Key takeaways from November BMS Members’ Meeting

Our latest member meeting took place at Penguin Random House’s offices on Thursday 1 November. It was packed full of excellent ideas, with three presentations from book marketers who spilled the secrets of their BMS-commended campaigns. For the keynote presentation, VR-guru Catherine Allen gave us a fascinating insight into the possibilities of immersive technology, from useful book marketing suggestions to VR’s ability to build empathetic connections.

Here are a handful of the key takeaways from the meeting.


Naomi Irwin, Hodder

  • Having multiple cover versions is a great way to engage a community of readers online. The Hodder team created five covers for Caraval, meaning that fans debated over their favourite covers, and some bought all five…
  • ‘Nothing beats a great photograph.’ The Hodder team used all manner of imagery and publicity media, but nothing got better engagement than photos of the book.

Rob Chilver, Headline
One Pound Meals

  • Monitoring Amazon traffic can help you learn your buyer demographic. The Headline team tracked the other titles consumers were buying alongside One Pound Meals, which helped shape their metadata.
  • Instagram can also be great for optimising the best-performing images, while follow-up targeting on Facebook (with the best images) can help drive sales for maximum ROI
  • Just because an author doesn’t use a social media platform, it doesn’t mean they won’t be great at it. Miguel Barclay had not used Facebook much before the campaign but he proved himself a natural, and was very receptive to input from the Headline team.

Elke Desinghere, Penguin

  • ‘Straight up, paid podcast advertising’ can help you communicate directly to the ideal buyers of your book… if you know your target demographic well
  • For a debut campaign, it pays off to have a strong visual identity for your proofs. Because Homegoing had been released in the USA six months before the UK release, the Penguin team had the opportunity to perfect their imagery — and to secure key support from names like Zadie Smith.

Catherine Allen, Keynote Presentation

  • Digital media doesn’t need to be rectangular. ‘We spend almost half our working hours looking at rectangles’, Catherine explained: our working and leisure time is often dominated by screens.
  • Virtual Reality will change our conception of how we can represent the world. It’ll inaugurate a shift that’s equivalent to the moment when renaissance painters discovered perspective.
  • 360 video is an affordable marketing possibility for independent publishers, or teams working with a low budget. Immersive worlds can be created in game engines, some of which (like Unity) are free to use.
  • All platforms exist somewhere on a spectrum between ‘representation’ (i.e. books, films) and ‘simulation’ (video games, immersive theatre). Virtual Reality won’t be replacing any of these forms, but it offers a more even spread – immersive representations.
  • A VR campaign could be cheaper than you think, if not free! If you are marketing a big name author, contact the hardware manufacturers of VR headsets. They are always looking for promotional opportunities…
  • VR is intrinsically interactive. ‘Storydoing’ would be a more appropriate description of what it does than ‘Storytelling’.
  • Virtual reality has been proven to evoke empathy in its users. That’s not necessarily new (books, of course, do this too), but it offers a new opportunity to make people less solipsistic – for example Jane Gauntlett’s VR film ‘Dancing with Myself’, which simulates the experience of an epileptic seizure.
  • Fictional universes can become a thing to physically explore – and authors people to meet in your own living room. A VR campaign could help fans ‘cook’ with (for example) Joe Wicks, or enter the world of their favourite sci-fi novel.
  • …. That said, be careful not to let a VR campaign overshadow the book itself. VR should be there to enrich the worlds created by your authors, not usurp them.

November’s member’s meeting also saw the announcement of the winners of our seasonal BMS Awards (for campaigns between April to August 2017). Our full list of winners is available to read here.  

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