“If you read the book and look at some of the evidence [contained within] the book, you can identify ways to, for example, crack the access codes for voice mail messages,” says David Steinberger, Perseus’ president and CEO. In fact, a quick dial of the phone number in the book’s title leads to a voice mail greeting from Cathy herself: “Hey, this is Cathy … Emma, if this is you, I left my book under your porch. Take a look. I think there’s stuff buried there we haven’t figured out yet. OK, leave a message at the beep.” An operator then prompts the caller (reader) to enter an access code to “retrieve your messages.”
The objective of authors Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman was to wrap a seemingly endless net of interactivity around readers—effectively spinning so deep a web of realism that they become part of Cathy’s world. Where many young adult books fail to pique the interest of their market these days is where “Cathy’s Book” is likely to succeed, Joyce says. “This book, we think, is an anecdote to that decline [in youth readership] or the kind of book that would get a kid who doesn’t read to read. It’s a book to be read with a cell phone and a mouse in your hand. … We feel strongly that there’s something ground-breaking about this narrative experience, but whose experience spans all the media that we use and that teenagers recognize as being part of their life.”
Perseus and the authors’ own interactive marketing company (42 Entertainment) have gone so far as to launch Web sites for fictional companies that appear in the story. For example, one character plans to start a cellular phone company in China named Doubletalk Wireless. Readers are able to “Google” the company’s name and will find a listing for DoubletalkWireless.com.
Matt Steinmetz is the publisher and brand director of Publishing Executive.