Thriller author James Patterson has long been a vocal advocate of aggressive, creative, attention-grabbing marketing in the publishing industry. He’s famously said: ‘Publishers are sitting around saying: “Woe is me.”… Get in attack mode.’ (Source: The Guardian).
Although Patterson has a publisher, he’s always seen marketing as a personal responsibility as well. With a background in advertising, he saw no reason why his own novels should not be advertised in similar ways to other products. Hence he tried to get his publisher, Little, Brown, to invest in a television advertising campaign for his book Along Came a Spider. The publisher was not convinced: not only was such marketing prohibitively expensive, but it was thought that readers wouldn’t respond well to it. It was just not the done thing. Undeterred, Patterson wrote, produced and paid for a commercial himself. Once the publisher saw the advert, it agreed to part-fund it along with the author, and it was rolled out in New York, Chicago and Washington. The result: Along Came a Spider debuted at number nine on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list, and soon soared to second place.
Ever since that book propelled James Patterson to global success (he’s now published more than 100 books, sold nearly 300 million copies, topped the Forbes list of the highest-paid authors and is the subject of a Harvard Business School study on marketing strategy),when he has a new book coming out, publishing professionals sit up and take notice of the marketing plan for the release. And the newest plan is causing quite a stir!
According to the New York Times, Patterson is offering a novel package to one ardent fan with deep pockets:
The price tag of $294,038 includes a first-class flight to an undisclosed location, two nights’ stay in a luxury hotel, 14-karat gold-plated binoculars, a five-course dinner with Mr. Patterson and a copy of “Private Vegas” that will self-destruct 24 hours after the purchaser begins reading it. While the details of how the book will explode are being kept secret, the process will involve a bomb squad and a location that could come straight out of a Patterson story.
Coupled with this, another 1,000 people will be able to read the book for free via selfdestructingbook.com – but only for a single day: after 24 hours the digital download will self-destruct (delete).
The marketing campaign is certainly novel, and tailored to the genre in which Patterson writes, full of drama and danger. And whether you delight in the idea of a self-destructing book or not, the campaign has already done its job, catching the interest of all the mainstream media, so that doubtlessly when the book is released plenty of people will be interested in it.
I very much admire Patterson for his ingenuity and humour, and for working so hard himself to get word of his books out to readers. He’s a good example for all authors, whether self-published or traditionally published.
If I could arrange publicity events for my novels, I think they would have to incorporate travel, for the locations in which I set my stories are so important. Perhaps I would stage a reading from Burning Embers aboard a hot-air balloon hovering over the African plains. Or perhaps a stunt on a gondola in Venice – I’m imagining lines from the book painted in beautiful script so that the craft is the craft… The possibilities are endless. Perhaps someday, but for now my hands are full preparing my next book, Indiscretion, for publication. Not long to go now!