In 2011, Bloomsbury announced it was restructuring to facilitate a more global approach to publishing. The shift, Bloomsbury said, would allow the house to publish by category, instead of region. Since then, Bloomsbury has slowly begun to enact the change it touted, marketing a handful of titles in all the countries where it publishes in English, at the same time. The idea, according to U.S. director of marketing and publicity Christina Gilbert, extends from the belief that to publish globally, you need to “market globally.”
Thus far, Bloomsbury has put together two significant global marketing campaigns. One is for Samantha Shannon’s adult fantasy thriller The Bone Season, which is due out August 20 and getting an announced first printing of 150,000 (in the U.S.). The other global campaign is for Sarah J. Maas’s Crown of Midnight (publishing on August 27), which is getting a first printing of 100,000, and is the sequel to Maas’s children’s fantasy novel Throne of Glass. The campaigns for both books have entailed, among other things, a sharing of “assets” (an industry term for marketing material); coordinated releases; and shared jacket art. But, more than anything, Gilbert said, the benefit is being able to feed off of a larger team, with different perspectives.
Kathleen Farrar, Bloomsbury’s group sales and marketing director (based in the U.K.), said the coordination begins early, with group e-mails set up among the teams where the house publishes in English: the U.S., the U.K., Australia/New Zealand, and India. (Campaigns are only tied to books to which Bloomsbury owns world English rights.) Farrar thinks that the rise of social media around the world in the last few years has ushered in an era in which there is a “global community of readers.” She noted that bestsellers written in English are now, more than ever, taking off in multiple countries simultaneously. Farrar noted that ensuring that marketing materials match up and are available to readers at the same time may seem minor, but it’s essential to let fans know that they don’t have to wait for something, simply because they live in a different country than the author they love.
For Maas’s Crown of Midnight, Bloomsbury created a Web site with the digital agency the Syndicate, built around a story generator. The site invites users to create their own versions of the novel’s story, making themselves and their friends characters in this new plotline. Bloomsbury’s senior director of marketing and publicity, Marie Coolman, said the site works on a “Mad Libs–style” premise in which users plug in their own phrases. The promotional site is linked to Facebook and is, as Coolman added, “totally shareable on social media.”
Maas wrote fan fiction before Throne of Glass, which was published by Bloomsbury in 2012, and it is the fan fiction, according to Gilbert, that helped her gain a global following. With Maas being American, the house’s marketing team was pleasantly surprised to find how many fans she had in other countries. “[Her fan base] was there, and we knew we could grow it,” Gilbert said. To that end, a trailer for Crown of Midnight was simultaneously released in the U.S. and the U.K. Bloomsbury will also employ the same timing tactic when groups of “key fan bloggers” promote the book on a weekly basis, with content and giveaways in multiple countries.
For The Bone Season, Bloomsbury is already relying on “early influencers”—super-fans who will spread word of mouth about the book—everywhere from Arizona to Australia to the Philippines. While not every title Bloomsbury publishes and markets globally will share the same jacket, that is a goal; Crown of Midnight, for example, has one global cover image, though the background color on the jacket varies by country. This, Bloomsbury said, was essential, as so many of the assets for the campaign are being shared among divisions in different countries and released via social media.
While Bloomsbury said that local campaigns, like global campaigns, will always be unique—the house already has other global pushes planned, including one for Square Books co-owner Lisa Howorth’s debut novel, Flying Shoes, which is scheduled for May 2014—the goals will remain the same: to work together to promote a title to a single, global readership. That, Farrar believes, is what all publishers need to be thinking about. “We can market [a book] locally, and people might find out about it from a different bookstore or a different newspaper, but they all want the same thing: a great story."
Correction: An earlier version of this story indicated that 'The Bone Season' has one global cover jacket. 'Crown of Midnight' has one global cover jacket, not 'The Bone Season.'