Surely by now everyone has seen role players and groups all over social networks and I want to be the first to say THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ROLE PLAYING! I'll say it again, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ROLE PLAYING. However, when you are an author trying to promote your published work and publisher via a role playing forum, things can get hairy, scary, and down right uuuuugly. How, you ask, well let me run it down for you.
You've worked long and hard to get your book published. Believe me, finding a reputable publisher or self publishing is harder than pulling out your own teeth. At least with pulling your own teeth out you either pass out or self medicate. I'm not advocating the actual pulling of one's teeth or self medicating-just want to put that out there but you get what I'm saying, right? Promotion is mostly on the shoulders of the author and that too is not an easy task. For however many months it has taken you to develop your story, breathe life into your characters, and edit...you're willing to do whatever you can to get a fanbase and people to buy your book. I mean literally the goal here is to have people buying it. Role playing has become a wonderful creative outlet for the masses on social networks. I have come to meet many wonderfully talented and dedicated role players. A fellow author friend of mine, Sasha D. Oliver, who is the author of The Zodiac Chronicles: The Gifts, has a great role playing group that showcases her characters and the story she's written. However, I have known people who have went that route and it has been disasterous. Sasha was lucky enough that she has a group of people that work quite well together.
When a person starts a role playing group and links it with or promotes the publishing company then they get into a whole bunch of copyright law violations, liabilities, and just a big bunch of funk. When an author signs a contract with a publisher, they basically have contracted their author rights to the publishing company. Now a few things can bring about a mess of legal troubles such as it can be interpreted that the publisher is advocating fake profiles for promoting their products and services. The violation police will jump on this. This can be considered that you, the role player are offering services and such which can be deemed as mass marketing fraud. This can lead to fines, court costs, jail, and money you don't have not to mention the publisher may cancel your contract thus ending your writing career before it has started. No one wants to be accused of fraud or misleading people. That will also kill whatever fan base for your book(s) you may have.
Another pitfall of having a role playing group based on your contracted book is that your story belongs to the publisher to whom you have a good standing contract with. Any publisher worth their salt, wants to make MONEY. They want YOU to make MONEY. Even if your role players are not role playing word for word from your book(s), you run the risk of violating your contract as well as copyright laws which again can lead to loss of revenue, court costs, fines, jail, and loss of a good publisher who is trying to work for YOU.
I do not know enough about the self publishing market and there are many role playing groups out there that play off books and book series that are not only sanctioned by the author but are in mass print. AGAIN THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ROLE PLAYING, I LOVE ROLE PLAYERS but a group has to make sure they have the blessing of the author as well as the publisher or they too run the risk of being called out. There are soooo many great role playing groups out there with creative people who are the most dedicated fans. They don't sell anything and they don't claim any thing-they only role play and that is it. For all us Indie writers, role playing groups do seem like a great way to dig up publicity and a fan base but it comes with perils and pitfalls. IT is a HUUUUGE risk.
Still want to start a role playing group for your book and characters? Play it safe and do it the right way. First keep in mind fake profiles run the risk of falling under the terms of service of the social network. Know that you run the risk of losing profiles and could be banned. When you set up an account, your IP address is logged in and the social network CAN block that IP address. Secondly, contact your publisher or self publishing company and check with them to see if it is truly okay for you to have a group. Outline exactly what you are doing and what content you expect to have on your page. DO NOT LINK YOUR ROLE PLAYING GROUP WITH YOUR PUBLISHER AND DO NOT OFFER GOODS AND SERVICES. Any well seasoned role player and well balanced group will give you the advice that it is never a great idea to "sell" stuff within the group. DO NOT hold contests even if they are fake ones that link to your book or publisher. For example, a Dark Hunter group that is a fan based group for the author Sherrilyn Kenyon may promote her and even post pictures of her books but they DO NOT PROMISE anything. Mrs.Kenyon has repeatedly stated that she does not have anything to do with the role playing groups even though she has nothing against them and is flattered that her fans adore her characters and stories. Make sure that the group of people you assign characters to are willing to work as a team and with you. Sasha Oliver works quite well with her group and none of them stray from her story or her vision. Give clear perimeters for each character. If you have two characters that are a couple-then of course you're not going to want them making eyes at other characters or fans/followers. You want them to represent you in the very best light. It only takes one bad apple to put a bad taste in peoples' mouths and there goes your revenue and fan base.
Think before you leap into anything. Role Playing groups especially big ones are a big undertaking and you are going to constantly be dealing with different personalities. If it pays off, then that is awesome but if you jump into it and your publisher is not on board with it, then you can really get yourself into a financial mess. Copyright laws are not something to play with. If you want to show case your talent and your characters, get a web page or blog. Don't go against your publisher. A good publisher is a terrible thing to lose. If you have to go the role playing route-then create a group that has nothing to do with your books or characters but is something new and fresh that showcases your creativity without involving links and promotions towards the publisher. Not everyone is into role playing or role playing groups. As an author you have to be a professional first-fix up a website, blog, and promote yourself by joining networks and blog events that draw people to you as an author not as a role player. You want to be taken seriously and professionally. Role playing is fun and it is a great creative outlet but don't mix your business with playtime. Books like the Dark Hunter Series, The Black Dagger Brotherhood, and the like are already in mass market and people have already had a chance to read them. They wouldn't be so widely known if they weren't. People already know and love those stories and characters-your books people probably do not and you don't want to give away all your hard work because it is like the saying, "Why pay for the cow when you can get the milk for free". The same goes for books. No one is going to buy the book if they can get the gist or the whole story from your role playing group. So approach it with caution when deciding on whether or not to mix role playing with your book(s).