Marketing Pullman’s ‘The good man Jesus, the scoundrel Christ’ online – some lessons

There’s a interesting, though flawed, marketing campaign going on for Philip Pullman’s latest book, The Good Man Jesus, The Scoundrel Christ. It takes full advantage of social networking and technology to promote the book, and is worth looking at a little more in detail for other novelists promoting their books online – with or without the help of an established publishing house.

philip-pullman-the-good-man-jesus-the-scoundrel-christHow I stumbled upon the book was, like many others, through two great videos up on youtube, where Pullman talks about the book. The first video sees Pullman give an intelligent and strong response to a question posed during a public reading.  In turn this was tweeted and re-tweeted (look at the sharing stats at alone .

This is a great lesson for authors – who often, reasonably enough are somewhat reticent about ‘promoting’ their work. In this case Pullman is saying something interesting, and his marketing team have taken full advantage of technology to let people know about it. It’s a far-cry from a simple ‘buy this book’ plea. It’s also something that you don’t need a publisher or marketing team to do, though you do need to put in effort and research.

The second video is a straight-forward promotional one, where Pullman talks about the enhanced version of the book (the book is being sold as an app for the i-phone, where you get an ebook, audiobook and video content all wrapped up together – a format that Canongate have already experimented with, ahead of the pack,  when publishing Nick Cave’s The Death of Bunny Monroe). This video is a straight promotional tool, but because it takes an interesting angle it’s more likely to be shared (and sharing is the name of the game if you’re going to put material up on youtube).

Now the technique of doing a simple but engaging video, putting it up on youtube, and getting people to share it is not beyond the means of a small self-publishing author either. The essential thing is to have something interesting to say, and to have already built up a reasonable following on the various social networks. Then you’re going to need to be inventive when tweeting, but hey – if you’re a writer that shouldn’t be so hard. So there’s a lot to learn from the Pullman campaign.

Where the campaign falls down though, is on the seo front. The video does have a screen at the end linking to the book’s dedicated site (, but do a search for ‘the good man jesus and the scoundrel christ’ and you’ll get press coverage and links to a wide variety of sites but not the official site (i’ve gone four pages in without finding it), which is a shame because the site is a very nice one indeed. One problem it has is that its front page is a fancy flash screen which does no favours whatsoever for search engine indexing on what should be the most important page on the site. Add to this the fact that if you go to Pullman’s official site you have to delve deep before you get a mention of the new book – go to the links page and there’s no link to the dedicated site etc.

Another questionable choice is the youtube route in this case. If you’re going to set up a dedicated site for a book, and you know you already have a following, why wouldn’t you set up a dedicated video player (with the option for people to embed on their own sites) with seo’d video, so that when your must-be-talked-about content starts ranking you pull people not into a youtube page (where you can’t buy the book directly), but directly to your own site where you can offer your visitors various calls to action (and monitor more accurately the traffic and stats).

None of which is to take away from the marketing of Pullman’s book – the people at Canongate are doing a great job, and the audience that Pullman already has means that these seo issues will probably have little impact on their overall sales. If you’re a self-publishing or unknown author though they could have a huge impact.

So, to sum up – take the lead from this campaign, in terms of creating interesting and shareable content to promote your work.  Use as many avenues as possible to distribute that content, but never lose site of the end-goal which, for you, will be to grab people’s attention and pull them into your site, where you have control and can benefit directly from your hard work.

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