When Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, hit bookstore shelves in 1953, it featured a top spy who couldn’t be swayed by anything (except maybe a pretty face and a perfectly shaken martini). These days, however, it seems that cold hard cash has an undeniable allure for Bond’s brand brokers.
At least it does for William Boyd, the British novelist who is currently responsible for writing the James Bond character’s adventures. After signing a deal with Land Rover, Boyd put the brand front and center in his latest work, The Vanishing Game. Though Bond himself does not appear in the new book, fans of the franchise will surely be studying Boyd’s next 007 feature more closely for potential product placements after this.
As The Times of London hears, Boyd was paid a six-figure sum to write Land Rover into his latest novella: The Vanishing Game, an eight-part multimedia story featuring video, photography, animation, and sound. Readers can discover the full experience on the book’s interactive Tumblr page or download it as free e-book through both Amazon and Apple.
As Land Rover notes in its press release on The Vanishing Game, which it describes as a digital adventure story and interactive literary experience, not only does the hero, Alec Dunbar, drive a “weather-battered Land Rover Defender,” but “also embedded into the interactive experience are snippets of driving journeys from actual Land Rover owners, curated by the brand through the designated hashtag #WellStoried. When readers scroll over certain words and passages, the story will pause as these owners’ personal driving adventures are displayed on-screen.”
Boyd, meanwhile, sees no issue in writing a Land Rover-sponsored book, and borrowing an idea that has made the James Bond film producers plenty of cash.
“A Land Rover is part of the mental geography of almost every British person, I believe,” stated Boyd in Land Rover’s press release. “Consequently, to be asked to write a story in which a Land Rover features was immensely appealing, almost an act of homage. What I tried to achieve was to make the Land Rover an inherent presence in the story.”
Boyd also cited other writers, including Charles Dickens, who have been similarly commissioned to write stories, Boyd told The Telegraph.
Readers can engage with the story on Tumblr through desktop, mobile and tablet devices, and will be encouraged to share its content across multiple social platforms. A standalone e-book edition of The Vanishing Game is available for free from Apple’s iBooks Store on iPad and Mac. Additionally, it’s available for free from Amazon for Kindle e-readers, Fire tablets, and the free Kindle app for Android, iOS, PC, Mac, and web browsers.
Boyd’s long and successful writing career received a lot of attention last year when he published the first of his James Bond novels, Solo. Land Rover is clearly leveraging that attention by shrewdly sponsoring this new title.
As expected, publishing industry diehards aren’t taking lightly to the notion of product placement in fiction, even if one of the best-selling book franchises—Fifty Shades of Grey—features Audi in the original books and also on-screen. Publishing house Galley Beggar Press tweeted, “God no” when the news came out:
Still, as Digital Book World points out, this cash is a boon for the e-book world, and could signify the beginnings of a brand-book partnership trend.
Another e-book was recently underwritten by Sweet’N Low in exchange for product placement, and features “interactive multimedia content and is meant to be shared by readers on social media.”
Given the excellent production quality and the intriguing new format of Boyd’s book, Land Rover shouldn’t worry; it’s already getting plenty of press for the campaign.