Client: Macmillan Publishing
PR Team: In-house
Campaign: Hardback launch of Colin Dexter’s Death Is Now My Neighbour
Timescale: June to September 23 and ongoing
Cost: pounds 50,000
Inspector Morse creator Colin Dexter had always said that he would only
reveal his hero’s Christian name when he wrote the final Morse story.
On the principle that one never knows when that may be, his latest story
includes the name as the last word on the final page of the novel.
When first proofs of Death Is Now My Neighbour arrived at Macmillan in
March, Dexter’s editor realised this was a gift of a promotional
Despite consistently high sales which always put him in the top five of
the paperback league, hardbacks of the Morse series had never made it to
number one. The aim was to persuade fans to buy the hardback edition,
because it gave away the big secret of Morse’s first name, and was
therefore a milestone in the series and possibly the final title.
Only four Macmillan employees were let into the secret of Morse’s
moniker. The teaser campaign started in early June. Specially-bound
proofs were sent to reviewers but there was a blank where the name
should have appeared and publicity manager Antonia Bailey scored through
the space to emphasise the omission. Six weeks before publication Bailey
rang media contacts to plant the idea that the name could be guessed
from crossword clues in the novel.
The week before the press conference, ad strips were placed in the
Telegraph and the final teaser appeared on the front page on the day of
the launch. The aim was to maximise coverage of the launch at Books etc
on Charing Cross Road, attended by Dexter and the stars of the
television series John Thaw and Kevin Whately.
Such was the fascination, Bailey claims she could have made big money if
she had been prepared to reveal the name. The Sunday Times set its
crossword compiler the job of discovering the name - and cracked it -
while substantial pieces appeared in the run up on BBC TV and radio arts
programmes, plus every broadsheet, the Daily Mail and Express. Six film
crews attended the launch as well as journalists from trade and consumer
The novel went straight to number one in the Sunday Times bestseller
list, meeting Macmillan’s main objective. The shooting of an IRA hitman
in Hammersmith pushed Dexter’s picture off the front page of the next
day’s Times, but the Financial Times kept the story on the front. The
title has so far sold 65,000 copies (against the usual 40,000). And
Dexter’s enthusiasm for signings and talks which draw audiences of up to
400 are likely to make themselves felt in this month’s sales figures.