HarperCollins Children’s Books recently launched The Dark Days of Supernatural, a six-month, six-figure marketing initiative promoting 11 new hardcover novels in the paranormal, dystopian, and supernatural romance genres. The multimedia program supports the books with title-specific marketing campaigns as well as viral applications, blogs, digital fan kits, and live appearances, all intended to connect YA authors directly with their readers.
“We felt we had a great roster of first-time as well as established authors in the paranormal and dystopian realms—and even some hybrids between the two—so we decided to do a group promotion and take it up a few notches,” explains Diane Naughton, v-p of marketing. “This integrated campaign takes advantage of what’s happening in digital and social media spaces and couples that with a two-stage author tour.”
Naughton observes that six of the 11 authors involved in the Dark Days promotion are debut novelists, some not much older than their target readers. “Many are in their 20s and 30s, and have been living and breathing this genre for years, first as readers and now as authors,” she says. “They really connect with their audience, largely through social media spaces, which is a focus of this campaign.” The program also aims to reach adult fans of those authors who have previously published for that audience.
The Dark Days program has two seasonal thrusts, the first promoting books released between December and March, and the second focusing on titles due out in May and June. The initial wave includes Once in a Full Moon by Ellen Schreiber (Katherine Tegen), Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly (HarperTeen), Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton (Katherine Tegen), Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting (HarperTeen), and Claudia Gray’s Afterlife (HarperTeen). Late spring titles are Illusions by Aprilynne Pike (HarperTeen), Veronica Roth’s Divergent (Katherine Tegen), Die for Me by Amy Plum (HarperTeen), Something Deadly This Way Comes by Kim Harrison (HarperTeen), Josephine Angelini’s Starcrossed (HarperTeen), and Hereafter by Tara Hudson (HarperTeen).
Here are key components of The Dark Days of Supernatural campaign:
• Two five-city group author tours — the first with a January and a March leg, the second taking place in early June. Between three and five authors will participate in each event. Select appearances will be livestreamed on Facebook, where fans can submit questions to the authors. “This is a great way to give the tour a broader reach and let readers who cannot attend the event join in,” Naughton says.
• A promotional mailing in early January featured beach bags containing four ARCs of novels featured in the program, as well as a calendar of events linked to the campaign and a packet of bookmarks. Naughton notes that “thousands of the bags were sent out, not only to accounts, but to an industry big-mouths list that included agents, authors, and other key publishing people.”
• A Dark Days Web site links readers to the program’s Facebook page and Twitter feed. “This site will be revamped over the summer to expand its content as part of our overall teen Web strategy,” according to Naughton.
• Launched in January, a custom Facebook page features a digital toolkit for fans, author tour specifics, and on-sale dates and other information about the novels. Naughton reports that the page has more than 24,000 “fans” to date.
• The publisher’s online advertising campaign includes ads on national teen and entertainment sites as well as select national print.
• Custom QR codes on the beach bags, calendar, and bookmarks lead to the campaign’s Mobi Web site, where readers can read book descriptions, find author info and tour details, take a quiz, and watch a Dark Days video. “Teens can’t always be sitting in front of their computers, but they do have their cell phones in hand 24/7, so this is a great way to connect them to the online campaign,” Naughton notes.
• On Inkpop.com, its Web site for teenage writers, the publisher is staging a series of writing challenges based on each novel, as well as a “My Dark Summer” writing contest during the second phase of the campaign.
• The winners of two seasonal The Dark Days of Supernatural sweepstakes will receive customized iPads or iPods.
• The publisher hopes to unveil a Dark Days app for the iPhone this spring.