Building a New York Times-bestselling author brand

When we were first introduced to J. Elle, we knew we had someone really, really special on our hands. Our communications began when she was beginning to build her author platform, and she eventually sparked a firestorm of interest when she participated in #DVPit, a Twitter book pitching event for historically marginalized voices. Her tweet landed her a six-figure contract with Simon & Schuster for her debut WINGS OF EBONY duology. Six months after her first contract, Elle sold a second fantasy duology at auction to Bloomsbury Publishing. She was beginning her publishing journey with a bang!

But building a lasting brand is a marathon and not a sprint, which is why we were thrilled to partner with Elle to help position her as a powerhouse author who is here to stay.

For her debut novel WINGS OF EBONY, we introduced Elle to TikTok, as we recognized early on that the book community on the app (which was rapidly expanding due to lockdowns in 2020) could be a powerful promotional audience for an up-and-coming YA author like Elle. We helped guide her in how to make the most of the app’s features, and we celebrated with her when she experienced her first viral video! We also made the most of the hyper-targeted, personalized pitching Books Forward is known for, garnering media interest not just from traditional book outlets, but national coverage in Essence, The Root and Ms. Magazine, as well as local features in the Houston Chronicle, Houston Public Radio and Houston Life.

We were elated when WINGS OF EBONY became an instant New York Times bestseller — and when we partnered with Elle for Book 2!

For her next book ASHES OF GOLD, we doubled down on savvy, targeted media pitching that capitalized on the success of Elle’s debut. The media responded with enthusiasm, as we secured coverage in major outlets including The Mary Sue, Belletrist, Yahoo, Tor, Mother, The Young Folks, Bustle, Frolic and more. And booksellers championed her work as well. We helped coordinate a nationwide multi-indie bookstore event where stores from every part of the country – including Oblong Books in New York, King’s English Bookshop in Utah, Jackson Hole Trader in Wyoming, Wonders of the World in Mississippi and more – hosted a poignant discussion with Elle and other powerhouse authors on Black love being a cornerstone in Black history.

We also provided weekly customized TikTok guidance for Elle to grow her brand and connect with a dedicated audience, with advice about the latest trends and recommendations for video ideas she could use.

Once again, we were thrilled to celebrate every success with Elle — including when she was named a 2022 NAACP Image Award Nominee for Outstanding Fiction for Teens!

There’s so much ahead for this incredible author. Her star is only rising, and we can’t wait to see more and more readers fall in love with Elle and her books!

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