Book marketers catch up – and surpass – peers in online buzz plot

Book publishers were laggards in the digital revolution until recently. But now - as shown by HarperCollins Canada's promo for Michael Crichton's new novel - they're making up for lost time by leveraging their literary assets to engage readers deeply.

Are blondes becoming extinct? Will the next craze be ‘transgenic’ pets such as permanent puppies? Are you absolutely sure everyone at your dinner table is human? HarperCollins Canada is deploying these and other goofy questions as teasers in press releases sent to a diverse range of news outlets – all to provoke WOM about Michael Crichton’s new novel, Next, and to solve the problem that the author almost never does interviews.

The strategy is panning out well, says Toronto-based HC Canada spokesperson Melanie Storoschuk. So far, the teaser campaign has resulted in coverage in Maclean’s, the Vancouver Sun, the Montreal Gazette, and CBC’s The Hour.

What sparked the offbeat campaign, she tells MiC, was only partly the spooky book about an ominous genetic future from an author who’s best known for scaring the bejeebers out of readers with Jurassic Park. The primary source for HCC’s initiative is actually the hair-raising content of a clever website dreamed up at the publisher’s NYC HQ.

On first glance, it looks like the official site of a gene manipulation company called NEXTgencode. Amid purported news stories on genetic themes are commercials for such products as Perma Puppy, Oranga-Talk (which offers a talking orangutan), a DNA Bug Kit, and something to prevent the disappearance from the earth of blondes. Mirroring Crichton’s novel, albeit subtly and with heavy dollops of absurdity, the site’s content is a blend of fact and fiction. There’s even a story about the novelist being sued by the NEXTgencode Company for revealing patented secrets.

For everything you never wanted to know about ‘personal genetic life enhancement,’ go to