Beyond the workshops, presentations, and panels at Digital Book World Conference + Expo, there are numerous benefits to meeting with your colleagues to network and trade experiences. As part of our ongoing DBW Profiles series, we’ll introduce you to the kind of innovators you’ll encounter on the show floor January 23-25, 2012 in New York.
When is a book more than a book?
That’s the kind of question that Tricia Pasternak seeks to answer on a daily basis as editorial director at Del Rey, a division of Random House imprint Random House Publishing, and as transmedia producer at Random House Worlds, a new Random House division focused on developing intellectual property into multi-platform media (think the video game, based on the movie, based on the book, all with Facebook tie-ins).
Pasternak has spent a decade in publishing, doing everything from managing editorial to production. Only in the past few years, with the rise of e-books and multi-platform media, has she begun working on transmedia projects. After falling in love with New York City while attending New York University, she got her start at Penguin. Four years later, she moved on to Del Rey to work on manga and graphic novels. Just this past month, Pasternak was promoted to her current position overseeing editorial for Del Rey, which is best known for publishing George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series.
We sat down with Pasternak at the StoryWorld 2011 Conference and Expo to discuss digital books, why much transmedia is genre, and when a book is more than just a book. (Full disclosure: StoryWorld, like Digital Book World, is a property of F+W Media.)
Jeremy Greenfield: Ten years ago when you started at Penguin, much of what you work on today – digital books, transmedia – didn’t really exist. How did you get into it?
Tricia Pasternak: I was always obsessed with books. More broadly, I was obsessed with storytelling. I love the opportunity to work with great creative.
The transition [to digital and transmedia] was really organic. It came from what’s happening in the broader culture. We’ve seen an enormous shift to e-books in the last two years. It’s gone from 0% of our business [at Del Rey] to 30% and it will probably be even greater next year. The growth has been 150% to 200% in the past couple of years. In the next couple of years, it’s going to continue to expand exponentially.
JG: Should all authors, agents and publishing houses be thinking about transmedia? Or, at this point, is this just a game for the big boys that can afford to put development- and marketing-muscle behind a massive, multi-platform franchise like Harry Potter?
TP: I think it’s for everyone. Not every transmedia project has to be a multi-billion dollar franchise. It’s going to take the independent creators and the small companies to come up with really innovative ways of doing things that we [at Random House] can learn from in the future.
JG: Why is so much transmedia genre? You don’t see a lot of transmedia literary fiction.
TP: I think a lot of it is how devoted how that audience is. The sci-fi and fantasy audience are the people that will follow all of the worlds we create. They were thinking transmedia before we were. They were the ones doing fan fiction. They were thinking about what happens in the world of Star Trek when the show ends. [J.R.R.] Tolkien [the author of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and many other books] and [Gene] Roddenberry [the creator of Star Trek] were thinking of this way back when.
Literary fiction is around the corner. It will begin with the right writer having a great idea and the vision of it. Increasingly there will be a generation shift where literary novelists will be less reluctant to think about this as a way to do things.
JG: How do you know a story is right for multiple platforms? How do you figure out which platforms are best?
TP: Not every story is suited for this kind of development. It’s really when you see more than a story…you see a world.
JG: What’s more important, the story or the platforms and distribution methods?
TP: The story absolutely has to come first. If the story isn’t compelling, it doesn’t matter how brilliant your Facebook campaign or your Twitter campaign is. It has to connect with your audience and get people to follow through with that story through platforms.
JG: What’s the business model? Is the multi-platform, transmedia approach just a value-add? Marketing for the main product (presumably the book)? Or are there transmedia experiences that are being or will be monetized in a more direct way?
TP: That’s literally the billion-dollar question. Sometimes our business development people are more creative than our writers.
JG: What are some of the pitfalls of the space you operate in?
TP: One of the most difficult things is figuring out how to manage the collaboration between so many companies, so many creative people – making sure the vision of the creator isn’t lost. The other big challenge is figuring out the right way to engage with audiences and make them part of the creative process. Everything about this is hard; we’re all learning day-by-day. Every day my job is completely different.
JG: What are you reading right now and on what platform?
TP: Most of my reading is manuscripts, because I’m still an acquiring editor. But I just started reading Brandon Sanderson, the Mistborn series on my Kindle, which is a god-send for editors, because all of my manuscripts are on there.
Write to Jeremy Greenfield