Back in 2011 I finished my first book. I was in Australia so most of my friends were back in the US. When you are an indie published first author with no platform, your friends are most likely going to be your early readers. Mailing books across the world was too expensive, so I turned to a virtual world—Second Life—and had a very successful book launch without spending anything.
I was pretty familiar with the metaverse already. With a world between us, Second Life was a rewarding way to hang out with family and friends. The experiences we shared are still among some of our best memories. Scientists have found that what we perceive in a virtual world is as real to us as the physical world.
Why do people develop second lives? A study by ResearchGate found five central themes: “Second Life as self-therapy, as a source of instant pleasures, as liberation from social norms, as a tool for self-expression, and as exploration and novelty.” But how does this translate into actual experience?
While this metaverse sometimes gets a bad rap, I have had good experiences with it. Besides being able to hang out and share life with family and friends across the world, I kept myself afloat. I wound up with an unexpected financial obligations shortly after I arrived in Australia when the camper I thought I’d sold turned out to be purchased with a stolen check. I was lucky all I had was a bounced check, but it also meant I had a monthly bill to pay and I wasn’t legal to work.
In Second Life, there is a whole system of money, a financial trading index, jobs and businesses. What you earn in Lindens, you can cash out for ‘real world’ currency. We started a clothes line called House of SilverJinx and the income from that kept my camper paid. It was a logical jump to use this same platform to promote my first book. And it did well.
Ryan and I bought some virtual land and set up the mansion from the book so readers could experience scenes and explore the fiction story. We had a book release party that was packed. I sent press releases out and wound up being covered by the SL Enquirer (the one I just started doing news stories for). Our End of Mae exhibit wound up being an Editor’s Choice destination. I gave away thousands of t-shirts, the first chapter with a link to the Amazon page and some other gifts including jewelry. I did readings and we made videos. Total price for all the promotion? $0.00.
Long story short, I wrote my second book about these experiences. We started to do the same thing with Bitter Suites, but I’ll be honest… when it was selected as a Bram Stoker Award® finalist I got distracted and we never finished building our virtual Bitter Suites hotel. This time it was my daughter helping me. We went from virtual adventures on the Eiffel Tower and Innsmouth to building a fictional hotel. The researchers are right. These virtual experiences still rank as some of our favorite memories. When we all lived in the same area physically, Second Life lost it’s use for us and we all kind of forgot it.
Until Kate Jonez, owner of Omnium Gatherum, had a book launch in a Metaverse. It was unusual to be back in. I’d forgotten how to use my controls and I was just awkward. I was also in a “loaner avi,” not the virtual self I was used to. Regardless of how discombobulating the experience was, it was a positive one. After the reading, the attendees went and floated around her place for a tour.
It was fun to be back, but it was the recent BaltiCon held partly in Second Life that got me fully interested again. The convention was a blast and I was treated to Segway racing, a dragon ride, an art show, a visit to Stonehenge… one of my daughters hopped in with me and we had as much fun as ever exploring. I messaged the SL Enquirer and asked if they wanted a story on BaltiCon, and they did, so I started making contacts.
The kicker for me was a few days later when I was in taking photos for the story and I saw a call I couldn’t refuse: Kultavate Magazine was offering a few last minute exhibit spots in their art show if you could set up in a few hours. I sometimes art, so I messaged, got a spot and just like that I was set up in an art show. I hung buttons on the walls between my art so people could visit the magazine and this blog.
And guess what? We have a whole new group of readers and authors interacting with us because of it. And we aren’t alone. The economic growth is sustained as many people are suddenly seeing the benefits and reaping the benefits.
There are a lot of writer opportunities in Second Life, probably even more than when we were active a decade ago, and I’ll share more on this tomorrow. I have been a metaverse enthusiast since I first discovered them. I’m excited to finally see these worlds being utilized for more.
For now, here’s a slideshow of some of the Bitter Suites build we never finished. All photos and builds are courtesy of Kyra Starr.