There are a number of predictions floating around in the ether regarding the direction of publishing in 2013. Hard copy sales are up; e-sales are up; ePUB3 won’t do what we expected it to do; the world is ready for the next round of content curators … And so-on. (Smashwords’ Mark Coker has an epic list if you’re interested.)
I won’t add to this but I will say that trends are hard to predict, and this goes for the publishing world as much as any other.
Who would have predicted the success of 50 Shades? Who, for that matter, would have predicted the stratospheric level of Potter madness? Yes, it’s hard to say where the Next Big Thing might come from. We can prepare, research, strategise and analyse til the cows come home, but sometimes it’s just something in the air. Something that, with hindsight, we realise crystallises a Zeitgeist. A certain je ne sais quoi.
Here are a few examples of stuff that (apparently) came out of nowhere … to be everywhere. (Not a scientific study: just a few hasty observations.)
- Annoying orange
- Gangnam Style
- The Twilight saga
- Justin Bieber
- FarmVille (game played on Facebook platform – on the decline now, but was most popular game on FB)
You’ll notice that 4 out of 6 of these were catapulted to success with the aid of YouTube.
Again: not a prediction, but perhaps some writers can learn from this. I mean, who has time to read a novel these days, for crying out loud? Why not give everyone a bunch of eye candy and let YouTube do the talking?
Okay, I’m being facetious. But also not. Plenty of writers are utilising the power of YouTube (Joanna Penn and Jane Friedman are good examples) and Vimeo and even Slideshare (not animated, per se, but still a way to put stuff out there in the name of fiction) to get their messages across. John Green (author of The Fault in our Stars) has had a video blog (vlog) since 2007.
Marketing? Yes. Author platform? Yes. Transmedia storytelling? Not so much.
As I understand it, transmedia storytelling is about building a story across different media. It’s about the ‘user’ being able to connect sections of a larger narrative from various touch-points.
So a transmedia purist might say that an author vlog or blog is not necessarily doing this. A blog may not reveal new plot points or contribute new story elements to a work of fiction. The author may tell us some tasty morsels about how she came to write about X or Y; she may give us more information about areas of research that went into the story. But in order to move the plot forwards – and therefore be transmedia storytelling – she would need to reveal and build more of the work of fiction (the story); not just tell us about the meta-level.
The Stuff Gone Viral mentioned above, you’ll notice, are all more or less self-contained stories. They went viral in the medium in which they were designed. One medium. Book, video or game.
In the next year I’ll be watching with interest to see if writers start using the video format as additional story containers for multi-platform storytelling. Or if video will remain, for writers, Mostly Meta: in the realm of marketing and ‘author platform’.
Watch this space.