How Stieg Larsson's Series Was Marketed Posthumously

Posted on November 14, 2008

The Girl With The Dragon TattooNPR has an interesting article about how the novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, came to be a bestseller. The novel - and two others in the trilogy - were written by Stieg Larsson, a relatively unknown Swedish journalist who died from a sudden heart attack in 2004.

Stieg's death made it impossible for Knopf to use marketing tactics like author interviews and book tours. NPR says that without a live author the publisher had to turn to advance reading copies, advertising and bloggers.

Still, the fact that the trilogy's author is dead complicated things. Knopf publicity director Paul Bogaards began the marketing effort by romancing booksellers months before publication with a flood of advance reading copies.

"The retail channel was key," says Bogaards. "In the absence of bookseller enthusiasm you might, as a publisher, have a problem."

The goal, Bogaards says, was to build momentum in the form of advance book sales. Knopf also took out a late summer ad in The New York Times Book Review offering a free copy of the thriller to anyone who wrote asking for one.

Bloggers also got into the act: The books had already appeared on five European best-seller lists by the time Knopf secured the American rights, and many U.S.-based bloggers who had read raves about Larsson from their European counterparts had finagled copies of the books from overseas. They began touting the book early this year.

It is difficult enough for living authors to market their books so we can imagine that it would extra difficult to market a new book when the author is dead. Any advertising certainly helps - most authors alive or dead don't get any book ads at all. The fact that the book was already a hit in Europe also raised interest here in the U.S. The success of the series continues as film rights have already been snapped up.