Launched in June 2012 as the tagline for a group tour launching four debut YA novels, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group’s Fierce Reads has expanded its focus and reach into a perennial promotional effort and brand. The twice yearly, two-legged group tours remain the backbone of Fierce Reads, and this year the publisher has enhanced the digital and social media aspects of the initiative to further involve fans and build additional buzz for the tours and offshoot Fierce Reads events.
Here’s what’s new for the sixth Fierce Reads tour, kicking off September 16:
• Win-a-Visit Fierce Reads Tour Contest: MCPG is asking fans to help finalize its fall Fierce Reads tour itinerary, encouraging young readers, bloggers, booksellers, librarians, and others to submit a short video explaining why the tour should come to their city. The creator of the winning video will receive a hometown visit from the touring authors featured on the second leg of the tour (below). Contestants can submit their videos on the Fierce Reads Website through August 15. If the first submission, from an earnest fan in Texas, is any indication, competition will be fierce.
• Twitter Itinerary Reveal: The publisher also gave fans input in determining when the itineraries of the two legs of the Fierce Reads fall tour were revealed, which depended on how many times #fiercereads was mentioned online. The campaign launched on July 29, and by the following day there were enough tweets to reveal the first-leg itinerary (September 16–24); the second-leg stops (October 8–14) were revealed on July 31.
Touring on the first leg, September 16–24, are Ann Aguirre (Mortal Danger, Feiwel and Friends), Caragh O’Brien (The Vault of Dreamers, Roaring Brook), and Marie Rutkoski (The Winner’s Curse, FSG). Also featured on the tour will be Trial by Fire (Feiwel and Friends) by Josephine Angelini, who cannot participate due to the impending birth of her baby.
Leg two of the tour (October 8–14) will include Gennifer Albin (Unraveled, FSG), Nikki Kelly (Lailah, Feiwel and Friends), Jessica Brody (Unforgotten, FSG), and Marissa Meyer (Cress, Feiwel and Friends). Like Angelini, Lish McBride (Firebug, Holt) is expecting a child and cannot travel, but her book will be spotlighted on the tour.
• Following the Fierce Reads Road Trip online: MCPG launched a partnership with Bookish.com, which will feature a series of posts to reveal life on the road for Fierce Read touring authors. Posted on July 8, The inaugural entry, presents an interview with repeat Fierce Reads touring author Marissa Meyer, who participated in the very first tour, and chats about sharing everything from the instant camaraderie to inside jokes to ice cream with her fellow authors.
Fierce Reads Special Events: To keep Fierce Reads in the fan community headlines during non-tour seasons and to respond to fans’ growing enthusiasm about the brand, the publisher is also hosting stand-alone events. The most recent was the “Fierce Reads Summer Blockbuster” at Barnes & Noble The Grove in L.A. on July 23. More than 100 fans (including one who flew in from Iowa) showed up to hear a panel discussion moderated by Anthony Breznican, senior writer for Entertainment Weekly and author of Brutal Youth (St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne). Panelists were Ann Aguirre, Anna Banks, Leigh Bardugo, and Marissa Meyer, all bestselling authors who regularly tour with Fierce Reads. Future events are planned for the Decatur (Ga.) Book Festival on August 31, as well at several other yet-to-be-announced venues.
MCPG publicist Mary Van Akin, who oversees the Fierce Read tours, noted that the online fan base for the brand grows annually among teens, bloggers, booksellers, and media. “All the enthusiasm gives us reason to keep the promotion fresh,” she explained. “The new Win-a-Visit contest allows us to say thanks to the voices who are such strong Fierce Reads ambassadors. Since it is impossible for the touring authors to visit every city, this gives us a chance to bring the tour to a new place where there is obviously a lot of excitement for the brand.”
Van Akin said that the current mix of new and established authors on the Fierce Reads tours departs from the initial model, which spotlighted debut novelists and featured guest appearances by tried-and-true YA authors. A five-time Fierce Reads tour participant, Leigh Bardugo promoted her first novel, Shadow and Bone, the launch title of her Grisha trilogy from Henry Holt, on that inaugural June 2012 tour (during which she learned that her novel was slated to appear on the New York Times bestseller list).
In June, Bardugo hit the Fierce Reads road again, promoting Ruin and Rising, the conclusion to her trilogy. She joined debut authors Ava Dellaira (Love Letters to the Dead, FSG) and Jennifer Mathieu (The Truth About Alice, Roaring Brook) and established author Emmy Laybourne (Monument 14: Savage Drift, Feiwel and Friends), who was also part of the debut Fierce Reads tour.
Reflecting on the benefits of the group Fierce Reads tour to both fledgling and veteran novelists, Bardugo recalled her first-ever experience on the road. “From the start, I absolutely loved being part of this group tour,” she said. “It’s much more fun and more relaxed than a solo tour, and [there’s less] anxiety about whether people will show up. You can be assured of lots of laughs and having a good time, even if it’s just a small crowd. I love learning about other authors’ creative process, and spreading enthusiasm for their books rather than just mine.”
Bardugo mentioned that Macmillan asked for her input on touring tips to share with the newcomers, which she was happy to give. “As an elder statesman, I have learned quite a bit about touring and love the chance to help new authors,” she said. “We put together a kind of Fierce Reads 101, with packing tips and questions to expect. My biggest piece of advice: have your pitch down and be able to describe your book in a minute or two.”
Having recently turned in a first draft of The Dregs, a series launch due from Holt in fall 2015, Bardugo will promote Ruin and Rising on a U.K. tour this month, and will embark on a solo U.S. tour for her novel in the fall. And does she anticipate joining yet another Fierce Reads tour? “Absolutely,” she said. “Every time Fierce Read calls, I’m happy to oblige!”