This past Tuesday, Roaring Brook Press turned up the volume to celebrate the release of ABC3D, a new alphabet pop-up book by Marion Bataille. The publisher hosted a lunchtime concert outside its new digs at the Flatiron Building in Manhattan featuring local band Not Waving But Drowning, which performed an original song they wrote about the book. As passersby got into the groove, Roaring Brook and other Macmillan employees, dressed in black, red and white (ABC3D’s color scheme), passed out promotional cards about the title.
The gig was the culmination of a viral marketing campaign that started last February when Colleen Venable, Roaring Brook’s associate marketing manager, created a catchy YouTube video for the book that got people buzzing and landed ABC3D on the top tier of Amazon.com’s bestseller list. Venable chose a favorite tune, “Roll On” by ’30s singing group the Boswell sisters, as the background music. She had been in touch with representatives from the Boswell estate and the Boswell Museum who were keen on the idea of getting attention for the 78-year-old song. But after further research, Venable feared there might be some permissions issues (the song is technically owned by Sony) and decided to remove “Roll On” from the video and find a replacement.
The band Not Waving But Drowning, in front of Roaring Brook's New York City headquarters.
That’s where Not Waving But Drowning came in. “I have some friends in the band,” Venable says. “They wrote a song after sitting down for a while with the book and they coordinated it really well with the video. For instance, there’s a lyric in the song—‘oh gee’— when the ‘G’ page appears.” Venable is pleased with the latest evolution of the project; click here to see the updated video. “It has a ’30s style and sounds cheery and fast,” she says of the new tune. “I like it better than ‘Roll On’ now.”
She’s not alone. “Every day I get comments about it,” Venable says. “Altogether it’s had about a million views and there have been at least 10 copycats. It’s just crazy!” Though the video campaign is the splashiest, Roaring Brook used other viral techniques to get the word out as well. “Neal Porter [who acquired the title for Roaring Brook] had the book with him and was showing it to a friend at the theater one night several months ago,” Venable explains. “Everyone around him was curious about it.” Venable had a similar experience. “I was looking at it on the subway and people around me just stopped.” Taking that “caught reading” idea one step further, Venable says that many Macmillan employees have been asking for copies of the book. “We’ve been giving them out, but anyone who gets one had to promise to read it somewhere in public on the publication date.”
The band,along with staffers from Roaring Brook
and Macmillan, celebrate the book's publication .
So far, so good. “It’s living up to its potential,” Venable says of ABC3D. The planned first printing, announced last spring, was 100,000 copies. “The pre-orders have been amazing and we’ve been back to press three times; we don’t want it to go out of stock,” Venable says, adding that ABC3D is the “most anticipated release” Roaring Brook has ever had.
And the concert was icing on the cake. “You don’t usually get to celebrate the day a book comes out,” she says. “With the stress of getting a book out there, the day goes by. For this one we really wanted to stop and enjoy it.”
ABC3D. Marion Bataille. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter, $19.95 ISBN 978-1-59643-425-7