Penguin Young Readers Group has set in motion a multifaceted social media marketing campaign to promote Gayle Forman’s Just One Day, a YA novel that centers on Allyson, an American teen on a whirlwind tour of Europe, who meets Willem, a young Dutch actor, at a performance of Twelfth Night in England. The two then spend a romantic day together in Paris, after which Willem disappears and Allyson – through Shakespeare, travel, and her search for Willem – begins a transformational year of self-discovery. Due from Dutton on January 8, the novel will be followed in fall 2013 by Just One Year, told from Willem’s perspective.

The publisher started the promotional buzz for Just One Day, which has an announced first printing of 150,000 copies, back in October, when it launched a Facebook fan page for the novel. Forman’s earlier novels, If I Stay (2009) and Where She Went (2011), were bestsellers for Dutton and have a combined in-print tally of one million copies. The page includes a countdown-to-pub date widget that links to other social media, and an app that reveals additional chapters of Just One Day as the number of “likes” increases (a total of one-third of the book will be revealed).

Via social media, Penguin is encouraging a 24-hour readathon of Just One Day on January 11, in hopes that YA bloggers will chat about the novel; discussion questions will be posted online via Penguin Teen social media and the book’s Facebook page. On the following day, Forman will be available on Twitter for a one-hour chat to answer fans' queries.

To tie in with the travel theme of Just One Day, photos from Forman’s own extensive travels will be posted on Penguin Teen Tumblr for 365 consecutive days, through December 20 of this year. From January 7-18, Forman will embark on a blog tour, posting 10 of her travel photos and explaining how each inspired a scene in her novel. The author will hit the road on an actual tour on January 14, visiting seven cities over eight days.

“Gayle is so collaborative and willing to give so much to promote her novel, and we want to take full advantage of that,” says Anna Jarzab, associate marketing manager, digital marketing at Penguin Young Readers. “She has a great following on Twitter and other social media, and this campaign will let her interact with an even larger community of readers.”

An Author-Reader Exchange

For her part, Forman says she’s eager to connect with fans during the online promotion. “My favorite part of social media is being able to converse with readers,” she says. “I’m not fabulously comfortable talking just about me, and I like to ask people questions –like, ‘What are you reading right now?’ I’m excited about sharing my photos. I’ve been traveling since I was an exchange student in England at the age of 16, and I went around the world in 2002, and have hundreds of photos. Every one of them has a story, and I look forward to telling those stories and hearing back from readers about their own travel stories. I think my photos will be a natural way to develop a deeper relationship with readers.”

Though some of heroine Allyson’s travels in Just One Day are based on Forman’s own experiences, the author says that the inspiration for the book came to her in a dream. “It sounds so clichéd,” she says, “but I had a dream about a guy and a girl spending an intense day and night together. I saw them in a large warehouse, and I knew it was somewhere overseas. In my half-awake state, a story started spilling out in my mind, and I remember thinking, ‘It’s too bad this is not a YA book.’ And then when I totally woke up, I thought, ‘Of course this is a YA book!’ ”

In fact, once she began writing Just One Day, Forman realized that the story she had to tell was more expansive than a single book. “So here’s the other cliché,” she says. “After I wrote a synopsis and the first 30 pages or so, I was taking a shower when it suddenly occurred to me that I had two books here. That made the writing technically much more difficult. Just One Year needed to answer questions left unanswered in Just One Day, and that entailed a lot more plotting. That’s not the way I usually write – I’m a seat-of-the-pantser. But I had to plant seeds, and go back to them in the second book. There’s more architecture to this kind of writing.”

Julie Strauss-Gabel, v-p and publisher of Dutton Children’s Books and Forman’s editor, was thrilled to learn that Just One Day had sparked a companion novel. “Gayle had struck a chord and found a voice that was just right,” she says. “I could tell that she was doing what she is great at – speaking to readers about something she loves. The travel piece is a big part of who Gayle is. Combining that with Allyson’s voice and the romance, it was clear Gayle had a lot of building blocks. I knew I wanted to know more about where this story was going, and I knew she could find a way to sustain it in a second book. A lot of her readers are excited about her new book, and with the online outreach for Just One Day, I think Gayle is going to find a lot of new fans as well.”

Just One Day by Gayle Forman. Dutton, $17.99 Jan. ISBN 978-0-525-42591-5