Michael Scott.
Photo: Perry Hagopian.

If the recent premature heat wave felt across the Eastern U.S. didn’t get plenty of people thinking about hot summer reads, a new publicity push from Random House Children’s Books may well do the trick. The “Summer of the Sorceress” campaign, which heralds the arrival of The Sorceress, third book in Michael Scott’s bestselling Immortal Secrets of Nicholas Flamel fantasy series, kicked off last weekend with RHCB’s first-ever PDF/e-book giveaway.

The publisher partnered with popular teen social networking site GaiaOnline to offer a full-length PDF/e-book edition of the initial title in Scott’s series, The Alchemyst, to fans. The PDF/e-book was available exclusively on GaiaOnline from April 25 through April 27. Over the three-day period Gaia had 6.4 million visitors to its site, and reported 13,000 downloads of the free title. On the heels of that exclusive window, 14 retailers began offering the Alchemyst PDF/e-book to fans Tuesday April 28, a promotion that will run through May 8.

“Our goal with the promotion was to bring the awareness of the series to another level,” says Linda Leonard, director of new media marketing for RHCB. “We knew that if kids read The Alchemyst they would immediately need to read the other two books in the series.”

What readers will find when they discover Scott’s work is his “ability to weave a fast-paced fantastical adventure with characters transplanted from history, mythology and legend,” says Beverly Horowitz, v-p and publisher of Bantam Delacorte Dell Books for Young Readers. “The only fictional characters are the contemporary twins Sophie and Josh,” she adds. “The rest of the characters from Dr. Dee and Nicholas Flamel to Shakespeare and Machiavelli, all have been thoroughly researched and brought to life with meticulous care.”

This kind of background is what gives Scott’s stories an especially “Google-able” quality, according to publicity manager Kelly Galvin. It also means the books likely have appeal in other areas of the online world. To that end, RHCB is targeting gamers with The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel Game: Challenges of the Elder (click here to play), which the publisher developed with digital agency Creative Asylum. Galvin notes that Scott took a very “hands-on” role in the game from the start, recording video messages and clues, acting as the players’ guide. The author logged some additional camera time when he recorded personalized video messages for retailers in a variety of channels to use on their Web sites.

A movie-theater promotion featuring a slideshow plugging the series and the e-book giveaway is another new marketing tack that RHCB is taking in this campaign. The ad hits the big screen in over 202 movie theaters in 10 cities in early May, positioned alongside such action-packed feature-film releases as X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

On the book’s official pub date, May 26, Scott will participate in a live author chat, again teaming with GaiaOnline. Leonard believes that the site is “the perfect match for the fans we’re trying to reach—a very literate audience of both boys and girls.”

The strong marketing jump start also includes a fan page on Facebook as well as more traditional print and online advertising. With all the exposure, RHCB hopes that The Sorceress’s sizzle will last all summer long, priming fans for Scott’s six-city author tour in October. He’ll be making stops in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York, Chicago, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C.