Stoking the excitement, or the anger, of sports fans can be highly effective. Just ask Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The publisher has a sleeper hit on its hands after smartly positioning its October book about former Michigan Wolverines football coach Rich Rodriguez with the maize and blue faithful. After doing an initial printing of 13,000 copies of John U. Bacon's Three And Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football, the press now has 31,000 copies in print.
Hefty pre-orders shot the book onto the Times bestseller list--it debuted at #6 in late October--thanks, in large part, to a coordinated marketing effort to get the football fans on board. Rodriguez, who was fired last season, quickly lost favor with Michigan fans after his failure to turn around the university's program. Brian Gittis, publicist and events coordinator at FSG, said the marketing effort was all about getting to those fans, and began with press "leaks" about details in the book to the Michigan football fan site, MGoBlog. After three items about the book ran on MGoBlog, a first serial from the book appearded in the Wall Street Journal.
Other press was held off until the book's on sale date and then hits came in the Detroit News and on ESPN.com, among other outlets. But FSG also made sure there was someone on the ground to get to the fans in person. To that end, author Bacon, a journalist, did a string of events with Michigan alumni throughout the country. FSG also distributed promotional beer coasters--they feature QR codes that send customers to more information about the book, as well as a trivia quiz--to bars throughout Michigan.
Jeff Seroy, at FSG, noted that getting the fans interested in the book early was essential, as it was their "fanatical advance ordering" that got the book onto the Times list and in front of a larger, national, audience.