Online World Building: Using the Internet to Engage Readers

I’m reposting an article from January of 2010, originally appearing on my former blog.  Online world building is a term I’m using more and more when dealing with publishers and authors, so it bears a little repeating.  This concept is foundational for how I believe that books have and will be marketed in the digital age.  So next time I talk about it, I’ll be able to point you here.

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I’ve just completed a marathon of online world building to support a virtual scavenger hunt for the book BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.  It’s hard to believe that it started just two weeks ago today, when I met Kami and Margi for the first time (in the real world… we’d been talking on Twitter for weeks), and they asked me for ideas to provide virtual promotion for their book while they were on a physical book tour.

Now, this all came out of my plans to promote my own book (several agents have the full manuscript now, I’ll let you know what happens).  My plan was to begin building an alternate reality world of websites and facebook pages representing people and places that readers would experience in the book… sort of a virtual world building.

In some ways, this is a novelist’s alternative to the platform building that has become essential for non-fiction writers.  This alternate internet based world would be used to create interest in a book that has yet to be released, or hide clues for a scavenger hunt like the one I designed for BEAUTIFUL CREATURES,  or spread virtual games that keep readers engaged while they wait for the next book in a series to be published.

Why do these things?  Well, it’s a great way to use the internet to guerilla-market a book for an unknown, unpublished author, but I think that the real value is in creating collaboration and engagement with readers to sustain and grow a fanbase… a essential thing to do when readers encounter so many media offerings every day.

Every day during the BEAUTIFUL CREATURES Scavenger Hunt, the players interacted with Kami, Margaret, me, and one another trying to figure out clues.  Complain about clues.  Declare victory. Anticipate new clues.  The more talk the better.

And we were able to engage with two established authors, Carrie Ryan who wrote THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH, and Jackson Pearce who wrote AS YOU WISH, as well as Heidi Kling, whose book SEA is coming out later this year. This allowed us to expose YA readers to other authors and books that they would likely enjoy, growing the fan base of each of the authors.

In a sense, we are creating an ecosystem where readers can consume fiction, and books (and their authors) can find and grow an audience.

This is the sort of thing that I think we’ll see more and more of in the promotion of fiction, and I want to help create these Virtual Worlds for books I love.  Drop me a line if you’d like me to do it for you.

Hitching Your Wagon to a Star: the Value of Collaboration

It’s been a busy time at Diabolical Toy, and so I’m reposting some of our more popular articles from our humble beginnings… This is a re-post of an article I originally wrote in January of 2010, while working with my Diabolical Toy’s first ever clients, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, the authors of BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS, and the upcoming BEAUTIFUL CHAOS.

Beautiful Creatures: The Beginning

My last week has been extraordinary.

I stumbled upon a great opportunity to work with two authors designing an online promotion tied in to their book tour through the southern states. I’ve been designing a game that mystifies and intrigues, taking the players across the internet. I’ve had the chance to interact other authors of books that I admire. And it has come as a wonderful surprise.

How did this happen? Through Twitter. At this point, it’s almost a cliche.

I’ve been chatting on Twitter with Kami Garcia since before the release of Beautiful Creaturesthe book she wrote with Margaret Stohl (If you haven’t read the book yet, get in line. It’s been on the NYT best sellers list for over 6 weeks now, and bookstores are running out of copies). Kami, Margaret and I decided to meet for lunch when I came to town for a work gig. And we got to talking… about their book, about a bookI wrote and the marketing strategy I was designing to promote it.

When Kami said “Can we use your ideas?” I said, “Sure, as long as you use me with them,” or words to that effect. It was the most spontaneous case of preparation meeting opportunity that I’ve ever experienced… really good luck, some would say.

And so with two days notice we began designing and implementing The BEAUTIFUL CREATURES Southern Tour Scavenger Hunt, a cross-internet game in which players solve virtual riddles. In designing clues, we’ve teamed up with the incredible Vania StoyanovaCarrie Ryan, the author of THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH and nowJackson Pearce, who wrote AS YOU WISH.

In a late night conversation with Kami, at the end of another grueling day of the book tour, we got to talking about these sorts of advantageous connections… the people we meet who can help us, and the people we can help. In the best possible sense, we are using one another… as opposed to abusing one another to further our own agendas.

And this is the value of collaboration through social media. Authors like Kami and Margaret and Carrie and Jackson working together to support each other. Book promoters like Vania and me who love the books and connect with the authors. And the opportunity all of us have to connect with readers to create special experiences.

It’s a simple truth. Whether you’re just starting our of firmly established, it pays to cultivate relationships with talented people you like, with the goal of creating value for everyone.

It makes sense to hitch your wagon to a lucky star.