Well, it’s official: Sheryl Sandberg is a successful author. The Facebook executive’s part-memoir, part-advice book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, will soon top the nonfiction bestseller list of the New York Times Book Review, with more than 170,000 books sold since its publication on March 11. More than 50,000 copies, or 29 percent of the sales, were e-books. The rest were traditional hardcover. These are sizable returns for the book’s publisher, Knopf, which had employed a carefully crafted publicity rollout.
“We had to work within a narrow band of access to Sandberg and that detail informed the way we campaigned it,” says Paul Bogaards, Knopf’s head of publicity. Sandberg went on a brief Lean In promotional tour, but her job as the chief operating officer of Facebook kept her from spending months visiting book clubs and giving speeches around the country the way other authors do. Instead, Knopf relied on the media to do most of the major advertising for her.
“Traditionally, some publishers might have chosen to embargo the book,” Bogaards says, “but we knew that the subjects it raised would animate the media.” In other words, journalists wrote a lot of Lean In-related Op-Eds. Time put Sandberg on its cover. New York magazine followed with a tangentially related cover story about “The Retro Wife,” or career women who quit their jobs and become stay-at-home moms. Were they leaning out? Or leaning in on their own terms? Who was leaning where? Which way was better? Can women have it all? Is feminism dead?
Lean In-branded communities formed on Facebook and LinkedIn; Sandberg’s official one on Facebook has 167,000 members. “We knew people would take it upon themselves to join in the conversation immediately with a point of view,” Bogaards says. “But there were some surprises. We didn’t know that it’d do so well with men.” Specifically, men over 60. “At first I didn’t know why, but when I mentioned it to a colleague she told me, ‘Duh. It’s dads gifting copies to their daughters,’” he says. Knopf also expects book sales to pick up in May and June as people give copies to college graduates as gifts.
Lean In has already gone back to press eight times and is being translated into 20 different languages. According to Bogaards, every international edition will carry the title Lean In in English “prominently displayed like it’s a brand.” But underneath that, the translations appear. We asked Knopf for some examples:
France: En Avant Toutes (“Forward All”)
Italy: Facciamoci avanti (“Step Forward”)
Spanish: Vayamos Adelante (“Let’s Go”)
Brazil: Faça Acontecer (“Make It Happen”)