When author Ally Condie hosted a chat on Twitter on September 25, her fans were eager to hear about the final book in her bestselling Matched trilogy. In fact, the hashtag #allychat became a top trending topic on Twitter that night, with the hashtag viewed more than 1.3 million times, according to TweetReach. “That’s when we saw how excited fans were to talk to Ally about Reached,” says Emily Romero, v-p of marketing for Penguin Young Readers Group.
Reached, published by Dutton, launched on November 13 with an announced first printing of 500,000 copies. To build anticipation for the concluding installment of the dystopian trilogy, Penguin’s marketing team exploited social media tools and a strong online fan base to offer a playful take on some of the books’ most memorable elements.
“We thought, how do we make the people who’ve really invested in the trilogy these past couple years a part of it?” Romero says. The marketing team identified 25 influential blogs and provided their editors with weekly promotional challenges and early access to book and marketing extras. These include a party kit with a recipe for Matched cake pops, poetry writing tips, a series-themed trivia game, and a quiz to determine what job the taker would have under the controlling futuristic government depicted in the books. The strategy has paid off, says Romero: for example, a countdown widget to the book’s publication date, available via a link on the trilogy’s Web site since October 1, received more than 400,000 impressions.
But efforts haven’t been limited to online. At BookExpo America and the Austin Teen Book Festival, fans could meet Condie and pose for photos inside a 10-foot-tall, 3-D version of the Reached cover. Condie says watching fans interact with the model—which traps them inside the series’ emblematic bubble—was a highlight for her in Austin: “It was fun to see the teenage readers getting into that and photo-bombing each other.”
Of course, Romero says, the life-size cover is more than just good fun. Fans helped build buzz about the book by pushing those posed photos of themselves on their social networks. The cover made another appearance during the book’s launch party at the King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City on November 13. Rachel Heath, the bookstore’s children’s marketing manager, says turnout doubled between launch events for the first two books in Condie’s series, Matched and Crossed—from 100 to 200 people.
This year, Heath said, about 300 people attended the event. It was held in a high school auditorium to accommodate the local author’s fans—some turning out in homemade T-shirts, and one sporting a green dress reminiscent of the one Cassia wears on the cover of Matched. Attendees braved two feet of snow on the ground—“we had such devoted fans there,” Heath said—to meet the author, have their books signed, take pictures in the life-size cover, hear a snippet from the Reached audiobook, and take home swag like buttons and posters.
Whether online or in-person, Condie is looking forward to talking with readers (a former high school teacher, the author says she misses interacting with teens). As she geared up for the King’s English launch and a subsequent author tour, she said she planned to discuss where the ideas from Reached came from, but also left unscheduled time during her appearances. “I like to open it up to q&a. I like to know what they are curious about,” she said.
What kinds of questions have been on readers’ minds? “They’re pretty worried about the romance,” Condie said, referring to Cassia’s love triangle with Ky and Xander, her two potential matches. And they also want to know if anyone will die, a fair question in high-stakes dystopian lit.
Condie enjoyed the days leading up the book’s release, when fans could finally learn the answers—and her trilogy drew to a close. “This is a great spot right now because it doesn’t feel over,” she said. If Penguin’s big plans are anything to judge by, things are only just beginning.