Living in a Writer’s Dream World

July 10th, 2007 · 11 Comments
by Ronin Kurosawa

Diana Allandale / Diana Hunter On most Wednesday nights Diana Allandale can be found reading to a small audience of dedicated fans at Passionate Books. The shop is one of four that Diana owns and operates. When she’s not reading at one of her own stores, Diana travels to far away places where she invariably finds a receptive new audience.

Diana’s life may sound like every author’s wildest fantasy. What strange world is this where writers own bookstores, travel at will, and never read to a room filled with empty chairs? It’s called Second Life, and it’s proving to be a valuable marketing tool for the authors who’ve begun exploring its possibilities.

In first life, Diana Allandale is known as Diana Hunter. She’s written 12 books for Ellora’s Cave over the last four years. Her BDSM-themed novels have found an enthusiastic audience among the inhabitants of the virtual world.

Second Life has enabled Diana to reach a whole new audience who might never have discovered her work otherwise. When she steps up to read at her shop, her audience members are logged in from around the world, many from countries where her books have never been marketed.

After one of Diana’s recent readings, an excited fan named Jojamela Soon tells me, “I had never heard of Diana or Ellora’s Cave until SL. Now I’ve read every one of her books and am starting on the other authors.”

Second Life may be the perfect venue for Diana’s style of fiction. The anonymity and freedom within Second Life creates a natural environment where people can explore lifestyles and subcultures they would never dream of exploring in real life.

During our interview Diana explained, “BDSM is obviously a theme that runs through my stories…and SL is a place where people try it out just to see what it’s like.” To facilitate this experimentation Diana opened a small shop with all of the equipment necessary for readers to explore and recreate scenes from her stories. Fans are encouraged to use the semi-private space as they see fit. Fortunately this is Second Life and the sheets are always clean.

While Diana thinks it’s unlikely that she’ll ever include Second Life in her books, she is using her experiences in world as the basis for a new work that is available only from her virtual store. Rosie’s Story is a semi-autobiographical tale of a woman exploring Second Life for the first time, and running into all of the inevitable problems that occur in a world where the “remove all clothes” menu item is just a mouse click away.

Sometimes a Good Suit Really Does Make a Man

madddyyy Schnook/Andrew Sullivanmadddyyy Schnook’s life changed on the day he decided he needed a new suit. Unlike most men, madddyyy wasn’t happy buying off the rack. No, he actually wanted to make his own suit. The only problem was, he didn’t have a clue how to make clothes, and the only instructions he could find weren’t up to par. Eventually madddyyy managed to tailor something he could wear, then he set out to document the process. madddyyy published his clothes-making guide as an ebook, then began selling it at his nightclub. The guide became an immediate hit with his patrons, and madddyyy realized he was on to something.

In the year and a half since, madddyyy has published a total of 44 SLGuides designed to help residents navigate the terminally under-documented world of Second Life. The guides have sold nearly 100,000 copies, allowing Andrew Sullivan (the human behind madddyyy) to quit his real world job in order to write, publish, and market ebooks full-time.

madddyyy’s real-life sales and marketing experience have undoubtedly contributed to his success in building the SLGuides brand in world. madddyyy isn’t strictly an author, but more of an author/publisher/marketer hybrid. More than anything, he’s a savvy businessman who knows a tremendous opportunity when he sees one.

I asked madddyyy how friends and family have reacted to his new career:

“It’s strange when people ask you what you’re doing now, and you say, ‘Well this morning I ejected 2 dragons from my house, banned 2 robots, disarmed someone and finished a book’. That’s my job. lol”

madddyyy is quick to point out that a full-time job in Second Life is not as glamorous as it might seem. Besides the dragon slaying, there are many long days and a lot of hard work involved in building and maintaining a virtual publishing empire.

The effort has paid off with more than just increased ebook sales. Earlier this year madddyyy signed a real world book deal. In November, UK publisher Vision will release “How To Live Your Second Life”, madddyyy’s first printed book.

As Selina Greene, the Managing Director of Vision, explains, the entire deal was negotiated in Second Life:

“We met [madddyyy] inworld, I [teleported] in my sales director and commissioning editor and we had a meeting in the SL Vision office where we negotiated the terms of the agreement.”

If madddyyy’s story is any indication, the future of the publishing industry may involve quite a bit more teleportation than any of us had previously anticipated. That might not be such a bad thing given the current state of airport security.

Meanwhile madddyyy is hatching plans to take the SLGuides brand to new levels. He recently opened his own island, and he’s working on a new type of fully immersive ebook that can only be implemented in a virtual world. In addition to his own books, madddyyy has also begun publishing other authors. On 06/06/06 madddyyy published Dobbit Dö and two other horror/sci-fi titles authored by Pamela Woodward and Wilbur Witt.

Finding Your Place In the Metaverse

The most common mistake outsiders make when talking about Second Life is to assume that a) the world is some type of video game, and b) Second Life appeals to a very young audience. In reality, Second Life isn’t a game at all, and the average user age is much older than you might expect. At the beginning of this year, the average Second Life user was 38, although this year the average has dropped to 32 — there are still a substantial percentage of users 35 and older. There’s a reason why BMW and Mercedes are competing for attention in world.

As a study in contrasts, Diana and madddyyy couldn’t be more different, and yet they’ve both found their respective niches in the virtual world. Regardless of what your niche might be, it’s likely that you’ll find a substantial number of residents with similar interests in Second Life.

Having said all this, it’s pretty clear that Second Life is not for everyone. The system and bandwidth requirements are relatively high compared the Internet in general, and the user interface can be confusing to newcomers.

Writers who are interested in exploring Second Life should try setting up a free account and spend some time exploring the world before making any commitments. For some people, it can take a a fair amount of time before Second Life clicks. madddyyy tells me that he tried Second Life briefly, then took a year off before returning. Once he returned he wondered why he’d ever left.

Diana speaks to one of the real dangers of Second Life when I ask her if she would recommend other authors give the world a try, she replies “Yes…but only if they have the discipline not to get sucked in. To be honest, SL is habit forming…and I find I can spend hours here…hours I SHOULD spend writing”.

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File Under: Marketing For Introverts

11 responses so far ↓

  • Diana Hunter // Jul 10, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    Thanks for the article, Ronin! It was great fun to meet you.

    Just a note: currently I’m finishing up a series of writing workshops in SL that have been very well received. I took a small hiatus from my live readings, but will be starting those up again in August.

    Thanks again, and hope to see you in-world!

    Diana
    (who makes a note to find Kassia in SL, too!)

  • Joan Kelly // Jul 10, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    Okay so – aside from writerly related stuff – I have SL curiosity but I also have SL anxiety. I don’t know why. I just am afraid to try it. More afraid than I was to try LSD in college. How is it different from just entering any old new place where you don’t know anyone yet and don’t know what the hell to do once you’re there? And if it’s a fun thing to do, how do you not get sucked into being in SL all the time? It makes me think of that Philip K. Dick book which I can’t remember the name of (don’t even know if I’m spelling his name right) but where they ate this drug and then basically went somewhere else in their minds. Or not only in their minds. Something about Palmer Eldridge? Help. Look, I read it years ago, my point is in the book they liked the “trips” they went on better than their real lives a lot of the time. Can someone talk me out of my pre-emptive SL panic attack before it boils over? Thank you.

  • Ronin Kurosawa // Jul 10, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    It was great meeting you too Diana. We’ll get Kassia to your store one of these days. She has all sorts of excuses for avoiding SL — unfortunately shoe shopping is not one of them.

    Joan, you sorta scare me. It’s The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, and for some reason I always get it confused with the Transmigration of Timothy Archer. And yes, I think about that book quite a bit in relation to Second Life — although I’m always confused about which book I’m actually thinking about. Thanks for the reminder.

    Anyway, the folks in the Philip K. Dick book had another problem — they were stuck on Mars. So the virtual world they entered when they took the drug was more of a way of having a normal life. Except that, as I recall, they also found ways to screw up their virtual lives in many of the same ways they screwed up their real lives. That’s the part that reminds me the most of Second Life. Yes, I know, that’s not much of a ringing endorsement for SL — but keep in mind that I’m also covering the presidential campaign in SL for another blog. In general, I’ve found the book people in SL to be much more well adjusted than the political people.

    The point is, Second Life is whatever you want it to be. Once you get out of flight school and learn how to walk without running into people, it’s not all that scary. Note that I chose to file this article under Marketing for Introverts, because I really believe that SL is a great networking environment for people who never want to leave their homes.

    I say, go ahead and have the panic attack, then when it’s over give Second Life a try and see what you think.

    Those of you who do end up in Second Life, please contact me once you’re there. I’d be more than happy to show you around.

  • Madddyyy schnook // Jul 10, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    Thanks very much for the chance to speak and be involved in the article it was a great pleasure. it is also the first time my rl (real life ) self has been mentioned. laughs.

  • Ronin Kurosawa // Jul 11, 2007 at 8:48 am

    madddyyy, there’s no escaping real life. Especially when the person behind the avatar is demanding a writing credit on the next book.

    Thanks again for sharing your story with me.

  • Joan Kelly // Jul 12, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    Ronin,

    Thanks for your response. And I was getting The Tramsmigration of Timothy Archer confused with The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch myself – am I imagining it or did the virtual trips the people went on in Palmer Eldritch get called something like “transmigration,” something that sounded similar? Far be it from me to remember to look in my bookcase when I’m actually at home and could find the answer, hello.

    Anyway, I appreciated the original post as well as the comments exchange. I am sure I will check out Second Life after your pep talk. Thanks again.

  • Authors In Second Life : Ronin Kurosawa // Jul 17, 2007 at 10:21 pm

    […] Living in a Writer’s Dream World […]

  • paulmc // Jul 18, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    as madddy schnooks rl local boozer well done madddy cya for a bevvy soon…congrats

  • Big Bad Book Blog » Blog Archive » Web-Map to Social Media, Part 5: Second Life // Aug 8, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    […] Sullivan and Diana Hunter are two authors who have used Second Life to their benefit. This is a good profile of their efforts. Hunter (SL name: Diana Allandale) told us that she views Second […]

  • ginko // Jun 30, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Tried SL. Still trying. I’m just as socially inept there as here!

  • Authors In Second Life : Ronin Kurosawa // Jan 31, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    […] Living in a Writer’s Dream World […]