At Frankfurt: ‘The Future of Storytelling’ is About Reaching Readers

In News by Publishing Perspectives Staff

In a forward-looking Publishing Perspectives Forum session at Frankfurter Buchmesse, speakers emphasized the importance of engaging with readers online in innovative ways.

In the Publishing Perspectives Forum panel on “The Future of Storytelling,” speakers were, from left, moderator Erin L. Cox; Sam Taylor; Tobias Henning; Lex Brookman; and Christine Chong. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Petra Hörnig

By Theresa Brown
Special to Publishing Perspectives

Many publishers are watching carefully for indications of how online platforms and other creative industries may bring stories to consumers in new and interactive ways.

On Wednesday (October 19), four industry professionals spoke about the future of storytelling and engagement in the Publishing Perspectives Forum during Frankfurter Buchmesse.

Discussing ways to share content and narratives were Lex Brookman, a marketing communications consultant from Tandem Collective; Christine Chong, the publisher of Tusitala Books in Singapore; Tobias Henning, general manager of TikTok Germany and Central Eastern Europe; and Sam Taylor, film producer and founder of Film and Music Entertainment. Taylor’s appearance was made in cooperation with the Berlinale Co-Production Market.

Taylor, who founded F&ME in 2000, has produced more than 65 films and has worked with more than 150 European partners. She explained that there’s no shortage of stories to be adapted into film entertainment. She said she’s looking for a more free-flowing way to adapt these stories.

“We’re also often beginning to get into the stage where we make a film and then want to make a book out of it,” Taylor said. “So, we’re trying to break away from this very boring traditional chain, and we’re making a circle instead.”

The panel also addressed what role TikTok may be playing in reviewing and creating content in the publishing world.

According to Henning, in the last year #BookTok has drawn at least 83 billion views of the hashtag to date being attached to content including reviews, bookshelf tours, discussions of hidden meanings, and more.

“We’re as amazed as you all are about the huge success of BookTok,” Henning said. “BookTok is actually much more than people think. Our creators and community share their authentic, emotional, and very private views about a book, and that inspires others to not only read that book but also create other TikToks about their most loved books.”

Henning asserted that what makes the TikTok platform so accessible is that its model is based on content instead of followers, and that allows users to spend time creating viral videos instead of curating a huge following first.

One reason a video might go viral, especially on BookTok, he said, is how it conveys emotion and connects with viewers. BookTok creators often share their emotional connnections to books. If those emotions match up with what consumers want, those consumers are more likely to read a book.

“It is all about the quality of the content,” he said. “You can go viral overnight without having one follower. So, what makes content so successful on TikTok? It needs to be authentic, it needs to tell a story. It needs to have the element of surprise, and be a bit emotional, and it needs to be right from the current life of the creator.”

Many companies are also exploring storytelling in the virtual and augmented reality space, and how storytelling has the opportunity to become more interactive.

According to Chong, Tusitala Books is working in this space in two main ways. First, the company is adding interactive elements—including turning pages, animation, and choose-your-own-adventure—to existing literature. The company is also experimenting with story content created exclusively for the web, which allows the user to be their own author.

“One of the things we’ve worked on is a Google Street View experience for children to explore a few different neighborhoods in Singapore,” Chong said. “We created a story where the author would get to run around the neighborhood, and interact with animals, and achieve quests.”

By experimenting, Tusitala Books has found that there are endless opportunities to adapt virtually any genre for theeb.

Publishers have also found a new ways to reach consumers through agencies like Tandem Collective, which focuses on peer-to-peer marketing. According to Brookman, Tandem reaches niche communities by taking advantage of platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and most recently BeReal.

Brookman said that in marketing the need to reach the audience in ways that are comfortable for them takes precendence. So, providing intimate details in innovative ways should always be the focus.

“I think that our younger audiences expect more depth to a marketing campaign,” she said.

“We’ve found that what really strikes [users] is many touch points on a single element, because it’s that kind of intimate information and real-world experience that people are craving. They want to know the characters and what coffee shop they drink at and what their coffee order is.”

Our Frankfurter Buchmesse Show Magazine now is out—in print on the Messe Frankfurt for trade visitors and exhibitors, and here in a free digital download for our world readership online.

The magazine has extensive coverage of issues and trends that are leading discussions and debates at the trade show this year, along with interviews, profiles, and commentary in this strongly attended Frankfurt year. Click here for your download (PDF).

More on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here, more on the international rights trade is here, more on this year’s Guest of Honor Spain is here, more on guest of honor programs and markets is here, more on international book fairs is here, and more on industry statistics is here.

More from us on the still ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

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