Buy The Novel, Get A Lot More — Including True Reasons To Buy
from the now-this-is-unique dept
When we talk about the various business models and economics surrounding “infinite goods” people always want to insist that there’s some area where there are no scarcities or are no ancillary goods that can be sold. One example that’s commonly cited is novels. Sure, with business books, the writer can go on a speaking tour, but with novels, what else will people want to buy? But, of course, that misses the point. There are always creative ways to get people to buy, and it’s rather insulting to suggest that people are so uncreative that they can’t come up with other unique ways to either sell other things or to convince people that the physical book itself is worth buying.
That’s why I was excited to hear from JC Hutchins, who was telling us about the way he’s selling his new novel, Personal Effects: Dark Art. First, if you buy the book itself, it comes with a lot more than just the book. In the book are various “artifacts” that are talked about in the book and are a part of the story — such as credit cards, business cards, IDs, photos and legal documents — all of which look and feel totally authentic (yes, including the credit card). But, even more interesting is that the story goes beyond the book itself. We’ve seen various video games, movies and even albums have certain “Alternative Reality Games” associated with them — and this book does, too. If you Google the names of certain characters, you can find their webpages and blogs (and accounts on certain social networking sites). The phone numbers on the business card work. You can email characters in the story, hear voicemails and hack into different websites and emails, as well.
Oh, and on top of that, in order to help people get more interested in the story, Hutchins offers up a free audio prequel to the book designed to introduce you to the story, the characters and the “world” the full story inhabits. He also has a huge 50 page PDF file you can download, with details and info on how to host your own party around the themes in the book, with the idea obviously being to allow fans of the book to evangelize it to other friends.
And, of course, Hutchins works to come up with interesting ways to “connect with fans,” including the ability for fans to “commit themselves” as patients to the psychiatric hospital at the center of the story. The story in the book revolves around a therapist at the hospital who uses an individual’s “personal effects” to help treat them — so this part lets you submit your own backstory and whatever “personal effects” you want, in order to “become a patient.” It may be a little gimmicky, but it’s a lot more immersive than just about any other novel.
All in all, it looks like a really fun world around the book. It helps the author better connect with fans and gives them a reason to buy the actual book — no ebook is going to replace the overall impact here.
Now, I can probably already write exactly what the critics will say in the comments here: that (1) this seems like a ton of extra work and what if the author just wants to write and (2) this only works this one time, with this one author, in this particular genre. In response to the first point, that’s true, but Hutchins actually teamed up with an alternative reality game creator, Jordan Weisman, and there’s no reason other authors can’t find partners, too. Second (and this is important, even though it will no doubt be ignored by the critics here): no one is saying that this is “the model” for selling novels in the future. The point is simple: there are a nearly unlimited number of ways in which authors can be creative and unique in providing people true reasons to buy books and/or other scarcities. Hutchins is just demonstrating one (or, actually, a few) that he figured out. In this case, Hutchins recognized (correctly) that such an ARG would fit with this particular novel, and that’s great. I’m sure other creative writers in totally different genres can come up with creative other “reasons to buy” and other scarcities around the types of things they do, as well.