A 13-year-old is unwittingly is dragged into a sensational murder trial in Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer, John Grisham’s first novel for young readers. The book, which launches a middle-grade series starring this amateur trial attorney, will be released on May 25 with a 1 million-copy first printing. Dutton acquired the novel at auction in late February and has quickly moved from manuscript to finished books—and has assembled an aggressive marketing campaign to promote the book to the consumer, school, and library markets.
Grisham, whose novels have been translated into 38 languages and have 250 million copies in print, obviously has an exceptionally broad fan base, and Penguin Young Readers Group is taking steps to ensure that it expands even further. “We’ve built our marketing campaign so that we have different strategies to reach different audiences,” explains v-p of marketing Emily Romero. “Our goal is to brand the Theodore Boone character and the series to kids and to parents, and to reach out to teachers and librarians with ‘Bring the Courtroom to the Classroom’ kits providing materials that tie into the novel’s educational component.”
The publisher will do a national mailing of the kits to librarians for summer-event planning and plans an extensive mailing to teachers in the fall. The kit will also be distributed at school and library conferences and via wholesalers. Grisham is scheduled to be a keynote speaker at ALA on June 28.
The publisher’s consumer campaign is rolling out with a major advertising push. On May 21, a movie trailer will premiere in theaters nationwide on screens showing PG-rated movies (including Shrek Forever After) and will air for two weeks. Beginning May 24, three TV ads for Theodore Boone will run nationally on Nickelodeon during after-school and weekend time slots. The trailer is currently posted on Entertainment Weekly’s Shelf Life blog.
These big-screen and small-screen ads both direct readers to [a dedicated Website]www.whoistheoboone.com, an introductory site launching on May 21 that Romero explains “is designed to create intrigue about the character of Theodore Boone and offer clues about him and the novel’s murder trial.” A more traditional, ongoing Web site, www.theodoreboone.com, which is live now, offers interactive quizzes and games for readers as well as materials for teachers and librarians.
Also planned is print and online advertising. For booksellers, the publisher has created merchandising kits that include such promotional materials as branded legal notepads, pens, and bookmarks, as well as a pre-order easel, a handselling tip sheet, and double-sided poster. Floor displays are available as well.
“We ordered quite a few of the floor displays,” says Becky Anderson of Anderson’s Bookshops in Naperville and Downers Grove, Ill., who has high hopes for Theodore Boone. “I read it and loved it,” she adds. “When you read a Grisham novel, you’re drawn in from page one, and that definitely happens with this book. I love this character and his relationships with others—from his parents to the people in the courtroom.”
The bookseller also notes that the novel fills what she perceives of as a void in the marketplace: “We need more mysteries for upper middle-grade readers, and I don’t think I’ve seen a series for this age group about the legal profession and how the courtroom works. I think that will be fascinating to kids. And who better to write that than John Grisham?”
Anderson anticipates that Theodore Boone will be a strong parent buy (“I think they’ll buy it for their kids—but also to read themselves”), but also calls the book “an easy handsell to kids, even kids who don’t know who Grisham is. It won’t be hard to get boys into it.” She plans to display the novel prominently both inside her stores and in the windows. “We’ve all seen adult authors try to write kids’ books that are utter failures,” she says. “I expect this novel will really be big.”