A Business Proposition

Today and tomorrow

I look at the transmedia storytelling industry today, and I generally see two things: big companies like Starlight Runner and 4th Wall, who gets lots of money from big entertainment properties to make transmedia projects, and indie creators wanting to make their own cool stories and often having to do so without much potential for making a living off of it. (Yeah, that's pretty broad and not entirely accurate, but oh well.) And I feel like what we need is some better way for those indie creators to get what they need to put together a good project and make money off of it. I mean, each potential transmedia story is effectively a potential business model, right? I want to tell this story, I'm going to put it in these places, using these media; these ones will be available for free, to draw in an audience, these ones will be monetized; there will be a game with virtual goods and whatnot; etc. Ideally, it can make money. But to get to that point, you need to be able to create it -- a writer is used to working for nothing up front probably, but to put together a full production, you're likely going to need artists and graphic designers and programmers and film producers... and they will all expect to be paid somehow (and if not, you're gving up either quality or speed of production -- you might never see a final product).

But eventually, you'd like to be able to make money off the final product, so what you need is business investment. Or -- an advance.

So here's my idea -- a business built on helping those indie creators with the awesome transmedia story ideas to create the projects and make money off of them. A business that understands transmedia storytelling and implementation and also has a strong business sense (which creative-types don't always have), plus connections throughout the field to potential partners and freelancers, and marketing and outreach know-how. I'm talking a publishing house for transmedia productions.

Let's imagine, for a moment, that I'm a writer (I know, stretch your imaginations a little, here). I have a great idea for a story and a cool way of telling it -- not just a novel, but through social media and a mobile game that uses geolocation, and whatever else. I don't have the resources to actually make all that. But I come to this Transmedia House and pitch my idea. The people there like it, and take it on. They then work with me to develop the story and make sure it's as transmedia-appropriate as possible, and then find the programming houses and designers and whatnot to work together on making it a reality. Their business guys ensure that it's financially feasible with a full business plan for the project, and ultimately they invest in it -- they pay me an advance to create the project, pay all the freelancers working on it, etc. Then when it's produced and out there, they obviously recoup costs from the money the project makes, and then if it's very successful, I get further royalties for the intellectual property and potentially work on expansions to the property.

This brings me, the indie creator, the resources I need and the business acumen to make it financially successful. The Transmedia House makes money by nurturing a great idea into a successful project and getting it in front of more eyes than an indie creator could on his own. Everyone wins.

Frankly, it seems like the traditional publishing houses of today are actually in a pretty good position to do exactly this, if they're willing to work with writers from the start to develop the ideas. (Scholastic of course did basically this with 39 Clues -- except that was a concept created in-house, rather than by a pitching author.)

But maybe I'm crazy. Any business types out there interested in making this happen? ;)

What do you think?