Daemon's viral success mirrors its storyline

Daniel Suarez's novel, Daemon—which is being adapted into a film by Paramount—was inspired by a software project of his that generated revenue but required almost no human maintenance.

"That got me thinking how much a dead person could accomplish in modern society—particularly if they were also a legal entity like a corporation," Suarez said in an interview. "The answer brought to light some of the pitfalls of our highly interconnected world."

The novel tells the story of a successful online game designer who leaves behind a program that monitors the Web for the appearance of his own obituary. When the man dies, this program —known in the software industry as a "daemon"—notes his passing and launches a whole series of programs that begin to wreak havoc on the modern world.

Though the book is fiction, the technologies and methods depicted in it are real, Suarez warns. "That explains why a lot of IT people find the story so alarming," he said.

Although Daemon has landed with a major publisher and is now even being adapted into a film, its original road to publication was self-publishing. But the biggest challenge was marketing. "I have no doubt that there are great novels out there that go unread simply because no one knows about them," Suarez said.

So Suarez married the book's content to his marketing strategy and contacted tech bloggers and online tech journalists, rather than the traditional book-review media. Word slowly spread until there were folks reading it at Google and in the Department of Defense.

At which point Wired interviewed Suarez about the story behind the book. "After that interview appeared in the May 2008 issue, sales quickly doubled, and mainstream publishers and Hollywood came calling," Suarez said.

The sequel to Daemon, FreedomTM, is forthcoming in early 2010.

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