Second Life: Virtual Book Promotion and Word of Mouth

by Joel Friedlander on October 21, 2011 · 32 comments

Post image for Second Life: Virtual Book Promotion and Word of Mouth

by Alexander M Zoltai

I first become acquainted with Alexander M Zoltai by reading his blog, Notes from an Alien. Alexander has a unique perspective on self-publishing, and has found ingenious ways to promote his work, and I’ve been happy to feature him in the Carnival of the Indies. I asked Alexander to write about the way he promotes his work in the virtual world of Second Life. Here’s his response.

Self-publishing is easier than ever. Book promotion is as complex and challenging as ever.

I self-published a book this year but I began the promotion over a year before I started writing the book. It’s been six months since publication and sales are still slow but I have no anxiety.

The Anxieties of Book Promotion

Just because I have no anxiety over book sales now certainly doesn’t mean I’ve never had anxiety.

I’m not only a self-published author. I’ve been a maverick in most things for most of my life. I’m well-known for my unorthodox views on genre, grammar, and, especially, book promotion.

Oh, I’ve studied all I could find from the considered experts, tried most of it, and thrust much of it aside. What was hardest to let go of was the anxiety of social networking—the common “networking” folks do on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

I must state clearly that common social networks are of value to most people; it’s just that, even with allowances for normal human variation, I’m nowhere near like most people. Seems there are quite a few of us in this occupation called writing

The anxiety I experienced with “social networking” was that it wasn’t “social” enough for me and the “networking” had weak bonds. I need solid relationships for my book promotion endeavors. I’d rather reach a small group who love me than a vast herd who can tolerate me. And, if I can slowly and surely increase my reading-friends—create lasting bonds—the odds of those people promoting the book for me are much better.

So, there I was, book-promotion-maverick seeking deep bonds, flailing about in a sea of temporary “friendship” and uncertain “relationship”. I’m not trying to blame those Internet platforms. It’s just that I can’t find what I absolutely need in my approach to book promotion in those arenas.

Dumping What Isn’t Working To Get On With What Does

Since I’d spent so much time trying to make certain activities supply what they appear to be unable to give me, I’d built up a dangerous head of anxiety-steam. I was fit to POP

I still do social networking. It’s just not on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, or even Diaspora. I build friendships (and my email list) slowly and with great attention to what my potential readers need. I walk with them, talk with them, have coffee with them, listen to them read things they’ve written, read my stuff to them, share jokes, share their ups and downs—all from my writer’s-cave-studio-apartment.

Alex's Shop on Book Island

Ever heard of the virtual world, Second Life? That picture up there is me in Second Life, near my shop. I also have a houseboat.

I’ve been involved in this experience of virtual reality for over four years but, back in early 2010, I discovered Book Island—a space dedicated to readers, writers, publishers, editors, artists, and other assorted creative-types.

If you’ve never experienced virtual reality, the first, obvious yet often-overlooked, fact is that there is a real person behind every virtual person. You may be sitting in a fake coffee house, “drinking” fake coffee with a 3-D representation of another person, but that other person is “there”, responding to you

I’d been experiencing Book Island for only a short time when the idea for my recently-published book was born. I immediately started renting a shop (one real-life dollar is worth around 260 Second Life dollars) and began seeking feedback from folks about the book’s concept. Soon, the owner (Selina Greene in the UK) and the manager (Arton Tripsa in Australia) approached me about being their Events Manager. Now, I manage nine events a week, directly facilitating five of them, two of which were inspired by my book and are discussion sessions on issues raised in the book.

I’m over the anxiety from keeping up my efforts in promotion on Book Island while struggling to maintain a presence in the common social networks. The relief from recently making a firm decision to dump the “social networks” and spend more time social networking in Second Life is a comfort that also has the benefit of humbling me. How could I have been so dense for so long; how could I have sacrificed so much time doing what didn’t “fit” to miss out on the increased excitement and deeper relationship that my virtual world can give? Guess I’m as human as you

What Can A Virtual World Supply That The Real World Can’t?

Even the common social networks have a bit of virtuality about them. Heck, reading a good novel creates a virtual space in your mind.

Alexander M ZoltaiFor me, living on a small military pension, Second Life has given me a huge book launch party that cost very little. It lets me meet and promote with people from all over the world. The coffee is free and the food has no calories. And, I have a former UK publisher and an Australian author as friends and confidants.

Book Island has 60 shops with 60 real authors, publishers, editors, artists, and other wild creatives. They’re my Community. We Care  about each other. Plus, there are countless other places in Second Life with their pubs, coffee houses, libraries, discussion groups, poetry readings, novel-writing workshops, and, well, you name it—just about any kind of venue you can think of to search out new friends is available.

Virtually anything I could do to promote my book in “real” life, I can do in Second Life—with minimal cost and maximal connectivity; plus, I can do it all from my home, I can do it even if I haven’t combed my hair, I can do it any time of the day or night, I can do it and fulfill my book promotion tasks on a broader scale while making sure I’m creating lasting relationships

Have you ever experienced a virtual world?

Have you ever bemoaned the effort it takes to cultivate deep friends with the common social networks?

Are you a maverick?

Is there anything in your book promotion agenda that’s non-fulfilling and wasting your time while increasing your anxiety?

How do you  capitalize on the power of word-of-mouth promotion?

Alexander ZoltaiAlexander M Zoltai is a writer with roaring flames in his heart. He’s been self-publishing since 2005, rather recently committed to rearranging his life to accommodate book promotion, and is working on the second book of a series dedicated to Global Peace.

He’s still offering free copies of his latest book, Notes from An Alien even though it’s for sale in paperback and ebook formats.

He blogs five days a week and spends as much time as he can on his virtual houseboat.

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    { 16 comments… read them below or add one }

    JLOakley November 26, 2012 at 10:06 am

    What an interesting post. The only virtual life I’ve done was as a Night Elf for 24 hours. I kept getting taken down by night sabers. Ended up with a pounding heart. So how does this work and how much time is involved? Cost in real life. I want to be writing, not spending a lot time on-line. But it does sound intriguing and fun.


    Alexander M Zoltai November 26, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Sounds like you got into the “role-playing” part of virtual worlds :-)

    On Book Island, we do have folks who appear as wildly creative avatars (mild role-playing) but our activities are all reality-based—we’re discussing books or listening to readings or consulting about our writing projects.

    The time involved is completely up to you…

    Joining Second Life is a simple as downloading the software—it doesn’t have to cost any money (though, many folks spend small amounts to buy new clothes, etc.).

    Also, I don’t feel being in Second Life has to “take time away from writing”; though, one can spend time investing in activities that can aid one’s writing :-)


    Marla Markman November 1, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    This post was quite interesting. I do freelance work for a social media marketing company that has conducted many successful Second Life campaigns for their clients. We’ve even conducted meetings in Second Life, which was a challenge for me initially. I’ve never thought about conducting a book launch in Second Life, but I don’t know why not! I’ll definitely have to check out Book Island.

    Thanks Joel for presenting yet another side to the book marketing world.


    Alexander M Zoltai November 1, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    IM me, Sandor Zabelin, Marla—I’ll give ya the Tour :-)


    Alexander M Zoltai October 27, 2011 at 6:21 am

    I’m happy to see two comments from Arton Tripsa here, even though it’s some glitch in some software :-)

    She’s an inspiration in her role as Manager of Book Island.

    And, I must say, for a stay-at-home Author (her real name is Jane Watson), she’s does a wonderful job with architectural creation and interior and exterior decor decisions. And, she’s always “There” for me in my efforts to keep the events on the Island Informative and Engaging :-)


    Alan Wilcox October 27, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Alex and Jane,

    Thanks for the hospitality … I did indeed followup on Second Life, and stumbled around at square 1, or wherever I was. Clearly, I should read the intro directions!

    What’s your name on Book Island, Alex? Speaking of names, how did Jane become Arton Tripsa? When I signed up, the program would only accept a single name; so I’m ShayniHeim all squeezed together! (And if you see me wandering around looking lost, you’ll know I really AM lost!)

    I’ll try again later … I’ll try clicking the link to Book Island and see where it takes me.

    Meanwhile, I have a couple eBooks to publish. Plus I need to build another new site … . Going to try Joomla 1.7 on this one. For now, it’s redirecting to my editor site.

    Cheers, Alan


    Alexander M Zoltai October 27, 2011 at 11:49 am


    Jane Watson got Arton Tripsa because we used to select a last name and add whatever first name we wanted…

    My avatar’s name in Second Life is, Sandor Zabelin. Try searching for me and send me an IM (Instant Message)–I’ll take you on a tour of Book Island :-)


    Jane Watson October 23, 2011 at 4:09 am

    You’d be very welcome on Book Island, Nicola, Carradee and Alan! Second Life is now a home for a huge international community of writers, artists, readers and bloggers. For a writer like myself who toils at home, with no human contact during the day, it is always there – at a time I choose – to remind me that I am not alone in my garret and that there are other people out there, like me, writing:)
    On Book Island, as Alex mentioned, I am Arton Tripsa:)


    Alan Wilcox October 22, 2011 at 12:12 pm


    Hmm, your Second Life approach sounds interesting. Several years ago I tried it (for a day or two), and really didn’t see much sense spending time and effort wandering around in virtual reality.

    OTOH, I can surely see myself spinning my wheels as I promote and distribute eBooks (and printed now as well). I can relate to your experience.

    Question though … With all the “virtual” associations in SL, does that lead to the sale of “real” books? Are the buyers the folks behind the avatar doing the buying? Or is it the avatar buying some “Second Life virtual book” in an SL currency?

    Clearly I don’t know much about SL, but I’m wondering if it would be to my benefit to ramp up a presence? Or is SL all about relationships, and making money a crass motivation?



    Alexander M Zoltai October 22, 2011 at 6:28 pm


    First, Second Life is what you want it to be–it’s “user created”.

    And, there are “in-world” books, those readable in Second Life, and also books in-world that have links in them to web sales points…


    Jane Watson October 21, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    You’d be very welcome on Book Island, Nicola, and Carradee!

    Second Life is not just all clubs and dances :) It is also home for a huge international community of writers, artists, readers and bloggers. The ability to create one’s own work in that virtual world and keep copyright ownership of it has attracted many artistic people. The written word and the visual experience are flourishing in Second Life – in a cauldron of creativity – that is incredibly inclusive and very supportive.

    And for a writer like myself who toils at home, with no human contact during the day, it is always there – at a time I choose – to remind me that I am not alone in my garret and that there are other people out there, like me, writing:)

    On Book Island, as Alex mentioned, I am Arton Tripsa :)


    Carradee October 21, 2011 at 9:13 am

    Years ago, I was hobbling along, trying out Second Life, and I happened across a web comic artist displaying his work. I loved his comic and followed it to the end, even buying the book of his first 1/2 of comics for a friend.

    I’m not sure what’s happened since. One time when I went back looking for it, wanting to buy books of the comic for myself, I couldn’t find the Patrick Grey comics or Ben Sterling anywhere. I still look for it, sometimes.

    I gave up Second Life shortly after poking into it, but maybe I’ll look into it again.


    Alexander M Zoltai October 21, 2011 at 9:36 am


    Four years ago, I entered Second Life and spent a year going to clubs and dances.

    Then, I left for a year…

    Since I’ve been back, I’ve concentrated on the “higher” end of experience :-)

    I, too, have met folks who do comics in SL; I, too, have seen them suddenly disappear; yet, new, fresh, and creative folk keep showing up :-)


    Alexander M Zoltai October 21, 2011 at 7:32 am

    Wow! Thanks, Joel!!

    I hope my post stimulates interest in Second Life and, especially, my home-base, Book Island :-)


    Nicola A Hare October 21, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    I’d never considered such a thing but it’s got the cogs turning for me…


    Alexander M Zoltai October 21, 2011 at 2:10 pm


    The best part of Second Life, for me, in my book promotion adventures, is the fact that real relationships can be formed–much deeper relationships than most “social networks” permit………


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