A novelist has developed a way to sell apparel and home goods while her fans read her latest book, a method she trademarked as "Shopfiction."
Links in the digital version (and spelled out in print) take readers to video highlights of key scenes in the story as well as shoppable photos of characters wearing clothing or using home goods described in the text, according to a press release from author Riley Costello.
Costello earns "a small commission" when readers follow the shopping links to retail websites to buy items featured in the book, according to the release.
This literary-retail crossover effort is reminiscent of retail's experimentation with "t-commerce" a few years ago, when retailers attempted to go beyond product placement to include shoppability.
In 2015, for example, the TBS sitcom Cougartown featured some products that could be found at Target. A flashing red symbol would appear near the available object (a pillow or a lampshade, for example) during the show. At a dedicated web page, viewers could clicking on the symbol, which took them to a screen that showed the product and the price, and allowed them to put it in their Target shopping cart.
Target eventually dropped the effort, though it's hardly shied away from product placement. Its tie-up with Jane the Virgin, for example, has characters often schlepping bullseye-emblazoned shopping bags.
But reading, at least on a mobile device, may be a less convoluted opportunity for cross-medium shoppability, though it remains to be seen whether Costello's fans will want to break from her story to shop. The videos won't win any Academy Awards, but they and the shoppable links add up to a bold way to expand her fictional world and the connections she has with fans. Her move also represents a riff on the influencer economy, where bloggers and popular Instagram users monetize their writing, photos and even daily lives by promoting brands and retailers.
Costello's new novel, Waiting at Hayden's, will feature brands like Winston White and Van De Vort, which were founded by female entrepreneurs, Costello said in a press release. "I was inspired by Reese Witherspoon, who started her own production company in order to let women tell women's stories," she said. "I write love stories with strong female characters and decided to use technology to reach and engage readers in a new, exciting and fun manner."