A strange thing happened during the recent launch of ‘Go Set A Watchman’, the new(ly discovered) first novel by Harper Lee, author of the classic ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’:
- Publisher HarperCollins advance printed more than 2 million hardcover books
- Presses were globally coordinated to simultaneously deliver versions in multiple languages
- Extremely tight security was used, including shrink-wrap, security cameras, and secured shipments by truck to retail locations
- Barnes & Noble was in the news
A new book shrouded in mystique, focused on retail distribution sounds more like a 1980s release than 2015. Especially for a book that was written before TKAM, which no one had yet read! Why the throwback approach?
HarperCollins very shrewdly realized that it had an opportunity of huge proportions, which could be optimized by understanding the audience and delivering what they would want.
- A brand, named Harper Lee, with enormous equity from over 50 years of visibility
- A built-in audience of several generations who first enjoyed ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ in book form
- A heavily covered back-story concerning the surprise discovery of the secret manuscript and inquiry into the mental state of the author
As of now, the book has already been reprinted several times and is the fastest-selling book in HarperCollins history – remarkable in this digital-centric era. The fact that ‘Go Set A Watchman’ has gotten generally mediocre reviews is almost beside the point.
HarperCollins scored a big success by understanding the audience, the environment, and having the courage to act accordingly and decisively.