The TV show VEEP has created an off-screen world for its viewers to play in. It could serve as a model for a fiction author wanting to market their novel and keep their readers engaged, especially if the book in question is part of a series.
First, here is some of what VEEP has been doing, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter:
A scan through Selina's tweets and followers reveals a micro-Veep network on Twitter, including Jonah Ryan (@realjonahryan) and the name of the Timothy Simons character's campaign website, which has now hit the web: Jonah Ryan For Congress.
After announcing his run for Congress last week and playing some of his TV ads on Sunday's episode, the Jonah Ryan hub has all the makings of an actual campaign site, allowing fans to watch the ads, download his campaign poster and even donate to the campaign (an attempt to do so prompts a very Veep-like response).
The social media network reveals show secrets as well. Amy Brookheimer, Charlie Baird, Tom James, Senator Bill O'Brien and even journalist Leon West are also show characters with accounts — and it's West who uncovers one of the biggest mysteries of the season by revealing the actual dirty tweet that Selina accidentally sent during the third episode.
HOW PROMOTING BOOKS IS DIFFERENT
There are two key differences between a novel and a weekly series. One is that there is no "real time" with a novel since different people will be reading it at different times.
The other is that a TV show already has attracted lots of viewers, whereas a novel by a writer who doesn't already have a fan base is just kind of sitting there, waiting to be discovered. Having lots of social media elements doesn't mean anything if nobody knows about them.
HOW IT COULD WORK ANYWAY
Let's look at the second problem first. Having a range of interesting social media elements is still relatively rare, especially among authors. That could make it newsworthy.
For instance, let's say your protagonist has a blog and comes out against Donald Trump. The angle in your press releases could be, "Even Fictional Characters Are Appalled by Donald Trump." It would be more of a story if you could corral a few fellow authors who have character blogs to join you--or to start a feud between the characters.
Will this catch the interest of The New York Times? Probably not (although you never know). But I'm sure there are popular blogs that would pick it up and mention the name of your novel.
Next, what about the fact that your readers are not all reading your novel at the same time, making it impossible to release Tweets and other social media messages in real time? If it's an ebook, the solution could be to include links to simulated Tweets and Facebook messages. If somebody is reading Chapter 3, they can click on a link within the book to see the messages related to that point in the story.
GETTING THEM TO COME BACK FOR YOUR NEXT BOOK
If your novel is part of a series, you could include some simulated messages that preview what happens in the next book in the series. That could help motivate people to buy the next one as soon as they've finished the current one.
ps: If you haven't seen VEEP, give it a look. It's pretty funny, although real-world politics trumps parody these days (pun intended).