Nightshade by Andrea Cremer (and the Scramble for Facebook)

by |October 22, 2010

If the teen won’t come to the publishing giant, the giant must go to the teen (and in doing so, must leave the safety of the domestic market.)

This is one of those interesting modern ‘global economy’ dilemmas. To sell a début YA author a US based publisher has gone to the place teens are born, live, love and die, Facebook.

There is nothing very new in that, you say. And you’re right.

But in this particular case we see problems for the publisher and, let’s be honest, for booksellers, too (caught in the middle again!).

Facebook is global. It fails to recognise borders. It’s Main Street is the Universe not some paltry slice of  land, arbitrarily chosen, caught, tagged and named the United States of America (or, for that matter, some chunk of dry, dusty rock floating south of China, the place we like to call Straya.)

When US based Penguin Young Readers Group turned to Facebook to flog the YA novel Nighthsade by Andrea Cremer, they invested time, ingenuity and money to create a well orchestrated viral campaign.  I’ll let Sally Lodge from Publishers Weekly explain:

Andrea Cremer. Photo: Gina Monroe.

The promotional strategy involved a crafty meshing of fiction and fact by bringing one of Nightshade’s main characters to life – sort of. Shay Doran, human love interest of werewolf narrator Calla, was given a Facebook page and a blog, which enabled him (i.e. Cremer) to interact with fans. In addition, eight webisodes, videos allegedly created by Shay shortly before the plot of Nightshade kicks in, fashioned a back story for this character and invited viewer participation to help Shay solve some mysteries. The webisodes can be viewed on the Nightshade Web site and are also posted on YouTube.

This campaign has been successful and the US publisher has printed 200,000 or so copies to feed the demand

Now comes the catch, hundreds of thousands of Australian teens are on Facebook, too. They, too, enjoyed the viral campaign, the video teasers, they, too, become fans of Shay Doran on Facebook and they, too, want to read the book.

Where do they buy it? Our experience at Booktopia is that teens are very price conscious. Most can do a price check in a few keystrokes. They will quickly discover that the Australian paperback edition is cheaper than the US hardcover.

And here I am in the middle of it all.

I have a Facebook page, I am a blogger, I’m a tweeter and I am a bookseller. I cannot help but be involved in the promotion of such a well orchestrated campaign. I am involved just by talking about it here. The campaign has crossed borders without noticing them.

Bookseller’s love when a publisher puts effort into the promotion of a book – it makes our lives that much easier. But as brilliant as the new social media can be,  borderless promotion has its problems, too.

For in the final analysis, having spent money, creative talent and time in promoting Nightshade, Penguin US will not reap the benefits here in Australia. Their books won’t be sold in physical bookshops here, only on online bookshops, like Booktopia.

Further, Penguin Australia, the local off shoot of the US publisher, didn’t pick up the rights here. It is being published in this country by it’s arch rival, Hachette! And they are publishing a paperback edition of the book which will sell online and in the physical bookshops and be cheaper than the US hardcover!

So, let’s watch as Facebook leads the two biggest publishing houses in the world onto the field to slug it out in their very own paranormal war.

To quote Winston Churchill, who wasn’t talking about the effect of Facebook on publishing (at least, I don’t think he was) – Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

Given the ancestry of both publishers, it could be the Hundred Years War all over again.

Buy the paperback to support team Hachette. Buy the US hardcover to support team Penguin!

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About the Contributor

John Purcell (aka Natasha Walker) is the author of The Secret Lives of Emma trilogy published by Random House Australia. The Secret Lives of Emma: Beginnings reached the top ten on the Australian fiction charts and Natasha/John was the tenth highest selling Australian novelist and third highest selling Australian debut author in 2012. The trilogy has since sold over 50,000 copies in print and ebook and has been translated into French and Polish. John has worked in the book industry for the last twenty years. While still in his twenties he opened John’s Bookshop, a second-hand bookshop in Mosman in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Now he is the Head of Product and Chief Buyer at booktopia.com.au.

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