Farrar, Straus & Giroux editor Lorin Stein has no qualms about expounding on the difficulties of publishing literary fiction; after all, his house has published such critically acclaimed and weighty (if not bestselling) authors as David Bezmozgis (Natasha: And Other Stories) and Christopher Sorrentino (Trance). Which is why, when he acquired (and translated) Grégoire Bouillier's postmodern, hilariously self-indulgent and brief (just 120 pages) French memoir, The Mystery Guest, he knew the little book would be a hard sell. So Stein seized upon its publication last June as an opportunity to experiment with some emerging Web marketing approaches. He took his tiny marketing budget, and some additional funds, and made an irreverent and stylized book trailer as well as an interactive Web site.

The book—which has received glowing reviews (including a starred one in PW)—follows Bouillier as he attends a cocktail party after unexpectedly receiving an invitation from his ex-girlfriend. Stein, who initially turned down the book, said he finally accepted it when he realized that while Guest would be to esoteric for a mass audience, "It will be a favorite book for some."

After receiving a $10,000 grant from the Literary Ventures Fund (a program administered by the Council of Literary Magazine and Presses), Stein hired a team to create a short video trailer for the book. The perfectly overwrought narrator's voiceover opens the black-and-white video, leading into a movie-trailer—style baritone that announces, as if touting a summer blockbuster: "This fall Farrar, Straus & Giroux invites you to learn how one man got over a broken heart, stopped wearing turtlenecks, regained his faith in literature, participated in a work of performance art by mistake and spent his rent money on a bottle of 1964 Bordeaux that nobody ever drank." The spot ran on YouTube and was picked up by a number of bloggers. Though Stein wouldn't provide print or sales stats on the book, he said the trailer has been "demonstrably helpful."

That the trailer mocks as well as imitates movie trailers is purposeful. Stein wanted the spot to be less a direct advertisement for the book than a small slice of homemade cinema that would stand on its own and appeal to the kind of people he thinks will like the book. As he put it, he was after not just "self-identified potential readers" but also people who "love beautiful stuff on the Web."

The subtle difference in advertising approach—to create something people would appreciate on its own merits, but which subtly encourages reading the book—makes The Mystery Guest video stand out from the straight-up advertising trailers publishers have done. Stein hopes to tap into a larger cultural world and believes that promotions like this will find new readers in new ways.

With this in mind, Stein has overseen the launch of a Web site as the "second phase" of The Mystery Guest's online push. Www.translatorsnotes.com uses the book as a starting point to explore the difficulties of translating literature. Featuring Stein's scribbled notes on the manuscript, the wiki-style sitenot only allows Web surfers to discuss the pluses and minuses of using this word or that, it also lets them alter the text. Although the site will likely draw a small audience, Stein hopes this inventive approach will attract a crowd inclined to engage and, ultimately, pick up the book.