A quick read of the newspapers recently for any Second Life articles could make you decide it’s not the place for anyone thinking of using this virtual world for serious business or activities. Like the rest of the internet, 3D internet contains all things, and journalists can find sleaze or high culture, and all the levels in between. I’m glad Jon has asked me to be a guest blogger so I can show why I believe 3D Internet is particularly useful for publishers and booksellers as well as authors and other creative people. I’ll use this space to show just how publishers, authors and educators are succeeding in SL, and what it is that makes others try and fail.
I’ve been on SL for two years, building up a project called the Written Word which I run with Peter Chowney (Hastings Bournemouth on SL). So far this project has aimed to help writers but we’re building a new area which gives free space to publishers. Over the coming months I’ll write about how publishers, authors and educators are using our area, and others, to show how SL can be used successfully by them to establish a presence in the virtual world, promote themselves, and guage the number of people linking to their websites to buy books, courses and services. As part of this work I’ll invite authors on to the Meet an Author show, an online televised interview show which you can see on http://slcn.tv on the Meet an Author page.
It has frustrated me recently to see publishers giving up on SL, leaving because they had invested and didn’t manage to use their presence fruitfully. I know it can be so easy for a publisher to make far more of SL and that books and publishing should be one of the biggest successes on 3D internet – this is what happened on the standard Internet after all. If I’m proved wrong on our Written Word area, and the publishers don’t find the right approach can create a high level of awareness for them on SL backed up by sales, then that will be made very public on this blog.
We’re taking no income from this experiment so that we can select good publishers to gather together in one area. Gathering together in one area helps publishers draw attention to their presence on SL, especially in a place with regular writers’ events, because writers are among the most active users of cultural areas. We take no income from this experiment, because by not charging rent we can select the good publishers and not mix them in with businesses they may not want to be associated with.
Publishers about to set up their free stores on our area are Macmillan (including Pan, Palgrave Macmillan and Nature), Cinnamon Press, Canongate, and Bluechrome. These publishers are giving something back to the writing community to become more involved: in particular they give guidelines on submissions, critique services, awards and competitions including some leading to book contracts. Canongate also has a website where writers can post their work. To see the area where these publishers are setting up stores go to http://slurl.com/secondlife/Cookie/9/245/22 – you’ll need to register with Second Life first.
The stores provided will have landmarks back to the publishers’ main buildings, if they have other land on SL, and this should overcome the problem of having a large, impressive but isolated building. Larger publishers want their own visually impressive presence on their own land, because visual perception is important on virtual worlds for any business. However, it would be too time consuming for publishers to try to attract visitors to their main land by putting on continual events. A central point is needed on a busy area like ours, where all the publishers are gathered and visitors can get links to the publishers’ main sites.
The publishers who have given up on SL, and I shouldn’t name them, have found themselves in areas where they had little traffic from visitors and not enough noticeable success from sales. In the worst cases they have paid agents hired on SL who seemed to have expertise in virtual worlds but didn’t promote the publishers or make the SL community aware of their presence. In the worst scenarios agents actually find it worth their while to isolate clients in case they find a better marketing service elsewhere. All of this is reminiscent of the early days of the internet when it was easy for techies to be hired by businesses who felt they didn’t understand the environment enough and trusted staff without checking if they had other successful clients in the same business.
Pop over to our area or reply to this post if you want any more information – I’m known as Jilly Kidd on SL (Adele Ward in real life). I’ll write about actual events and stories in future blog posts to show how the ideas in this post actually come to life and work for publishers, authors and booksellers as well as educators including the London School of Journalism. 2009 should be an exciting time for anyone in writing, education and the book business on SL, and I’ll be writing about it to keep you informed.