A 21st Century Writing Dilemma: Expand into Transmedia or Focus on New Stories?

Image is free to use per Imgbin.

Hi. Wow. It’s been a minute since I posted anything here. Life has been crazy with research and work and well, life.

Late last month I had the wonderful fortune to attend my second Novelists Inc. Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. That is one of two conferences I will not miss (the other is Historical Novel Society, when it is stateside). The programming is smart and meant for writers where I am–not beginners, but not household names either–okay, most of us.

The two sessions (well, actually it was four because both were two-parters) that I liked the most were Growth Hack a Bestseller by Entangled Publisher Liz Pelletier and You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Story by Houston Howard. Both were applicable to traditionally published authors as well as indies. But the interesting thing to me, as an indie author, is that they seemed in some ways to offer conflicting advice.

Let me explain. What I heard overall on the traditional side (not just from Liz) is that you should keep writing the next book, with the focus on it becoming a bestseller, rather than worrying about the books you’ve already written. (Liz’s talk was about how you can plan your way to writing a bestselling book and it was really, really good.) But on the indie side, there was a clear focus on diversifying the books you already have to gain more readers. What they mean by this is expanding your story in new formats. This is directly from my conference notes:

Houston calls this multi-platform strategy your Superstory. It begins with thinking bigger than a novel. In Superstory, you extend your story into multiple platforms and surround your novel with other things that can help it compete.

Superstory is NOT:

  • Promotions or advertising.
  • Online tools like new media/digital.
  • Multimedia (franchising, merchandising, etc.) in which you are giving your audience the same content in a different format (i.e. the movie version, the comic book version, etc.)

Superstory IS:

  • Continuing your story over multiple platforms (a.k.a. transmedia).
  • Each new piece of content is a piece of a puzzle, something unique that is only explored there and leads to something else. It is all part of the same story, but the story is expanded in a coordinated way. (i.e. anthology of the backstory of minor characters in your book series.)
  • So it could be that the book tells the story, the movie continues the story, then spins off into a video game, and ends in comic book, so that they all work together to create a different experience for the fans.

Think about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It began as a movie, got much more back- and front-story as a TV show and then continued on past the finale in the comic book realm with new stories.

I LOVE this idea! But there’s only one problem: There’s only so much of me to go around, and both things take time and money, two things I have precious little of.

I am seriously so inspired by his ideas. (I bought Houston’s book but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.) Without giving too much away, I can see:

The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy

  • An anthology of stories of the other characters (Elaine, Corinnia and Leodgrance, Mona, Vivianne/Merlin/Nimue, Lancelot’s backstory, etc.)
  • Jewelry line (I’ve had this in mind since I started the series).
  • Some kind of a tie-in to the history of Avalon.
  • Instagram visual series from one of the characters.
  • Interactive website.
  • Music. The voice of Guinevere. (A friend and I actually talked about this one time.)
  • Video game. I’ve wanted to do one for ages, but that is far down the list.
  • I have a bunch of other ideas written down (but not to hand) for what I would have put into a companion guide.

Been Searching for You

  • The two additional books in the series.
  • A comic book version (which I’ve been wanting to do for a year or two now anyway – yes there ARE romance graphic novels).
  • Annabeth’s Millie Mysteries books (assuming I can figure out a plot and how to write a mystery).
  • An old-time radio show version of the Millie Mysteries.
  • Instagram visual series from Annabeth, and one from Mia.
  • Annabeth’s dream wedding board on Pinterest (which kind of already exists, but it is hidden).
  • Alex’s Pinterest board (you know he has one since he uses it in the book).

Madame Presidentess

  • A podcast around women’s suffrage.
  • I could do stories about the other characters, especially Tennie, but I’m not sure if I want to go there.
  • Something with Spiritualism. I just don’t know what yet.

Fun stuff, right? But it’s also a lot of work–time I could be using to write/research my next book. You can see where I’m torn.

It’s especially hard because I don’t write full-time. On top of this I have ideas for seriously about 50 OTHER stories I want to tell, each of which could get its own Superstory list.

I’m not sure what the answer will end up being. Probably a little of both.

As readers, what would you like to see from me, either on the list above or something else? Or do you think I should just move on to new stories? I’m really curious.

Leave a Reply