Yesterday it was announced that Stephenie Meyer is going to release a fifth Twilight book, but it's not what you'd expect. Let's get the facts first: this is not Midnight Sun, it is a completely different book, a novella actually*, about Bree Tanner. Don't know who Bree is? You're not alone, I didn't remember her at first either**. Cut for spoilers: She is one of the (spoilers!) newborn vampires created by Victoria in the 4th book, the only one to escape the Cullens, and was later killed by the Volturi.
What I find particularly interesting about this book, though, is the way it's being marketed & distributed. First, starting on June 7th, the entire book will be available free online. Sounds generous, right? Well, it is—but only for a month. After that it will be printed in book form, $1 of which is going to be donated to the Red Cross. Still pretty generous, but it's also very clever.
The first clever marketing tactic here is offering the book free online, for a limited time only. Putting a book online gains readers you might not get otherwise, makes the book easily accessible, and the more people who read it, the more people who like it, the more people who are likely to purchase it later. The New York Times recently printed an article on this, about how offering an ebook for free can not only gain readers, but put your book on the bestseller's list, something that attracts even more attention.
So you tell all your friends to hurry up and read it online, creating a sense of immediate need, but what if you don't get it on time? What if you don't finish reading before it goes offline? How will you keep up with your fellow Twilight obsessed friends? No worries, you can buy the book in print! And a true fan will likely buy the book anyway, regardless of reading it online, so they can own it and reread it whenever they want***. The added bonus here is that you're doing a good thing, because $1 of your purchase goes to helping people through the Red Cross! Why is this important? It has to do with embedded giving, which I won't pretend to be the expert on, but here's the bottom line: By tacking on that donation, you are more likely to buy the book. You feel good about yourself, because you helped people, but you don't need to go out of your way to do it. You get to support change by doing something you were going to do already! When I think about this (thanks to one of my professors), I think about Product RED. You were going to buy that shirt or that laptop or that book anyway, but now you get the added bonus of feeling good about the purchase. It takes away some of the hesitation we might have for spending the money. What I'm saying here is that by putting that sticker on there that proceeds will go to the Red Cross, readers are more likely to pick it up. It's not as deceptive as this argument may first suggest, but it is clever.
An argument that's been raised over the past two days regarding this (largely by anti-Twilight people) is that Meyer is only printing a fifth book as a way to milk more money out of her fans. I don't think that's true. Surely she'll be making more money, but she's not making any thing off the free copies and honestly, I think she's sincere in saying that she wants to do something for her fans. True Twilight fans have been begging for a 5th book since the 4th one come out. If JK Rowling put out an 8th book, wouldn't you want to read it? Didn't you want to check out The Tales of Beedle the Bard when it came out? It's the same thing. There is a demand by the fans for more to read in the Twilight world, and Meyer's fulfilling those wishes. If she only wanted to milk the fans, she would have released Midnight Sun despite the leak.
Will I be reading the book? Probably not, but I'm not the biggest fan of the books. For the people who are, I can understand their excitement at having something more to read, I would feel the same way. And I really do think that Little, Brown is being rather clever here with the way they're marketing it.
*Although 197 pgs hardly sounds like a novella.
**actually, still don't, but I am trusting some of my friends who are die hard fans.
***This reminds me very much of another post I need to make, on the ethics & arguments behind downloading ebooks. I will get to that soon, I hope.