Here at Riot we LOVE a debut – whether we’re launching a new voice we know is going to resonate on a global scale, like we did with Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens, or running the “the UK’s most prestigious award for first-time novelists” (The Telegraph), the Desmond Elliott Prize.
Over the past six months or so we’ve had the great pleasure of working with the team at Hutchinson to promote a particularly special debut – Tara Westover’s extraordinary memoir, Educated. We were thrilled with the coverage, which included The Times Magazine, Observer New Review, Harper’s Bazaar, Stylist, FT, Economist, Press Association, BBC Online, Channel 4 News, BBC Radio 2 Steve Wright and BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, to name but a few.
To celebrate the success of the campaign and Educated becoming an international bestseller, we thought we’d share some of our top tips for launching debuts:
- Having a book published can be quite a daunting process, so it can be reassuring for first time authors to get to know others who are having the same experiences. Shout out to Amy Baker and Rosy Edwards who run The Riff Raff, a community for debut writers. Getting your author featured on their podcast or in the line-up of one of their monthly events helps to build buzz, but also gives the author the opportunity to meet supportive peers who will hopefully go on to champion their work.
- Identifying the right influencers and early adopters who can help position the book and generate word of mouth is of course crucial for a debut. Another shout out is due here to the wonderful Caroline Sanderson, who is such an incredible supporter of the books she loves. Having such an important figure from the book world on board can help you get cut-through in the mainstream media and Caroline’s early coverage of Educated in The Bookseller was invaluable to the success of the campaign.
- A tip for your pitches – don’t be afraid to tell media what else you already have in the bag. Nervousness around this is understandable as worded badly it can make the recipient of your pitch feel like they’re late to the story, but worded right, and with the inclusion of a bespoke angle specifically for that outlet, it can help convince them this is going to be an important and high-profile book that they really should be covering.
- Given that your author won’t have an existing fan base, you need your coverage to be as wide-reaching as possible. Focus on working with media to create shareable content. Two examples from the Educated campaign are this BBC Online piece, which featured on the UK and International homepages all day on the day it went live, and this video interview shot by the Channel 4 Digital team, which has been viewed on Facebook over 130,000 times.
- Lastly, plan for longevity – how are you going to keep your author relevant and interesting to journalists beyond the publication moment? Are there any hot topics that you could establish them as experts on? If so, use the publication moment to secure coverage in special interest titles, such as the TES, which you can point to later as evidence of them being a respected spokesperson on those issues. This will help you secure additional pieces of coverage further down the line – for example, comment pieces on current affairs.
Caitlin Allen, associate director