Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg had an interesting article in today’s Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on building buzz for a book not yet published.
The book in question was “The Number,” a non-fiction retirement guide by Lee Eisenberg, not due to be released until January 3, 2006. However, according to the WSJ, “it has already been on the cover of New York magazine, written about in Money magazine and highlighted on numerous Web blogs.”
Trachtenberg describes the book’s author as a media-savvy former editor-in-chief of Esquire magazine.
Traditionally, publishing houses did not try to hype a book months before publication for fear that readers would be annoyed not to be able to purchase it immediately. Nowadays, though, with online booksellers permitting pre-orders, a reader can purchase a book long before its release. Recent news reports have been filled with stories of pre-orders of the Bill Clinton autobiography and the latest Harry Potter sequel. Paul Bogards, spokesman for Alfred A. Knopf, is quoted saying, the “ability to capture a sale before a book is officially on sale has had a profound impact on our business.”
The campaign for “The Number” was very carefully orchestrated, down to its date of release. The Free Press (an imprint of Viacom) planned for “the book to hit the stands in January, that New-Year’s-Resolution time of year considered to be optimum for self-improvement tomes.”
The publisher started six months ago by sending bound manuscripts to influential people likely to spread the word about the book. Then they sent galleys to reviewers in August. Next, they printed 3,500 hardcover copies to be given to retail representatives. Last month, Free Press began sending emails to about 300 influential bloggers. They did not issue the emails all at once; instead, they sent them in waves to keep the interest alive. Also, in October, the author started his own Web site (www.thenumberbook.com).
The publisher also hired BzzAgent Inc., described as “a Boston-based marketing company that specializes in creating word of mouth through the use of a nationwide system of volunteers.” In exchange for preview copies and Bzz points, one thousand volunteers will begin to spread the word about the book on December 7, 2005.
Trachtenberg says that other publishers are also following similar marketing strategies, which he says they have borrowed from Hollywood studios marketing schemes.
Does it work? The story ends with a quote from Constance Sayre, who received one of those 3,500 hardcover copies. “I’ve told all my friends about ‘The Number.’”