Mr. Wolfe's longtime publisher had waited 11 years since the author's last book, the red-hot "Bonfire of the Vanities." The company was counting on Mr. Wolfe to produce an even bigger success this time around.
Several months before the new book's November publication date, FSG stunned many in the industry by announcing a mammoth initial print run of 1.2 million.
The move intensified the pressure on Mr. Wolfe and also Ms. Brown, who is FSG's VP-marketing.
Ms. Brown's challenge was to bring a blockbuster marketing approach -- the kind normally associated with high-profile celebrity tell-all books or mainstream thrillers from the likes of Stephen King -- to a serious, literary book from an idiosyncratic author.
"Eleven years is a long time for an author to go without writing a book," Ms. Brown says.
That meant younger readers might not be familiar with Mr. Wolfe's work.
It also meant that many booksellers -- operations that were not using computerized inventory systems back in the "Bonfire" era -- would have no established record of how the author's books had performed.
"We knew we were going to have to do a lot of persuading before the book came out," she says.
The marketing campaign began when the company announced the giant million-plus print run.
"We wanted to send a statement to the industry that this was a big book, perhaps the book of the year," she says. "In making that announcement, part of our intent was to remind the marketplace what a huge author Tom Wolfe is."
FSG began building an industry buzz. The initial phase of the company's $500,000 ad campaign targeted the trade through industry publications.
ON THE ROAD
Then Mr. Wolfe went on the road to key publishing conventions during the summer of 1998, at a time when retailers would start putting in their orders for the book.
At both the BookExpo America and the American Booksellers Association convention, Mr. Wolfe was a top speaker, and he worked his charm on top booksellers at industry roundtable dinners.
Once the industry had been primed, Ms. Brown's consumer marketing campaign kicked in. It included late-breaking ads making their mark with references to recent, upbeat reviews.
FSG also used radio heavily, focusing on high-profile programs such as Don Imus' radio show.
TRAVEL READERS TARGETED
To reach the travel-reader market, Ms. Brown ran airport ads and, to generate additional buzz in the critical New York market, transit advertising was used.
"We also wanted to make the Internet a big part of this campaign," Ms. Brown says, and to that end FSG created a special "Man in Full" Web site, which went up 10 days before the book went on sale.
The site featured excerpts from the book, background information on Mr. Wolfe, a rundown of all his previous books showing their covers and bookstore tour information.
Barnes & Noble ran an online contest allowing customers who purchased the book to have a chance to win a trip to a Georgia resort (which ties in with the book's setting in Georgia); Amazon.com hosted an online interview with the author.
The publicity campaign culminated in a Time cover story, a report on CBS-TV's "60 Minutes," and segments on all three network morning news shows the week leading up to the book's on-sale date.
The book zoomed to the top of bestseller lists. More impressive may be the fact that FSG shipped every book in its print run and is now on its way to selling more than 1 million copies, easily topping the 750,000 copies sold of "Bonfire."
Ms. Brown is quick to point out that all the marketing pizzazz in the world wouldn't have mattered much if Mr. Wolfe hadn't delivered a gem of a book. But he did, after 11 years of work -- and that made it all worth the wait.