One of the most important differential advantages enjoyed by “James Bond” lies in a marketing initiative that actually began before the brand (character) publicly existed.
Ian Fleming biographers John Pearson and Andrew Lycett both note specific instances where the author sent advance copies of the manuscript to influential thought-leaders. He put great energy into securing reviews in key periodicals, to be written by favorably disposed critics. Lycett summarized it thus: “… all the hereditary instincts of the Scots banker in him came to the surface as he planned the operation to make Casino Royale a best seller.”
As marketing strategy as well as history, Chapter 17, “The Best-Seller Stakes” in The Life of Ian Fleming (1966) makes for great summary. In the March before the April 13, 1953, publication date set for Casino Royale, Fleming was devising a special letter of promotion that targeted provincial newspapers. Pearson quotes Fleming from late April, responding to a letter of high praise from well-known circles, asking: “Is it bad literary manners to ask if my publishers may quote from your letter?”
And even then, his eye was on bigger things: Making Casino Royale into a film. The following is from Andrew Lycett, writing in Ian Fleming: The Man Behind James Bond.
Although she had declined to have the book dedicated to her, Ann did her part for the cause. She wrote an elegant and amusing letter to Lord Beaverbrook, asking if she could count on him to ‘give Ian’s book the reviews it deserves.’ She joked that, having sent a copy to Peter Quennell at the Daily Mail, she proposed to telephone him on April Fool’s Day and ask him how many paragraphs he intended to devote to it. ‘He will wriggle on the hook, and I eagerly anticipate those elegant literary phrases, begging for mercy and making fulsome excuses.’
Ian Fleming himself …
… devised his own advertising flyer. This noted that Fleming had scored ‘a grand slam with the critics’ and, to prove it, he copied the choice reviews, including those from The Times Liteary Supplement and the Sunday Times. When [his publisher, Jonathan] Cape claimed they had already spent £200 on advertising, Ian said he could not see how this was possible and asked to see their advertising budget. And how about some promotion in the gambling resorts of Monte Carlo, Deauville and Le Touquet? he demanded.
The first print run of Casino Royale was sold out by the end of May 1953. Jonathan cape was preparing to offer him a contract for three future books, but Fleming balked, saying that he was not in the business of writing for vanity reasons, that he needed to earn more money. His first draft of Live and Let Die (1954) was complete and subject to edit. He negotiated hard for a 15 percent royalty “to 5,000, and 20 per cent thereafter. Cape tried to negotiate an intermediate category which would allow them to pay 17½ per cent between 5,000 and 10,000 and 20 per cent after that. But Ian would have none of this,” Lycett reports.
In early June of 1953, Jonathan Cape agreed to Ian Fleming’s terms for going forward.