The impact TikTok has had on the book industry has been phenomenal. Charts dominated by BookTok recs. Sales records smashed to smithereens.
But one author in particular has seen an incredible rise in popularity as a result of the impact of TikTok and the way her publisher have leveraged her success. And this is Colleen Hoover.
For the first in our SECRETS OF SUCCESS series, we interviewed Sarah Jeffcoate, Marketing Manager at Simon and Schuster UK – and the mastermind behind a huge collection of successful TikTok books including: The Spanish Love Deception, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hugo and It Ends and Starts With Us by Colleen Hoover to name but a few – to delve deeper into the campaign that has turned book-marketing on its head.
Hi Sarah! And welcome to our blog. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hi, I'm Sarah! I graduated from University of Nottingham with a Classics degree and now work as a Marketing Manager at Simon & Schuster UK. I love to bake and reading is a huge passion of mine too – I mostly read crime and fantasy, and favourite reads include The Secret History, Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor and Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. I currently live in Berkshire with my family and dog Frodo!
How did you get into marketing?
I started off in PR for a children’s publisher (HCG), after working in publicity in another industry. A lot of the tasks I loved doing definitely strayed into marketing territory however, and after a few years of stepping on marketer’s toes (sorry Tash) I officially moved over to the marketing side of things, starting as Marketing Executive at S&S in 2019 and working my way up from there.
What are some of the highlights from your marketing career? What is your current marketing role in relation to Colleen Hoover?
I’ve worked on some incredible campaigns in my career, from people who I have long admired like Laura Bates, Ruth Ware and Caroline Kepnes (author of the YOU series) to amazing new voices like Russ Thomas. We won a BMS Award for Jack Jordan’s Do No Harm this year, which was a real passion project. And I think the thing I’m most proud of (conquering my biggest fear) was giving a keynote speech at this year’s Futurebook conference with S&S Team TikTok!
I’m the lead marketer for TikTok titles at S&S UK including Colleen Hoover which has definitely been a highlight in itself.
For anyone who isn’t aware, can you give us a brief overview of Colleen Hoover’s success story?
When BookTok really started taking off as a platform, Colleen was at the forefront of it, with It Ends With Us achieving phenomenal success through word of mouth recommendations that were spreading like wildfire (at the time of writing this, it’s still number 1 in the Sunday Times chart after well over a year in the top 10, and is looking likely to be the biggest selling title of 2022). As well as seeing a huge boost across all of her backlist, this year saw the launch of It Starts With Us, the sequel written due to fan demand, which broke the record of being the most pre-ordered book in S&S history, and joined only a handful of authors in the UK who have sold more than 120k copies in their first part week. The power of TikTok!
When was your introduction to Colleen Hoover and how did you begin work on her marketing?
I started working on TikTok titles at S&S in early 2021, and was initially given small, experimental budgets to invest in backlist titles such as The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Ugly Love and of course, It Ends With Us. We very quickly realised that we could make a huge difference in brand building and, as you can imagine, now TikTok and CoHo are a significant part of my job.
How has TikTok played a role in Colleen Hoover’s success? How has this differed from other social media platforms?
TikTok feels much more real and community driven than other platforms – it’s creative in a way that’s a lot less polished than Instagram for example (although I do love Instagram), and I think the excitement and the immediacy to share books that content creators are loving has given a huge boost to authors who weren’t getting the space via more traditional means, not just for Colleen Hoover, but for lots of authors.
Also the demographic there is hugely into romance and very vocal about it, which is so wonderful given the dismissive attitude some in the industry have towards a genre that’s literally selling millions! This is a sweeping generalisation, but it feels like the platform that harnesses the power of the fangirl, and we know how incredible that can be.
How does this author and collection of books stand out from other TikTok marketing projects you’ve worked on?
More than anything, I’d say the scale of content is the biggest difference. I work on quite a few books that have found popularity on TikTok, and for the most part, we’re working with mostly front list or very recent titles. Colleen has so many brilliant books (we have 18 titles on our list) so that changes the approach a bit, as we’re constantly thinking about ways to market her as a brand as well as focusing on key moments for specific titles.
Trends move so quickly on TikTok. How have you maintained the momentum of Colleen Hoover’s success for so long?
We jumped on it early and kept up incremental spends, and we haven’t neglected back list. Whether that’s through rejacketing programmes, or experimental marketing to reach new audiences offline, we’ve had an ‘always on’ approach which has paid dividends. Not to mention the event publishing of the autumn, It Starts With Us. We announced in February of this year, and me and my brilliant colleague Gen Barratt worked on it constantly until publication in October, so it was pretty hard to miss.
Give us a glimpse behind the scenes: what does a typical day marketing Colleen Hoover look like?
I don’t think there really is a typical day – in the run up to It Starts With Us publishing, we were creating mountains of POS for bookshops and events, working with agencies on digital content, keeping joined up with our global counterparts to launch pre-order campaigns, to name but a few things. It was very full on. I’m now in planning stage for 2023 activity, which I always enjoy. We do have a UK ‘CoHort’ made up of marketing, PR and editorial colleagues and we touch base every day – a much needed constant.
Can you give us any cheeky hints about any marketing we can look forward to from yourself or Colleen in the near future?
We’ve just announced plans for a hardback collector’s edition of It Ends With Us which we’re very excited about! We’ve had comments about it for a while, and when we announced It Starts With Us in hardback, readers were crying out for a matching IEWU hardback so naturally we had to oblige, and it is stunning! Coming in April 2023 for anyone that wants to pre-order ;)
Thank you, Sarah for sharing yours and your team's experience and insights with us! We're so grateful.
In 2023, we'll be sharing a lot more Secrets of Success interviews. If you want to be featured, get in touch with us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For anyone who wants to pre-order the It Ends With Us in hardback, you can find out more here.