It’s only fitting that Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Lux series (Entangled Teen) features aliens who are made of light, because she wrote the books – and a slew of other titles for teens and adults – pretty much at lightning speed. The fifth and final Lux volume, Opposition, was released on August 5, and debuted in the #4 in the Children’s Series category on the New York Times’s August 24 bestseller list. Combined sales for the series have topped 500,000 copies, and the first Lux title, Obsidian, has been optioned for film by Sierra Pictures.
The first sparks of the Lux series appeared in mid-2011. “I had acquired the first book in an urban fantasy series by Jennifer and a month later she turned in a sequel,” recalled Armentrout’s editor, Liz Pelletier, publisher at Entangled. “I said, ‘Wait, wait! You’ve got to slow down!’ But Jennifer told me she needed to write something,” Pelletier continued. “I had just finished re-watching the TV series Roswell on Netflix and I suggested to Jennifer, if you really want to write something else, why don’t you try aliens in high school?”
At the time, Pelletier said, Armentrout had written only one other title for teens, for another publisher. Pelletier fleshed out her suggestion to the author, offering, “I want you to write about aliens in high school, and I really want the hero to be a douchebag throughout the whole book.” Armentrout initially opted to pass on the idea. “But about five or six hours after we talked about it, she sent me an email containing the first 50 pages,” Pelletier said. “I wanted to scrap probably 45 of the 50, but those last five pages, when Daemon appears, were exactly what I wanted.”
What Pelletier wanted, she said, was a book with the kind of romantic tension played out in the 1980s TV series Moonlighting, “where fans are saying ‘OMG, just kiss her already!’ I hadn’t seen that in YA. I contracted Jennifer right then, at those first 50 pages. And in six days flat she turned in the first book.”
By December 2011, Entangled published Obsidian in e-book and POD. Just prior to publication, the Entangled team “started the hype – we wanted to make aliens the next big thing,” Pelletier said. She began selecting five bloggers per week, chosen by lottery, to receive advance review copies, and the buzz on social media began to get louder. In response to the growing enthusiasm, Obsidian sold “thousands of copies” in its first week on sale, according to Pelletier. Seeing such a strong demand, Pelletier thought the timing was right for a quick follow-up to sate fans’ appetites, so she asked Armentrout if she would consider penning a prequel, and write it as a novella. “She was unknown at this point and you’ve got to go when it’s hot,” Pelletier added.
In February 2012, the novella Shadows was released. Three months later, after Publishers Group West had approached Entangled to broker a distribution arrangement, Obsidian was re-released in May 2012 as a trade paperback with limited distribution by PGW. In August 2012, Onyx came out simultaneously in e-book and trade paperback; Opal followed in December 2012, and Origin landed in August 2013. The first four Lux titles all made appearances on USA Today’s bestseller lists as the series became better known.
In early 2013, Entangled left PGW and signed a distribution deal with Macmillan, a move that Pelletier notes was key in helping to ramp up for the Lux finale. The publisher created two collectors’ edition paperback bind-ups – Lux: Beginnings (Obsidian and Onyx) and Lux: Consequences (Opal and Origin) – both containing exclusive bonus material, and both released in June 2014 with a combined 75,000-copy first printing. “This enabled us to get the series placed in mass merchandise accounts such as Wal-mart and Target for the first time,” said Pelletier.
Entangled hired a publicity and marketing agency, Deb Shapiro & Company, to help lead the sixth-month push prior to the release of the final book. The campaign included using Fancorps, a service that maximizes branding via engaging an audience via social media platforms. Armentrout’s superfans quickly joined in, creating book trailers, memes, and other original content that they shared on social media in order to earn points that they could then exchange for series swag, sneak peeks at upcoming chapters, one-on-one interviews with Armentrout, and other perks. In addition, Pelletier “lowered the price of the first book to ‘free’ ” just before Opposition was released, which resulted in “sales” of 55,000 copies of Obsidian in five days.
Armentrout gave the series a grand send-off earlier this month with two launch events in Texas (she was forced to curtail her more extensive touring plans because she suffers from a degenerative eye condition that is exacerbated by the air-pressure changes of plane travel). The August 4 appearance at Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston drew a “packed house,” according to book blogger Kate Sowa, who hosted an alien Q&A session as part of the program. “Jennifer has a great rapport with her fans and they are very dedicated; I knew they would drive many miles to see her,” Sowa said. She is a fan of the Lux books and understands their broad appeal. “The main character is a book blogger,” she explained, “and I think that’s Jennifer’s homage to the people who have spread the word about her books. She takes the well-worn trope of a girl with unusual powers and transforms it. Her character may have a power but she is still relatable; she still is concerned about the things normal teens think about.”
Sowa also lauded Armentrout’s gift for writing banter. “It’s really important in romance,” she said. “She artfully combines funny, dramatic, and action elements; the books are pure fun to read.” Pelletier concurred. “She has an effortless writing voice, and like J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer and E.L. James, she is just a great storyteller. She’s got something special.”