Beginning to End, The Making of Light from Other Stars, Part 4: Publicity

Beginning to End is a series from Spine following a book from acquisition to publication. For our first "season," we're following Light from Other Stars, about a young astronaut hopeful and an invention that alters time. The novel is author Erika Swyler's second, following her much-lauded 2015 debut, The Book of Speculation. Bloomsbury will publish the book in May, and the publicity team — Senior Publicist Lauren Hill, Senior Marketing Manager Nicole Jarvis, and Marketing and Publicity Laura Keefe — is already at work generating buzz. Hill spoke to Spine about their efforts.

As Lauren Hill read Erika Swyler's novel Light from Other Stars, she fell in love. The book, which Bloomsbury publishes in May, follows a young astronaut hopeful from her Florida childhood into adulthood and outer space. 

"I personally had a strong emotional connection to the manuscript," Hill told Spine. "My dad is a rocket scientist and my mom stayed at home to raise my brother and I, and I was just wrecked by Erika’s beautiful portrayal of those relationships."

Like politicians and Oscar-hungry movie studios, book publishers organize campaigns, multi-faceted efforts launched far in advance of a book's publication, or "on-sale" date. Hill's job as a publicist for Swyler's publisher Bloomsbury, placed her on the book's campaign team. That she adored the book was a bonus. "I feel very lucky to have the job of convincing people to love this book as much as I do!"

Last spring, Hill teamed up with Senior Marketing Manager Nicole Jarvis and Digital and Trade Marketing Director Laura Keefe, as well as Swyler and her editor Lea Beresford, to brainstorm. The goal: Identify potential readers, and craft pitches to get them excited about the book. Keefe said Bloomsbury is positioning Light from Other Stars as one of its biggest novels of Spring/Summer 2019, and so the campaign efforts involved extra push.

Swyler's book crosses genres, and so will attract multiple audiences. "This is a book that we think will be equally loved by book club readers and science fiction/fantasy fans alike," Hill said. Additionally, Swyler has an existing readership, fans of her first title. "The Book of Speculation was beloved and we wanted to find those same readers while expanding Erika’s audience even more into literary fiction and science fiction. "

Post-brainstorm, marketing, publicity and Swyler are each carrying out their campaign tasks, touching base monthly and keeping each other apprised of successes. Here's what it looks like:

  • Marketing sends out ARCs (Advanced Review Copies) to editors, critics and radio and television producers of news and culture shows. The effort is ongoing, beginning with a large mailing last fall and excellent results. Still two-and-a-half months before publication, and "Erika’s already seen amazing coverage in the trade magazines — a starred review in Publishers Weekly, and features in Kirkus Reviews and Library Journal, and Light From Other Stars has made an appearance on a couple of 'Most Anticipated' lists for 2019, including a rave review in Nylon," Hill said.

  • Marketing creates special packaging to promote the early ARCs, with custom wrapping paper and packets of glow-in-the-dark stars. These go out to independent booksellers, who were big supporters of Swyler's first book, as well as top book bloggers and Bookstagrammers.

  • Author appears at big-name indie booksellers conference. The American Booksellers Association Winter Institute took place in January, and Swyler was on the list of featured authors. She attended events and dinners with hundreds of independent booksellers, making connections and promoting the book. 

  • Marketing promotes the book to libraries. Like indie booksellers, libraries and librarians generate book buzz. Keefe has been pitching the book via "buzz panels" and webinars, and arranged for giveaways of the book at the American Library Association's Midwinter conference in January. She's mailed review copies "to big-mouth librarians all over the US who may like the book, and tell their friends/customers about it."

  • Author writes essays and publicity works to place them in advance of the on-sale date.

  • Publicity arranges for reviews, interviews and other features as close to the book's publication date as possible … without annoying media contacts. As Hill noted, "It's a delicate dance."

  • Author reveals cover (designed by Patti Ratchford) on social media. Author will also reveal an animated version of the cover in April. 

  • Marketing arranges promotions and giveaways, including Goodreads giveaways and setting up promotions with girl-centric STEM organizations.

All of this and more is taking place now, has taken place for months. Once the book is published, on May 7, efforts will continue at a steady pace.

"At publication, we’ll do a national advertising campaign focusing on outlets where we think we can reach the right readers for this book — media outlets, social media, and podcasts," Keefe said. "Book clubs will also be a big area of focus for marketing, so we will do paid promotions with organizations such as Reading Group Choices in addition to our own marketing via in-house newsletters, bookstores, and libraries.

"We will be responsive to reviews and coverage as it happens — tweaking the advertising and social media campaigns to highlight what comes in. We want to see this book selling strongly through out the entire summer and rest of 2019!"


Light from Other Stars arrives on May 7. Visit Spine to read the previous pieces in our Beginning to End series on Light from Other Stars: Agent Michelle Brower talks about prepping the book to sell; Editor Lea Beresford talks about shaping it, and the search for a title; and designer Patti Ratchford talks about creating the cover.

 

 

Susanna previously wrote for the online design community Dribbble, helping transform their occasional blog into the online publication Courtside. Her bylines also include AOL News, Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, and Publishers Weekly, among other publications. 

@SusannaBaird