One book that struck big at the latest BMS Awards with a win for Debut Campaign (and which we coincidentally included in our list of 2022’s Coolest Book Proofs) is Isaac and the Egg by Bobby Palmer. And we’re delighted to welcome Elise Jackson, Marketing Manager at Headline Books and one of the lead marketers behind the BMS winning campaign to the second instalment of our SECRETS OF SUCCESS series where we’ll crack the campaign’s shell to find out just what made it so special.
Hi Elise! Welcome to the NG Creative blog! Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hi, I’m Elise, I’m 25, and I’m from Brighton. I’ve been at Headline as a Marketing Manager for just over a year now, and absolutely love working here, especially on our commercial and literary fiction – as that is definitely my taste. My favourite reads of last year were Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin, Good Intentions by Kasim Ali, and this Egg book.
How did you get into marketing?
I knew I wanted to work with books from quite a young age, and even looked to do a Publishing BA, but I couldn’t quite find a course I gelled with. While I was at uni in Nottingham I helped run Student Minds, the mental health charity, and did a placement at our local hidden library (Bromley House, look it up, it’s amazing). I also applied for Hachette’s Inside Story day and was lucky enough to attend and get a glimpse inside the publisher I would one day work for! A job came up at a small independent mental health and wellbeing publisher in the Midlands just before I graduated, and I got the job! From there I moved to Pushkin Press, where I was for a few years before jumping up to the Big 5 last year.
What are some of the highlights from your marketing career? What is your current role?
My current role is Marketing Manager for Headline, where I work across all our imprints including Wildfire and Tinder Press. My highlight was definitely winning the BMS Award for Isaac and the Egg last year, but some others include getting Pushkin’s first ever Sunday Times bestseller and helping Bearmouth by Liz Hyder win the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.
We just have to say congratulations to you and Fergus Edmondson for your win at the Book Marketing Awards for Debut Campaign! How did it feel to win such a prestigious award?
It was great! I was actually in the cinema when it was announced, as I don’t live in London and had no idea I was even close to a possible win. When I turned my phone on after the film I had texts from loads of people saying congrats and was super confused until I opened Twitter to see the notification. I love that book, Bobby is a superstar and I alongside the rest of Team Egg poured our hearts into that campaign, so it was amazing to get the recognition.
For anyone who isn’t aware, can you give us a brief overview of Isaac and the Egg and its success story?
Isaac and the Egg is the debut novel from Bobby Palmer, and tells the story of a man spiralling with grief and how, when he finds something strange in the woods, it saves his life. That strange thing is an Egg, by the way. But obviously the Egg isn’t just an egg. I can’t tell you any more than that because it would spoil the whole thing. But that is part of its success! We had to convince people to pick up the book with very little idea as to what they were about to read, so we got to focus massively on the way it made people feel after reading: joy, hope, sadness, relief. We won the hearts of many booksellers, got it into the Saturday Times bestsellers, and finally won that lovely BMS Award!
When was your introduction to the book and what were your first steps in the marketing campaign?
I actually read the book as part of my pre-job reading material. Fergus had already been working on it for a while, and I joined him when I started last January. Luckily, it’s short and sweet so I raced through it in time for my first day! We took it to an all-hands meeting in my first few months, so we got to talk big picture with the entire Headline team to make sure we were capturing the essence. We also did a lot of reader review sourcing: from within Hachette to NetGalley and Bobby’s fellow writers. That formed the base of our campaign, and we grew it from there, with the added challenge of making this rather odd-sounding book commercially desirable.
How has Isaac and the Egg’s campaign been different to others you’ve worked on? In your opinion, what made this campaign award-worthy?
It comes back to that ‘we can’t tell you much more’ thing. Getting the messaging right took a long time and we tried many different avenues before we realised that the real, genuine reactions from readers were the truest representation of why people should buy it. We made sure everything – from the design to the copy to the content – was in line with the tone of the book: quirky, hopeful, and a little sad. I think it was this that made it stand out, that we didn’t shy away from the difficult themes in the book, but also that we made everything feel cohesive in its bizarre-ness. Plus, the hashtag #ThatEggBook really stuck in people’s heads and was equal parts silly and intriguing!
In any marketing project, which social media features or content creation shortcuts could you not do without? Do you think users are missing out on any simple tricks?
We use Brandwatch (previously called Falcon) to schedule all our social, instead of having to keep a schedule and stick to it manually, that is really useful! There’s also no faulting how useful Canva is for creating quick and simple assets – especially if you have a base template which needs wording changed and you don’t have access to Photoshop. Getting Canva Pro is also super worth it for creating GIFs or short videos, as these nearly always perform better on social.
Can you give us a glimpse at what’s coming for you next? Any upcoming campaigns you’re really excited about that we can twist your arm into sharing with us?
Of course you can! My next big focus is the third book from Jennifer Saint, who is a Sunday Times #1 bestseller and author of Ariadne and Elektra. Her new book, Atalanta, tells the story of the only woman who travelled with the Argonauts, who was a companion of Artemis and a fearsome warrior, but who is largely forgotten by legend. We’re just getting bigger and bigger with Jennifer’s books, and I have to say, this story is the best yet!
Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us, Elise! We can’t wait to see what you and your team do next.
If you liked this interview, then be sure to check out our first Secrets of Success interview with Sarah Jeffcoate, the marketer behind TikTok sensation Colleen Hoover.
If you’d like to buy a copy of Isaac and the Egg, you can find the book here.