The Hunger Games – How to create a global phenomenon by Lisa Edwards

It’s 2013 and everyone’s thinking about how to make it a success. Well you can’t get more successful than publishing sensation, THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy which has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide, and which, together with FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, accounted for half of the top 20 bestselling books in the US in 2012.

Publishing and Commercial Director at Scholastic UK, Lisa Edwards has kindly agreed to guest blog and offer an exclusive insider’s view on how to win a publishing fight to the death.

hunger games 049Lisa Edwards rocking the red carpet at the premiere for THE HUNGER GAMES film. Looking glam and talking sense – let’s hear from Lisa…

The Hunger Games is a bestselling trilogy of books by Suzanne Collins and a major movie franchise from Lionsgate. The series outsold Harry Potter on in four years and there are over 2 million copies of the first book in print in the UK alone.

Can a publisher create this type of phenomenon? My answer is no – but they can maximise the opportunity when it happily comes their way. Here are my (District) 12 Golden Rules (see what I did there?)…

1. Be in the right place at the right time.

Aim for commercially active areas and fire into the next big trend. It’s not a huge surprise that a warrior heroine fighting alone for survival has replaced a swooning girl in the thrall of a vampire boyfriend. Also, reality TV: a trilogy based on a global TV entertainment phenomenon is clever zeitgeist publishing.

 2. Be ready to pounce.

Know when you’re winning and act quickly. The first two books were published in the UK in quick succession in 2009. A hit was brewing and readers had to wait for the sequel…

3. Stage an event the world will wait for.

Fans waited almost a year for Mockingjay to release. We staged a worldwide embargo until midnight 24 August EST and it sparked a frenzy among fans. The book shot straight into bestseller lists.

4. Make sure the odds are in your favour and look as good as you can.

We released a boxed set of the original editions in September 2011 and published new single editions, reflecting the new adult crossover fan base. These quickly became the prevailing editions as the mockingjay symbol we used became associated with early images from the movie.

5. Be ahead of the game.

We started planning our movie publishing and marketing with Lionsgate exactly a year ahead of the premiere. We were in constant communication, and focused on our unique skill sets: Scholastic – the book fans; Lionsgate – the teen movie fans.

6. Know your allies.

We worked on a series of book/movie cross-promotions with Lionsgate and selected cinema partners, featuring in-DVD leafleting; free books with movie tickets; magazine giveaways and competitions, and posters/standees in cinema foyers.

7. Tease your audience.

We printed 600,000 samplers of book one which were added to Lionsgate DVDs and given away at UK cinemas during Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part One. Samsung’s Galaxy promotion saw 500 Phones 4 U stories giving away 10,000 copies of book one – one with every Galaxy purchase.

8. Showcase your own unique skills.

We produced a brochure showcasing all our publishing which was mailed out to all our accounts and contacts. Scholastic Book Clubs hosted features and competitions for all UK secondary schools and over 1 million samplers were sent. hosted a homepage takeover and our Facebook page gained 1.5 million ‘likes’.

9. Reward your audience.

The movie released in March 2012 and took $152m on its opening weekend (worldwide). We released our movie tie-in publishing but it was, and is, really all about the sales of the trilogy.

10. Give your audience a finale.

The DVD/Blu-Ray released in September 2012, giving us another chance at hitting the top of the book charts. Lionsgate hosted a ‘shared viewing’ of the DVD, asking fans to simultaneously watch at 8pm on 3 September, and share their comments on

11. Do it all again for book 2!

Catching Fire releases this November. We’ve already started planning.

12. Remember – you can’t survive alone.

Internal teamwork between all departments is a must. Form a working movie group and make the relationship with the movie company central to your operations. Stay in constant communication and support each other throughout. It will pay off.

And finally… May the odds be ever in your favour.