Soho Press has launched a pre-pub giveaway campaign to build interest in This Is W.A.R., a YA mystery by Lisa Roecker and Laura Roecker due July 2 from Soho Teen. The promotion is based around a key, an important element of the novel’s plot: four girls vow to avenge the death of a fifth friend who allegedly dies in a drowning accident at a posh country club. The teens pool their money to fund a campaign to bring down the wealthy boy whom they know is responsible for her demise, and they keep that stash in a safety deposit box to which each has a key.

For the campaign, stores and libraries that sign up by June 20 will receive an Earn a Key: Join the W.A.R. kit, which contains an easel-back counter display announcing the initiative and 10 giveaway necklaces with a charm in the shape of a key.

The promotion is the brainchild of Soho Press senior publicity manager Meredith Barnes. She notes that the publisher has received many requests from stores and libraries to host an event for the authors, sisters who also co-write the Liar Society series, which launched in 2011, for Sourcebooks Fire. “Lisa and Laura are very visible on social media, and we were aware that there is already a lot of interest in the book,” she says. “We wanted to come up with a way to further drive preorders, and thought it would be great to give librarians and booksellers something tangible – the key necklaces – to give to readers. In an age where lots of promotional campaigns are digital, this is a bit of an old-fashioned way to get readers excited about the book.”

Seeds of a Collaboration

A phone conversation some years ago initially sparked the authors’ writing careers. “We kind of fell into that Desperate Housewives cliché where we were two bored young moms who loved to read and watch movies and television geared toward 16-year-old girls,” Lisa explains. “We had this marathon phone conversation with the vague notion of ‘doing something cool,’ and after three hours, we had settled on writing a book together.” Her sister adds, “We really wanted to write something that we would have loved to read as teenagers, and since we grew up devouring Christopher Pike and Lois Duncan, we knew it had to be some kind of creepy mystery. Once we started writing, we had so much fun that we knew we’d never stop.”

They explain that their childhood home life, in a sense, inspired the plot of This Is W.A.R. “This novel is our take on girl power, with lots of crazy rich people and bad boys thrown in for fun,” Laura says. “We grew up in a family of three girls, and our father always told us that we could do anything boys could do. Our parents told us over and over again that we didn’t need men to survive. They really wanted us to be independent women. My mother was notorious for breaking out her dog-eared copy of Men Are Just Desserts whenever she caught us crying about boys.”

The sisters, who live in the same town in suburban Cleveland, have established a well-oiled – and clearly good-humored – collaborative process. After the two discuss a book’s plot and characters at length, Lisa writes a detailed outline, mapping out each chapter. And then, she says, “Laura spends a few weeks making fun of it. She’ll identify plot holes, implausible actions by characters, and all kinds of sloppiness.”

Laura adds, “Those few weeks are riddled with very short, extremely annoyed phone conversations until we can work out all the kinks.” Once they are both satisfied with the outline, Lisa writes the first chapter and sends it to Laura, who edits the chapter, writes the next one, “and I send the whole mess back to Lisa. We go back and forth like that until the book is written. It’s fun because we get to be both readers and writers.”

The Key to Success

To date, according to Barnes, 18 libraries and seven stores have joined the Earn a Key promotion, and she expects additional librarians and booksellers to follow suit. Trisha Perry, tween librarian and IT coordinator at Oldham Country Public Library in LaGrange, Ky., was quick to sign on. “It immediately piqued my interest,” she says. “The e-mail from Soho Press described an exciting book and offered a chance for kids to win things too. It was a no-brainer. This will be a good book for our teen book club – it’s exciting, scandalous, and keeps you guessing till the end. It’s really hard to get teens to the library, so we have to do anything we can to make it appealing and fun.”

Kate Schlademan, owner of The Learned Owl Bookshop in the Roeckers’ hometown of Hudson, Ohio, is also participating in the promotion, and says she expects “lots of preorders.” Her store has hosted launch parties for the authors’ earlier books, and she plans to do the same for This Is W.A.R. in July. “Lisa and Laura are dynamic and energetic, and have helped come up with a great promotion,” she says. “This is a fantastic book. I think their writing keeps getting better and better. And they also reach out to readers on-line and are always trying to encourage young writers.”

Each participant will be listed on the book’s Web site as an official location at which readers can “earn” a key by being among the first 10 to preorder the book or, in the case of libraries, reserve it. (Retailers and librarians can elect to distribute the keys in other ways as well). Consumers can earn a key necklace by preordering This Is W.A.R from major online retailers via the book’s Web site and filling out a form on the site.

The Roeckers, who will lead a writing workshop at The Learned Owl this summer, say they are very excited about the promotion. “The keys are very symbolic in the book and we hope that the necklaces will help spread a bit of that revolutionary spirit to readers,” Lisa says. “Plus, they’re super cute – and super cute is always a bonus.”

This Is W.A.R. by Lisa Roecker and Laura Roecker. Soho Teen, $17.99 July ISBN 978-1-61695-261-7