Storyworlds, the new business paradigm

If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you’d know that six days ago, the two biggest book publishing houses merged, creating one giant behemoth Penguin-Randomhouse. Books have become such commodities; the book industry has been consolidating since the 1960’s! Will mergers save the book industry? We’re so far down the end of The Long Tail in terms of what consumers buy in book titles that really the only SKU consistently populating brick and mortar bookshelves are “Idiot’s Guide” titles… because there’s an Idiot’s Guide to everything (ahem, I have the Idiot’s Guides to writing!).

No publisher in their right minds would speak to you without seeing a sound blueprint for monetizing and scaling up —so you design your books to be modular and scalable. Stand-alone books can hardly be relied upon to generate enough demand for print runs to breakeven. You’d need chapters that turn into books, characters that can spinoff into other plotlines, version 1 and versions 2 and 3 of your story…broken down into coloring books for children and adapted to coffee table format. And you’d still not sell enough. How many writers actually run the numbers on the economics of publishing books before they write?

Download the terms of agreements with various houses for various book formats — talk to an agent about sample margins from small-run trade paperbacks, read Google’s e-book agreement, Amazon’s digital text platform guide, see RandomHouse’s AllBooks terms of sale. Attend a webinar about the economics of book publishing. When you’re done with your business plan for the book then perhaps you’ll be where I am (and I’ve been making budgets for a multinational company for a decade), which is fully embracing storyworlds for transmedia.

Defenestrate: stories for books. Embrace: storyworlds for transmedia, 21st century blockbuster franchise production (a la Jeff Gomez of Starlight Runner Entertainment)

And if I can’t convince you, then I’ll let Vin Diesel do it. Vin Diesel is a walking success story of transmedia storytelling, with his Fast and Furious franchise. What Vin Diesel can teach you about transmedia? Well, for starters, that role-playing games (ever heard of Dungeons & Dragons?) are fantastic learning ground for extending narrative techniques across different platforms. Moreover, “Roleplaying games are fascinating as models for character and story development because they ask players to consider their characters outside of individual scenes, screenplays or platforms.  This allows players to creatively imagine what happens in a platform neutral fashion before tailoring responses to a specific storyline. Thinking about these attributes gives Diesel the method to build characters across platforms, a wider canvas than a movie screen. ”

Hollywood has gotten so episodic. With the amount of capital investment required to produce movies, it would make far more sense to recycle all the material and make 6 Fast and Furious films than just one. Vin Diesel sold the same character/storyworld 6 times with one franchise (The 7th is coming!)! These are Fast & Furious franchise Box office numbers.  As a point of comparison, take the Marvel Avengers. Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America, Thor… all come together in one movie and each of them have their own blockbuster movies and sequels! See The Avengers Franchise Box Office Numbers. Did the original episodic comic books for children ever make as much?

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