Last Wednesday night, at the launch of BookMachine.me, Bookmachine’s new global hub for the publishing industry, brands and branding made another appearance, specifically children’s publishing brands and the element of “transmedia” within that industry. This term was explained to us by Alison Norrington on Tuesday night at The Hoxton; it is the art of fragmenting a story and telling it strategically across various platforms, with each platform having a unique way of putting that story across.
The BookMachine event in London coincided with 5 other similar events around the world, held simultaneously in Toronto, Oxford, Barcelona, Brighton and New York.
Eric Huang, Development Director at Made in Me – the award winning digital agency specialising in children’s entertainment and brand development – was the guest speaker at the London event, and we settled down in the function room of The Green Man at Great Portland Street to hear all about his career journey and how he came from being Faye Dunaway’s assistant in LA to championing digital children’s publishing at Penguin UK.
Meanwhile in Oxford, guest speaker Emma Barnes, co-founder of the independent Snow Books, gave a lively and quirky account of her thoughts on maintaining ‘Profitability’ within this competitive industry. She encouraged publishers to think outside of the box by challenging old traditions, for example, the assumption that all authors should expect an advance, suggesting instead, that alternatively, a higher royalty be offered. She spoke about taking initiative in ‘doing things yourself’, for example, learning new software, to avoid paying external fees for services.
She gave an engaging account of her own journey to starting up, and the cost saving achieved through developing Bibliocloud, a platform to streamline her administrative processes. Her enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit shone through and she ended her short talk by encouraging new and established publishers to take the plunge and join the ranks of start-up independents!
Back in London, Eric spoke about the importance of branding throughout his career and it is clear that this intuitive and accurate ability to identify what his target market wants and needs that has made him so well regarded in the industry. Eric addressed the merchandising surrounding children’s publications and explained how these days, a book alone will not necessarily do; all the books are supplemented with DVD’s, soft toys, crockery, interactive computer games, etc. However, despite adhering to the demands of the readership, Eric also noted the importance of staying true to the story and the responsibility that writers have to maintain that creative control.
In his experience, games writers for instance approach story-telling differently to writers. The latter will delve deeper into the storyline, developing the background characters and really understanding the full cast and the full tale. They create that fictitious world in more detail, introducing the young audience to a host of new personalities and building them as part of the overall brand. Using characters as authors is another tool that is used, allowing the real-life writers to use their character as their voice and creating a connection between that voice and the audience. It gives those characters an identity outside of the pages of a book and the levels of a computer game.
Though described by Eric as a “spectacular failure”, Made In Me’s, “The Land of Me” was a beautifully created fictitious world published online as part of the Ladybird imprint. It floundered, as the Apple iPad was released shortly afterwards, but plans to bring it back to life are underway and app’s and TV plans are in the pipeline. Developing brands and IP is Eric’s bread and butter and for him, partnerships have been important throughout his career. Eric believes in telling the story first and then considering the platform. Creating an imprint as a brand is instrumental and it needs to be consumer focused and not just a corporate strategy.
Questions from the floor allowed for Eric to sum up the talk nicely. When asked about the criteria for deciding the best platform for a brand, he spoke about how one must look at the story and the characters and decide what platform they would look best on, for example Dora was always meant for the screen!
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It can also be an intuitive decision as well as an unavoidably monetary one. In answer to the big question, “What does it mean to be a publisher today, tomorrow?”, Eric answered without hesitation: it is all about the focus on storytelling and not on format. Once the story is complete, launching the selected format is not the end, it is just the beginning.
Here at Inspired Selection, we are passionate about the publishing industry; we talk about publishing, read about publishing and attend all major publishing events like the one you’ve just read about. We would love to meet you at events so do feel free to come up and introduce yourselves! Our Trade Consultant, Chelsea Vernon, would love to hear from you with any queries on our current vacancies or on our candidate registration process. Chelsea is a Kingston MA Publishing graduate and was tutored by Kingston Senior Lecturer Anna Faherty, who hosted Wednesday night’s event. All other information can be found on our website.