By Javier Celaya
As a writer in the 21st century, I am rather curious as to the different opportunities transmedia storytelling has to offer in the process of creating a work. Which multimedia languages are the most appropriate in which to tell a story? What role do the various platforms play in creating a story? What is the production process like? What role does a publisher play in the entire process? How is a transmedia story marketed? How can the production costs be made profitable?
I have been reading all sorts of articles, blogs, studies and books in relation to this concept for several months. Although there are today more questions than answers on how transmedia will impact the book publishing sector, the objective of this article is to get a clearer picture of the challenges and business opportunities offered by the new world of transmedia to authors and book publishers.
Transmedia in the Book World
Wikipedia defines transmedia storytelling, also known as multi-platform storytelling or cross-platform storytelling, as the technique of telling stories across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies. In other words, each platform allows the author to tell the story in a different way. It is not a matter of adding extras (videos, podcasts, etc.), as occurs in enhanced books. Each format is part of the story and provides a different experience.
Not All Authors Should Work in Transmedia
One thing I strongly believe is that not every author in the 21st century needs to become a transmedia storyteller. There will undoubtedly be many writers who will strive to experiment in this new world of creation and opportunities, whereas others will prefer to tell stories using traditional language and format. No option is better or worse, it is simply a personal decision.
Growing Demand for Transmedia Stories
The huge growth of all types of intelligent devices, such as tablets, smartphones, net books, etc., is changing many people’s means of access to culture, information and entertainment.
These new intelligent devices appear to be made for increased consumption of transmedia stories. The more people who use these devices to consume digital content, the greater the demand for transmedia stories will become. In other words, a higher number of “gadgets” will likely equate to a higher demand for transmedia content.
Working as a Team (Author, Producer, Publisher, etc.)
Transmedia storytelling most certainly requires teamwork. An author no longer works alone on a project that is handed over to the agent or publisher for final revision. Transmedia creation requires a creative process shared by the author, production team, multimedia platforms, lawyers, etc. This reality will force publishers to redefine various management and planning processes during the creation, production, distribution, marketing and promotion of a transmedia book.
Publishers will need to acquire new skills to support authors in the creation of their transmedia works by providing them with advice on multimedia production, information on different opportunities, project coordination, counselling on legal matters, etc.
Innovation Through Experimentation
There is a high degree of uncertainty as to the return-of-investment on transmedia projects. However, this uncertainty should not prevent publishers from remembering that part of their responsibility is to assess the risks and opportunities offered by the market and to innovate. If publishers do not assume an attitude of innovation through experimentation, authors will seek support from players outside of the sector.
We must not forget that it is possible to carry out transmedia projects in the book world without incurring high production costs.
New business models
Publishers must also assume an entrepreneurial mentality in the new digital era. There are all kinds of possible transmedia business models, some more solid than others, but all of them have a common denominator: a direct relationship with the user.
We are entering a new scenario where the relationship between companies and their users (B2C) will be more important that the current intermediation process from “company to company” (B2B). Confronted with this new competitive scenario, the publishing sector will have to redefine its creation, production, distribution and content selling strategy in the web.
The Role of User-Generated Content in Transmedia
As a result of the aforementions, publishers who manage to integrate users’ contributions with the content produced by their authors will obtain vast competitive advantages. The active participation of users via the contribution of content will become one of the most sought-after slices of the transmedia “cake.”
Impact on the Author’s Copyright
Creating transmedia stories will require the team work referred to above as well as an understanding of the fact that each project will become a creation shared between authors and their readers. In this context, publishers will have to be extremely creative in designing new ways of compensating copyright as well as rewarding users’ contributions.
New Digital Skills
One of the most important challenges to be met by publishing industry is to change their teams’ way of thinking. Publishers must learn new ideas and skills, from producing multimedia content to providing a broader offer of services to their authors, even to appropriately manage the community of readers around their digital content.
Publishing Competes with Entertainment
In the era of limited attention span in which we are living, many authors and publishers need to understand that reading a book competes with a huge range of free content (which is easily accessible to the public and copyright-free), as well as millions of entertainment options on the internet. If we want books to play an important part in the digital society, we must offer a better discovery, purchase and reading experience online, as well as a more competitive pricing model that in in line with other entertainment offers, such as movies, music, news, etc.
Javier Celaya is the vice president of the Spanish Digital Magazines Association (ARDE), member of the Board of Directors of the Spanish Digital Economy Association (ADIGITAL) and CEO and founder of Dosdoce, an online portal analyzes the use of the new technologies in the cultural sector and publishes annual studies related to trends in the Spanish publishing sector.