Author and publisher Ken Merrell is launching his new company and first book with a marketing approach different from that of most publishers. To introduce The Landlord to booksellers and readers, Merrell published the title in a $7.99 mass market edition first and plans to release a hardcover edition shortly after BookExpo America. "We wanted to create a buzz about the book and felt we could best do that with a paperback edition," Merrell said. In another bid to create word-of-mouth interest, Merrell has been conducting a publicity campaign that includes giving away advance copies of The Landlord to stores, which can give the book to customers. About 20,000 copies have been given away through an array of outlets, including a number of chain bookstores. The "soft launch" is being conducted in six Intermountain states, including Utah, where Merrell and his publishing company, KayDee Books, are located.

Merrell, through MidPoint, began selling copies of The Landlord last week and the giveaway campaign will be phased out as more stores receive the finished edition. First printing was 75,000 copies, and KayDee received a 2,500-copy order from Walmart as well as orders from a number of grocery store chains and bookstores. As the giveaway program ends, Merrell is gearing up a publicity effort for the Intermountain region that will feature ads in buses, other print ads, plus 700 book displays in mass market outlets.

Merrell started KayDee after selling his manufacturing business and hopes to build a publishing house focused on "feel-good books, books that uplift people," he said. The Landlord is described as a "clean thriller," and Merrell is looking for similar titles. Merrell cited the success of the Chicken Soup books as proof that "people want books that deliver a positive message. When we find the right authors, we'll be ready to roll."