Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Hollywood Hand for Sparks's "Safe Haven"

There's one author in my mind whose books almost always lend themselves to a nice chick-flick---Nicholas Sparks.

Hollywood clearly agrees with films like "The Notebook," "Message in a Bottle," and "Dear John." And they feel the same about Sparks's upcoming release of Safe Haven.

Scheduled to hit shelves on September 14th, this will be the first time that Sparks will be getting a nice Hollywood push during a book release. In fact, it's something that rarely happens in the biz, according to The Wall Street Journal:

Nicholas Sparks's new novel, "Safe Haven," goes on sale Sept. 14, and it will be getting a promotional push from an unusual partner: a Hollywood movie maker.

Relativity Media, the company behind "Evan Almighty" and "Mamma Mia!," bought the rights to adapt the novel and hopes to release the film late next year. Relativity also produced "Dear John," based on Mr. Sparks's novel of the same name, which was one of its most profitable films yet.

At a time when marketing dollars are hard to come by in the book business, Relativity Media will launch online and print promotions for the novel, even though there isn't even a screenplay yet. Mr. Sparks is one of the rare authors whose publishers advertise their new works on TV, but the additional Hollywood push prior to publication appears to be a first.

"I don't know that this has ever been done before," Mr. Sparks said. "It's a way for Relativity Media to get out in front in marketing the film, and to build interest and familiarity in the project."

Mr. Sparks is one of the country's most popular novelists. His books typically have over 2.5 million copies in print. When there's a movie involved—Mr. Sparks has had six films made, with a seventh in production—those numbers can double, as book sales get a lift from the blitz of marketing for the film.

"Safe Haven," a love story with thriller elements set in a small town in North Carolina, is a bit of a departure from Mr. Sparks's traditional romantic dramas, with considerably more action scenes.

"His success hasn't abated even in these hard times, and the movies have been a big part of that," said Jamie Raab, head of Grand Central Publishing, a unit of Lagardere SCA's Hachette Book Group, Mr. Sparks's publisher. She said that "Safe Haven" will have a hardcover print run of more than one million copies.

Howard Sanders, a partner in the United Talent Agency who has represented Mr. Sparks on the film side for more than a decade, said he specified that the company that acquired the film rights to "Safe Haven" would have to commit to a marketing campaign for the book.

"We wanted the film side to acknowledge Nicholas is a best-selling author and to bring the expertise of movie marketing to support the publishing side," he said. United Talent has represented articles published in The Wall Street Journal to the film industry.

One veteran agent said he thought Relativity's investment made sense. "I don't know that I've heard of a film company doing this so far in advance of the movie, but relative to the budget of a Hollywood film, buying some ads and doing an online campaign is a minor investment," said Ira Silverberg, with Sterling Lord Literistic.

Richard Pine, another agent, said, "It's smart to start early. Also, they are so confident that the movie is getting made that it's worth their advertising dollars to start now."

Typically, movies are promoted most aggressively in the six-week period leading up to their opening, with blanket television advertising intended to saturate specific markets. Relativity has championed an approach that stresses building online social communities, to engage audiences early in the process. It says it can apply the same approach to publishing.

"The social community has evolved to the point where audiences want to be engaged, not just sold to," said Randall Cox, who oversees Relativity's digital properties.

In the case of Mr. Sparks, Relativity intends to take advantage of his deep fan base by creating a social community around "Safe Haven." The theory is that if Mr. Sparks's readers become involved early on, they are likelier to become a fan of his works in the movie arena.

Strategies include hosting a variety of interactive experiences and contests. Prizes may include a walk-on role in the movie version of "Safe Haven" and a meet-and-greet with Mr. Sparks during production. Fans will also be consulted on their opinions for casting the movie.

Read the rest of the article HERE

Personally, I think this tactic is kind of genius. Tapping into the film audience early can't do any harm, that's for sure. It can only boost book sales and widen Sparks's already astronomical fan base. I also love the idea of Relativity asking for fans casting suggestions, though I'm not quite sure I believe that one will actually happen!

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