Trouble at Twilight? (When Good PR Intentions Aren’t Enough)

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When I went to the store yesterday, I noticed several tables of the same hardcover book placed prominently near the checkout. Since books always intrigue me, I decided to take a closer look. I discovered that the book was a new release from the author of the popular Twilight series, Stephenie Meyer.

As a matter of fact, the book was Meyer’s new novella, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, released in hardcover just a few days ago on June 5th. (Bree Tanner was a relatively minor character in the Eclipse novel, although the character will supposedly be more prominent in the movie.)

With the popularity of the other Twilight series books, which were ultimately made into movies, you’d think that these new Stephenie Meyer books would be flying off the table. Actually, the opposite was true. No one seemed to be paying any attention to the books whatsoever.

A little Internet research uncovered the problem, which is related to the way that the book was publicized.

Consider the following:

  • $1.00 from the sale of each hardcover book (which retails for about $13, but can already be found on some discount sites for under $10)  will be donated to Red Cross.
  • However, as a reward to fans, the book was released online here free of charge

Do you see the contradiction?

Unless a fan has a burning desire to actually own a physical copy of the book, fans don’t need to actually buy the book in order to read it.

Apparently, a lot of fans must have realized that there’s no need to buy the book because the Publisher’s Weekly Shelf Talker blog called The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner “a bookstore dud.” In plain English this means that the book just isn’t selling.

Now, admittedly two very nice PR gestures were made in promoting The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. Wanting to donate a portion of the sales to the American Red Cross is commendable. Wanting to reward fans by giving them something extra for free is also commendable.

But, the publicity itself was almost a conflict of interest. It’s as though two good ideas collided.

When you add these two good ideas together and try to use them both to promote the same book the results have turned out to be less than successful. The effect was one misguide PR campaign.

How would you have promoted Stephenie Meyers new novella? What could her PR agency have done better?

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Comments

  1. says

    Hi Susie Q!

    The “bookstore dud” was actually a quote from Publisher’s Weekly. Other sources are also citing that it is a disappointment.

    However, I just pulled up the NY Times bestseller list online and The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner isn’t in the top ten for hardcover fiction–although this week’s list (the most recent) is not out yet.

    In the scheme of things, 350,000 isn’t really a whole lot of books–especially for a book with movie ties and already tied to a successful series. For comparison, the rest of the Twilight series reportedly sold over 100 million books as of March of this year and some sources put the total sales figures for the Harry Potter series at over a billion.

    To be fair, once the new Twilight movie is released there may be a spurt of sales of this book.

  2. Susie Q says

    How is a book at the top of the NY Times booklist, which sold 350,000 copies (compared to 15,000 online reads), a “bookstore dud”?

  3. Alina Popescu says

    Yes, it is Midnight Sun. And the partial draft is still available online. I personally know why it is disappointing not to see it completed and published as the available chapters just leave you craving for more…:)

  4. says

    Alina,

    I do like your ideas of giving free copies to those who see the Eclipse movie (maybe the first showing). That would have rewarded fans without totally tanking book sales. Good idea! :-)

  5. says

    Actually, I think that was part of the problem also. I think the fans (many of them) did want a different book. Midnight Sun is the book that I think you’re referring to (and it’s not available).

    Still, I think that the paid release and free release of this book were too close together…

  6. Alina Popescu says

    Laura, I wonder what would have happened if it were a different book :) I remember the author wanted to rewrite the first book of the series from Edward’s perspective. The book leaked online, so the available chapters were posted for free and she never finished the book. If it were that book that was now completed, downloadable for free and on sale, I think there would have been a much better chance for it to sell. Simply because it appeals to fans of the main characters :)

    Even so, releasing something online for free and expecting people to pay for it in hardcover…well, it’s a bit off. Most people would say they contributed to the author’s fortune by buying the first books and paying for the movies. Release half of it for free and then publish the whole novel, that’s a different story :)

    If they wanted to help the book sell and also reward fans, they could have used a different strategy. Give the book for free to those who purchase the first three. Or give autographed copies for free in movie theaters to those going to see the new Twilight movie. Or to those who still have thier receipts for the first books. Any of these and I am sure many more would have worked a lot better.

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