One thing I would like to do is build a community around the Delmyria setting. I’d like fans to be able to do more than just read and comment. Disclaimer: Nothing I say here should be construed as giving license or ceding control or ownership. But I’d like to set up a license structure (not necessarily Creative Commons but definitely inspired by the openness) that allows fans to build on what I create.
I’m experimenting with BuddyPress plugin that adds many social networking functions to a blog. I’m not satisfied with the forum features it includes, however. I prefer any number of other purpose-built forum software packages to this. It reminds me too much of the Facebook discussion boards which are woefully lacking in both user and moderator control.
I also plan to have a wiki. I had one hosted here once before, but it was for personal use and removed.
In terms of actual news, “Mercy Killing the Dragon” has been revised and is now being submitted. I’ve added a yet untitled short story to the list. The new one focuses on a Kroh’chuk warrior and their traditions.
As a part of establishing this brand, I will be working on a logo, and a series of short stories to “prime the pump” as it were.
My goal is to create something that is appealing, and attractive enough that it can survive the whims of publishers, producers, and production designers. It needs to be simple, able to be rendered in black and white (or any two colors) while remaining recognizable, and communicate some essentials about the setting.
I’m no artist, and I don’t have the budget (read: job) to pay one. But I’m handy with Photoshop. So, I’ll be trying my hand at it probably sometime this week.
If I fail miserably at that (which is likely), I may be able to find some money or movie coupons in a couch somewhere to hold a contest either here, or through something like GeniusRocket. What I’d like to promise is a free, signed, advance copy of everything forever. But that’s not always going to be under my control. (And you need to keep your mailing address current, foo.)
The second piece of the branding strategy is the short stories. There’s so much “stuff” I created for the novel in the setting that I just couldn’t fit it all in or explore it in depth. That’s where the short stories ideas came from. When I learned about the dearth of options for publishing short stories, my first thought was to go it alone. I still will, for at least one of my stories (which will be the topic of a future post: the Smashwords Experiment.*)
The short stories will be vignettes that explore ideas, characters, and places around the world that either: A) will never appear in the main novels, or B) will appear in the main novels, but I wanted to establish their stories first. For example, the city state of Ranamaha’i doesn’t appear in the main novels as I’ve currently laid them out (although, thanks to the short story, that may change) but I wanted to tell the story of the crucified dragon, which I do in “Mercy Killing the Dragon.” On the other hand, there is “Debt of Storms,” which explores two ideas that are just briefly mentioned in the novel: in order to escape persecution, druids took to the sea and applied their astronomy knowledge as navigators, and also explore the character of Raestra Nevermore and her ship, The Nevermore, which make a brief cameo appearance in Root of the First. Both elements are planned to play a major role in the third book, and I wanted to give them a little face time now.
The novel series falls under the working heading of Chronicles of Delmyria. In keeping with that “theme,” I’ve decided the short stories will come under the heading of Tales of Delmyria.
*In brief, there has been a lack of transparency with regard to the sales success of short fiction published on Smashwords. Not that the success isn’t out there, but that no one has good information on the process or the relative success of Free vs Cheap.
With shameless transparency, I’m going to lay out the plan for the future of the Delmyria brand. To answer the obvious, yes, I do view the setting as a brand rather than just a setting for a novel.
The goal has always been to expand to all forms of media from video games to graphic novels and from board games to movies. (And no, tabletop roleplayers, I haven’t forgotten you, either) Perhaps it’s just part of growing up immersed in multiple forms of media, but it’s difficult for me to think of the setting in terms of just one artifact, whether that is a book, or a film, or a game. I’ve always envisioned all of them as part of a whole, inseparable from the rest. The choice to begin with the novel was deliberate: it was always the one for which I could do the most work alone and with limited resources, while at the same time giving me complete control to solidify the setting before juggling things like game balance, or shot composition, or casting.
Part of maintaining that control is establishing the brand before finding a publisher for the novel, or a designer for the game, or a producer for the film. That means designing the logo, and establishing a fan base. Is this a matter of putting the cart before the horse? Not at all. The plan is certainly greatly advanced by finding a publisher in the short term, but that is not a fatal blow to the overall strategy. After all, the book is just one part of the whole.
But the real reason I’m doing it in this order is that I want to maximize my bargaining power down the road. The only way to gain bargaining power is money, and while I selfishly desire that my work sparks readers’ imaginations, the publishers and producers of the world see fans as dollar signs. He who controls the spice, controls the universe. (Side note: Go to Arrakis and befriend Fremen) And by that I mean that the more readers I have going in, the more clout I will have later.
Why I am saying this so candidly? Mainly because if you’re taking the time to read this and understand the method of my madness, I’m betting you can understand the difference between: A) my dream that someday someone will pick up a book I’ve written and say “Wow, this would be really cool as a . . . ” and let their imagination run wild, and B) my need for bargaining power to make that happen the right way, and not have to settle for a crappy SyFy channel miniseries that I hate more than the fans.
Tomorrow, it’s my birthday. Part 2 of Series Branding will come on Friday, and outline the specific steps I’m taking now as part of my overall branding strategy.