audience

Crowd Sourced Franchise

I am a big fan of Franchise Fiction: Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate et al.  As a writers, I've dreamed about starting and running my own.  That is the financial goal of most creative folk: continuing characters and setting you love and an exploration of an idea to its fullest with a committed fan audience who really want to participate in the project.

If that is the dream, how can I (or any writer) make it into a reality?

Learning from the past

Franchises are accidents...

Damn!  With the exception of Babylon 5, I cannot think of a planned franchise that succeeded, and even Babylon 5 survived on a healthy dose of luck.

I wish I could pin point a formula to share (and follow), but there really doesn't seem to be one.  But I think that is a big part of the problem.  It puts the cart before the horse.  There is one really important question we have to ask before we can move forward:

How to define Success?

Franchises fall and collapse into themselves like dying stars long before anyone every gets to see them.  Most, especially the ones produced for film and television, suffer under the weight of unrealistic expectations.

When I say I want to have a successful franchise/series, I mean:

  1. I want it to support me
  1. I want to enjoy working in it
  1. I want readers/viewers to enjoy it
  1. I want readers/viewers to participate in it

It does not have to:

  • Make me rich
  • Be a bestseller
  • Be bigger/more popular than Series X
  • Please everyone

Realistic or Delusion?

That is the real question isn't it.  By now we have all heard the argument:

A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author - in other words, anyone producing works of art - needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.

A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can't wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans (Kevin Kelly).

Is that doable?  Yes, but there is one giant flaw with the model:

Producing Enough Purchasable Content

At dashPunk, we rely on advertising, affiliate links, donations and sales of my books to pay to keep the lights on.  I look at it this way:

  • Ads cover the cost of lurkers and folk who are too cash strapped to pay to products
  • Affiliate links bring in people who like the same things we do
  • My books sell to people who love my fiction
  • Donations are for the kindhearted folk who want to support the work we are doing

We don't rely on any one solution, but if I want to have a successful franchise, I have to produce enough content to support the salary I want to have.

I talk to a lot of writers who seem to think that making money is a form of magic.  They will sign a mystical contract, send their work out into the ether and have paychecks come in.  They get really frustrated when they learn the truth.

The problem is, I think a lot of media companies have the same idea.  They produced the show/movie/book/game and the money should magically appear.  It may have worked like that once upon a time, but those days are dead and gone.

Content creators need to learn how to be fans of their own work and involve their fans in their projects.

To Crowd Source?

This the beauty of the Creative Commons license to me.  I want my fans to know they have the right to play in my settings and with my characters, but there needs to be an easy way to bring fanac into canon.

I've been working on a new setting for some time now, and I plan to build a site for it and involve my readers in the process.  I am not sure exactly how I am going to do this, but I would love your input.  Comments and ratings will be a part of it, but I am not sure if that should be all.  I want more interaction.

If we creatives are going to have a future, we have to learn how to move forward with our projects in a way that will involve or fans.  We go forward in community, or not at all.

To Wainscot or Not to Wainscot, that is the question

To Wainscot or not to Wainscot– that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the tale to create

The beings and world out of nothing but my page,

Or to take with some of its history

And, creatively change them. To write, to make...

Ok, that's enough at that, but as a genre writer, it is a question that crops up from time to time, and when it does, oy, what a headache.

If you don't know what wainscoting is, it is creating a paneled off world within our real world.  Think Harry Potter, or Bleach, or

  • Charmed
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Dead like Me
  • Dollhouse
  • Percy Jackson series
  • Stargate SG-1
  • Stargate Atlantis
  • Stargate Universe
  • Underworld movies

I think you get the idea.  The basic idea is that in a Wainscot story there is a secret world which is kept from the eyes of the average person.

When you are writing a sci-fi or fantasy world you have the choice between a wainscot world and a secondary or new world.  The decision is not always as easy or clear-cut.

Could Lord of the Rings take place in a wainscot world?  Yes, it honestly could.  The only part of the story that would be changed is that the story would no longer be a prehistory, unless it was set early in Earth's history.  Honestly, if you set the story during the time of Rome, and made Mount Doom into Mt Vesuvius, then the story would be just as poignant.

So why Wainscot?

Honestly, the only reason to choose a Wainscot world over an Invented world is control.

When you create a new world/cosmos, you have total control over every aspect of the world.  You get to decide what is and isn't natural, as well as extremely precise control over the cultures and histories of the people who populate your world.

A Wainscot is helpful when you want to call up cultural, ethnic, or historical references.

Why is Harry Potter a wainscot?

  1. It is easier to understand quidditch when you can reference soccer.
  1. Rowling didn't have to explain wizarding education or politics, because she could reference its British equivalence.
  1. It was easier to hide Harry outside the Wainscot than within it.

Think about it: Terry Goodkind had to put up a magical barrier in his world to hide Richard.  That is a lot more work than dropping him off with a group of muggles.

So which is better?

It depends on your audience.  Genre readers are used to flipping back and forth from between fantastical worlds, but the average reader is not.  If you look at the best sellers charts (granted they have their own problems), you will see that most of the best seller are Wainscots.

I might be suffering from a perception filter, but it really does seem that way.  Just because it is easier to mainstream a wainscot world than an invented world is not a great reason to choose to write one, but it is something to consider?

Do you have any thoughts?  Questions? Comments about wainscot stories?  If so, leave me a comment, and I will do my best to answer them.

Micro-Magazines: Future or Fad of Media

An on-demand book printer at the Internet Arch... Image via Wikipedia

Seth Godin (among others) proposes that Micro-magazines are the Future of Media.  He defines a Micro-magazine as:

  • Being digital (probably a PDF), that's free to 'print', fast to make and easy to share. (Newsweek spends seventeen million dollars a year on paper.)
  • Having subscribers, either by email or RSS
  • Focused on issues that appeal to some, but not all
  • Having a very specific audience (call it a tribe)
  • Enabling that tribe to connect by sharing the ideas in the magazine among them, as well as supporting it with a forum or blog
  • Containing ads that are relevant to that audience
  • Being longer than 140 characters or even a blog post, so significant ideas can be exposed in detail (Seth Godin)

This is not a new idea, it is an old one. So let's start by calling them what they are.  Every time I see the word Micro-Magazine I really want to say Micromachines and John Moschitta, Jr.  I feel like I need to start talking as fast as I possibly can.  What we are really talking about are Zines: Extremely focused magazines made by people you have a strong interest in the subject for people with a strong interest in the subject.

I know some people won't like my use of Zine here.  To them, they think of poorly photocopied, saddle-stitched pamphlets someone cooked up in their mother's basement.  I think of the periodicals I always loved to read, and looked forward to more than any other.  To each their own, but we cannot have this discussion unless we are honest with ourselves.  What we are really talking about is the professionalizing of Zine publication.  Low cost, quality content for a focused audience.

That said, let's look at each of Seth's points individually:

Being digital

Agreed.  Future of media is digital publishing.

File Format

I call upon all Gods and Devils to prevent the PDF from being the format of the future!

The format of the future is going to be variable.  It needs to be available on the web, as a download, as an app for our favorite mobile device, and print on demand.  It needs to be available in every format a reader may want to read it in.  Conversly, there needs to be a singular tool for the publisher to post once and have the content appear every where.

Sharing

The format need to be easy to share.  One button click to all our favorite networks, to email, and to print.  How ever the reader wants to share it, out it goes.

Subscriptions

Why do podcasts work?  1 click subscriptions.

The platform will need to have the ability to allow the reader to subscribe in the manner of their choosing in one click and to have the content auto-delivered.  Email and RSS already exist, it is possible though not easy to make a mobile app, but it also needs to be added automatically to our Kindles, iBook shelf, or to be mailed via a print on demand.  Options are the solution.

Focused Content

The content needs to be focused.  That is why we offer the new minisites on dashPunk so people who are only interested in a particular subject can find that content easier.

The days of Mass Media are for the most part over.  The long term future in in producing content that will appeal to a niche audience and evangelizing for the importance of niche to bring more people in.

A Tribe of its own

Some topics appeal to a lot of people, others don't.  The trick is to find a way to get your tribe to support the Zine no matter the size.

It is also important to let your tribe talk to itself.  The more people involved the stronger the Zine will be for it.

Monetization

Awwwww, I said a dirty word.

I would really like to be a utopian, but everything costs money, and thus has to make money to succeed.  It is a hard truth to face, but that's the deal.  If I want to give my content away for free, I have to sell ads to cover the cost, and hope that my readers will support my sponsors and affiliates, shop in my Amazon Stores, and buy my books.

I know that this is a great place to link out to these thinks, but I feel like that would violate my contract with my readers.  I am not posting to advertise the ways I make money, but to share thoughts I find interesting.  I know I can tell went someone is pushing a sale and I think you all can to.  That is a lesson I think more writers need to learn.

Content Collection and Exploring Ideas

This is the Holy Grail.

  • The Problem: (Content) longer than 140 characters or even a blog post, so significant ideas can be exposed in detail
  • The Solution: The Link.

Hypertext does this really well.  The MMO Aoin does this very well in that all Mission text is linked to dictionary articles, which link to the game's UI.  I never leave the game to find out more information.  I can easily surface this information if I want to, but it doesn't clutter the game if I am not interested.

Google Living Stories is an interesting model for this, but it is not polished enough to be useful yet, but it is movement in the right direction.

Scribd has also delivers some of these features, but in isolation of any of the other content.

My Dream WordPress Project

Everyone has their favorite Open Source project.  Mine is WordPress.  I would love to see a BuddyPress scale open source project to bring these features into WordPress in a way that is simple and easy to use.  If there are any developers out there interested in starting this project.  I will set up a site and start gathering resources for it.

We can build a better media for the future, we just need to put our heads together and make it happen.

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Free Ebooks boost Sales, but How?

Random House, Inc.
Image via Wikipedia

Victoria found this interesting Fact about giving away a free eBook of your novel.

... a doctoral student, John Hilton, is collecting data on the sales impact of ebook giveaways...

...While four of the five Random House books Hilton identified showed an uptick in sales post-e-version, 20 of 24 Tor titles showed a decrease. Why the difference? "One possible explanation is that by making the free books available for only one week a different dynamic was present [for Tor] than when the books were made permanently available [by Random House]," Hilton says. "The opportunity for word-of-mouth to spread about the free book may have been significantly diminished in the model used by Tor (Writer Beware Blogs!)."

Permanently Free= Word of Mouth

The study is finished but the difference between permanently giving away a free eBook increases sales while a limited time free eBook didn't.  The trick to building any audience or community is word of mouth.  My question is, how much do you giveaway?  I am not talking about whether or not to give away the whole book or just a sample, I am more interested in when is a good time to start giving away the book.

Writing in public

I have been toying around with the idea of writing a book in public.  I am in the process of developing a new novel, and I have been thinking about making the development and the writing public.  The question for me is how.  I can see a couple options:

  1. Set up a free blog and allow anyone to read and comment on the ideas, outlines and drafts.
  2. Set up a paid blog and allow anyone who preorders the book to read and comment on the ideas, outlines and drafts.

I like the second model best because it would weed out people who do not like my work at all, and it would allow my fans to be a part of the the writing process.  I do not usually release hardcovers, so maybe I could make a signed hard cover the preorder book.  Maybe I could even set up a gold membership that would offer an exclusive copy of the prewriting in print too.

What do you think?

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Free Ebooks boost Sales, but How?

Random House, Inc.
Image via Wikipedia

Victoria found this interesting Fact about giving away a free eBook of your novel.

... a doctoral student, John Hilton, is collecting data on the sales impact of ebook giveaways...

...While four of the five Random House books Hilton identified showed an uptick in sales post-e-version, 20 of 24 Tor titles showed a decrease. Why the difference? "One possible explanation is that by making the free books available for only one week a different dynamic was present [for Tor] than when the books were made permanently available [by Random House]," Hilton says. "The opportunity for word-of-mouth to spread about the free book may have been significantly diminished in the model used by Tor (Writer Beware Blogs!)."

Permanently Free= Word of Mouth

The study is finished but the difference between permanently giving away a free eBook increases sales while a limited time free eBook didn't.  The trick to building any audience or community is word of mouth.  My question is, how much do you giveaway?  I am not talking about whether or not to give away the whole book or just a sample, I am more interested in when is a good time to start giving away the book.

Writing in public

I have been toying around with the idea of writing a book in public.  I am in the process of developing a new novel, and I have been thinking about making the development and the writing public.  The question for me is how.  I can see a couple options:

  1. Set up a free blog and allow anyone to read and comment on the ideas, outlines and drafts.
  2. Set up a paid blog and allow anyone who preorders the book to read and comment on the ideas, outlines and drafts.

I like the second model best because it would weed out people who do not like my work at all, and it would allow my fans to be a part of the the writing process.  I do not usually release hardcovers, so maybe I could make a signed hard cover the preorder book.  Maybe I could even set up a gold membership that would offer an exclusive copy of the prewriting in print too.

What do you think?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

No one writes alone

I need some book recommendations.
Image by classicrockrox via Flickr

I have a lot in common with David Halpert over at Scifi Watch.

I have always been a writer too.  For me, It started when I was a kid watching He-man and the Transformers.  I started writing and drawing my own comics.

I fell in love with books when my sister bought me the works of Edgar Allen Poe and Mark Twain.  I started telling stories for my AD&D club, and my preferences were always Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance.

I never thought about writing a book before I read Dragon Singer by Anne McCaffrey.  That book changed the way I saw novels.

The Internet changed my writing

Before I wrote Liquid Sky, I agreed with David:

Realistically I’m all alone when it comes to achieving my goals of getting published (and hopefully to one day write full-time) [SciFi Watch].

Now, I see the error in that way of thinking.  I am not alone in my writing goals.  I have my readers, friends, and fans to help me get where I want to go.

It depends on your goals

If your goal is to garner the approval of publisher so a corporation will pat you on the head and say, "Good job." at least once, then this system might not work for you.  But if your like me, with a compulsion to write and a desire to get your stories out for others to read in the hopes that it will become a full time career, then give it a try.

Writing and fandom...

are forever connected one with the other.

If you have a story to tell:

  • write it
  • edit it
  • polish it
  • share it for the world to read
  • connect with your readers
  • grow your readership
  • hone your writing
  • repeat

You are not alone in your writing.  Today, there is a cloud of readers who can and will help you build and audience and support your work.

Never believe that you are alone.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

No one writes alone

I need some book recommendations.
Image by classicrockrox via Flickr

I have a lot in common with David Halpert over at Scifi Watch.

I have always been a writer too.  For me, It started when I was a kid watching He-man and the Transformers.  I started writing and drawing my own comics.

I fell in love with books when my sister bought me the works of Edgar Allen Poe and Mark Twain.  I started telling stories for my AD&D club, and my preferences were always Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance.

I never thought about writing a book before I read Dragon Singer by Anne McCaffrey.  That book changed the way I saw novels.

The Internet changed my writing

Before I wrote Liquid Sky, I agreed with David:

Realistically I’m all alone when it comes to achieving my goals of getting published (and hopefully to one day write full-time) [SciFi Watch].

Now, I see the error in that way of thinking.  I am not alone in my writing goals.  I have my readers, friends, and fans to help me get where I want to go.

It depends on your goals

If your goal is to garner the approval of publisher so a corporation will pat you on the head and say, "Good job." at least once, then this system might not work for you.  But if your like me, with a compulsion to write and a desire to get your stories out for others to read in the hopes that it will become a full time career, then give it a try.

Writing and fandom...

are forever connected one with the other.

If you have a story to tell:

  • write it
  • edit it
  • polish it
  • share it for the world to read
  • connect with your readers
  • grow your readership
  • hone your writing
  • repeat

You are not alone in your writing.  Today, there is a cloud of readers who can and will help you build and audience and support your work.

Never believe that you are alone.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]