“Off the Grid” Author’s Book Promoted Online

John Twelve Hawks, author of “The Traveler,” part one of a new Doubleday trilogy, desires a private life so strongly that he’s never met his editors in person. Instead, he communicates with them on the phone or over the Internet, according to his publisher.

Interestingly, Doubleday has decided to use the Internet to communicate with the book’s target audience as well, hoping an elaborate Web promotion and online ad campaign will connect with potential readers.

“We knew it was going to be a bigger title for us. It just seemed like something where we could reach a lot of people through the Internet. A lot of the characters in the book communicate through the Internet,” explained Lauren Chinn, Internet marketing manager for Doubleday-Broadway, who conceived of and implemented the Web effort.

The main Web site for “The Traveler” features a fairly straightforward advergame designed by freelancer Jeff Rabb. In it, users take on the role of the book’s antagonist, the Evergreen Foundation, which uses technology to track down the book’s protagonists. To encourage play, Doubleday will select a winner randomly from among those who decipher the game’s puzzle. That person will receive a signed first edition of the book and be written in as a character in the second part of the trilogy.

Other sites for the book follow the alternate reality gaming model inspired by the effort for Steven Spielberg’s “AI: Artificial Intelligence.” It’s an approach taken more recently by Audi in its “Stolen A3” campaign. Chinn says she and her assistant, Sara Bogush, came up with the idea in brainstorming with Doubleday-Broadway marketing head John Pitts.

Doubleday and Web designer Sam Frank created several alternate reality sites for the book. One is a Web presence for the Evergreen Foundation, which can be “broken into” to access content that builds on “The Traveler” storyline. And main character Judith Strand has a Geocities personal site and a blog.

The online ad campaign, which points to the central traveler-book.com site, is running through mid-July on the Blogads network, the Gorilla Nation network, UGO, IGN, and Gawker.

Chinn and Bogush are also reaching out to bloggers and online forum participants, hoping they will write positively about the promotion and the book. So far, they’ve garnered mentions on Gawker Media’s Kotaku, gaming site ARGN.com, SFFWorld.com and blog Dislocated Fictions. So far, the company hasn’t engaged in a paid search campaign but hopes word of mouth will garner the sites good organic rankings.

Chinn won’t say how much the company is spending to promote the book online, nor could she provide metrics on how many unique visitors the promotion sites have attracted. She did say, however, that she’s pleased with the reception the sites have gotten in online discussions.

“It’s hard, it’s really hard [to gauge the campaign’s success],” said Chinn. “Personally, I’m an Internet person, so I like to do something great and creative online. I have to think that getting people talking about it might get them to buy the book.”

“The Traveler” went on sale this week.

Related reading