Vintage Books publicist Lisa Weinert knew that the promotional campaign for Undiscovered Gyrl was going to require some non-traditional maneuvers. And since the novel, told in the form of a blog written by a 17-year-old girl, will be aimed primarily at young women when it’s published as a trade paperback in August, Ms. Weinert figured she would do well to consult her friends in “Ladies Lotto,” a network of about 1,000 women from across the country who correspond and trade career tips and references with each other over a massive email list.
“Once you’re in, it’s really team Ladies Lotto: Everyone’s always helping each other out and hooking each other up,” Ms. Weinert said. “I really wanted to get some different minds in the mix, and not just have the same kind of meetings about it as always.”
Ms. Weinert had already posted a video trailer for Undiscovered Gyrl, set up a Facebook account for its narrator, and started a Twitter feed by the time she reached out to Ladies Lotto. But she had something a little more elaborate in mind: She wanted a “multi-tiered social networking approach” that would amount to “the biggest online campaign that Vintage has done yet.”
The women on the Ladies Lotto list, according to the organization’s founder, Natalie Blacker, all work in various creative industries. Some are in fashion, some are in the music industry, while others are writers, designers, etc. Ms. Blacker founded the group three years ago, after realizing there was no forum for women “who are culture creators to get together and shmooze.”
Those women, according to Ms. Weinert, are the ideal audience for Undiscovered Gyrl, which she called “a very literary, fast-paced coming-of-age story” that is equal parts Go Ask Alice and Twin Peaks. Written by the improbably male Allison Burnett, Ms. Weinert said, the novel keeps readers guessing as to the identity of its narrator by “putting traditional point of view on its head and playing around with the major identity issues of our age.”
And so, after talking it through with Ms. Blacker, Ms. Weinert decided to host what is known in Ladies Lotto parlance as a “LLab,” a two-hour seminar to be held this coming Tuesday in a conference room in the Random House building. Dubbed “Publicity 2.0.,” the Llab was pitched to Ladies Lotto members as an opportunity to “get involved with the viral marketing” of Undiscovered Gyrl “from start to finish.” For just $5, participants would receive an advance copy of the book and offered the opportunity to come up with ideas about how it can be made into an online sensation.
“Besides a good read,” read the announcement on the official Ladies Lotto blog, “what you’ll get in return—if you attend the LLab and corresponding workshops—is immeasurable; experience at one of the most respected publishing houses in the world. What we’re doing is unprecedented and your participation will be a valuable part of your portfolio.”
“Ladies, don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity,” it went on. “Also, anyone who posts an advance review of UNDISCOVERED GYRL online gets a free finished copy!”
“It’s sort of like a mini-internship,” Ms. Weinert explained. “They’re going to get to work with the top publisher in the world, and learn how a book is published from start to finish and have an instrumental role in how it’s marketed. They’ll make invaluable contacts and learn a lot.”
The Llab on Tuesday night, Ms. Weinert said, will take the form of a brainstorming session.
“I’m going to leave it up to them,” Ms. Weinert said. “I’m really excited to see what they come up with. I want to utilize their creative juices and their ideas and come up with an approach together.”
She added, “I want to give them a great experience and empower them. It’s an incredibly important moment in publishing right now to reach out and see what people in other industries are doing.”
Those who attend the seminar on Tuesday are expected to stay involved throughout Undiscovered Gyrl’s publication, and help out with the promotional effort by using their own blogs and Web presence to stir interest in the book.
“They’re going to have a lot of work to do!” Ms. Weinert said. “They have to go into the field and do some viral marketing for us. I want them to be very active online, interacting with our Web site, our Facebook account, our MySpace, our Twitter. I want them to be involved in the online campaign, writing customer reviews and posting things.”
That process, Ms. Weinert said, has already started, as one of the women who was in the trailer video “took it upon herself to write a fantastic review of the book on her blog.”
Mr. Burnett, the author, is “extremely excited about this campaign,” Ms. Weinert said, and plans to help the Ladies as they spread the word about his book.
“He’ll do Q&A’s with them,” she said. “He’ll interact with them, he’ll blog with them. He’ll be available to them.”
“This is a real people’s campaign,” Ms. Weinert said. “The days of just sending out books and getting reviews and selling them are just pretty over.”