Behind the book: Inside Vintage’s publicity campaign for The Testaments

The people who bring some of the biggest books of the year to life talk about what it’s like to work behind the scenes on getting them published and into the hands of readers. 

Handmaids and Pearl Girls outside Waterstones Piccadilly

What’s it like to work on the campaign to launch one of the biggest novels this year?

In September Margaret Atwood’s hotly anticipated sequel to The Handmaid’s TaleThe Testaments, was published, to incredible demand and critical acclaim – including being announced as one of two winners of the 2019 Booker Prize. We spoke to Fran and Mari, from the Vintage Publicity Team, about what it was like to create a campaign for the biggest book of the year, and what their favourite moments were.

What was your role, and what did it involve?

We planned and implemented all aspects of the UK publicity campaign and co-ordinated the publicity for our group companies in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa & Asia.  

Our campaign spanned from the first tweet Margaret sent out announcing the book on 28th November 2018 to the midnight launch in London on the eve of publication on 10th September 2019, to the Booker Prize and beyond. It involved a global press conference on publication day, a special edition of the Sunday Times Style magazine, 24-hours of back-to-back broadcast coverage on publication day, a 500-copy review mailing, front page news,  political cartoons, internet memes, fashion trend pieces and much more.

Some of the media coverage resulting from the campaign
Some of the media coverage resulting from the campaign

What was it like to work with such a high-profile and highly-esteemed author?

It was the joy and honour of our careers. Exciting, fast-paced, high-stakes and…fun!  Margaret is so much fun to be around, we really laughed a lot.

What was it like to work on the campaign for the biggest book of 2019?

It was incredibly satisfying to see the impact a book could have, it really felt that everyone was talking about The Testaments. To see a book projected onto the National Theatre in London gave us chills – that kind of thing doesn’t happen in our world every day. It felt truly momentous and special.

Margaret Atwood at the midnight launch at Waterstones Piccadilly
Margaret Atwood at the midnight launch at Waterstones Piccadilly. Credit: Craig Simmonds

What was your favourite moment of the campaign?

There were so many highlights – we can’t pick just one! So here are three. Seeing the first copy of Sunday Times Style special Margaret Atwood issue with Tim Walker’s incredible portraits of Margaret literally made us weep tears of joy. Margaret ringing the bell at Waterstones Piccadilly at midnight to signal that books were on sale (after months of work this moment was truly special!). Seeing Margaret Atwood and Berdardine Evaristo collect the Booker Prize as joint winners of the Booker prize for 2019. 

What book/campaign are you next working on?

We are working on Sam Leith (the Spectator’s Literary Editor)’s Our Time in Rhymes – it’s a review of 2019 in comic verse.  A testament of a very different kind! 


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