From the moment Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing won debut author Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush, Hush and its sequel, Crescendo, at auction in September 2008, there was no keeping it quiet. The story may be as irresistible to teen readers as bad-boy fallen angel Patch is to heroine Nora Grey. But with so many distractions out there, how to focus readers' attention on a debut novel?
Luckily, for starters, key accounts got excited about the book. "We planned to publish Hush, Hush in spring 2010," said v-p and deputy publisher Anne Zafian. "We accelerated the publishing schedule at the behest of our major customers." Then, through Fitzpatrick's connections, such as with "the 10'ers" group (authors whose first book was scheduled as a 2010 pub), and because of ads that S&S ran for ARC giveaways, the publisher also caught the attention of the online community. "In the last year to two years, we've seen the impact and importance of book bloggers," Zafian noted. "It's become critical as traditional news outlets have gone away." Senior marketing manager Elke Villa noted that after that initial contact with bloggers through the ARC giveaway, she has fostered these relationships: "We offered them signed copies after the book was bound and created limited-edition posters for them to use and offer as giveaways on their sites. We also reached out to Twilight fansites." One such fansite, Twilight Moms [www.twilightmoms.com], announced last month that it will feature Hush, Hush as its March 2010 book of the month.
Another immeasurable power at work here is FallenArchangel.com, a fan site for Hush, Hush launched before the book's on-sale date by two sisters, Rebecca Sutton, an aspiring author, and Jennifer Martin. Sutton was one of those who won an ARC through a giveaway from S&S. She loved the book, passed it on to Martin, and asked Martin (who has website experience) if she wanted to launch a fansite together. The two sisters are Twilight fans and have spent some time around fansites, so they knew what they liked--and didn't like. "We realized firsthand how important the fan sites are to the fans and how much of an impact they have," Martin said. "Hush, Hush is such a great book that we felt there would be lots of fans looking for a place to connect after reading it." The two wanted to get Fitzpatrick's approval, so they contacted her early on to get her "thumbs up."
As a result, Sutton and Martin have the cooperation of both Fitzpatrick and S&S. On their site, the sisters feature an interview with James Porto, the photographer for the cover of Hush, Hush, and also with Drew Doyon, the model who posed (with the aid of a trampoline) as Patch Cipriano. Doyon even stars in a trailer on the site, recommending the book as a holiday gift. Last month, Sutton and Martin met Fitzpatrick at NCTE in Philadelphia, and they will host the author for a live chat on FallenArchangel.com next Monday, January 11, at 9 p.m. (EST). They've already drawn more than 30,000 visitors to their site.
S&S has continued the post-publication momentum with a Hush, Hush trailer that ran in movie theaters in four cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Sacramento) at the November 20, 2009, opening of New Moon (the second in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga). Villa said they also gave hardcovers to movie theaters in 10 markets, and National Amusements promoted the giveaway to those who purchased tickets to the midnight showing of New Moon. S&S ran an ad in the two weeks leading up to Christmas on Perez Hilton's site. Since the publisher's first printing, the book has been back to press seven times, according to director of publicity Paul Crichton.
It helps, too, that booksellers embraced the book: Hush, Hush was chosen as a winter 2009 Kids' Indie Next List Top Ten pick, and it was the first teen book ever selected as a B&N First Look Book Club title (club members receive ARCs in advance of pub date), plus it's B&N's number one pick for Best Teen Books for 2009, and, as of last week, was #28 in B&N's overall top 100 list. This month, Fitzpatrick will tour Texas, including several Barnes & Nobles, Legacy in Dallas, Book People in Austin and Blue Willow in Houston. In February, she will join fellow S&S author Lisa McCann (author of Wake, Fade and Gone) for appearances at, among other locations, Changing Hands in Phoenix, Ariz.; Mysterious Galaxy, San Diego, Calif.; Mrs. Nelson's, Los Angeles; and Sam's Club, Long Beach, Calif.
But here is the remarkable thing: Hush, Hush, published last October 13, made its debut at #10 on the New York Times bestseller list on November 1 (as of December 13, the book was still in the Times top 10). It's hard to determine how much any one of these factors has helped crank up the volume on Hush, Hush, but each contributor clearly hopes to keep it building to a fall 2010 Crescendo.--Jennifer M. Brown