Making Release of 'Breaking Dawn' One for the Books

Bold Marketing Kept Fan Buzz Going Months Before Title's Release

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NEW YORK ( -- Frantic readers bought more than 1.3 million copies of "Breaking Dawn," the final book in Stephenie Meyer's vampire saga, on its first day of sale Aug. 2. The publisher said the figures proved Ms. Meyer is a pop-culture sensation. But let's not forget the contributions of bold marketing and some online fan swarms that were impossible not so long ago.
The countdown is over: Readers can stop looking at their promotional clocks.
The countdown is over: Readers can stop looking at their promotional clocks.

How bold? Early this year, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers bet it could make an event out of merely announcing which day, many months later, the title would go on sale. Coordinated posts on its website and Ms. Meyer's website told fans that the announcement -- not the book, just the on-sale date -- would come at midnight Feb. 7. It worked.

"Fans literally had online countdown parties to the announcement, having discussions, chats, 'Oh my God, 15 minutes to go to the announcement of the on-sale date," said Andrew Smith, associate publisher and VP-marketing at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Little Brown also made sure retailers such as Borders and Amazon were ready with promotional materials and everything they needed to encourage preorders, which would eventually contribute to that 1.3 million day-one total. Then they added countdown clocks and other tools to keep momentum alive during the long wait between February and August.

Diverse team
At Borders, a team of more than 20 people already was working on driving sales -- and encouraging those sales to take place through Borders. The team, whose members came from departments as diverse as information technology and public relations, put "Breaking Dawn" ads on Borders' weekly newsletter; reminded customers via e-mail or phone calls that they'd preordered; got advertising placed on websites for shopping malls; and made sure store displays built awareness and enthusiasm. "When a customer walks into the store, even before the release of that book, you want them to know we're in the business of selling Stephenie Meyer," said Ella Garrison, marketing manager for children's books at Borders.

Borders estimates that 225,000 people attended its midnight release parties, promotional stunts that owe a debt to J.K. Rowling. "I have to say we have had a lot of practice executing something of this magnitude because of 'Harry Potter,'" Ms. Garrison said.

Media interest and growing promotion for the film version of the series' debut, "Twilight," didn't hurt either. Entertainment Weekly, for example, put the movie on its July 18 cover. It also put a Comic-Con interview with Ms. Meyer on its website, where it became the most-played video EW has produced, according to a spokeswoman. also hosted an excerpt from the first chapter of "Breaking Dawn," which became site's the second-most-read item in both June and July.

Back at Little Brown, preparations were under way for the debut of the "Breaking Dawn" Concert Series, which paired Ms. Meyer with Justin Furstenfeld of the band Blue October. On Aug. 1, they took the stage at New York's 21,000 seat Nokia Theatre, whose electronic billboard outside had been promoting "Breaking Dawn" to Times Square passers-by for weeks. He played songs, then she answered questions. Tickets to the sold-out event cost $20.

This being 2008, enthusiastic consumers did a lot of the promotion themselves. Facebook members have used Pieces of Flair, an application that allows users to create virtual buttons and pins, to make, send and "wear" pins saying things such as "I finished 'Breaking Dawn' already," "I was bitten by 'Breaking Dawn'" and "Dear Stephenie: Where is the sex?!" Others noted the buildup to the release, such as "08-02-08? I have plans, thanks." One noted, "Looking at Flair Made me Read Twilight."

One fan site, Twilight Lexicon, went so far last April as to post a scoop: the book's official marketing slogan, "The final book in the No. 1 bestselling Twilight Saga will take your breath away." A separate blog linked to that item and asked fellow "Twi-Hards" to speculate about the slogan's meaning.
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