Tactically timed and titled, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group’s promotional campaign for Marissa Meyer’s Fairest, called #cyborgmonday, starts up on December 1, the date of this year’s Cyber Monday, when online retailers offer discounts to jumpstart the holiday shopping season. #Cyborgmonday is designed to promote pre-pub buzz for the fourth installment of the fairytale-themed Lunar Chronicles, due from Feiwel and Friends on January 27. The novel continues the saga of Cinder – a cyborg – and spotlights the nefarious and famously vain Queen Levana.

The pre-pub promotion for Fairest, which has an announced 500,000-copy first printing, involves online promotions as well as a performance element, launching on November 17. On that date, costumed Lunar Chronicles characters will take to the streets in 10 cities, distributing sample chapters of the series’ inaugural novel, Cinder, which include details about how fans can participate in #cyborgmonday.

The online arm of the Fairest marketing initiative includes the December 1 re-launch of the series’ website, newly redesigned to encourage additional fan engagement. As readers interact with the site using hashtag #cyborgmonday, the publisher will unlock Fairest–related content, including Meyer’s itinerary for her post-pub tour and an excerpt from the novel (offering readers a first glimpse of the story, since the publisher opted not to create ARCs).

The site will also feature a “Glamour Yourself” app, allowing fans to share the GIF of their own “glamoured” image on social media and add it to the gallery on the series’ website. The app ties into the theme of Queen Levana’s obsession with being glamorous (think: “Who’s the fairest of them all?”). Fans with an artistic bent can enter a contest on the site by creating a portrait of Queen Levana as they envision her. Meyer will judge the competition, and the winner will clinch a trip to Fairest’s launch party on January 27 in the author’s hometown of Tacoma, Wash.

Macmillan has created an authorless event kit for booksellers, featuring signed bookplates, posters, and “secret message” Fairest mirrors as giveaway incentives for consumer pre-ordering. The publisher also plans in-print and online consumer advertising, both pre- and post-publication.

Meyer’s strong online bond with her Lunar Chronicles fans sowed the seeds for the #cyborgmonday initiative. “Because Marissa is so savvy about engaging with fans online in a very natural way, we wanted to bring their engagement to a new level to reward existing fans, and also to attract new ones,” explained Caitlin Sweeny, MCBG’s digital marketing manager. “After much brainstorming across a number of departments, we came up with a multi-spectrum program that begins with the build-up to #cyborgmonday and continues with more and more content being unlocked online leading up to Fairest’s pub date.”

Marketing director Elizabeth Fithian emphasized her team’s goal of “switching it up and doing something different” with each installment of the Lunar Chronicles, which has 1.5 million copies in print in the U.S. alone. She noted that #cyborgmonday is not only aimed at stoking old and new fans’ excitement about Fairest – but also about Winter, the fifth and final volume in the series, due November 2015. “This is one of our most popular series, and sales build exponentially with each book,” she explained. “In addition to #cyborgmonday, we have a great campaign for Fairest planned at pub date – though the details are still under wraps.”

A Change of Plans

Meyer always envisioned Winter, starring a reimagined Snow White, as the conclusion to Lunar Chronicles, which was initially conceived as a four-book series. But Fairest edged itself into the lineup after the author began writing it as a promotional short story with a limited word count. “I realized that there was too much to Levana’s story to make the word cut, so I wrote a different story for the promotion,” the author said.

Then a fortuitous double creative conundrum – Meyer wanted to go back and flesh out Queen Levana’s story, but didn’t know how to do it, and she reached an impasse writing Winter – led her to tackle the former task. “I was stuck on Winter and realized that I didn’t know enough about Levana and her relationship to the other characters to finish that story,” she explained. “So I set that aside and wrote her story – which in revision grew into Fairest.”

The author told PW that it was rewarding to get to the bottom of her villainess, who from the start has been an imposing force in the series. “I spent so many years thinking about her story and wondering why Levana wants to rule the earth,” said Meyer. “Seeing all the threads come together cleared things up about other characters too, which was very satisfying and a lot of fun. Writing Fairest really helped me to push through things that were giving me trouble with Winter. It was exactly what I needed to happen!”

Meyer said she’s very pleased with Macmillan’s promotional initiatives for Fairest. “Every time I think they can’t impress me any more with their marketing angles, they do,” she said. “I feel so incredibly honored to be working with them, and to see how they embrace the series and go for it.”

The author (whose next book for Feiwel and Friends is Heartless, a fantasy prequel to Alice in Wonderland) is especially eager to see fans’ renderings of Queen Levana for the online contest. “I’m a huge advocate of fan art and fan fiction, and all the great things that come out of them,” she said. “I’ll be anxious to see what readers come up with, since I haven’t given them too many hints to go on about what’s under Levana’s glamour. I’m really looking forward to seeing what wows me.”

The Lunar Chronicles: Fairest by Marissa Meyer. Feiwel and Friends, $17.99 Jan. ISBN 978-1-250-06055-6