For transmedia novelists (and publishers) to retain creative control will require more than a repurposing of content. This might give a ‘taste’ of what transmedia can ‘do’, but for it to work on all levels it must be intrinsically built in and not bolted on.
Ever since I attended the DIY Days Conference back in April, I’ve become obsessed with the idea of “transmedia” and what it means for both publishers and authors. I’ve even slowly been making it a point of focus over at Digital Book World, where I’ve run some insightful articles by some smart people who are also exploring the idea from a publishing perspective.
While writing an article for the September issue of Writer’s Digest about what writers should be thinking about in the future, transmedia kept popping up in a variety of ways, but the most compelling was the simple fact that it potentially changes the way some writers will go about getting published, especially novelists. Those focused only on getting a book deal (and haggling over eBook royalty percentages) will continue to pursue agents and editors, living a transactional existence while cranking out their 1-2 books/year and struggling with the concept of “platform”.
Savvier writers, though, will realize the full potential of the worlds they’re creating, and look beyond traditional publishing contracts for partnerships that allow them to fully exploit their creations.
Genre fiction is the most obvious area where transmedia comes into play, with its tendency towards serial storytelling, archetypal characters and underlying world-building that offers numerous branches to explore in a variety of mediums beyond the traditional novel, including short stories and anthologies, graphic novels, movies and TV, video games, interactive apps and websites, merchandise, etc.
The Star Wars Expanded Universe is arguably the Holy Grail for any aspiring transmedia novelist, and while a lot of the opportunities either involve starting from a movie-centric approach or working with “official” partners, usually via licensing deals, one of my favorites is simply letting your fans play in your sandbox.
For all the talk about social media and building “platforms”, one of the most interesting (and sometimes controversial) angles for novelists is embracing “fan fiction.” One good example I came across was Eric Flint and Baen Books’ The Grantville Gazette, an online publication and a series of anthologies that features short stories and non-fiction set in Flint’s 1632 universe, most of it written by fans.
Another is David Goodwillie’s Roorback.com, which features one of the lead characters from his novel American Subversive as a gossip blogger, with posts “anonymously written by a few Brooklyn bloggers.”
Personally, I’ve always wanted to write stories set in D&D’s Forgotten Realms setting, and would be all over a Grantville Gazette-type opportunity… if they had one! I’d imagine every RPG publisher has an avid group of fans whom, given the outlet, would happily contribute to expanding their worlds, especially if there was the possibility of some type of official recognition/publication.
Same goes for Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century setting, in which the excellent Boneshaker takes place. Imagine a quarterly magazine and/or annual anthology of short stories and non-fiction based in that setting? I’d be all over that as both a reader and wannabe contributor!
What examples of authors and/or publishers allowing others to contribute to their storyworlds do you know of?
And whose sandbox would you most love to play in yourself?