Margie Lawson

Changing your Writing World

What is Transmedia?

Take advantage of this exhilarating change, and increase your visibility to readers

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2021. The writing world is shucking off its cocoon and spreading bright new wings.

These changes are not because of Covid. A dozen more significant factors are shifting the publishing world. It’s all good stuffenergizing shifts!

Unbeknownst to most authors, our literary surfboards are perched on the crest of a massive wave of change. Millions of our beloved readers are already vigorously paddling out in front of us.

surfer riding a wave

As authors, you are part of the entertainment business. Even if you write nonfiction, you’re still in the entertainment industry, and at the moment, the business is anything but stable. Here’s a shortlist of factors making remarkable changes to our writing industry:

  • Self-Publishing has opened Traditional Publisher’s eyes.
  • Video Streaming offers new avenues and story types for writers.
  • Transmedia innovations invite reader and author connections.
  • Asian influences have altered and broadened western storytelling.
  • Immigration/Population demographics offer more readers and story types.
  • Alternate story venues provide more exposure and interaction for authors.
  • Technology continues to expand our reach.

These changes are exhilarating and fun. Authors who take advantage early are bound to land miles ahead of their competitors. To that end, I’m teaching a class in February on The Future of Storytelling.

Today I’m giving you an exclusive small sneak peek at the Transmedia portion of the class.

What is Transmedia?

Think—media mash-up. A combination of 2 or 3 forms of media centered around a common thread—your book.

BUT . . .
The more interactive (think—lively hands-on) these 2 or 3 forms of media are with the characters and elements in your book the stronger your connection will grow with your readers.  

Today’s reader is a new breed.

These are not your grandmother’s readers. To be fair, even your grandma has probably altered how she chooses her entertainment. Readers expect to interact and connect with you and your stories on multiple platforms.

Let’s start with the easiest platform first.

Your Newsletter

You’ve got a newsletter, lots of subscribers, and because you’re a clever author, (you’re here, so I know you’re clever), you’ve already learned to be chattier and tell more personal stories in each issue.

Excellent!

You might also consider cultivating interactions by:

  • Running surveys
  • Asking questions
  • Requesting opinions
  • Giving your VIP readers exclusive tidbits
  • Engage them with your characters. For instance, asking: which character they identify with most, character A or character B. What actor would they cast as your heroine? Which hero they’d most like to take to dinner?
  • Offer them character shorts.
  • Challenge them with a fun book-related writing project
  • Feature snippets of clever personality revealing dialog between characters
  • You might feature Fan Fiction or Fan Art

Your Website

The more interactive your website, the better.

Speaking of fan postings, what about making a page on your website dedicated to posting Fan Art or Fan Fiction? Be sure to get documented permission first. However, fans who send me things always seem enthusiastic about granting permission.

Confession: I am dreadful about this. Forgive me for teaching that which I do not practice. I have big plans to display my fans’ incredible art, but my good intentions have not paved any new pages yet. I will. Soon. Fans are incredibly talented these days. Look at some of the art that showed up on Instagram from a short story I wrote for Tor.com called Dragons of Tomorrow.

https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/dragonsoftomorrow/

Fan art from Dragons of Tomorrow by Kathleen Baldwin

Amazing, right?

A great example of an author who gets it done is the brilliant Marissa Meyer, who wrote Cinder, the Lunar Chronicles. Marissa Meyer even has a Lunar Chronicles art page on Deviant art https://www.deviantart.com/thelunarchronicles

And one on her website:

https://www.marissameyer.com/extras/fan-art-gallery/

The Guardian (London Newspaper) features an entire gallery of fan art related to various books. The wonder of book fan art—in pictures: https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/gallery/2015/dec/18/the-wonder-of-book-fan-art

Lest you think it needs to be perfect art, take a look at brilliant children’s author Kathryn Lasky’s fan art page: https://www.kathrynlasky.com/fun/gallery/fan-art-gallery

Social Media

  • There are dozens of ways to interact with readers on social media.
  • Hold short conversations with characters.
  • Read a chapter on video.
  • Post snippets of amusing personality-revealing dialog between characters.

To involve readers more deeply with your stories, try exclusive character insights or vignettes. This is easier than ever on Social Media. Many of you already allow fans to name characters or help with titles on social media, but readers want more.

Susan Dennard, the NYT Times bestselling author of the Truth Witch series, often interacts with her Twitter followers by writing an interactive short story with readers based on one of her characters. She allows fans to choose the next steps in the story, then presents them with the outcome of their choice, and moves on to the next installment. It’s lots of fun, and she often has 100 or more playing along.

Susan is brilliant at Twitter and has 35.5K followers. Sometimes she just pops onto Twitter and holds short conversations between her characters.

The New Yorker is on their board and riding the transmedia wave. They offer numerous ways for readers to interact: https://www.newyorker.com/cartoons/cartoon-desk/introducing-new-yorker-cartoons-in-augmented-reality. They have apps and online cartoons that allow users to animate inanimate objects or fill in their own laugh lines. Favorites are posted online.

Screenshot gif of cartoon maker

We’ve touched on a few ideas. There are oodles more.

The bottom line is this: invite your readers into your fictional worlds. Sit them down for online tea, paint together in the garden, let them fight metaphorical dragons in your yard, or video peddle across Iceland with you. Ride that transmedia wave!

Kathleen Baldwin

Kathleen Baldwin has been in the writing business for decades. More than 600,000 copies of her books are in the hands of readers around the globe. A Japanese publisher even made one of her books into a manga.

Her alternate history for teens, A SCHOOL FOR UNUSUAL GIRLS, was a Junior Library Guild selection. The New York Times called it “enticing from the first sentence.” Kansas State NEA gave it a starred review in their “Best of the Best” for High Schools. It was awarded the Spirit of Texas for middle school reading programs. Scholastic licensed her books for school book fairs, and REFUGE FOR MASTERMINDS won a 2018 Booksellers’ Best award. Ian Bryce, producer of Spiderman, Transformers, Saving Private Ryan, and other blockbuster films, optioned the series for film. The series is currently in a third film option. 


Courses:

The Future of Storytelling with Kathleen Baldwin

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