Ever since Starbucks launched its first digital book Pick of the Week in conjunction with Apple iBooks in September 2011 – an extended sampler of Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel, The Night Circus – publishers have tried to leverage the program for both new and backlist titles. But perhaps none has reached quite so far into the backlist as digital publisher Diversion Books, which publishes the e-book of S.E. Hinton’s 40-year-old YA classic Rumble Fish, the Oct. 14–20 Starbucks/iBooks Pick of the Week.
Mary Cummings, v-p and editorial director of Diversion, says, “We think Rumble Fish can help a new generation of readers discover one of the most important young adult authors of all time. And we hope the offer will inspire longtime Hinton fans to reconnect with the author.”
In the past, Diversion’s promotions have taken place online. One reason the press lobbied for its first Pick of the Week was to reach a new demographic outside bookstores and to test adding a physical component to its marketing plan. As a Pick of the Week, Rumble Fish could be downloaded using a physical card with a code available at Starbucks.
“That’s a massive thing for us,” says Cummings referring to the cards. She notes that customers don’t have to use them right away, so free downloads of Rumble Fish could continue to stimulate sales through the holiday season. The code expires on January 6, 2015.
One advantage of the Starbucks/iBooks picks is that it offers publishers an ample runway to promote potential titles. Publishers and authors approach Apple about potential titles months in advance of the actual Pick of the Week. The retailer also works with record labels, studios, networks, and developers for its song, app, movie, and TV Picks of the Week. Starbucks and Apple look for timely books that will appeal to a variety of ages and demographics, from young children through adults.
Diversion used that lead time to get the New Yorker on board for a story about Hinton, who is considered the first YA author, and to provide its own take on the YA controversies swirling this year: an article in Slate, which called for adults to be embarrassed to read YA, and one by A.O. Scott in the New York Times Magazine on not wanting to be adults. “What better proof of [Hinton’s] relevancy than Starbucks picked her,” says Cummings about why the press made the author available for the piece.
The press also worked with Apple to create a microstore for all of Hinton’s books. It offered discounts on its digital Hinton titles and ran what Cummings refers to as “side promotions,” like an #IPauseForHinton Twitter campaign that encouraged readers to pose with their Rumble Fish Starbucks cards. Together Diversion’s marketing campaign helped propel Rumble Fish onto the iBookstore’s bestsellers list, where it has stayed for several weeks.
Print book sales for Rumble Fish have been less stellar, according to figures on Nielsen Bookscan. But on Amazon, Hinton’s best-known book, The Outsiders, hit the top 10 in literature and fiction for teens immediately after the cards came out and has continued to stay there over the past week.
Going in, Cummings knew that the program would likely lift Hinton’s other books, not just Diversion’s digital titles. “I’m happy in just putting her on the map,” says Cummings. She acknowledges that the Apple/Starbucks promotion in which they gave away the entire book might not be for everyone. But, she says, “we’re really happy with how it’s gone. I expect it will have a longer tail.”