also had pre-release activity in stores which included posters, samplers and a letter inviting readers to join the ‘Wundrous Society’, which was further backed up by extensive activity on our social media channels.
Reaching the consumer
On and since release, we’ve run print, digital and outdoor advertising, created eye-catching point of sale (including bins that can hold fairy lights, bookmarks, posters, decals, umbrellas and staff t-shirts), and have used Hachette-owned media to reach consumers. This includes activity both on our website and social media channels, such as a countdown clock embedded on our homepage, giveaways, blog posts, countdown cards and various videos and images. We also created a dedicated newsletter for fans, dubbed ‘The Wundrous Society’, which will keep them informed of news on the series for years to come. Excitingly, #NEVERMOOR has trended twice on Twitter already, including on publication day.
Our campaign has also included a three-state tour with multiple events, signings, school visits and media, The number of people who are turning up at these events for a debut author is testament to how far word has spread, and to Jess’ charismatic and genuinely enthusiastic personality, as well as her ability to engage a crowd—whether it’s full of children or adults. It’s especially amazing to see the people of the Sunshine Coast show support for a member of their local community.
On the publicity side of things, we’ve been working with Monica Svarc, a gun freelance publicist, to secure television, radio, print and online coverage. As things have progressed, this media coverage has snowballed and continues to do so in a way I’ve never seen before.
There’s always a risk when something is the subject of so much hype—especially when J K Rowling comparisons are involved—but Nevermoor is proving to live up to if not exceed this hype. At the end of the day, Jess has created a remarkable world and memorable characters, and written a truly magical story that has captured readers of all ages all around the world.