In 2007, inspired by a news story about a book trailer posted on YouTube by author Michael Connelly, I created a short video for my debut novel, The Virtual Life of Lexie Diamond, a young adult supernatural thriller. At the time, the idea was edgy, so much so that my marketing representative at HarperCollins had never heard of YouTube.
When it came time this summer to discuss how to market my upcoming new novel, Save The Pearls Part One Revealing Eden, a young adult fantasy adventure romance, a book trailer seemed so yesterday. In an age when the phone in your pocket provides more resources and virtual experiences than someone living only two generations ago might have had during an entire lifetime, what could we do to appeal to readers?
We created a virtual world at SaveThePearls.com where the lead character, Eden Newman, dramatizes her predicament in a series of short videos.
The actress, Claire Pfister, a real find with the right amount of edge and appeal, is the perfect Eden Newman. Stunningly beautiful as she is, in the post-apocalyptic world of the book, she'd be considered ugly and oppressed.
Because resistance to an overheated environment defines class and beauty, the racial paradigm has been turned upside down. Eden's white skin brands her as a member of the lowest social class, a Pearl. Doomed unless she soon mates, Eden hopes a Coal from the dark-skinned ruling class will save her. But who will want her when she has a mate-rate of only 15%?
And so Eden presents her plight at SaveThePearls.com, sometimes wearing her natural look, or in dark makeup to make her appear like a Coal. She invites others to follow along, even to help her save the Pearls. We witness her fear when visited by an Ethics Officer who warns her that her time to mate will soon expire.
And then there is the recorded visit from a handsome Coal, Jamal, whom Eden secretly dates. She shares with us her desperate desire that he will save her though she knows the odds are against her.
Interested viewers quickly have begun to post their own videos, and like Eden, pitch themselves as a great possible mate. On the site, they receive dating advice on how to improve their rating, or deal with interracial dating in particular. There is even a commercial advertising Midnight Luster, a darkening cream that Pearls can use to cover their hideous white skin.
The ease with which viewers have embraced this multi-dimensional site is a natural extension of our familiarity with the Internet. Online, time and space are relative factors that we arrange to suit our interactions. Is Eden Newman real, or is she a character in a game?
At TheNewWorldChronicle.com, news articles have been appearing about missing Pearls or other frightening incidents that happen in Eden's world. Everything conspires to create a real character in real time, if only in the viewer's mind.
Finally, another desperate Pearl contacts Eden, begging her to reveal all to an important source before it's too late. We watch in anticipation as Eden walks through the shadowy underground world and, looking anxiously over her shoulder, knocks at an unmarked door. A woman, Victoria Foyt, answers. She wastes no time in questioning Eden. "Are you willing to talk?"
In fact, Eden has a dangerous secret to share. "A way for Pearls to survive, Coals, too." Her father is involved in a highly experimental experiment, one funded by a daring Coal titan whom Eden despises, despite her overwhelming attraction.
When Eden makes her last appeal to viewers on SaveThePearls.com, it seems only natural that she asks you to read her story: Save The Pearls Part One Revealing Eden . In the novel, which is being released on the site, as well as through other booksellers, including Amazon.com, she promises to share her secrets, apocalyptic fears and romantic hopes. And she's counting on you to spread the word. Before it's too late.
And, how can you quit her now after you will have shared so much, and been an integral part of her journey?
The online campaign is not a teaser, but an extension of Eden's world. It joins a community of those who care about the state of the environment, or fear for their own romantic dreams in a loveless world.
Only those who continue ahead and read Revealing Eden will learn how she unwittingly compromises her father's secret experiment, is thrust into the last patch of rainforest, and into the arms of a powerful, beastly man. And ultimately, how Eden fights to survive but only if she can redefine her ideas of beauty and of true love.
Fundamentally, the way we write love stories hasn't changed much since the time of Jane Austin. And yet, the way we reach our readers must be as different as riding in a horse-driven carriage is to a quiet spin in an electric vehicle.