Readers yearn to escape to somewhere enticing and fantastical. We want to writhe in adventure and taste the tension of another time. We want to face conflict that doesn’t impact us personally but which we can still connect with.
When readers connect with a book on such a personal level, it becomes part of who we are. Some of us even get a little obsessed…and who says that’s always a bad thing?
I’ve discovered that the more involved I feel in a story, the more engrossed I will be. True, I may not be a character gallivanting through the pages (although some writers do design protagonists so that the reader can insert him/herself in their place) but the more a reader can identify with a character/aspect of the story, the more they sympathise and connect with the stakes.
There are four young adult series which recently used this tactic in their marketing.
1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
True, it’s been over a decade since I started reading the series but with public launch of the website Pottermore, fans can now not only see illustrations from every chapter of the book but also learn new information about characters and story elements from the author herself. Not to mention be sorted into a Hogwarts house and learn the wood, core and length and flexibility of their very own wand.
Back in July of 2011 when there was a call for beta testers for the Pottermore website, I was quick to sign up. Who knew I would have access to the site for a whole six months before the rest of the public? Still, I admit that I wasn’t in it for the beta testing (shame on me!) but for the knowledge of knowing which Hogwarts house I belonged to.
Over the years I had taken every fan-made sorting quiz I could get my hands on and the result was always the same – SLYTHERIN! I still identify with this house in many ways but I was not sorted into Slytherin on Pottermore but Ravenclaw and I admit that it is an appropriate allocation.
I may have enjoyed the Harry Potter series for all these years without an official allocation to a Hogwarts house but I enjoy the extra connection. My Ravenclaw pin, robe, luggage tag, scarf, tie, t-shirt, wax seal and cap are a small proof thereof.
2. The Sky Chasers by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Another instance where I had already read and enjoyed the book was 'Glow.' I discovered an event on facebook where you could be assigned to one of the two ships that set the scene for the novel. You just had to answer a few questions and you were a part of the crew of either the Empyrean or the New Horizon.
I was placed on the New Horizon – the more antagonistic although not altogether unsympathetic – ship in the story. It was fun to be able to interact with my other crew members and contemplate what I would do if I were setting out on a similar voyage as the protagonists.
The event on facebook allowed you to earn points to see which ship could earn the most. Also, if you reached a certain amount of points you would be able to read an excerpt from the sequel. I admit that I never did read the excerpt, despite getting the points. I was too sure I would be even itchier to read the next book.
3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
With the impending release of the first film adaptation of the trilogy I realised it was time for me to read my copy of ‘The Hunger Games.’ For the release of the film there was a website where you could be assigned a district and an occupation by logging on through twitter or facebook. Then, you could even get your own district identification card.
Initially I tried to log on through twitter but my information was messed up. I tried again with facebook and was an Irrigator in District 11. I did all this when I was just beginning to read the book. It made me even more interested in the concept of the districts and quite attached to District 11.
In both ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘Catching Fire’ there are some wonderful emotional moments connected with my district and I feel closer to the book because in some way I felt a part of it. After falling in love with the trilogy, I’m now very pleased to have my own identification card and District 11 earrings.
4. Divergent by Veronica Roth
Another book I had purchased but was just sitting on my shelf, staring at me. With the hype around 'The Hunger Games' booming because of the film release and a sequel in the near future, there was a huge promotion surrounding 'Divergent.'
Not even having finished reading ‘Catching Fire,’ I dove into 'Divergent.' In the book, when you reach the age of sixteen you choose which faction you want to live in. There is Abnegation – the selfless, Amity – the peaceful, Candor – the honest, Dauntless – the brave and Erudite – the intelligent.
Before an individual chooses their faction, they take an aptitude test to see which faction they are most suited for. Thus, I was pleased to find that they had such a test on facebook. My result was Candor but I did not feel that it suited me. Ultimately, I chose Amity.
I’m super excited to be part of the Amity faction. I’m discovering so many other individuals through twitter and the Amity sites that are from my faction and there are lots of fun activities for the Divergent series as a whole. It’s great to be part of a community of people who connect with a book in a similar way that I do.
I’m no longer just a reader. I’m a Ravenclaw from District 11 who chose Amity, aboard the New Horizon. I think that sounds exciting. Maybe this sort of thing could be seen as a marketing plot but whether it’s for pushing merchandise or just to help sell the book, it works and it’s clever.
What are your thoughts?