Breaking Conventions in Publishing

I’ve been doing a lot of research on unconventional publishing options as of late and thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned. In a multiscreen, digital world, things are changing. But keep in mind, la plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. At the end of the day, it’s still all about telling a good story.

Here’s what’s unconventional (soon to be conventional?).

Unconventional Length

Novellas are on the rise. Until recently the high cost of producing a print novella relative to the price you can charge made it prohibitive. Not so with epublishing.

And as part of that trend perhaps are Amazon’s efforts to publish serials. Pay once, receive many installments. Serials are interesting for me as I often have series ideas, but series are so very big ventures. If you figure a series is anything more than 3 books, then a series is 3+ years of your life. A big investment. Still, series are attractive to me and if I can play it out in shorter hits then that’s cool. Plympton is an example of a publisher going after the serial market. Serials also highlight another trend, the multi author series. We’ve seen that with 39 Clues and the Amanda Project. Scholastic in particular has had a great deal of success with this strategy. I find this particularly of interest because I love the concept of television writers rooms in which you pile a bunch of creative-types and you break the best story possible.

Unconventional Format

Everyone knows about Choose Your Own Adventure-style novels. There is one publisher in particular which is updating that format, Coliloquy. Like the story, but too much sex in it? Change the heat level. Prefer one POV over another, then switch. Want to go through that door instead of the other? Do it! The Amazon AppStore is melding technology with writing and the limits are only our imagination. What about group reading and decision making? All possible. What’s most attractive about having underlying software in my novel is the analytics. I’d love to know where a reader stopped reading, what they reread, who their favorite character is, where they abandoned the book. Knowing our audience can only help.

Unconventional Marketing

I say ‘marketing’ but that should be an outcome rather than the goal. Everyone knows it is tough to rise above the noise in any market but particularly so in publishing. So what can you do? Transmedia could be your option. The Amanda Project was an interesting attempt to build a franchise around a book series using Transmedia. It never really caught on and I can only think that it was because they didn’t develop their community where the audience was (Facebook and Twitter). But Transmedia is far more than a forum, it’s an extension of the story world. It’s an opportunity to continue the story across other platforms. Conductrr and Social Samba are example tools for scripted social stories (in the case of Social Samba these are stories that take place between book characters on Facebook while interacting with the user. To try it check out Yahoo’s Cybergeddon Facebook app). Fourth Wall’s Rides platform may also be an avenue soon for authors. IFTTT is another tool one can use to set up triggers allowing for automated responses which create the illusion of interaction with fans. Transmedia has been employed very well with TV extensions such as Lost, Supernaturals, and Heroes.

I’ll do more followup posts on Transmedia tools and examples as no one has really used it to any degree in the publishing world. The above is just scratching the surface, I know, so stay tuned. Just wait until we start talking about what Google’s doing with Niantic Labs.

What trends are you seeing in the publishing world?

Categories:   Writing Tips