Labour of love: Explaining the transmedia sprawl

Instagram image of Charlotte Aimes Makie Doll doing a faceplant on a novel
Charlotte enjoys the occasional faceplant on the primary text.

Every so often, people ask me about the Charlotte Aimes empire, and how it’s progressing.

I refer to it as an empire not because I have delusions of Potter-scale grandeur, but rather because I keep having ideas and doing stuff that doesn’t seem to be directly related to the book. It’s quite a sprawl.

It is all related, however. And, luckily for me, publishing these days doesn’t have to be just about writing the book and handing it over to the publisher. Because of the abundance of cool technology, we can have several irons in the fire. We can have transmedia empires if we so choose.

In general

When it comes to transmedia, creators need content strategy. We need to know which pieces of information need to sit in which containers and be found on which sites. We think about workflows and publishing and even governance. Some people don’t bother to think about this, because their goal is to just ‘get the product out there’. From a user perspective, however, a company or individual’s content strategy can provide a solid user experience: plot points or touch-points with which we can draw our conclusions, or observe an emerging ‘brand narrative’, as well as clear connections between the brand and the product.

The specifics 

A visual representation of the Charlotte Aimes touchpoints
The sprawl as it looked in 2012.

Charlotte Aimes is the primary text. There will be several short chapters released as addenda to the main story. These pieces will be available on different platforms. These are the main products.

Chaosco on Tumblr
Chaosco on Tumblr

I have a Tumblr, Chaos Corporation. If I had to say what this is, I would say it’s a bit of discoverable fun. Tumblr logs are great places to connect with other people who like the same stuff as you. It’s not intentional marketing as such, it’s not promotional beyond tagging stuff I like: books, Makies, YA and Charlotte mostly. It’s not in-depth, because it’s mainly Instagram images and lots of solid re-bloggging (as Tumblr tends to be).

Chaosco started when I bought a Makie doll because I’m curious about 3D printed toys. Charlotte (my Makie doll) now functions as a way to visualise Charlotte Aimes, the central character of my novel. She sits at the computer when I write, she is very cheeky on the Tumblr, and the kids and I have fun with her when we’re out and about. The Tumblr is nevertheless a discoverable touchpoint for the broader Charlotte Aimes narrative.

Lyla's blogLyla Waterson has her own tumblr. I built this as a static website early on as a way for me to vent my frustrations about the crap options presented to teens regarding safe, chemical-free products for skin and hair. More recently, it turned into a tumblr because tumblr’s currency is a fun way to give more insight to the context that drives Lyla’s character. It’s transmedia storytelling, because it builds on the primary text and character of Lyla, though it doesn’t strictly move the story forwards. It’s also a discoverable touchpoint that builds the Aimes/Waterson narrative or brand.

cartoon picture of Libby O
One day in the future, Libby hoped to become 3-dimensional.

Then there’s me. Libby O. I am the YA writer. I have my own ‘brand’, if you like. Everything I do could be rolled into a sales strategy, if I chose to label it as such.

In fact, I follow my instinct most of the time. If I like the idea of something – if it ignites my sense of fun and storytelling – I do it. If it feels forced or false, I abandon it. I fail a lot, as all writers do. (Our abandoned projects and drafts are proof of this.) But I am of course a part of the transmedia sprawl as it relates to Charlotte Aimes so, at some point, I will put up a proper Libby O Writer-Branded website. (Rowing Girl is a repository for my various projects and ideas – not all of them related to Charlotte Aimes.)

In summary

Those are a few elements in the Charlotte Aimes empire. Of course, I don’t need to apply business-world labels to the points on the Aimes Empire map, but it sure makes it easier to talk about.

Because, ultimately, it’s a labour of love … and love is a hard thing to describe.

image Libby O CC by-nc-sa
Libby struggled daily to explain the mysteries of the heart.

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