Has literature evolved in the last decade? You would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a new title written today and one penned at any time period in the last fifty years.
A book written in the last decade fundamentally does not feel more modern than a book written twenty or thirty years ago. Mystery, horror, romance all sell really well, and it doesn’t matter when the book was published. Even modern day cyberpunk books don’t feel any different from when William Gibson published his seminal works in the 1980’s.
If you were to ask me what has changed, other than common vernacular and writing styles, is censorship in literature. If J.D. Salinger had written The Catcher in the Rye now, it would probably contain certain words he did not dare write back when he wrote his book and it would have made his character Holden Caulfield all the more realistic. The lack of censorship also drives the success of 50 Shades of Grey and the onslaught of Bigfoot porn.
Unlike graphic novels or manga, a visual novel is an interactive fiction game, featuring mostly static graphics, most often using anime-style art or occasionally live-action stills (and sometimes video footage). As the name might suggest, they resemble mixed-media novels. Visual novels are an extension of popular anime franchises and do quite well in Japan, where they made up nearly 70% of all PC game sales.
Even the most popular and famous Japanese visual novels usually never see a western release; instead they're translated by unofficial fan groups. Where the publishers and game creators do not generate any additional revenue. However visual novels have slowly been garnering popularity on Steam ever since Valve introduced the tagging system.
Before visual novels came to steam, they were normally sold directly to customers from the publishers or game studios websites. They sometimes cost over $100 and were made in very limited quantities. Now that publishers are using Steam to distribute their titles, they merely delivered via digital downloads. Visual novels have not sold in huge numbers yet on Steam, but this may change in 2015 as bigger budget titles start to make the crossover.
Motion comic books are a relatively new genre and this medium combines elements of print comic books and animation. Individual panels are expanded into a full shot while sound effects, voice acting, and animation are added to the original artwork. The two big players in this space are Marvel with their adaptive audio series and digital start up Madefire.
Marvel Unlimited is a platform, which is being billed as the Netflix for comics. It charges customers a low monthly rate and you can read as many comics as you want. In a bid to lure customers over to their platform they developed Adaptive Audio, which is an immersive experience that goes beyond simple loops and creates a pacing of the stories, the pivotal moments in scenes and how certain characters are associated with specific sounds. You can think of it as storytelling device as opposed to just being some music that plays in the background.
There is less than a handful of comics using Adaptive Audio, mainly just a bunch of Captain America issues. There is background music in conjunction with sound effects. You can hear a character walking up the stairwell and hear the beeps of a holographic display. Villains are accompanied by ominous overtones and Captain America frames have soaring crescendos.
Madefire has apps for every major smartphone, tablet and computer platform. Their motion comics are similar to what Marvel does, but their business model is very interesting. They have leveraged their Motion Book Tool and established a partnership with the art nexus DeviantArt.
DeviantArt remains one of the largest digital artist communities, with 26 million registered users and 150,000 daily submissions. Just about everyone in the game art, comic, 2d, and 3d field has used this site at one point or another. Artists who want to take advantage of the new motion tools can apply on the website for it and the first round of 20 comics are LIVE now!
Content creators will be able to sell their books both through DeviantArt's own premium content platform and Madefire's existing iOS apps and Flash based internet website. The revenue share program is poised to give the creators 20% of everything sold through all the various platforms.
Technology plays a central role in modern literature being fresh and accessible. Fan-fiction used be relegated to zines, but now companies like Wattpad have billions of stories read every single day. There are no barriers in self-publishing and anyone can write about anything and find an audience for it online. New digital distribution methods are changing the game for comics and manga.
In the end, are the stories really changing? Is the actual construction of a story on a fundamental level different now from a decade, two decades or even fifty years ago? I would say yes and we can thank the lack of censorship and the proliferation of digital distribution systems to take more risks.
Sunday, February 8, 2015
Inkwell, who had taken almost two years to pen his debut novel, turned to self-publishing.
“Just because the industry was tired of selling vampires didn’t mean the readers were tired of them!” he explained.
That’s the premise behind the hybrid model of crowdfunding in which companies like Inkshares–whose platform is currently hosting the book campaign for Gary Whitta’s first self-published novel–allow the public to fund a book’s production through pre-orders before sending it on to a traditional publishing house.
Typically, book crowdfunding has worked like any other type of project funding in which the public is involved. Whether through a multi-dimensional site like Kickstarter or the book-specific platform Pubslush, the readers are able to throw their support towards the creation of a book through what essentially amounts to a pre-order process. But with hybrid models, the function of the pre-publishing support isn’t so much to provide the author with the funds to develop the book, but to demonstrate the interest of a readership to a traditional publisher.
There can easily be support and criticism for this type of concept. On the one hand, a major criticism of the traditional publishing industry is that a small pool of tunnel-visioned editors get to decide what the public will read. At the same time, this model gives voice to readers who then have the power to say to that small group of gatekeepers, “I’ve decided that this book is worth it.”
Inkshares will serve as a traditional publisher with regards to providing the editorial and publishing services that self-published authors typically have to secure on their own. But in addition to a 50-50 split on the print and the more standard self-publishing royalty of 70% of ebook sales, authors enjoy knowing they have a built-in audience for their work, if they manage to get the backing they need to go to press in the first place.
We are living in a digital world where major publishers have firmly embraced the e-book format into their distribution cycle. When a new title is released in hardcover it is immediately available as an e-book. Print books depend on the lucrative holiday season to drive sales, as people tend to buy them as gifts and most big budget novels normally come out in the last three months of the year. Gifting an e-book is difficult, so people tend to buy them just for themselves. Knowing this, is the sales cycle for digital and print really different?
Nielsen BookScan is likely the best source for garnering meaningful data on the traditional publishing industry and e-books. The company gleans its e-books data from companies such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-a-Million. Their print numbers normally stem from bookstores and a myriad of non-traditional book selling outlets such as big department stores or supermarkets. Nielsen condenses the information and then distributes it to major newspapers such as the New York Times. Finally, once all of the hard data crunching is done, they redistribute it back to the same outlets that provided them with the initial data.
Everyone in the publishing world knows that print books tend to peak in the last three months of the year and this is where bookstores all over the world tend to see the greatest volume of sales. E-Books, however, seem to peak in the first two quarters of the year, presumably as consumers load up on content to enjoy on the tablet, smartphone or e-reader that they received as a Christmas present.
This trend has important implications for how commentators view the book market. Until now, the tradition has been to monitor the health of the book market in January following Christmas sales. This latest data from Nielsen though will prompt publishers and online retailers to compare these two peak quarters more easily, and avoid direct (and possibly unfair) comparison between physical and digital book sales in the final quarter of the year.
Hopefully bloggers and industry analysts will cut booksellers like Barnes and Noble a little bit of slack when the company reports their fiscal earnings. Many journalists get all up in arms when they hear that e-book sales have fallen in the holiday quarter and project doom and gloom. e-books and print do a different sales cycle from one another and its important to understand that.