Seven teenagers with crippling secrets and phobias travel to an eerie, mysterious place in hopes of finding a cure in Dark Eden, a novel and multimedia app by Patrick Carman. Published by Katherine Tegen Books on November 1, this psychological thriller was launched with a fittingly fright-themed marketing campaign that involved a “Fear Test” for teens to assess the source of their fears. The multiple-choice test is available online as well as on a CD-ROM that was distributed—along with other branded giveaways—at such venues as haunted houses, corn mazes, family gaming centers, and bookstores during the Halloween season. Pre-pub buzz for the novel was also generated by a 20-site blog tour, on which Carman offered guest posts and sneak peeks of Dark Eden’s multimedia components.
Carman, whose earlier projects combining print and digital content include Skeleton Creek and 3:15, notes that Dark Eden offers teens the chance to experience the story in two distinct ways. “The idea is to reach every kind of reader,” he explains. “The book itself is a straight read, with no technology involved. If another kind of reader wants to experience the story through the multimedia app, they can unlock journal entries, audio recordings, and videos that tell the entire story from beginning to end in a different format. It’s kind of like having the book and movie come out at the same time.” Dark Eden‘s digital components are compatible with the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Android-enabled devices.
Released with an announced first printing of 100,000 copies, Dark Eden has been named a Winter 2011-2012 Kids’ Indie Next Pick. Katherine Tegen, the novel’s editor, calls the multimedia app’s combination of a game with short segments of text from the novel, “innovative and brilliant,” and the ideal way to snag today’s teens, who she notes “live on their phones. Teens who like to read—and teens who don’t—will be totally hooked by the app. Even though I know the story extremely well, every time I watch a segment of the app, I am totally transfixed by the multimedia experience of that same story.”
The publisher and Carman’s PC Studio joined forces to create what Tegen labels “the best viral campaign I’ve ever seen,” noting that the blog tour, organized by HarperCollins’s publicity department, resulted in “a stunning number of amazing blog reviews and online buzz.” She says that the haunted house partnerships and the Fear Test developed by PC Studio “like the app, employ real guerilla marketing tactics to reach teens where they live. Patrick deployed his ardent teen fans across the country to tag public places with “thefeartest.com” stickers. The teens were encouraged to take photos of their tags and five teens won prizes—signed books by Patrick—for the best photos.”
The promotional partnership with haunted houses and other Halloween-themed attractions enabled Carman and his team “to get the book in front of a lot of teens at one time,” he says. “Teens are really into haunted houses this time of year, and we pretty rapidly got a number of venues on board. It was a win-win situation, since we were able to draw teens into the world of Dark Eden, and the haunted houses were able to offer teens something that others were not.”
Two of the haunted houses that participated in the project are owned by Clear Channel Seattle, and each is sponsored by one of the company’s Seattle radio stations, KUBE 93 and 106.1 KISS FM. “Kids ages 13 to 15 make up the sweet spot demographically for these haunted houses, and that is right on the money in terms of Dark Eden’s target audience,” explains account executive Casey Anderson. “We integrated some pretty creative elements into our haunted houses, including stenciling scenes on the wall that related to the book. To pique curiosity for the book, we also handed out wrist bands and CDs, and ran some 15-second radio spots the last two weekends in October to tie it all together. It was a great strategy, and we feel good about the positive connection to reading.”
Through these seasonal attractions and bookstores, 40,000 CD-ROMs featuring the Fear Test and some 100,000 wrist bands touting Dark Eden have been distributed to teens. Other giveaways include lanyards and bookmarks. HarperCollins, which has created a Web site for the novel, continues its marketing campaign throughout November with online consumer advertising for a total number of 2.4 million impressions, as well as mobile advertising at MillenialMedia.com.
Carman’s follow-up novel, Eve of Destruction, will be released by Katherine Tegen Books in May and will also have a multimedia app component. With its multimedia platform, this two-book series embodies Carman’s mission as author. “This orientation is crucial to me,” he says. “I’ve visited more than 1,400 schools, and of course there are always plenty of kids who read, but the percentage is not very high. If there is any way to throw kids a lifeline to reading, I am always looking to do that.”
Dark Eden by Patrick Carman. HarperCollins/Tegen, $17.99 Nov. ISBN 978-0-06-200970-8