Monday, February 09, 2004

When publicity campaigns attack 

Michael Connelly's next Harry Bosch novel, THE NARROWS, won't be out in stores till May 3, but believe me, his US publisher, Little Brown, is pulling out all the stops in their pursuit of the ultimate goal: the top spot of the New York Times Bestseller list. They may not say as much officially, but they might as well. For one thing, it's an honor Connelly has yet to achieve (he reached #2 with 2001's A DARKNESS MORE THAN NIGHT, but hasn't quite made it that high in the books since.) For another, the actual book is the culmination of something that Connelly had said for years that he would never do: write a sequel to 1996's THE POET, which (no spoiler here) ended with the culprit getting away with his crimes. With that kind of hook--never mind the rumor that a longstanding character may be offed--it seemed like the time for Little, Brown to get their marketing campaign into seriously high gear.

So what have they done? Well, if you're in the biz and you're expecting a sneak preview as only galleys or ARCs will provide, forget it. There aren't any. It's a smart move, for many reasons. Connelly's enough of a brand name that his fans will read him regardless, and those perusing the airport or Barnes & Noble or Wal-Mart will see his books trumpeted everywhere. Name recognition is pretty high, so why spoil the party by revealing what happens to a few lucky souls a few months in advance. Then, there are the T-shirts. When I was in New York a few weeks ago, I stopped in Partners & Crime and saw the swag for myself. The P&C folks were puzzled because all that was emblazoned on the tees was the book's title and release date. That's it. No author title, no details, nothing. They joked that people who might wear it in the city would be asked if it referred to "the Verezzano Narrows" but if so, well, it probably keeps the mystery quotient up.

And now, in a more innovative step, there's the movie. As directed by friend and fellow author T.L. (Terrill) Lankford, it depicts Connelly walking the streets of L.A., describing the inspiration for his writing THE NARROWS and has some audio excerpts of the new book. I do admit to a bit of a giggle when he talked about kids growing up in LA (he was born and raised, and now lives again, in Florida) and it is just a little bit cheesy, but not overly so. In any case, it's an unusual marketing gambit. Whether all of this, plus whatever Connelly and his publisher cook up from now till publication date, gets them their ultimate goal remains to be seen, but suffice it to say, I'm getting my copy on May 3. I wanna know what happens....

Of course, unusual marketing strategies is not a new thing for Little, Brown. They released Connelly's last book, LOST LIGHT, with a CD of favorite jazz cuts. And as reported here earlier (scroll down 2/3 of the page), they will be doing the CD promotional tie-in once more for George Pelecanos's HARD REVOLUTION. Peter Guralnick has contributed the liner notes, and Pelecanos' thoughts on the Soul tracks are available here.

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