Best Book Marketing Ideas #6 – Jonathan Gunson’s The Merlin Mystery

Best Book Marketing Ideas The Merlin Mystery

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.

Key Takeaway

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.

Author’s Site:
Check Out The Merlin Mystery on Amazon:

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.

What are your thoughts about this idea? Please let me know in the comments section below.

Gary McLaren

Gary McLaren is an author and digital entrepreneur. He blogs at Writers Unplugged and manages Worldwide Freelance Writer. He's been helping writers online for more than 16 years. You can also follow Gary on social media at Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

2 Responses

  1. Thanks Gary. Very kind. I hope all is going well with your authoring.
    I might add that Bestseller Labs is now decommissioned, because I’m putting my time into a series of illustrated books for children. Like ‘Merlin’, it has ‘marketing’ built in. That combination of course generates a great deal of work, so it’ll be at least six to nine months before anything appears.
    Stand by Sir!
    ~ Jonathan

    • Gary McLaren says:

      You’re welcome, Jonathan. I’ve switched the link to your Traffic Cafe site, and I’m excited to see what you do for your next launch. Cheers!

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