5 Ways Games Can Help Indie Authors Increase Sales

I recently wrote an article about the similarities between self-publishing and being an indie game developer (soon to be up on IndieReader–stay tuned). It’s pretty cool actually, how the process of creating, marketing, and selling games is so close to the process of writing, marketing, and selling e-books (both even have a few big platforms to focus on).

Anyway, this got me thinking about other commonalities between books and games. The idea of gamifying everything became popular a few years back, and it’s still pretty big–think checking in on FourSquare, using social media to win prizes via Rafflecopter, getting badges for commenting on HuffingtonPost, using NARR8 regularly to receive NARRs and unlocking content, and more. 

1. Gamification and Books

Last year, The Social Media Examiner published a guide to gamification strategy. Some of the elements sounded like common sense, like games have to be fun, and badges are all the rage. But, other elements, like flow theory and breaking down Richard Bartle’s four player types (Achievers, Explorers, Killers, and Socialites) were interesting, especially when thinking of how they could be applied to book publishing. Already one technique is being commonly used: Rafflecopter. Many authors use the service to giveaway copies of their e-books. In exchange for tweeting, liking on Facebook, sharing a link with friends, and more, readers have the chance to win a free copy of a book. Book bloggers, myself included, often post the giveaway as part of a book review.

But what if authors gave away badges? Or other incentives? Sometimes, in an ebook, an author has a call to action for the reader to sign up for a mailing list, download a free chapter, or buy another book. What if this could be gamified even more? In addition to the free chapter, the reader also gets a badge they can put on their own blog or share with their friends. Or they can earn points, and use those points to claim another prize/incentive. Maybe it’s a one-on-one session with the author, or a signed copy of a book. I’m sure there are more creative things to offer, but these are just off the top of my head.

The strategy of free to play is another strategy indie authors can and do use. In games, free to play means the basic game is free to use, and players can pay to purchase upgrades or speed things along. To me, this sounds a lot like the freebie strategies authors use to promote a series, where the first book is offered free in hopes the reader gets hooked and pays for the other books in the series.

2. Combining Games with Books

Alpenwolf is a game development company testing out a game that sells actual goods. The game, First Sword, was launched November 15, and according to the website, “is the first combat management game for mobile and online play. Featuring a sophisticated commentary engine of more than 5,000 messages that allows for unprecedented precision, First Sword allows you to buy, sell, train, and fight your gladiators in an epic fantasy world.” Inside the game, players use coins to purchase decorations and potions, but they also have the option of buying ebooks, music, and 3D files to print on a 3D printer. The ebooks cost between $1-5. If this takes off, maybe indie authors can strike deals with game developers to help with promotions.

3. Books as Games

No Crusts Interactive made a game called Stride & Prejudice, a runner game that uses the text from Pride and Prejudice as the platform Jane runs on. Players can read the full novel while completing the game. Although this probably cannot be a common technique for indie authors, it is creative and innovative.

4. Making Online Games

On a slightly different note, there are also some authors who create companion games to complement their books. One example is Gelo Fleisher, who made a free online game called Requiem, to go with his novella Shadowcursed.

Though Fleisher hosts his game on The Dark Mod, Firefox recently introduced Web Audio API, which allows the browser to support audio well enough for advanced games. But even non-developers can create their own games (though admittedly less advanced, and in Flash) through sites like Sploder. Sploder is a platform that lets users make their own custom games and then embed them on their sites.

Having these companion games/freebies may make readers feel they are getting a bonus. It also encourages engagement and may help readers become more invested in a story or world.

5. Games as Marketing Tools

Lastly, I stumbled upon this gem of an article, “Team Indie Author Games: Elevator Book Pitch.” Having an elevator pitch, or 30 second synopsis, of a book can help indie authors easily and quickly tell new readers why they should be interested in a story. This game can be played solo or in a group, and it makes brainstorming and practicing fun.

So what do you think? How else can games help out indie authors? Share in the comments!

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