Well, from what I read, only one store inadvertently sold three copies. The three people who bought the books were tracked down and offered an autographed copy of the book in exchange -- with a promise that they would not tell anyone what they had read. The embargo really worked.
Now, why am I writing about this embargo? Because you can play off the idea if you'd like. Here is a suggestion from Martin Foner, publisher of the Publishing Newsletter monthly email:
Note that the secrecy, keeping the books in boxes until a specific date and time, is simply another marketing tactic designed to create more and more hype. It didn’t hurt that a court in Canada had to issue an order to recover a dozen ‘pre-sold’ books. It also didn’t hurt that dozens of websites created huge lists of questions and possible resolutions to the various themes and sub themes of the series.
How can YOU take advantage of this kind of promotion? I have thought about it and have come up with this very much off the wall idea. When it works, send me a note about how you did it and your results:
Choose your title carefully. This will work one time and one time only, so make it a really interesting title, one that will have bestseller potential, or one whose subject would benefit from this odd approach.
Send a package to your reviewer/media/buyer lists with a notice printed on the manila outer envelope:
NEW BOOK FROM ABC PUBLISHERS. DO NOT OPEN THIS PACKAGE UNTIL (SET A DATE AT LEAST 30 DAYS AFTER THEY WOULD RECEIVE IT) OCTOBER 15.
IF YOU OPEN THIS PACKAGE BEFORE THE DATE, A MICROCHIP WILL TURN THE REVIEW COPY INTO A BLANK BOOK.
Of course, no one can resist such a challenge, and every person will simply rip open the envelope. Inside they will find your media materials, press release, and related info, all as normal. When it comes to the book, they will discover a blank covered, blank 32 page book, with a note clipped to the cover stating if they did (accidentally!) open the package prematurely and their book is blank, to call you/email you at…. and you’ll be glad to send them another copy of the book.
You might find this a juvenile way to do business, but it will open your eyes as to how many of your reviewers/media/buyers are actually opening your packages. And THAT is one very important piece of information for future campaigns. Notwithstanding, the buzz and response you’ll get for being creative will exceed the usual attention level your materials have been receiving in the past.
Yes, some people will actually ask you how the book turned into a blank book. Do not give away the secret. Just send them a new book and keep their name on a hot inquire list for the future.
There are two big advantages to trying this experiment once: 1. You might get more attention from reviewers. 2. You will get a better idea how many people open your packages. That's something worth knowing.
Now, before anyone accuses me of cheating and deception, please remember that I am passing along an idea from Martin Foner. If you have problems with this little fun, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I actually believe that you should have fun sometimes with your press releases and test variations, mailing packages, etc. You never know what will get through the gates at various media outlets. So experimentation is a vital part of your publicity arsenal. Have some fun with your publicity. Don't be shy. Ask stupid questions. Do stupid things. You won't know what really works until you try. Stop being so tied up by rules, mine or others. And, believe me, I have lots of rules. But I have fun, too.