There are always new ways invented that allow readers to enjoy a story. Books are one of the oldest. But today people don’t have the attention spans they did in the past. We are occupied by the media around us.
Michael Stewart realized this problem and decided to use the tools that distract us to engulf us in a new world. The world of Jan Rose. He tells us how in:
Transmedia: Extending Storyworlds in ASSURED DESTRUCTION
One in every seven minutes online is spent on Facebook. Eighty percent of people watching television do so while multitasking on a second screen.
More than ever it’s difficult to engage an audience; content is everywhere. The solution for television has been to go where the audience is. To provide value added content on the second screen to keep an audience within the story, companion websites, in-show shopping, fan interaction, etc.
Why can’t this be done for books? Is reading too solitary? Too standalone a medium? Should a story’s characters have Facebook accounts? Is it too much effort?
As an author, more and more of my young adult audience is on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, so it behooves me to put the story there too. Right? And I’m not talking about marketing on the platforms. Story. But will it work? Books are different. People don’t like to be pulled away from their novels to view video. CSI creator Anthony Zuiker did this with LEVEL 26 by adding high quality video interstitials. Let’s just say he didn’t pull it off, and I think this had a lot to do with requiring the user to switch media formats within the story in order to get the story.
Another example we can learn from is the AMANDA PROJECT by HarperTeen. This was probably ahead of its time. It was a book series with a massive blog/forum where new material was shared with fans and the audience maintained between novels. It didn’t really catch on, and again, perhaps because the market it targeted wasn’t ready for the social components. Or maybe they were thinking too big. Should transmedia help sell millions of books or just thousands? I think it also made one critical mistake. The social elements were not on Facebook or Twitter, but a blog community. This increased the marketing challenge dramatically. It required fans to sign up, worse—to find them.
So what are we doing?
It’s called ASSURED DESTRUCTION.
It’s an experiment. A pretty big one. We’re creating a storyworld that will stretch across four books, seven Twitter feeds, one blog, two websites, and Facebook.
In the book, Jan Rose doesn’t destroy all the hard drives that she’s supposed to while working for her mom’s computer recycling company. Instead, she creates virtual identities using the data she scours from the hard drives, complete with Twitter accounts, avatars, and blogs.
Readers can learn more about the characters, their origin stories, why Jan conceived Shadownet, and gain a deeper appreciation for Jan Rose via their interactions with the characters on the transmedia elements. This content doesn’t replay the book, which works entirely as a standalone; it ADDS to the book.
The challenge of any story extension is to keep interactions meaningful and authentic. We used art by Don Dimanlig to create stunning avatars, cover, and graphic novel back stories which serve as introductions and representations of the characters. Janak Alford of PrototypeD created a backend that allows me to create unique interactions like Heckleena’s heckling of Twitter users. Or Gumps’ ability to respond to direct questions.
To get started, check out JanusFlyTrap’s blog. Welcome to the world of Jan Rose! On my personal blog, I’ll be talking about the business of building a transmedia series franchise. Within a year hopefully I’ll be able to provide analysis on what’s reached readers and what has not. Hopefully this experiment will work!
Sixteen-year-old Jan Rose knows that nothing is ever truly deleted. At least, not from the hard drives she scours to create the online identities she calls the Shadownet.
Hobby? Art form? Sad, pathetic plea to garner friendship, even virtually? Sure, Jan is guilty on all counts. Maybe she’s even addicted to it. It’s an exploration. Everyone has something to hide. The Shadownet’s hard drives are Jan’s secrets. They’re stolen from her family’s computer recycling business Assured Destruction. If the police found out, Jan’s family would lose their livelihood.
When the real people behind Shadownet’s hard drives endure vicious cyber attacks, Jan realizes she is responsible. She doesn’t know who is targeting these people or why but as her life collapses Jan must use all her tech savvy to bring the perpetrators to justice before she becomes the next victim.