Jonathan Gunson’s The Merlin Mystery is a children’s puzzle book published in 1998. It was a runaway success, selling over 350,000 hard-cover copies and generating more than $4 million dollars in retail sales. It was also translated into 7 different languages.
Jonathan’s marketing idea for this puzzle book was incredible. It involved a replica he had created of Merlin’s Wand of Alchemy. At thirty-six inches in length, it was an impressive wand. The head was reportedly made from ancient gold threaded Brazilian crystal set into silver with a gilded staff representing a branch from the tree of life.
The author gave his readers a fun and rewarding challenge: discover the Alchemist’s Spell from clues hidden in the story and pictures in the book (which was illustrated by Gunson and Marten Coombe) and then send in the solution. The first reader with the correct solution would win the wand.
But the author wasn’t done yet. The winners would also receive gold. For every book sold, Jonathan put a tiny grain of gold into the Bank of England. As the prize jackpot grew, he would log into the web site forum as ‘Merlin’ and announce the new amount. The bank manager even agreed to display the wand with stage lighting, surrounded by gold bars, in the main entrance to the bank at Threadneedle Street, London.
The story went viral. As the pile of gold increased, more people heard about it and flocked to the website. Eventually the prize reached over $100,000.
So who was the lucky winner? While some entrants came “within a stone’s throw of solving it”, no correct entry was received before the December 31st, 2001, deadline and the prize was donated to charity.
If you can think of a creative and original idea for your book launch, you will generate more publicity and buzz than promotions that have already been seen a dozen times from other authors. Also, this idea truly engaged the readers of the book.
The Solution to the Puzzle is posted here along with images of the wand.
About This Post
This post is part of my series of Best Book Marketing Ideas.
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