The Next Big Thing in Children’s Storytelling

The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing is a chain of linked blogs, which is going viral. It includes some interesting Australian contributors talking about their forthcoming projects, while answering the same interview questions. Their responses link back to those who invited them and go live on specific dates a week later. Then each uses their social media connections and tweet or Facebook the others’ work.

The Next Big Thing is an innovative way of drawing attention to new books and associated media.

1) What is the working title of your next book?

I’ve got 3 interactive apps being produced in 2013 with developers, Flying Books (Israel). The titles are:

Shape Explorers

A Rainbow Surprise

A Race Against Time

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

These are education apps for littlies ages 2 – 5 years. I heard via Karen Robertson (digital children’s author) that Flying Books were looking for writers, so I approached them.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Interactive education storytelling.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

There are far too many characters in these apps to choose from, ranging from a robot, to children, to a rocket!

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

These are education apps that use an interactive story to explain the concepts of colours, shapes, and reading time to children 2 – 5 years.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

The Publisher, or Developer, is Flying Books (Israel). www.flyingbooks.me

Description ‘Great Books for Great Kids!’

Download: http://bit.ly/flyingbooks
QR Scan: http://bit.ly/flyingbooks.qrcode
Twitter: https://twitter.com/FlyingBooksApp
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/flyingbooks/

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Writing for interaction in education apps has been a steep learning curve for me. I have had to learn to write for animation, songs, sound effects, and child involvement using interactive activities as well as hand movements such as dragging, dropping, sliding etc. Fortunately, the manuscripts for these apps were written as part of my May Gibbs Fellowship, where I was able to spend one month full-time in Adelaide dedicated to writing.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

There are many education apps in the market, however Flying Books are taking a new approach of using ‘Story’ to drive all their education apps. As a children’s storyteller, this is where I came in.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I am a futurist when it comes to storytelling and have already published an interactive multiplatform novel this year, Kiss Kill (Really Blue Books 2012). Writing apps is a natural progression to my career in the digital story world.

Amazon http://t.co/h3XUTe5t

publishing@reallybluebooks.com

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

As well as a great story to read, children can learn by singing along with songs, recording themselves reading, listening to reading, interacting with the story to drive the narrative and watching the reading come to life with animation and sound effects.

The wonderful children’s authors I’d like to promote include the following:

Aleesah Darlison
www.aleesahdarlison.com/

Hazel Edwards
www.hazeledwards.com/
http://www.hazeledwards.com/page/f2mthe_boy_within.html

Karen Robertson
http://treasurekai.com
www.digitalkidsauthor.com

Moya Simons
www.moyasimons.com/

May Gibbs Fellowship Adelaide 2012 Part 1

I have been in the beautiful city of Adelaide for the first half of a one month literary fellowship. The members of the board of the May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust have gone above and beyond to welcome and support me. Thank you!

I arrived in Adelaide somewhat shaken as the day before my departure an unknown man in the street had held a dog’s choker chain up to my face telling me he’d like to strangle me to death. This happened one block from my home and has left one legacy that I won’t walk the streets of Adelaide at night.

After living in a household of 6 -7 people, two dogs, and with ailing parents up the road, living alone has been a novelty. I’m not sure if it’s how I’d chose to live long term, but for this brief short moment I’m reveling in it. I can’t remember the last time I could do what I wanted, when I wanted, however I wanted, for such a sustained period of time.

On the first night here I made a Wish List and am delighted to have ticked all the boxes. In two short weeks this is what I’ve achieved:

1) Five days as Author-in-Residence at Scotch College.

2) Read 4 YA novels as part of my judging duties for the NSW Premier’s Literature Award.

3) Researched how to write children’s Apps.

4) Wrote and re-drafted two Apps. Working titles ‘The Rainbow Surprise’ and ‘Shape Explorers’.

5) Researched Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

6) Wrote the introduction for a longform non-fiction piece on NPD for an upper young adult audience.

7) Attended AVCON – Adelaide Anime and Video Games Conference.

8) Visited the museum to view The Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize.

9) Wandered the Botanical Gardens.

10) Met the delightful author and librarian, Sascha Hutchinson, of Unley Library.

11) Given a brief driving tour of the city by Mary Wilson and her lovely husband.

12) Discussed children’s literature with Elizabeth Hutchins.

13) Had several discussions with the lovely and talented performer and May Gibbs organisor, Sally Chance.

14) Went for a brisk walk every day.

Needless to say, I’m delighted with the fellowship so far and eagerly await, Part 2 when I return in September!

SCBWI Conference Sydney 2012: “Going Digital”

On Saturday 30 June 2012, SCBWI Sydney combined with the NSW Writer’s Centre for the Children’s and Young Adults Literature Conference. I was fortunate to be on a panel for ‘Going Digital’ with esteemed book creators Hazel Edwards, Pamela Rushby, and Lesley Vamos (Chair Chris Cheng) and am sharing my talk fyi.

I’d like to start my talk with two quotes from ‘The Story of a Transmedia Revolution’ by Peter Usagi:

“It might seem like a trivial thing, but imagine if you could remember the exact moment mankind learned to use fire as a tool, or how to farm, or how to surf the net on the world’s first web browser? Imagine if you could remember where you were, and what you were doing, when a major cultural revolution happened? News flash: it already has…”

“It isn’t often that you get the chance to be on the ground floor of history as it happens. Stop, and bookmark this moment in your life.”

http://www.modernmythology.net/2012/02/story-of-transmedia-revolution-part-1.html

Recently, I was in the supermarket when a small baby, about 6 mths, started to cry. In my day you’d pull out your car keys and jiggle them in front of the baby’s face. Today, that baby was glued to an iPhone screen.

Going digital isn’t a choice.

And the wonderful thing about storytelling in this digital age is that it includes hypertext, multimedia, immersive, interactive, non-linear narrative. In the past stories were produced and distributed by the cartels such as music labels, movie studios, television stations and publishing houses. Audiences consumed them through radio, cinema, TV and books.

Good stories were successful because they were shared. Today’s world audience of almost seven trillion people do not just want to consume content, they want to control and create content as well as share content. What we’re seeing is the emergence of a cross-pollinating, multi-media and self-sustaining world of storytelling.

In the past a vast chasm separated the author from the audience. Thanks to social media like Facebook, blogs, and twitter that chasm is not only shrinking, it’s disappearing altogether so that we’re seeing digital platforms with high levels of collaboration between content creators, and content consumers.

The lines between writer, publisher and bookseller or retailer, are blurring. Apple’s latest iBooks Author will explode storytelling in the digital revolution.

What is Transmedia Storytelling?

Telling a single, highly fragmented story across multiple platforms. These are often digital as seen with social media.
Transmedia storytelling includes audience participation, decision-making and collaboration. It involves play and performance as well.

As a transmedia storyteller for Kiss Kill my brief has broadened considerably so that now I must also be involved in:
– Audience creation with the goal of building a fan base. The world created is a character world, Mat’s world.
– Online engagement (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Blog) @Mawter, @KissKillDigital, www.jenimawter.com,
– Brand building as ‘Jeni Mawter: Digital Storyteller”
– Connecting fictional characters with my brand – Mat blogs daily at
http://www.whyidon’tgetgirls.com/
– Deepening my audience’s emotional engagement (blog followers, co-creators, spaces to comment, Like, re-Pin etc)
– Providing many entry points into the story through multiple texts. Prose is combined with scripts, songs, notes, poems, comics, essays, texting, photos, etc.
– Inspiring community creation
Scene How Do You Define a Man? filmed by young film maker and actors from Australian Theatre for Young People http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scrdqYyXMF0&feature=colike
Song created for lyrics ‘Thought I Knew You’ and recorded as Gonna Show You
gonna show you 5:27 Adam Fitzgerald Adam Fitzgerald’s Album
– Leveraging a community of creators around the brand such as musicians, actors and friends (YouTube, iTunes, young adult reviewers) despite a zero budget.
Example: Book Probe (Reviews) “This is awesome Jeni. I really like how the character comes through and you get a real feel for his predicament.” 2/4/12
– ongoing commitment to a story in evolution
– educating traditional story-tellers into new ways of telling
– educating the educators about the changing face of story
– upgrading technological skills and knowledge on a daily basis
– staying at the forefront of transmedia developments
– trying to belong to some sort of story-telling community but not knowing where I belong
– marketing, marketing, marketing
– moving into a world traditionally involving big entertainment creators such as television (BBC Sherlock series, Nike promotion); gaming (Perplex City) or theatre (Clockwork Monkey)
– exploring new income generating systems such as Kickstarter, Indigogo and Pozible (Australia) instead of Advances and Royalties
– Writing as auteur, rather than author
– Writing non-linear narrative
– Finding or forging new pathways for digital reviewing, selling, publicity, competitions etc
– Joining organisations such as WEGO which focuses on Health and Technology
– Supporting youth mental health

Transmedia Toe-dipping: Kiss Kill by Jeni Mawter in Viewpoint magazine Vol 20 No 2, 2012, Pp. 20-21

How do you man up when you’re down? When 16 year old Mat meets Elle she seems perfect. But over time Elle becomes more controlling and aggressive. Feeling like no one will believe him Mat isolates himself more and more. Their relationship fragments then explodes.

Stories are shaped to fit their form. The oral narratives of the past included epics, sagas, lyric poems, ritual songs, genealogies and panegyrics (praise poems) which were modified to suit a particular audience or occasion, and were often told with an intention to recycle knowledge back to the listener. With the development of writing and printing, story structures changed and moved from an oral-aural-sensory focus to a visual focus. With print, “words became things” that could be arranged on a page (Ong 1988, p. 118). With print, story closure was encouraged, a finality not seen in the oral tradition.

Today we are in the midst of another technology explosion so that once again, stories can change. I seek to take storytelling into the future. As a futurist I am inspired by the views of Brian O’Leary and Hugh McGuire in their book A Futurist’s Manifesto (2012), and by Mark Pesce who I first heard speak at the Sydney Writer’s Festival in 2010. In terms of transmedia storytelling, inspiration comes from Frank Rose’s The Art of Immersion (2011), and by transmedia storytellers such as Jennifer Wilson, Jeff Gomez, Carlo Scolari, Brian Clark, Lina Srivastava, Simon Pulman, Rob Prattan, Andrea Phillips, Scott Walker, April Arrglington, Alison Norrington, Lance Weiler as well as Australia’s own Dr Christy Dena and Gary P. Hayes.

David Varela has stated that “the medium carries a lot of the story’s power” (personal author notes, 2011). The Kiss Kill story is about a disintegrating and explosive relationship. In these fragments lies its power, with multiple texts and transmedia giving the fragments form. Varela’s comments confirmed what I had already been experimenting with. I combined prose with other narratives such as scripts, songs, notes, poems, comics, essays, texting, photos and more. Transmedia was used through blogs, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.
What is Transmedia storytelling?

Definitions of transmedia storytelling differ but Simon Staffans says that transmedia ‘is telling stories over a number of media platforms, stories that are connected to a higher or lesser degree, but always connected and rooted in a common story world’ (2011, p 6). For Kiss Kill, Mat’s world is the story world.

Not only can readers interact with the story, in transmedia they can also participate in the story. Henry Jenkins (2003) makes this distinction between interactivity and participation:
“interactivity” refers to “preprogramed entertainment experiences” and “participation” to “tak[ing] the resources offered by a text and push[ing] it in a range of directions which are neither preprogrammed nor authorized by the producers.” So, to put it simple, interactivity gives the users a pre-set choice (ending a, b, or c; should the character do this or that next) while participation has users ‘do their own thing’ with the existing content – expanding it, altering it, continuing it, etc

Kiss Kill was written with no order. Mark Twain said that, “Ideally a book would have no order to it, and the reader would have to discover his own.” This appealed to me. Ideas appeared organically, were researched, created, randomly collated, and only after these processes did the novel take form. Mat’s story is a story of a boy who triumphs over a relationship with his abusive narcissistic girlfriend. The potential of Narcissism to destroy relationships (friends, family and communities) is explored, but Kiss Kill takes the traditional abuse story and inverts it so that young males can also be victims of relationship and emotional abuse, or bullying. With a rise in the incidence of Narcissism (Twenge and Campbell 2009, Twenge 2010) Kiss Kill is a modern cautionary tale. Despite the subject matter Kiss Kill is humorous and heart-warming, ending with optimism. However, out of concern for my readers I can direct those in need to organisations such as “Headspace, Australia’s National Youth Mental Health Foundation” and “Mensline Australia”.

Traditional storytelling involved ‘Listen, why I tell you a story.’ Transmedia storytelling changes this to ‘Let’s tell a story together’. Young adults (teens to twentysomethings) are adept at reading multi-platform narratives. They are used to reading non-linearly and they are used to interacting with narrative through sharing (social media) and co-creation. Mash-ups are a popular example of co-creation. Kiss Kill consciously provides multiple openings into the story for co-creation and the multiple platforms allow for engagement and participation. Readers can engage with me as the author on my blog (www.jenimawter.com), or Mat the character on his blog http://www.whyidontgetgirls.com/. Facebook, Twitter (@mawter @kisskilldigital) and Pinterest are also used for sharing the story experience. Kiss Kill readers share their creations on Mat’s blog. They have created music and recorded their own versions of ‘Thought I Knew’ as well as made a YouTube for the haunting scene ‘How Do You Define a Man?’ Individual as well as community creation is encouraged so that this story can continually evolve.

As a writer I am aware that today’s young adult readers want convenience and connection. They want characters with emotional appeal, relevant to their own social networks, and about whom they care. Issues such as relationships, bullying and depression are relevant to them. In this way I targeted my reader and was actively involved in creating my audience. My ultimate goal is to build Mat’s fan base. The inclusion of the character blog deepens the audience’s emotional engagement as well as connects the character with my author brand. It inspires community comment, sharing and creation. Kiss Kill went on to leverage a community of creators, such as musicians and actors who produced the iTunes and YouTubes, and YA bloggers who wrote reviews.

Transmedia is not a new form of storytelling. However, it usually involves large entertainment corporations with big budgets such as television (BBC Sherlock series, Nike promotion); film (Breathe by Yomi Ayeni); alternate reality gaming (Perplex City) or live action theatre (Clockwork Monkey). In terms of children’s stories David Levithan’s “39 Clues” (Scholastic USA) was one of the first multiplatform stories published for children, but again with a sizable allocated budget. To the best of my knowledge Kiss Kill is one of the first transmedia young adult novels published. It is published for a global market, by a small publisher, on a minimal budget.

As a solitary writer I needed to educate myself on: multiple platform storytelling; writing non-linear narrative; and technology developments that seem to change daily. Instead of a steep learning curve, I am on a trajectory. Traditional publishing is yet to embrace transmedia storytelling so I was delighted when Sarah Bailey launched her ePublishing house “Really Blue Books” and rose to the challenge of transmedia. Every step of the journey has involved forging new pathways. Traditional processes in publication, distribution, sales, reviewing, publicity, and competitions are not applicable. These words of another storytelling futurist could well be my own:
I soon discovered that innovation is a messy business filled with long stretches of doubt, countless false starts, and a constant black cloud of indecision. There was no road map to follow, no guarantee that a story told this way would result in anything more than a pile of broken parts, (Patrick Carman, 2011).

Australia does not yet have a huge transmedia community. Last year I was fortunate to attend a conference on Creativity and Technology in New York and to speak with Bob Stein from if:book New York. Through social media I can communicate with transmedia storytellers globally. Online groups such as Digital Story World, Tools of Change, Transmedia LA, as well as bloggers and transmedia storytellers keep me up-to-date with the latest developments. Last year I attended the if:book non-conference in Melbourne and was fortunate to meet with Dr Christy Dena. Australia’s App developer Karen Robertson (Treasure Kai) has been both an inspiration and support.

Finally, I must make the point that not all stories are suited to transmedia. There will always be a place for traditional narrative. However, it is my belief that through daily digital technology developments Kiss Kill barely scratches the surface of possibility. It is exciting to explore new territories such as alternative income generating systems like crowdsourcing through Kickstarter, Indigogo and Pozible (Australia) instead of Advances and Royalties.

Where to from here? Who knows! I’m writing my future history in the ‘now’.

References
Carman, Patrick “Read Beyond the Lines: Transmedia has changed the very notion of books and reading” in http://www.thedigitalshift.com/2011/11/transliteracy/transmedia-and-its-multiplatform-brethren-has-changed-the-very-notion-of-books-and-reading/ November 4, 2011

Jenkins, Henry “Transmedia Storytelling: Moving characters from books to films to video games can make them stronger and more compelling” in http://www.technologyreview.com/biomedicine/13052/page3/ published by MIT /January 15, 2003

O’Leary, Brian and McGuire, Hugh A Futurist’s Manifesto: A Collection of Essays from the Bleeding Edge of Publishing, O’Reilly Media Publisher (2012)

Staffans, Simon One Year in Transmedia Storytelling 2nd Ed Blog posts are extracts from the blog SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS at http://muchtoolong.blogspot.com

Twain, Mark (n.d.) BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved March 27, 2012, from BrainyQuote.com Web site: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mark_twain.html

Twenge, Jean M “The Narcissism Epidemic” in Psychology Today, May 12, 2010

Twenge, Jean M. & Campbell, W. Keith The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. (2009)

Ong, Walter J Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word, New Accents. Ed., Terence Hawkes, New York: Methuen, 1988

David Varela, Digital Storytelling: Seminar organised by the Australian Society of Authors, Sydney 2011.

Books that have a Transmedia Component

For the upcoming SCBWI Conference Sydney 2012 I will be speaking on a panel, ‘Going Digital’.

I have put together a preliminary list of published books with Transmedia Elements as follows:

1) MARK Z. DANIELEWSKI: HOUSE OF LEAVES House of Leaves (2000)
One of the pioneering cross-platform books from 2000. Portions of the manuscript were available on various sites around the Web, hyperlinked to one another. The author’s sister, the singer/songwriter Poe, recorded the album Haunted as an extension of the novel, featuring tracks like “House of Leaves”, “Exploration B” and “5&½ Minute Hallway.”

2) SEAN STEWART & JORDAN WEISMAN, CATHY’S BOOK: IF FOUND CALL (650) 266-8233 (2006).
October 2006, Running Press Kids, an imprint of Perseus Books, published the novel Cathy’s Book: If Found Call 650-266-8233, written by co-authors Jordan Weisman and Sean Stewart.

3) RICK RIORDAN, THE 39 CLUES: THE MAZE OF BONES (2008).
Scholastic’s The 39 Clues. Rick Riordan, the author of the first book in the series, created an outline for the overarching story over the course of the books to guide subsequent work-for-hire authors including Gordan Korman, Peter Lerangis, and Jude Watson.

4) J.C. HUTCHINS & JORDAN WEISMAN, PERSONAL EFFECTS: DARK ART (2009).

5) PATRICK CARMAN, SKELETON CREEK: RYAN’S JOURNAL (2009) [hereinafter SKELETON CREEK].
Patrick Carman’s work on the Skeleton Creek transmedia novel series represents another model for transmedia publishing being part book, part online video series.

6) ANTHONY E. ZUIKER & DUANE SWIERCZYNSKI, LEVEL 26: DARK ORIGINS (2009).

7) SPARROW HALL: TWO BLUE WOLVES and NIGHTWORK (2011) Paperback with Digital Download
Expanding the book experience by having the story unfold across multiple mediums, through various perspectives. The two short stories include music, video, art, live performance, and web-specific content developed by a cadre of artists from around the world.

8) AMANDA HARVARD: THE SURVIVORS – IMMERSEDITION (2011)
An interactive e-book that allows readers to dive deeper into the history and mythology of the story world. The book includes a soundtrack of thematic songs curated around the story.

9) JENI MAWTER: KISS KILL (Really Blue Books, 2012)
Young Adult novel told with multiple text-types and encourages audience interaction with author and character via blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Audience co-creation seen on iTunes, YouTube and digital artwork.

10) MAX GIOVAGNOLI: THE SECRET MESSAGE OF FALLING STARS (Anagramma, 2012)
Max Giovagnoli has recently published his novel “The Secret Message of Falling Stars” which is soft fantasy about parallel worlds, which uses complimentary iPad and iPhone apps to track characters through two alternate realities.

11) J.K. ROWLING: WONDERBOOK – BOOK OF SPELLS (2012)
J.K. Rowling’s ‘Book of Spells’ aims to bring a magical book to life on the PlayStation 3 via augmented reality.

Many Stories Matter: A Cautionary Tale about the “telling of the single story”

The Danger of the Single Story, by Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie

Today I listened to Nigerian author, Chimamanda Adichie, caution others about the dangers of telling a single story. For Chimamanda Adichie, the danger of telling single story about a place called ‘Africa’ is that the single story becomes the definitive story for all the people of Africa. The danger is that different versions of the single story are told over and over again, so that the single story creates a stereotype of all Africans. This stereotype, whilst not untrue, is also not complete.

Chimamanda Adichie cautions that the single story is given greater power than any other story and by telling only this story, many voices with different stories are silenced. She feels that the single story of Africa comes from Western Literature, which whilst well-meaning, is also patronising and misguiding. What is needed is for Westerners to reject the single story and embrace the concept that many stories matter.

Writer Survival Tips for the 21st Century

It is becoming increasingly apparent that Author Survival in the new age of digital book publishing requires the development of new skill sets. No longer is it enough to have written a fantastic book and to put it in the hands of a publishing company.

Authors must not only be pro-active in all facets of the book, from writing to promotion to sales, they now must build an authority brand that is both visible and credible. Writer survival depends on knowledge, adaptability, flexibility, and a futuristic vision.

Self-Publishers Online Conference 8 – 10 May 2012

The SPOC 2012 conference was developed by Susan Daffron and James Byrd, owners of Logical Expressions, Inc, and is well worth a visit. Knowledge acquired will give you choices, even if you have no intention to self-publish. A few key Author survival tips are summarised as follows:

1) Writers must now be closer to their buyers and look at readers as customers, not just consumers. As such they will need to engage with their consumers via social networking, Review systems, forums, blogs etc.

2) Books are created to entertain, inform and to educate. Know exactly what your readers seek (expectations, habits), where they can be found, what makes financial sense for them, what value/benefits they get from your book, etc.

3) Build your Authority. For example, on writing, publishing, issues. Readers want to know/like/trust you. Realise that there is a non-monetary currency based on reputation. Compile lists of reviews, testimonials, endorsements.

4) Embrace new technologies.

5) Recognise that the digital world has created a ‘Long Tail’ for books.

6) Build your author brand in terms of both visibility and credibility. This will create multiple streams of income via royalties, consulting, speaking, coaching, plus teaching fees.

7) Learn effective book promotion strategies used for web sites, media releases, Amazon, search engine optimisation, virtual tours, email marketing, Facebook Fan Pages etc.

8) Look at multiple platforms but focus on specific ones that will work for you and for your target audience. Things to consider are Tweet Chats, YouTube, podcasts etc.

Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century (2nd Ed)

Written by John B. Thompson
Published by Polity Press, Cambridge

I have just read John Thompson’s review of the publishing industry world-wide and gained so much insight into an industry facing its greatest challenges since Gutenberg. Thompson examines economic and technological changes that are challenging those in publishing today as they move into the digital age. He dissects the roles of publishers, agents and booksellers and explains how their practises have shaped the industry as we find it today.

The economic recession and technological revolution have had a significant impact on trade publishing. Hard-copy sales have slumped and ebooks are expanding. Top-line revenue is in free-fall for the big publishing companies and their focus has had to change from a growth orientation to one of increasing efficiencies. The result has been cost-cutting through reorganisation or closure of divisions, freezing salaries, shedding positions,, slashed marketing budgets, consolidation in office space and cutting travel and entertainment expenses. Publishers now focus on the ‘big books’, those that they gamble to be bestsellers in what is known as ‘Extreme Publishing’. In an industry that demands profit and growth this is the only way to inject cash into their businesses. In the past, publishers grew by buying out other publishers to build their profitability. Today, this is no longer possible.

Thompson cautions that this approach has led to a decline in diversity in publishing output so that we are seeing homogenisation on content and an impoverishing of the culture of the book. Large publishing houses want ‘big book’s that are commercial, with celebrity and entertainment tie-ins which means that there is less room for literary fiction and serious non-fiction.

For authors, competitive auctions are diminishing, low or no advances are being paid, and higher royalties are only seen with ebooks. Agents are focussing on A-list authors, younger authors, and assertive, ambitious authors who aggressively build and promote their brands in the marketplace. Many authors are in a vicious down-hill sales spiral. They have been forced to turn to teaching would-be writers for their income. As sales fall agents and publishers decline their next book and they are in a sales history trap. Thompson notes that options are few and industry support is minimal. Some authors will find success with smaller publishing houses, others will have to completely re-invent themselves, perhaps by changing their name, changing their focus from fiction to non-fiction or by changing their career focus to teaching. Others will pursue the new technologies, following the digital path with new digital publishers, Apps or publishing independently.

This book is a fascinating look at the publishing industry and one I would highly recommend.

My SCBWI Australia and NZ Conference Blog 2012

Session on “Going Digital”

Stories are shaped to fit their form. Traditionally storytelling involved, ‘Listen, while I tell you a story’. With the development of writing and printing, story structures changed and moved from their oral-aural-sensory focus to a visual focus. With print, “words became things” that could be arranged on a page. Unlike the oral tradition, these printed stories were now given closure. Today, we’re in the midst of a technology explosion so that once again, stories can change to fit their form. I seek to take storytelling into the future by using transmedia. ‘Listen, while I tell you a story,’ is now, ‘Let’s tell a story together’.

Transmedia involves telling stories over a number of media platforms, stories that are connected in a common story world. For my transmedia novel, Kiss Kill, my character Mat’s world is the story world. Mat’s story is a story of a boy who triumphs over a relationship with his abusive narcissistic girlfriend. It is about a disintegrating and fragmenting relationship. The story frame reflects this by combining prose with other narrative fragments such as scripts, songs, notes, poems, comics, essays, texting, photos and more. Transmedia is used through blogs, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

Young adults are adept at reading multi-platform narratives. They are used to reading non-linearly and they are used to interacting with narrative through sharing (social media) and co-creation (for example, mashups). Kiss Kill consciously provides multiple openings into the story for co-creation and the multiple platforms allow for engagement and participation. Readers can engage with me as the author on my blog (www.jenimawter.com), or Mat on his blog http://www.whyidontgetgirls.com. Facebook, Twitter (@mawter @kisskilldigital) and Pinterest are also used for sharing the story experience. Kiss Kill readers upload their creations on Mat’s blog. They have created artwork and music and recorded their own versions for my song lyrics ‘Thought I Knew’ as well as made a YouTube for the haunting scene ‘How Do You Define a Man?’ Individual as well as community creation is encouraged so that this story can continually evolve.

As a transmedia writer I need to educate myself on multiple platform storytelling, writing non-linear narrative and, technology developments that change daily. I am not just on a steep learning curve, I am on a trajectory. To the best of my knowledge Kiss Kill is one of the first transmedia young adult novels published for a global market by a small publisher, Really Blue Books, on a minimal budget.

Questions about Kiss Kill for Book Clubs, Educators and Readers

1. Kiss Kill is an ebook, so its format and content varies when compared to traditional hard copy books. How does it vary and why is the ebook format appropriate for Kiss Kill?

2. At the beginning of the ebook, Mat says that the new philosophy class is intended to teach the students “how to become better human beings”. Do Mat’s experiences make him a “better human being” and does the philosophy class help him achieve any insights into his “Self Concepts”?

3. Kiss Kill raises issues relating to abusive relationships. At what point do you think Mat realises that Elle has become his abuser? At what point does the reader realise this? Are these points the same for Mat and various readers? If not, why not?

4. Mat researches narcissism and comes to the conclusion that Elle is a narcissist. How does being able to give a label to her behaviour help him?

5. Online social media, such as facebook posts appear in the ebook. How does Elle’s ability to publicise her feelings online effect Mat’s feelings and how can this media effect young people in particular? Is the ability to publicise your feelings to the world quickly and easily a good thing?

6. Mat’s mother writes him notes showing her concern for Mat. Why are these notes shown in graphic format, rather than quoted in text, as they would be in a traditional hardcopy book? Does the graphic format lend the notes more or less impact than they would have if they were simply quoted as text?

7. Mat understands that his body’s physical desires are not always in harmony with what his head is telling him to do. How and why does he come to the conclusion that he should listen to his head?

8. Friendships are important within the book. Mat’s friends help and support him. Why does he find it difficult to talk to them about his relationship with Elle?

9. An important point, that not only girls can be the victims of abusive relationships is made. During the talk on abusive relationships, the students display derision for male victims of abuse. Why? Is this a cultural norm?

10. Phone text messages appear in graphic format, just as if the reader has picked up their phone and seen a new message. How does this effect the impact of these text messages within the ebook? Is the language used for these messages the same as that which would be used in a traditional hardcopy book? How does this language reflect the characters’ personalities and emotions?

11. Mat is relieved when he is helped by others, yet he finds it very difficult to seek help. Why?

12. Mat talks and writes about sex and the physical aspects of relationships, but when he is faced with an actual sexual experience he thought he longed for, why is he reluctant?

13. At times Mat and Elle become characters in a play or television program playing out in Mat’s mind. How does this device help Mat to view his relationship with Elle?

14. Much is made in philosophy class of “the human condition”. How do Mat’s experiences effect his view of what it is to be human?

15. Kiss Kill is written mostly in the first person, with Mat narrating his thoughts and experiences. Would the ebook have the same impact if it were narrated by a third person?