CAMPAIGNS: BOOK LAUNCH; Trying to crack the Morse code

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

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

opportunity.



Objectives



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.



Tactics



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.



Results



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

press.



Verdict



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.



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