Recently, Harlequin held its first event in Second Life – a reading of The Reincarnationist (published on their MIRA Books imprint) and live chat with author M.J. Rose. The event was held in a venue built specially for Harlequin, an Italian piazza that recreated one of the main locations in the book. The venue is living on after the event. Residents can explore the piazza and adjoining church with crypt to find clues to the mystery in the book as well as a sample first chapter and additional information about the author.
One Degree sat down with Jenny Bullough, Manager of Digital Content and Interactivity at Harlequin Enterprises, to discuss this foray into Second Life.
One Degree: What made you decide to hold an event in Second Life? How does it complement other events on the book tour? How did you get the word out?
We decided on Second Life for a number of reasons: because the unique nature of the virtual world would allow us to recreate settings from the novel; because holding an author Q&A in Second Life would allow numerous readers to interact with the author in real time from their own time zones; and because the theme of the novel is very much in keeping with the concept of a virtual world, as the protagonist is experiencing another, “second” life through intense past-life regressions.
The event complemented the author’s own book tour because, like other author events, attendees could interact with her directly in real-time through the SL chat function, and sample the novel through the audio segment.
We got the word out in-world mainly by posting classifieds and listing the event in the SL events; in RL we reached out to book bloggers and review sites.
One Degree: What are your measures of success for this project? Are you selling books in-world?
We’ll judge the event successful if we’ve increased awareness of MJ Rose and the book – and judging by the number of interview requests fielded by the author and myself both before and after the event, it’s been successful. We aren’t selling the books in-world per se, but if you click on any book or poster of the book at the event site it will take you to a website where you can buy the book in print, ebook, or digital audio formats.
One Degree: What were the challenges you faced putting together this event? Are there issues or questions that came up that surprised you?
There were the usual technology challenges (some attendees had lag-time issues with SL that we couldn’t affect; the author’s access to SL was fairly basic and as a result she experienced significant lag during the event), and I had to overcome my own ignorance about the capabilities of SL when planning the event.
One Degree: Compared to real-life events, is the cost (both in time and dollars) more or less expensive? Anything that came up that you didn’t expect?
Confession time: I don’t know, I’ve never organized a real-life author event! I would say however, that based on the cost of this event in time and dollars, it’s certainly worth it.
One Degree: What is your advice to marketers who are considering a foray into virtual worlds? Anything tips or tricks? Are virtual worlds better for certain types of brands?
My advice would be to consider your brand and your product and make sure it’s the right fit for the right virtual world. Second Life was a good fit for M.J. Rose and The Reincarnationist; however, because SL is restricted to those 18 and older, it might not be right for a young adult novel, for example. And my only other advice would be to plan extensively, including involving yourself in the virtual world long before the implementation stage so that you know exactly what you’re getting into.
One Degree: What were your big “lessons learned”? Is Harlequin planning any other events in Second Life or other virtual worlds?
Our biggest lesson learned is that there was a lot more interest generated out of the event than we expected, and we unfortunately had not planned with the author to hold any follow-up events; as a result of this learning, we are currently putting together a more extensive plan for our next author and book, which will involve multiple events in SL tied to the novel’s theme and settings as well as another Q&A or two with the author. Stay tuned for more news! And if you want more info, join the MIRA Books group in SL to receive updates and exclusive invites to upcoming events!