How Writers Are Using Second Life to Find Audiences & Readers

by Joan Kremer on July 24, 2009 · 7 comments

in Benefits of SL,Opportunities,Virtual tools

Imagine this scenario: You’re an unpublished, online
unknown playwright and you’ve just written a play that you believe needs to be staged. Your income is commensurate with most writers’ – i.e., men’s health
not a lot. And you don’t have rich friends or family who might fork over the tens of thousands of dollars needed to rent a theatre, website
hire a cast, create sets and costumes, and advertise your production.

What do you do?

Well, in the physical world, you probably send out queries to agents or producers, cross your fingers, and hope.

In the virtual world, you simply produce your play!

That’s one of the things I love so much about a virtual world like Second Life.  It’s a great “leveler”: You don’t have to be wealthy or famous to have your creative work see the light of day.

This weekend (July 24 and 25) brings the final performances of the premiere run of an incredible play written and produced in Second Life that might have ended up buried in the author’s bottom drawer if the only outlet she had was first life.  Not because it doesn’t deserve to be staged – quite the contrary; it’s a remarkable drama – but simply because money to support art in first life is about one-gazillionth of what it should be!

Hypatia of Alexander stage in Second Life

On stage at Hypatia of Alexandria performance in SL, looking out to audience

The play, Hypatia of Alexandria, is written largely in sonnet form (blows me away, the talent required to do that!) and tells the fascinating story of the brilliant mathematician and philosopher Hypatia, who studied and taught at the famous ancient Library of Alexandria and who was horribly murdered by a mob of monks.  (You can learn much more about the play and its author here and here.)

Playwright-poet Skylar Smythe

Playwright Skylar Smythe talks to the audience after a performance of her play, Hypatia of Alexandria, in Second Life

Hypatia’s story has been told before – on stage, in movies, in books.  But the approach taken by this play’s author, Skylar Smythe, is both unique and as relevant to today’s world as it was to the ancient world.  Yet, I doubt whether I – and the many others who’ve attended the performances so far – would have ever been moved, awed, and enlightened by this particular drama were it not for Skylar’s decision to produce the play in Second Life.

What is impossible in the physical without millions of bucks in financing – building a brand-new theatre complex just to stage a play, creating sets, buying costumes, producing special effects, casting and directing the play – is not only possible in the virtual world, but is occurring with greater frequency.  I’m seeing more announcements of theatrical performances throughout Second Life, including original productions written just for SL staging.  The incredible production of Hypatia of Alexandria is one of the most recent – and for me, most rewarding – of those shows.

Final performances of Hypatia are at 7 p.m. SLT (Pacific time zone) Friday and Saturday, July 24 and 25, at the TLE Educational Network stage at this location.

And theatre is just one avenue for writers to get their work out to audiences in Second Life. Consider the cost of publishing and distributing a book in first life; few of us are wealthy enough to self-publish and distribute a high-quality piece of writing. In Second Life, it requires just a handful of dollars to publish and distribute a novel, or collection of poetry or short stories, or a nonfiction book.  And in SL, you’ll find eager readers and many promotional opportunities.

Now, I’m not promoting SL publishing in lieu of a mainstream publisher for your masterpiece.  Not at all!  But in the virtual world you can publish and find readers for all kinds of creative works that fly under or over the radar range of established publishing:

  • Collections of poetry that may already have been published in a journal or on a Web site
  • Short stories that have been previously published but to a narrow audience, or collections of stories that are extremely difficult to find a publisher for in first life
  • Novel excerpts that introduce new readers to your writing and encourage those who love it to buy that novel or other novels published in first life, whether in hard-copy or e-book format
  • Stories based in a virtual world such as Second Life that may not have a first life audience at all

An example of the last one is the novel Borders of Our Lives by Nazz Lane. This novel is largely set in Second Life, and is most likely to appeal to those who are familiar with SL (though the story it tells is universal).  As Nazz finishes each chapter of this novel, he publishes it as an SL book for sale to new and ongoing readers (the latter often waiting anxiously for the next chapter to come out!).

Borders of Our Lives by Nazz Lane

Sitting by the fire reading a chapter of Nazz Lane's serialized novel published in Second Life

(There are even SL publishers that will publish and promote your SL book, much as a first-life publisher does.  But more on that in a later post.)

Will people like Skylar Smythe and Nazz Lane get rich and famous as a result of their SL publications and productions?  Not likely, given the odds, but that’s not why they’re doing it.  Like so many writers and other creative beings, they are more interested in creating the art and getting it out into the world.

Since its birth, Second Life has been a haven for visual artists; at last count, there were more than 650 art galleries in SL.  A remarkable number of artists are showing and selling their visual art in SL.  In addition, musicians, composers, performers – people who create just about any kind of art – are flocking to Second Life’s supportive artistic network.

Writers have had to wait a little longer for technology (publishing books in-world, for example) to develop, but the number of opportunities for authors in SL is quickly catching up.

If you’re not already connecting with the writing community in Second Life, I invite you to check it out.  If you’re an SL resident, what have you found that helps get your work out in the (virtual) world? Please add a comment and share!

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 troutlule July 28, 2009 at 11:48 pm

What a great idea! Thanks for sharing this with us/me. I will check out the cool things happening in SL and perhaps publish my book of poems there.

2 Made in DNA (1 comments.) July 29, 2009 at 12:38 am

Been selling publishing and selling my own books for nearly two years now. Great fun. I have a bookshop on PUBLISHING ISLAND called JunkDNA Fiction, and my name is JunkDNA Watanabe. Come look me up! I’ll be happy to help people out.

3 Joan Kremer (71 comments.) July 31, 2009 at 1:00 pm

@troutlule: Thanks – glad you found this! When you publish your poetry book, please let me know!

@Made in DNA: Thanks for posting the comment! I’ve seen your bookshop several times — it’s way cool! Thanks for the offer to help others, too.

4 Niche Chick (1 comments.) February 8, 2010 at 2:39 am

1 of the coolest aspects in the blog society is all the info folks generously share. Thanks! 😀

5 4 drawer filing cabinet March 20, 2010 at 6:06 am

When I finally felt confident enough to go exploring, I went looking for places of interest to freelance writers and found several writers’ retreats, creative havens, and literary-themed areas. I was impressed by the creativity that went into some of these places.

6 Kabalyero Kidd (2 comments.) August 30, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Second Life is indeed a platform for boundless possibilities. It’s more than a game for many. Artists and performers are finding new audiences in Second Life.
Kabalyero Kidd´s last blog ..A Visit to a Freebie Market in Second Life My ComLuv Profile

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