“Be the first to read the last line of the next big thing,” invites a promo piece for First in Line, an initiative offering booksellers, librarians, and consumers an early peek at new YA titles by debut and established authors published by Random House Children’s Books’ various imprints. Those who sign up to participate in the program, recently launched on Tumblr, will receive such “members-only perks” as pre-pub info about forthcoming novels; newsletters delivering behind-the-book content; author videos, Q&As, and Twitter chats; early access to advance reader copies; and giveaways and sweepstakes opportunities.

Spotlighting a single title each month, First in Line kicked off in July with David Levithan’s Another Day (Knopf). August’s selection is Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (Delacorte), followed by Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Knopf) in September, Unforgiven: A Fallen Novel by Lauren Kate (Delacorte) in October, and The Game of Lives, James Dashner’s conclusion to the Mortality Doctrine series (Delacorte), in November.

RHCB debuted First in Line at BookCon in late May, with in-booth sign-ups and giveaways, as well as a preview event at which attendees had the opportunity to meet and have books signed by authors Levithan, Yoon, Dashner, E. Lockhart, and Jennifer Niven.

This event, which was open to the first 500 YA fans in line, “had a red-carpet theme, which we’ll see in subsequent events as well,” explained Kim Lauber, RHCB director of marketing for trade publishing. “The idea of exclusivity has always appealed to our industry, and booksellers, media, librarians, and consumers are proud to know they are among the first people to read a book that goes on to be an award winner or a bestseller. At the BookCon preview event, attendees had access to different swag we’ve created for the program, including a t-shirt that has the First in Line logo on the front, and a fill-in-the-blank on the back: ‘I read (insert book title) before you did.’ The First in Line program encourages readers to build early buzz about books by favorite and new authors.”

Two-Pronged Approach

To that end, the initiative has two main components, one targeting booksellers and librarians, and the other YA readers themselves. The former involves mailing retailers and librarians a merchandising kit, of which RHCB has sent out several hundred to date, that contains such marketing aids as counter displays and shelf talkers and “spine hangers” to earmark titles as a First in Line selection, when displayed either face-out or spine-out.

The displays include chapter samplers with entry forms for a monthly sweepstakes to win assorted swag connected to the program and to that month’s spotlighted book. The prize based on Levithan’s Another Day, for example, includes a signed first edition, a mix CD created by the author, and original photos he shot that tie into the novel’s theme. “The retail piece of the program, and the idea of having First in Line drive traffic in libraries and bookstores, is very important to us,” said Lauber.

The second prong centers on encouraging fans to spread early word of First in Line selections through social media, giving a book what Lauber called “a whole life with consumers even pre-publication. This can happen when YA readers embrace and make a book their own before pub date, a phenomenon that seems to be happening earlier and earlier. We saw this with We Were Liars by E. Lockhart and James Dashner’s The Maze Runner, when fans’ passionate response to the books helped build their success early on. Experiences like these definitely inspired us to create First in Line.”

Lauber noted that the creation of First in Line was a joint effort among the house’s marketing and publicity teams, and said that so far the enthusiastic response from booksellers, librarians, and consumers has been gratifying. “We know this program will only expand and, with the online piece of it in particular, the sky’s the limit,” she said.

One bookseller who was among the first in line to adopt the program is Caitlin Baker, children’s buyer at University Book Store in Seattle, which currently has the promotional materials for Levithan’s Another Day on prominent display. “We are so excited to partner with Random House on First in Line,” said Baker. “This program will connect teen readers with their local indie bookstores and the upcoming YA books we can’t wait to share. This is a truly exciting first-look program for the savvy teen reader.”

The publisher is backing First in Line with marketing, advertising, and social media campaigns, and will promote the initiative at book conferences this fall. “We are very excited about this great way to both do something special for some of our YA titles and to give back to fans who play such a huge role in books’ success,” she added. “This program offers them the reward of becoming literary trendsetters.”