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7 literary PR stunts you'll love for World Book Day

If you’ve got kids they’re probably in school right now dressed as an iconic character from a Pullman or Rowling yarn. But while World Book Day invokes kids having fun, marketing a novel is no child’s play. It often requires a serious PR stunt to stand a chance of getting any attention.

Not that we’re dismissing the important role critics play. It’s just that, as with anything entertainment, the competition is fierce, and target market distractible. Never underestimate the power of a good publicist or public relations team, then.

To celebrate what’s supposed to be the most well-read date in the global calendar we had a think about exceptional examples of scribes making headlines for reasons other than what’s actually written on the pages.

Presenting 7 literally PR stunts for National Book Day… Because, you know, it’s also 7th March…

James Patterson – Private Vegas

Exclusivity, or the perception of exclusivity, will always attract attention. Just ask Fyre Festival. Digressions aside, Patterson’s tale of murder, espionage and casinos caused a huge stir when 1,000 ‘early readers’ were offered a pre-release download. It had one catch— who finish the yarn in 24-hours, before it ‘self-destructed’.

Adding to that, one print copy went on sale for a staggering $300,000. The buyer got the book, a weekend in a luxury hotel, dinner with the author and— bizarrely— the chance to watch a copy of the book get blown up, with a SWAT team present.

Jennifer Belle — The Seven Year Bitch

What does a novelist do when the publicity team isn’t delivering the goods? For Belle the solution was paying a load of actresses $8 per hour to ride the New York subway while reading her latest book and LOLing as much as possible. Perhaps surprisingly, considering the pay, over 600 thespians applied to take part.

Douglas Coupland — JPod

If you were among those lucky enough to grab a copy of JPod on its initial print run well done. The author had six different toys made, one given for free with each first edition sold. Collectively they represented the main characters in the story, and are now collector’s items.

Thomas Harris — Hannibal

Now we’re getting serious. When this instalment in the famous serial killer franchise arrived, circa 1999, London was in for a grizzly treat. Broad beans and chianti were served in one bookshop— a nod to Hannibal’s favourite way to accompany a dinner of human brains. Meanwhile, at Euston Station bacon sandwiches were given out to commuters, referencing the story’s infamous man-eating pigs.

Mark Twain — Huckleberry Finn

Think PR stunts are a modern idea? Think again. Twain clearly agreed with the ‘any publicity is good publicity’ mantra, because after this classic hit shelves he engineered a ban from US libraries— conservative attitudes of the time were at odds with the more controversial parts of the tale. Once word of the ban got out people were queuing to grab a copy for themselves.

Tung Desem Waringin — Marketing Revolution

Indonesian author Waringin wins the prize for least subtle. To sell his first book, ‘Financial Revolution’, he jumped on a dazzlingly handsome white horse and rode through the streets of Jakarta. How do you trump that? How about marketing ‘Marketing Revolution’ by dropping almost 100million rupiah (around £6,000) in bank notes over a packed football stadium in Serang City? Agreed.

Gabriele d’Annunzio — A Life’s Work

d’Annunzio was one of the most prominent forces in Italian literature and poetry at the turn of the 20th Century. He also regularly faked it to make it. A few examples include penning his own false death wrote, getting married and then divorced, all for the sake of a few column inches.


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