Not just telling stories

In the fast-paced social media environment, with 58 million tweets and more than 2.5 billion content shares on Facebook every day, the greatest challenge for every company and its brand is to be discovered. And books are no exception to the rule.

One way to help discoverability can be an effective digital strategy and, in particular, transmedia storytelling. The engagement of the audience is key, and transmedia storytelling is all about generating various entry points in a story universe in order to approach different kinds of people and markets.

Formerly, multi- or cross-media marketing, which meant spreading one single story over multiple channels, is becoming more and more old-fashioned. Transmedia means telling multiple stories via multiple channels. These stories can be understood on their own, but together they form a unique and entertaining story experience with entry points via all kinds of media and devices – Twitter, blogs, videos, real-life-events, Facebook, images, books, movies, Instagram, games, email, audio. It is all about entertainment.

There are several current transmedia projects, most of which are driven by innovative marketing agencies creating fictional worlds around a given topic. An interesting example, co-published by Faber & Faber in 2013, is a new digital adaption of John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps, which was written in 1915. Described as an interactive visual novel for Mac, PC and tablets, the aim of the collaboration with story developer The Story Mechanics and two software publishers is to merge literature, film and gaming in an entirely new way.

A new way to engage

Even though this book has been around for nearly 100 years, and has received many adaptations on stage and screen (and, incidentally, was re-published by MSc Publishing students at Edinburgh Napier University), it is still topical. Faber’s digital edition demonstrates new ways of engaging people, even if they are familiar with the book, and represents a totally fresh and dynamic reading experience with additional content to that supplied in the printed book. Since it enables the reader to explore new aspects of the story via a new platform, it is a prototype for a successful transmedia project, even though it was not planned as one from the beginning.

Including digital features in publishing is nothing new, but there is still a certain reservation in parts of the industry. Telling a story that captures the reader and gives him or her a chance to get involved is a challenging task for today’s publishing world. It is a challenge that must be grasped from the outset. As Simon Appleby, Director of Bookswarm Ltd, stated in The Bookseller: “Too often, in publishing, digital product options are approached as an afterthought, tacked on to traditional business models.”

A comprehensive digital strategy can enable multiple opportunities in today’s fast paced online world. Regardless of how innovative and interactive publishers are in trying to tell their stories, they have to keep the audience – the market – in mind. Stories will always be told, the key is how to tell them in the right way.

Annemarie Leipe studied Booktrade and Publishing Management in Leipzig, Germany, before moving to Scotland where she is studying for her MSc Publishing degree at Edinburgh Napier University. As part of her studies, she has completed internships at Publishing Scotland and the Scottish Centre for the Book, and was involved in Merchiston Publishing’s live book projects – Ah Dinnae Ken and The Day Boy and the Night Girl – as the Marketing Manager.

This blog is part of a series of blogs written by publishing students.