Launchpad: Marketing on Cruise Control
If you look at “Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography” as an equation—say, America’s most controversial A-lister + one of the world’s most titillating celebrity biographers + a secretive, litigious religion (+ as a bonus, a Writers Guild strike that has much of the entertainment biz on its heels)—you might guess that a publisher needs simply to sit back and let the money roll in.
But that’s just never the case, is it?
Yes, the book’s publisher, St. Martin’s Press, is reveling in the eye of what we’ll call a perfect storm of self-perpetuating buzz with the Andrew Morton-penned celeb-bio. Yes, prelaunch reports (denied by Morton) that the author was forced into hiding fed the storm. And, yes, the book launched Jan. 15 with the expected torrent of entertainment-news fanfare and obligatory rumblings of legal action from its subject.
Simply because there was little doubt that Morton’s book would capture the supposed imaginations of a celebrity-
obsessed public doesn’t mean that the marketing department sat back and let the storm unfold.
“No,” laughs Matt Baldacci, vice president, director of marketing and publishing operations at St. Martin’s. “You can never do that. Sometimes it feels like that, but no, you can’t.”
A Cautious Promotion Plan
The marketing plan wasn’t particularly complicated or newfangled—no blogs, social networking or viral video here—but it was well-considered and deftly executed.
“The snowball has been rolling for quite some time,” says Baldacci. “It’s been our challenge to control … how people know about the book. When are we going to catalog the book? Were we going to catalog the book?”
Such is the power of heartthrob actor/Church of Scientology lightning rod Cruise. And such is the power of Morton, whose bios of Princess Di (“Diana: Her True Story,” 1992), Monica Lewinsky (“Monica’s Story,” 1999), and Victoria and David Beckham (“Posh & Becks,” 2000) were best-sellers.