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Who IS Billy Jones: Building Buzz for an Audiobook

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In an interesting twist on the traditional form, there is a new audiobook going live on November 2 at Who IS Billy Jones. Well, I guess that's nothing new. But what is new is that this book – which purports to be "the new Harry Potter" – is being offered on a pay-what-you-like basis.

Also of note is that the author of the site — an anonymous entity known only as L. — has designed a website that seems to be dedicated to offering clues about the titular Billy Jones, as well as snippets from various correspondences, communiques, and even a few excerpts from ancient tomes that were partially destroyed "during the first War of the Powers."

All of this adds up to an interesting mystery, apparently intended by the publishers of this book, called Billy: Messenger of Powers, to drum up interest for the new fantasy series.

As for the writing on the website itself, it seems fine, if not spectacular. Kudos, however, for clearly operating in the confines of a "real" world. What really sets the site apart from and above many of the other book websites out there is just that: this is not merely a "come on in and buy my book" site, but rather a site that seems interested in generating buzz as users speculate on the identity of this Billy Jones, as well as what impact he may have on us — the "normal" people whom he must ultimately save.

Add to that the concept that the book is being offered as a free download – and then you pay only what you think it is worth – and you have an interesting new take on publishing. Presumably the audiobook is a precursor to a traditional book launching and, like the site, is designed to generate favorable word of mouth and other publicity.

These speculations are bolstered by the Facebook and "tell a friend" icons that are at the top of each of the pages on the website. However, these page elements are not particularly distracting – no screaming "Tell everyone now or die!" Instead, the referral elements are tucked away in the corner where they are visible but not intrusive.

Indeed, the whole site has that laudable effect: it is a site that seems like the writer is already a friend, assumes you know as much as he/she does, and wants you to share in the adventure he (or she) is embarking on as she looks for Billy Jones (though the fact we know he's likely to be found on November 2 does dull the sense of urgency somewhat).

However, as though to compensate for that, the website tones are dark, including a spoken warning from "Wolfen" – whom one can only assume to be the antagonist to Billy Jones – on the home page, and a creepy background soundtrack to the rest of the pages.

There are even a few Easter eggs on the site — pages available only to people who register as "fans" of Billy Jones (yes, I did… I admit, I was intrigued). Some of them are whimsical – reading a page from the Powers Island Tattler (apparently a magical equivalent of The National Enquirer) was a hoot – while others contain more warnings about the critical import of finding the hero of this series.

All in all, a fun website. And the price for the audiobook is certainly right, so while I don't know about you, I will certainly be there, trying to find out… who IS Billy Jones?

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