Amazon has radically redefined how books are sold. When its Amazon Publishing division partnered with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in a venture called New Harvest, both parties decided to redefine book promotion as well.
The first New Harvest title, released in autumn 2012, was Penny Marshall’s autobiography, My Mother Was Nuts. While the goal was a traditional one—get the book on the New York Times best-seller list—Amazon reached out to The Marketing Arm to help it do so without relying primarily on the traditional book-promotion tools of book tours, print ads, and reviews.
The campaign kicked off with an invitation to New Yorkers to “go nuts”: A nut cart drove to 10 heavily trafficked locations in Manhattan, but instead of selling roasted nuts, it gave away them away, along with postcards promoting a book signing at Grand Central Station. The cart appeared throughout the city for the following two weeks, giving away 30,000 bags of nuts featuring information about the book and a discount for purchases of the book on Amazon.
The second phase was a promotion with humor website Someecards. Five cards of “Mompliments,” backhanded compliments that mothers excel in delivering, were distributed across social media platforms, with links to the book trailer and the Amazon product page. In keeping with the humorous tone of the book and the campaign, the trailer featured Saturday Night Live and Portlandia star Fred Armisen doing his popular impersonation of Marshall.
In its first week on YouTube, the book trailer received more than 400,000 views. In its first two weeks, the Someecards promotion garnered more than 1.3 million social media impressions. And the week it was published, My Mother Was Nuts made the top 20 of the New York Times best-seller list, proving that in the end, there was nothing nuts about the campaign after all.