In a world where angels seek vengeance and humans are warriors, a teen must choose her destiny in Embrace, the launch title of a fantasy series by debut author Jessica Shirvington. Due in March from Sourcebooks Fire, the novel is supported by a $200,000 marketing budget, the largest the publisher has ever allocated for a young adult book. Sourcebooks doubled the size of the initial marketing campaign due to the enthusiastic reaction to its 4,000-copy ARC mailing to booksellers, librarians, teachers, and book media, a response that Chris Bauerle, director of sales and marketing, describes as “a tidal wave.”

What is it about the novel that triggered the early buzz? “Violet, the lead character, is electric,” Baurele answers. “She is strong and fierce, and must make a huge decision on her own. It is a great story about female empowerment.” The in-house excitement about Embrace, Baurele says, was the first sign that “this book really resonates with readers, and we started to line up behind it right away. At this point, we have sold the book to virtually every major national account, including mass merchandisers who do not always get behind a hardcover YA.”

Embrace’s marketing campaign includes an interactive Web site featuring teaser chapters, author interviews, and a video offering a behind-the-scenes look at the book cover shoot. The book trailer will debut on Entertainment Weeklys Shelf Life blog on February 20, and the novel will be promoted on teen-and parent-oriented Web sites. Sourcebooks is also staging a direct-to-consumer promotional outreach that entails distributing bookmarks and postcards in high schools, and inserting bookmarks in teen-targeted catalogues and shipments of goods purchased through those catalogues.

Sourcebooks Fire will publish the next installments of Shirvington’s series on an accelerated schedule, with Enticed due in September 2012 and Emblaze in March 2013. Shirvington, a resident of Sydney, Australia, will embark on a national U.S. tour in September, when the paperback edition of Embrace will also be released.

‘Choice and Consequence’

The author, who is currently working on Endless, her fourth novel, says that the concept of the series evolved as she wrote Embrace. “When I began, all I knew for sure was that I wanted the plot to focus on choice and consequence,” she explains. “I liked the idea of looking into the concepts of predetermined destiny vs. free will, but also the idea that perhaps the two work in an uncanny way together. Working with these concepts led to the ultimate question: who could be controlling all of this manipulation? Who is making sure we are on one path or another and constantly providing the choices from which we then choose? This led to the use of angels. From there, the story came together so beautifully.”

The author is thrilled with the early positive response to Embrace, which has already been released in Australia, the U.K., and Germany. “Simply being published is a mind-blowing experience,” she says. “But readers are what it is all about. Receiving the response that Embrace has to date is incredibly gratifying, humbling, exciting—there aren’t enough words to describe it.”

One impressed early reader who is looking forward to Embrace’s release is Bess Bleyaert, events coordinator at McLean & Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey, Mich. “The paranormal genre continues to be popular, and this is one of the better ones,” she says. “The novel has such a strong female lead character—I think much stronger than Twilight’s Bella—and there is great tension between her and the male protagonist. This is a wonderful debut book, and I’m looking forward to the next installments. This has the potential to be a really solid series.”

Embrace by Jessica Shirvington. Sourcebooks Fire, $16.99 Mar. ISBN 978-1-4022-6840-3