Behold a Digital Storyteller

new beginnings

Tunnel’s End

In a small but majorly significant way I’ve turned the Titanic around and have caught a small current. At the SCBWI Sydney conference I went to Karen Robertson’s talk and she mentioned an app developer looking for writers. I contacted them and have been working on 3 education apps with them. It is truly lovely to find a digital publishing house who judge me for my work, not for my age, gender, sales figures etc etc. I feel as excited when I had my very first ms accepted by Macmillan Education 13 years ago!

And it is incredibly wonderful to be ahead of many in the writing game, not trailing so far behind that I felt I no longer belonged. I still feel I don’t belong but I don’t care any more. Now, I can at least say that I will have something coming out next year. Between the ebooks, the apps and the transmedia novel I feel I truly can call myself a digital storyteller 

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.

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.

Jeni Mawter and Kiss Kill: A Foray into Transmedia Storytelling

Kiss Kill was written a few years before I’d heard the word ‘Transmedia’. I wrote Kiss Kill on the back of two series, the humorous ‘So’ series and the adventure/mystery ‘Freewheeler’ series, both published by HarperCollins Publishers Australia. For several years I had been in the blessed position of writing books on commission. Year in, year out, I wrote with a clear sense of story structure and audience. When the series stopped I found myself in a position to write something completely different. For the first time in a long time I could return to early writing roots and basically “play”. As writers we’re often told to “write what we know” but I have always been afraid of offending someone, because my ‘knowing’ seems to be so different to everyone else’s ‘knowing’.

I decided to take a completely different approach. Instead of planning this time I would free-fall. Instead of using logic and intellect I would use emotion and intuition. All of these led me to Mat, the main character in Kiss Kill, and to Elle, his abusive girlfriend. Abuse doesn’t have to be black eyes or bruises, it can be subtle and insidious. It is often invisible, and when it is visible, it can be dismissed or denied. I immersed myself in stories, men’s stories in particular. I sat in chat rooms, visited forums, read blogs, and websites, viewed YouTubes. And slowly my story began to form.

The more I read the more engrossed I became with narcissism, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) as it is known in the extreme. And a whole world opened to me. Suddenly, many of my own life experiences or those of younger family members started to make sense. I collected snippets, the bits that ‘spoke’ to me and began to collate them into experiences – first love, self-doubts, façades. I likened it to collecting ‘moments’. For a long time I didn’t know how these moments would come together, I just knew they needed to be put into words, or pictures, or graphics, trusting that at some stage they would be given a form. I also had a clear view of my audience, techno-savvy young adults struggling with toxicity of NPD and the rising incidence of narcissism.

I have never been one to conform with the rules, to climb in the box, to join the back of the line. I have a lot of trouble looking backwards and describe myself as a futurist. As a writer I need to fly. I wanted to experiment with the ways we tell stories. This story screamed at me ‘I don’t fit. Find a new way.’ Different scenes demanded different ways of telling. Where prose was adequate for some, others demanded poems or monologues or photographs. My earlier experiences of writing for the Critical Thinking about Humour and Text set of books (Macmillan Education) held me in good stead. I’d already stretched myself as a writer, tackling every way I could think of to tell a story – cartoons, poems, word games, pictures etc. It was a long time before the scenes for Kiss Kill wove together. Everything seemed so random. I had headings like ‘Manscaping for Dummies’ or ‘If I Don’t Cry Tears I’ll Cry Bullets’ or ‘How to Seduce a Cow When You’re a Short-sighted Donkey’. If people asked what I was writing I didn’t really have an answer. It wasn’t a novel. It wasn’t a magazine. It wasn’t fiction, or non-fiction. I tried to work out how it would fit in a market. If it wasn’t a book, and wasn’t a mag, was it a mook? It languished as “Entity Unknown” for quite some time.

In 2010, a few years after I’d written Kiss Kill, I had one of those life-changing moments. At the Sydney Writer’s Festival I heard the futurist, Mark Pesce, speak. I couldn’t sleep for 3 days. Finally, I knew what I had created. Finally, I knew how to breathe life into this story. Enter the world of technology. Enter the world of digital publishing. Kiss Kill was now ‘of its time’. I began to explore, to open my eyes and my mind to new ways of telling stories. And I came across the world of transmedia. It became very obvious it was my world, a world of possibilities, where stories could be told across multiple platforms, where issues of ownership and territories and rights were no longer set in concrete. I loved the idea of putting a text out for someone else to play with, have always adhered to the saying that the sum of the parts is worth more than the sum of the whole. By now I had a hunger, a deep need to learn as much about “story” as possible.

In 2011 I attended a conference in New York on Creativity and Technology and went on a mind bender. I felt like I was in the creative hub of the universe. Alternative realities, gaming, mash-ups, the long-form story, serendipity, enabling. I discovered all these things, and more. I listened to Frank Rose and Jeff Gomez and was introduced to the worlds of transmedia. They called it stories that flowed across multiple platforms into which ‘seeds’ are dropped for the future. This was where I belonged.

I knew I had to learn more and began to immerse myself into the transmedia world, joining forums and discussion groups and Digital Story World. The more I learnt the more hungry I became to learn. I discovered the generosity of the sharing generation, of thought leaders and innovators. I was introduced to concepts like crowdsourcing and engagement and fan-driven narrative – projection mapping and kinect hacking and audio fingerprinting. My brain was exploding.

Then along came Sarah Bailey, the founder of Really Blue Books, Australia’s first digital only publisher and I knew we had to meet. When Sarah accepted Kiss Kill I don’t think she really knew what she’d taken on, but as we worked together, as she began to understand my vision, she embraced the transmedia idea one hundred percent. To be honest I don’t think she quite knew what hit her, but to her credit she remained open to every suggestion, every possibility, taking the way we tell stories into new frontiers. I owe a lot to Sarah Bailey and Really Blue Books for giving life to my creative vision. With transmedia and Kiss Kill together we are literary pioneers.

Kiss Kill listed on Amazon! $5.95
Really Blue Books, $4.40.
Mat’s blog
Jeni’s blog

Entrepreneur Tips for Authors in a Changing Publishing Market

I spent last weekend with 480 entrepreneurs at a course in Sydney, run by Siimon Reynolds from The Fortune Institute and I’ve put together a summary of points that I feel are particularly relevant to today’s authors given the current seismic changes in the publishing industry.

• Authors will need a ‘Growth Mindset’ whereby they believe abilities aren’t fixed, that with practise they can conquer new areas. John Kay coined the term “obliquity” whereby oblique approaches are the most successful when negotiating difficult terrain.

• Success is not about perfection, it’s about self-correction, constantly making small changes to ensure continued writing success.

• Time mastery reduces stress.

• Positive attitude of ‘I am unstoppable’.

• Every author must have an image of their ‘future self’, not just their past and present selves. Self-identity is FUTURE based.

• Be unstoppable.

• When focussing on sales and marketing you need to test for effectiveness in a measurable way.

• Buyers respond when they feel there is a personal connection with the author. Start by developing your personal story, why you came to writing.

• Every author needs to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive market. It’s called having a USP, Unique Selling Point. Can also have an ESP, Emotional Selling Proposition.

• Have a clear goal of where you want to be positioned in the market. This is your brand.

• Reflect your brand in everything you do. Make smart media and social media choices.

• What audience do you want to attract?

• Build relationships with readers/buyers.

• Structure increases efficiency – structure for each day, week, month, 90 days, year. Structure in both personal goals as well as business goals.

• Outsource anon-core tasks.

• Realise that you may need to create a new self-identity and business identity. If not, maximise what you’ve got.

• Introduce daily accountability.

• Monitor yourself for: self-discipline; concentration; optimism; relaxation; enjoyment.

• Know the financial facts of your business.

• Invest in personal development.

• Consider forming joint ventures with complementary others.

• Maintain standards of excellence.

• Seek supportive peer groups.

• Reputation is an excellent form of advertising.

• Avoid negative people.

• Have clear goals, short-term, 3 year+ and 10 year goal.

• Keep innovating.

• Bundle your products and services to improve value.

• A well-developed website will improve marketing and sales through SEO, Search Engine Optimisation.

• Expect to fail frequently.

Why Kiss Kill is Pioneering in the Art of Storytelling

As a traditional author my focus was to write the best story I could possibly write. It would be a prose narrative, following the three-act structure. I would put it into the hands of my publisher who would put it into the hands of the readers. End of story – except for a short burst of publicity commitments after publication.

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
– Online engagement (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Blog)
– Brand building as ‘Jeni Mawter: Digital Storyteller”
– Connecting fictional characters with my brand (Mat’s blog
http://www.whyidon’ )
– Deepening my audience’s emotional engagement
– Providing many entry points into the story
– Inspiring community creation
– Leveraging a community of creators around the brand such as musicians, actors and friends (YouTube, iTunes, reviews)
– 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 author 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

Chenoa Fawn Interview about Kiss Kill on her blog Sibylline Syllables

Chenoa Fawn Interview

1. Many of your previous books have had comedy at their heart, how do you maintain your sense of humour through the publishing process?

To be honest, the journey to publication of Kiss Kill was a shocker. The manuscript was rejected by my agent, then sat in slush piles at major publishing houses. As weeks turned into months, which turned into years, my self-esteem eroded to the point where I described myself as a writer in solitary confinement on Death Row. Nothing I tried could unlock that cell door. Frustration and despair festered. My sense of humour deserted me, to the point where I no longer liked the person I had become. Creativity was absent. If this sounds bleak, it was!

2. Your latest book, Kiss Kill, is your first foray into direct to digital publishing. Tell us about what brought you to this decision?

Firstly, the story of Kiss Kill ( is about how a 16 year old boy gets into a relationship with a narcissistic girl. Over time the relationship unravels, fragments and explodes. The digital form complements this in that I could deliver the story in fragments. In a way, the medium helps to define a story. Secondly, I chose not to write this story as a prose narrative. In part this was because I wrote it organically so that fragments were written in a random order. It was only much later that I wove them into a narrative. Thirdly, I wrote the story in multiple texts to reflect the type of reading young readers are doing today. Reading flicks all over the place, from prose to monologue, blogging, poetry, critical essay, script, songs, Facebook entries, notes etc. Digital suits this perfectly. Also, I want the story to be interactive with reader’s contributions helping the story to evolve. One way of doing this was to have my character blog at Another way was to encourage audience involvement through performances on YouTube (How Do You define a Man?), with song recordings (Thought I Knew You) and through Twitter @kisskilldigital and Facebook .

3. Kiss Kill is about a sixteen year old boy’s relationship with a girl with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. What sort of research did you undertake for the book?

As with all my books I do extensive research. I researched teenage relationships and relationship problems. I researched relationship abuse, emotional abuse and bullying. I also read everything I could on Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I read books, research papers, articles, watched interviews, personally spoke to ‘victims’ of NPD, went to chat lines, men’s chat lines (because they wear their abuse in silence, against a community backdrop of disbelief). I used my own personal experiences, workplace experiences, experiences of family members in relationships with a person with NPD. Not only did I need to get into the mindset of NPD, I needed to understand how someone gets ‘trapped’ in a relationship and why is it so difficult to extricate yourself, even when life is so unpleasant. Also, as this is a digital story that uses multiple platforms I needed to do a huge amount of research on telling stories using transmedia. I wasn’t just on a steep learning curve, I was on a trajectory. I went to a conference on Creativity and Technology in New York and got involved with if:book, the Institute for the Future of the Book. I joined Digital Book World, went to seminars on digital storytelling and have grown from there.

Kiss Kill: How to deal with no feedback?

Since Kiss Kill has been published I’ve developed insomnia, reflux and a giddy head.


I’ve had no feedback.

In my life as a writer I’ve dealt with mediocre reviews, bad reviews and been banned from being reviewed but right now I’m struggling with the creator’s lot of putting your work out for public consumption or public viewing and getting a response of … nothing.

Even negative feedback would be better than no feedback at all.

Comments or suggestions for coping with this will be hugely appreciated 🙂

5 Days till Kiss Kill published!

Five days till Kiss Kill and I’m terrified.


What's really happening on the inside.


Experimental story – uses multiple types of storytelling.

Not traditional prose narrative.

Digital only.

Not hiding behind J.A. Mawter.

Controversial subject (male victim of relationship abuse).

Too much Sex for the educators?

Audience/reader participation encouraged.

Realistic Fiction when Fantasy and Historical Fiction are all.

It doesn’t belong in a recognisable ‘book’ area because of transmedia.