What’s it like to work with one of fiction’s coolest heroes? It is said one of Lee Child’s novels featuring Jack Reacher is sold somewhere in the world every nine (!) seconds. The latest instalment in the series, Blue Moon, (and incredibly the 24th Jack Reacher book) was published towards the end of last year. We chat to Julia Teece, Head of Marketing at Transworld, about what it is like to work with one of the biggest names in thriller writing, and how the team keeps up with fans’ excitement for each book.
What was your role, and what does it involve?
As Head of Marketing at Transworld I work on some of our biggest brand name authors – Lee Child being the best-known. Because I have a smaller list of authors I’m able to dedicate more time to these megabrands, with a year-round timeline leading up to big spikes of activity around his new book releases.
For the Blue Moon hardback, we began growing awareness of the book in January with a title reveal, following up with key ‘moments’ throughout the year, from cover reveal, to extract, stand-out proofs, competitions, pre-order ads on social media, brand partnerships etc.
'This is one of his best' - The Times
Jack Reacher is back in a brand new white-knuckle read from Lee Child.
It's a random universe, but once in a blue moon things turn out just right.
In a nameless city, two rival criminal gangs are competing for control. But they hadn't counted on Jack Reacher arriving on their patch.
Reacher is trained to notice things.
He's on a Greyhound bus, watching an elderly man sleeping in his seat, with a fat envelope of cash hanging out of his pocket. Another passenger is watching too ... hoping to get rich quick.
As the mugger makes his move, Reacher steps in.
The old man is grateful, yet he turns down Reacher's offer to help him home. He's vulnerable, scared, and clearly in big, big trouble.
What hold could the gangs have on the old guy? Will Reacher be in time to stop bad things happening?
The odds are better with Reacher involved. That's for damn sure.
'Everyone needs to kick some [butt] sometimes, even if it's just imaginary' JOJO MOYES
Although the Jack Reacher novels can be read in any order, Blue Moon is the 24th in the series.
And be sure not to miss Reacher's newest adventure, no.26, Better off Dead! ***OUT NOW***
How do you maintain the momentum in a campaign for a book from such a long-running series?
It sounds quite obvious but getting the basics right is so important. If you have a strong foundation you can keep building – then the sky’s the limit. A couple of years ago we took over control of Lee’s social platforms which had previously been managed by his assistant. Having a ‘home’ for new Lee Child announcements is vital. Since taking over the two Facebook pages and Lee’s Twitter account, we have grown engagement rates and follower numbers. Now when we announce new books, covers, extracts, events etc, the fans help us to spread the word. They are a big part of the momentum.
This year I’m also launching a new Jack Reacher newsletter and website; so establishing even more ways to speak directly to the readers. New people are discovering the Jack Reacher books all the time (as mentioned in the intro to this article, a copy is sold globally every 9 seconds), so we have to take an always-on approach!
We also invest in a huge amount of Consumer Insight for Lee. Although Jack Reacher himself remains brilliantly, reassuringly constant, we know that the readers change all the time. We need to keep on top of who they are, what they’re doing, what they’re interested in, what they want to see more (or less) of, to make sure they have everything they need from us to keep spreading the word about the books.
For example, after the two films released we saw a shift towards a more male readership, where previously the fandom had been quite an even gender split. The films were very action-based, whereas the books are more intellectual thrillers, so we’re always finding ways to engage female readers as much as male readers in our campaigns. Lee can count such literary heavyweights as Kate Atkinson, Philip Pullman, Margaret Drabble and Malcolm Gladwell among his writer fans, so we always use a mixture of author endorsements in his books to reflect the breadth of his appeal.
What was your favourite moment of the campaign?
For the Blue Moon hardback we decided to experiment with some new formats. We know that many of our readers live in cities and use public transport to commute so we focussed on placing ads along people’s routes to work. The ads needed to be relevant to that moment in people’s days and also true to Jack Reacher, so Marie Goodwin, our brilliant Senior Creative Manager, came up with a variety of lines and we settled on “No-one tells Jack Reacher where to get off” which we used on tube car panels in London and Glasgow. For the paperback this April we’ll be using the same line on bus-sides nationwide.
It’s rare that we’re able to tie a Reacher book title in with a physical event, so we had a gift in Blue Moon. We decided to produce hardback proofs with a blue foil full moon, sending them out to VIP contacts to land on the day of the actual seasonal blue moon in May. We sent out postcards with a die-cut moon encouraging people to share their photos of the actual blue moon to win prizes. This was an extra bit of activity that we knew wouldn’t directly sell books, but sometimes it’s important to have a bit of fun and engage with people in a different way.
What are you next looking forward to working on?
The Sentinel is the next book in the Jack Reacher series, coming this autumn. For the first time Lee is collaborating with his brother, Andrew, to write it. This is such an exciting and pivotal moment in the career of Jack Reacher and it would be tempting to overthink the campaign, but actually the book will deliver exactly what every other Jack Reacher novel does – pace, intrigue, a wonderful cast of characters, baddies you love to hate, brilliant one-liners from Reacher, fisticuffs aplenty and a fantastic female lead. So whilst I’m excited to plot out new ways to reach readers for The Sentinel I’m also looking forward to taking a business as usual approach to the campaign and letting the book speak for itself. From what I’ve read so far, it’s going to deliver in spades.