True Blood

Welcome, OMMA Magazine readers! by J.C. Hutchins


If you're visiting today thanks to Christine Champagne's excellent OMMA article about Campfire's viral marketing campaign for the HBO series True Blood, welcome! OMMA is a fantastic publication, and I was thrilled to be interviewed by Christine. Further, I was honored to be a recipient of one of Campfire's "Red Seal" letters back in May -- the proverbial "rabbit hole" for the Alternate Reality Game component of the company's campaign. I was chosen as a recipient of a Red Seal letter for a few reasons, the first being the letter's mysterious "dead language" riddle, and the commonality it shared with the puzzles I create for my own fiction. I'm best known for a trilogy of thriller novels called 7th Son, which I released in an unusual way in 2006 and '07.


After receiving numerous rejections from literary agents, I chose to distribute my novels as free serialized audiobooks, which I personally recorded and released. Thanks to some savvy zero-budget marketing, online community building and fan evangelism (I'm a case study in bootstrap online media and marketing, I tell ya), the series has been enjoyed by nearly 50,000 people worldwide, and will be published by St. Martin's Press next year. 7th Son features several arcane puzzles, much like the one seen in the Red Seal letters.

The Advance Guard, one company behind the blogger outreach element of the True Blood campaign, was familiar with my work, knew my fanbase would delight at the Red Seal cryptic riddle, and sent me a letter, banking I'd blog about it. Which I did.

What The Advance Guard's C.C. Chapman (and other employees) didn't know at the time was that I was working on an ambitious supernatural thriller ARG-meets-novel project called Personal Effect: Dark Art (also due out next year from St. Martin's Press), which will use similar cross-media storytelling techniques to propel readers into an intriguing, beyond-the-book narrative. Thanks to my knowlege of the ARG space, I know a "rabbit hole" when I see one, and promptly spread the word. ARGs are a breed of meme, after all ... and memes must be shared, if they are to survive and thrive.

The folks behind the campaign's blogger outreach also knew about the remarkable relationship I have with my audience. While I'm no A-list blogger, I am an A-list "podcast novelist" -- and I have an engaged and enthusiastic fan base with whom I share more than just my fiction. I sometimes evangelize stuff I think is really cool, and reckon some of my listeners, who have similar interests as me, check out the "killer content" I talk about. In the case of my Red Seal blog/video post, this was especially true. At present, it has 130 user comments, the most a single post at my site has ever received.

I have a lot of admiration for Campfire and the other companies that contributed to the Red Seal ARG and campaign. Not only was the ARG particularly intriguing, the marketers shrewdly selected new media entertainers (and audiences) with whom the Red Seal letter would resonate. To them, audience size wasn't as important as content compatibility and engagement; a lesson more online marketers could stand to learn.

Now, if you've made it this far in the post, I know a few things about you: You're a patient reader, you've enjoyed this little story, and you're obviously interested in online media and marketing -- and are perhaps doubly so, regarding the red-hot combo of fiction and promotion.

That said, I'd be a fool not to suggest that if you're questing to get into this innovative breed of storytelling -- either for profit or promotion -- I'm an ideal resource to contact. Not only do I have the ability to tell a mean tale and create thriving online communities, but I have experience crafting narratives using ARG/transmedia elements.

Am I a shameless opportunist for shilling my skills to you, a stranger? Perhaps. But OMMA brought you here -- and I'm using online media and marketing to advertise my wares. We already have something in common. Hey, work with me here.

Regardless, I do earnestly appreciate your interest in my work, and my story. While you're here, free to learn more about what I do in the podcasting space, or send me an email. I'd love to hear from you.

Take care ... and may you find great joy heading down the next rabbit hole.