Last week, Colson Whitehead posted a link on his website to an excerpt from his upcoming novel Zone One. The excerpt appears on Scribd, a document-sharing website. The excerpt was posted on an account managed by Doubleday Publishing, Whitehead's publisher.
The appearance of the excerpt is part of an ongoing series of promotional efforts for Whitehead's novel. "Promotional" might be the wrong word as it somehow misses what really goes on when it comes to spreading the word about literary fiction.
Whitehead announced the title of his novel and date of publication (October 18) back in February. In March, a twitter account was established under the name @ZoneOneNovel. In April, Whitehead's comical piece about "the blessed distraction of technology" was published by Publishers Weekly's and generated quite a bit of interest on twitter.
Also in April, advance reader copies of Zone One were released. Publishers Weekly published a starred review of the novel, and the July issue of Harper's Magazine included "Last Night," a short excerpt from Whitehead's novel. The magazine later ran an interview with Whitehead about the novel. In July, the sports site Grantland published a series of Whitehead's writings about his participation in the Poker World Series.
The pre-publication buzz for Zone One has been extraordinary especially in the context of contemporary African American fiction. It's fairly rare for novels by black writers to receive considerable attention at the time of publication, so it is even more unusual that Whitehead and his novel has received so much notice and commentary prior to its official release.
Certainly Doubleday Publishing deserves credit for orchestrating the publicity and release of excerpts in key places. In addition though, it's worthwhile to consider how Whitehead and social media sites like twitter have assisted in making potential readers aware of the novel.
The Novelist as Sports Writer & Blues Writer: Colson Whitehead
"Last Night" (excerpt from Zone One) by Colson Whitehead
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The Early Buzz on Colson Whitehead's Newest Novel
Colson Whitehead Novel on Twitter