Online World Building: Using the Internet to Engage Readers

2 May

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  Well, it’s a great way to use the internet to guerilla-market a book for an unknown, unpublished author, but I think that the real value is in creating collaboration and engagement with readers to sustain and grow a fanbase… a essential thing to do when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

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