Authors, publishers, agents, executives, marketers, publicists, designers, you name it–everyone in the publishing world is gearing up for the Frankfurt Book Fair. The annual event is a gathering where all aspects of the book are showcased and explored–the making of, the selling of, the appeal of, the history of, the future of. Frankfurt’s Digital Initiative, SPARKS, is sponsoring StoryDrive 2012, a ‘trend show’ and ‘market place’ of crossmedia design.
The Frankfurt Book Fair began StoryDrive in 2010, to what Publisher’s Weekly described as, “anemic” crowds who gathered to see admittedly lackluster speeches from executives at BBC and South by Southwest music representatives.
2011 proved to be a marked improvement; pioneers in the world of computer gaming and game development and publishing offered a fresh media perspective, while celebrity Rupert Everett as well as David Heyman, producer of all eight Harry Potter films, added a bit of star power.
2012’s StoryDrive is boasting a tagline of ‘Where X-Men, Hobbits, Angry Birds, philosophers, authors and publishing managers find common ground’. There are several key speakers at StoryDrive, such as Stephen Daldry, director of the film version of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, an adaptation of the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, as well as executives from Lucasfilm and effects managers from the film adaptations of Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”. There will be producers and gaming executives. Illustrators and executives from the world of graphic novels and comics—most notably, a few from Marvel—will be stopping in. Key topics include “360 degree storytelling”, and “the new art of bite-sized storytelling.” It’s clear to see that it’s becoming more and more financially intelligent–as well as necessary–to use several media outlets or platforms to achieve a high reception of a book. As described by yet another conference title at StoryDrive, it seems that many books are taking the modern path of, “from book, to film, to game…and back again.”
All interesting stuff, but what does this media event mean for aspiring book professionals? Well, a few things.
1. In case we haven’t repeated it enough: there are multiple paths to take within book publishing.
As evidenced by the many meet-ups of print and media advertised by StoryDrive, evaluating manuscripts and producing titles is not the be-all-end-all anymore. A person could work with subsidiary rights, transitioning print content between various platforms; they could work as a gaming consultant, fact-checking similarities between a video game and a book; they could aspire to be a screenwriter, translating novel to film. All of these still involve books, they just involve them with other forms of media in dynamic, innovative, and creative ways.
2. Multimedia is not just “book-to-film” anymore.
Part of StoryDrive is, yes, the fun of the whole thing–taking an idea like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings and making it an entire world and philosophy by employing various outlets. But this ‘think-big’ mentality is now being toted to smaller projects, since there are simply more media avenues to employ in the modern world. A book is not simply a book—it is now the responsibility of the publisher to tout the book to various platforms, and make it accessible in a variety of ways. In the past, it was the protagonist of a tale that ended up being inked onto backpacks and pencil cases—a very character-driven kind of promotion. It is now the norm and expectation that a story will be available in many different kinds of media.
A great example of this kind of “story immersion” is Pottermore. A virtual world created to connect fans of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Pottermore boasts an online store to purchase ebooks, a virtual walk-through of the series, and an opportunity to play for a virtual Quidditch House Cup. I’m 20 years old, and I remember when Harry Potter began the usual marketing scheme of dolls, folders, notebooks, etc. in the early 2000s (as I begged for all of them). However, as technology has evolved and more media has become more accessible, online experiences such as Pottermore have come into play alongside the traditional merchandising of books.
3. The entire industry of media is becoming much more fluid.
The internet, e-readers, self-publishing: all have been accused of being apocalyptic factors set to end the publishing industry as we know it. However, as evidenced by StoryDrive and countless other initiatives, publishers are not running in fear of these advents of technology. Rather, they are embracing, adapting, and using them to the benefit of those looking to advance literature. Before rights are even discussed with any other kind of media company, a publisher now has the responsibility to produce a print book, an e-book, perhaps even an advanced e-book or an app, all in house. That’s even before any other media company can express interest!
In order to facilitate these connections between print and more interactive media, StoryDrive is hosting ‘matchmaking’ events. These speed-dating esque encounters are divided into 90 minute spurts that guarantee 10 business contacts by their conclusion. That kind of connection becoming so regular and accessible is something to be remembered whenever a pessimistic nay-sayer questions your choice of career. All the sourpuss needs to do is take a look around and realize the ingenuity, as well as unavoidable presence, of crossmedia, multiplatform ventures. A model for crosspromotional media in the past would have (most likely) consisted of a film studio negotiating with a publisher to complete the project of transitioning a book to film. Now, all aspects of media and entertainment—books, television, apps, games, film, illustration, fashion—have figured out that the ‘united we stand’ method is indeed a good one.
For anyone lucky enough to be able to attend Frankfurt, enjoy! And please, let us know how your experience was!
**UPDATE**: StoryDrive 2012 boasted record numbers of both participants and attendees! To get the full scoop, read Frankfurt Book Fair’s press release, linked here.