Gatsby.  His name has been forever immortalized through the words of       F. Scott Fitzgerald.  For most of us, it conjures up memories from high school English classes, but now it’s being broadcast all over in ads and trailers for surrounding the film adaptation.  The Great Gatsby’s big movie turn got us thinking about how marketing strategies around blockbuster film adaptations impact book sales and play into the publishing industry.  Some of the biggest flicks to hit silver screens in the past few years have been adaptations from books – Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games, Silver Linings Playbook. And of course, this practice is nothing new. Even Gone with the Wind is an adaptation of a book. So how do movie adaptations tie into marketing strategies to sell books?

The Way I See It

  • I see big-screen box office hits reinvigorating marketing of their book counterparts with the production of new editions of the book with covers to match the movie posters and new promo displays linked to the main characters from the movie to feature alongside book displays at retail stores – all timed around the release of the movie adaptation.
  • I see an opportunity for publishers to capitalize on the buzz around highly-anticipated new movie adaptations to implement a marketing and advertising strategy to drive sales of the associated books by reminding consumers that the movie was a book first.
  • With the popularity of certain themes at the movies – such as vampires, crime dramas, or futuristic fantasies – publishers can tie books with similar themes into the pop culture theme-of-the-moment by target marketing to key demographics or consumers composing the fan base.

The Way The Industry Sees It

I sat down with Rachel Coun, Executive Director of Marketing, Trade Books at Scholastic Inc., to discuss marketing strategies for books that become blockbusters.

How do marketing strategies for books change, if at all, with a new film adaptation hitting theatres? What factors play into whether and how a movie adaptation of a book will impact marketing of a book?

When a film adaptation comes out, we have the great opportunity to reach new people who are eager to see the film and have not read the book yet.  Plus, when the movie is based on the first book of a series, you are able to promote that next book in the series to the existing fans as well. Prior to its theatrical release, we advertised The Hunger Games on Facebook and popular movie and entertainment websites with “It started with a Book” messaging.  Once the film released, we added “And the Story Continues” to the copy line and linked the ad to all three books in the series.  In addition, we sent out an eBlast, with that same messaging, directly to people who purchased The Hunger Games movie tickets online.  We promoted The Hunger Games Movie Tie-In Book to both that new movie audience as well to existing Hunger Games fans.  This entailed retail displays featuring a movie image; placement on our Hunger Games Facebook page and Scholastic website; social media outreach via Facebook and Twitter; and advertising on Hunger Games fan sites that cater to both the book and film audience.  We also have worked with movie studios on cross-promotions that included movie tie-in book giveaways via on-air radio promotions and media events.

Are there any timing factors that impact how a movie version will play into sales of the book?

We release movie tie-in books a good six weeks prior to a film release to give a new audience time to read the book before the movie comes out as well as create energy among existing fans who are waiting to see the film.  The books still are promoted at retail for several weeks after the movie releases to bring new fans to the brand.

What trends in marketing and advertising have you seen for book publishers taking advantage of film adaptations’ box office success?

Publishers are capitalizing on promoting books that have a similar genre and/or audience for box office success films prior, during, and after the film’s release.   Last year, to satisfy Hunger Games fans, we ran a campaign in the bookstores and libraries entitled “Do You Hunger for More?”  We created a newsletter piece and promotional giveaways that promoted other popular Scholastic dystopian novels.  We mirrored this campaign for our online retailers and sent out eBlasts.  Plus, we promoted these other books on our dedicated Hunger Games Facebook page, Scholastic Hunger Games website and teen website, and via extensive social media.  We made sure to include our Hunger Games logo and books on all promotional material to really marry all the properties.  In-theatre promotion also is a very effective method to get directly to that “movie fan.”  We continue to show book trailers before other popular films and distribute books and/or chapter samplers in theatres, too.

Turning away from the movies for a minute, what are core components of a successful advertising campaign for a book in today’s digital age?  How has it changed over the years?

The book itself is always the best way to sell it. You want people to read advance copies or a chapter to start talking about it early and create demand prior to its publication date.  This main “objective” has continued to be the same throughout the years; however the tactics are ever-changing in the digital world.  The author also has been a key element in many successful campaigns, and a successful digital campaign includes: A central web area where fans can be part of a community, creation of digital assets that fans can “share” with their friends and that can “go viral” on the web, and social media outreach and advertising.  Our Hunger Games Facebook page features a new post each day to keep the fans engaged.  We just published the Catching Fire trade paperback and are currently running a summer-long, social media campaign.  A key part of the campaign is to encourage existing fans to be “Hunger Games Ambassadors” and reach out to friends and family who have not read the book yet.  We just completed the first phase on Twitter where we encouraged people to send out the following “fan video.”  And, we have other fun elements on a variety of platforms to suit multiple interests. It is still important to do the traditional methods of advertising.  We also advertised the Catching Fire paperback in The New York Times and have an outdoor billboard media campaign currently running.

What is the coolest object in your office right now?

I have a nice collection of personalized, original sketches and illustrations from some fabulous picture book artists. However, my favorite thing hanging up above my desk is a photo of my friend’s son Donald holding a Captain Underpants book.  When Donald was seven, he had some problems getting into reading.  I sent his Dad some Captain Underpants books and Donald quickly fell in love with the series.  It is three years later, and he now is reading and writing at an advanced grade level.  Donald continues to send me letters and photos of himself with his favorite books. Looking at that photo – of his smiling face holding a book – is the best way to start my day!