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BAME

New audience development: The advantages of cross-platform storytelling

March 1st, 2017 by Sharna | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on New audience development: The advantages of cross-platform storytelling
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Okay, to start, a disclaimer: I wasn’t originally going to cover this section of the Scottish Book Trade Conference, but I was so inspired by Crystal Mahey-Morgan, that I couldn’t possibly pass up the opportunity! I mean, it could just be because I was so enamoured with her South London accent during the  presentation (we all miss home in different ways!) but beyond that, she made some really important points. So here goes.

How many debut authors in Britain do you think were black males last year? Definitely a few, right? At least a handful?

Just one… Mahey-Morgan announces. I’m shocked, I look over at a few people and they’re clearly a bit shocked as well. You hear about publishing trying to branch out diversity-wise, but it’s pretty evident from this statistic that it’s just not happening all at once.

Rewinding a little, Mahey-Morgan then shows a presentation about her company’s (OWN IT!) recent project Don’t Be Alien. Don’t Be Alien started life as an interactive book, incorporating text, animation, and music for a fully immersion experience. This version retails at 99p. But it doesn’t stop there. As Mahey-Morgan explains, it is important for OWN IT! to cover a range of platforms in order for it to reach its target audience; those who would rather download a song or video onto their smartphones than a book (16-24). Therefore, you can buy the Don’t Be Alien track from iTunes for 79p and corresponding t-shirts for £30. Cross-platform! It’s a really well thought out way to get a younger audience to connect to the story. As well as this, when OWN IT! were releasing Robyn Travis’s Mama Can’t Raise No Man, they put on a launch event at Hackney Empire, which just so happened to sell out its 1300 ticketed seats. Pretty good going and is also proof that people are interested! People will pay for these things and they want to see these authors at events and buy these books.

Mahey-Morgan also explains the difference in the OWN IT! business model from regular publishers. Instead of paying their authors an advance, they split the profits of every outlet 50/50 with the author. The average annual income for an author is about £11,000. That’s less than minimum wage, which is quite frankly ridiculous. But this different business model would explain why No Place to Call Home author JJ Bola chose OWN IT! over several other publishers in a high-stakes auction.

When asked about branching out her storytelling lifestyle brand, Mahey-Morgan insists that she wants her company to publishing diversely throughout the country as well as globally, and in spite of their .london domain, they are not London-specific.

The most important point (in my eyes) that Mahey-Morgan made during her presentation is that publishers shouldn’t be publishing BAME authors because ‘it’s the right thing to do’. I mean, it is the right thing to do but publishers should be championing these authors; they should be publishing BAME works because they want to and because they believe in the content, not just because they’re obligated to!

You can follow Crystal Mahey-Morgan and OWN IT! on twitter @CrystalMMorgan and @OWNITLDN or you can check out their shop and support them (do support them, because they’re doing great things!) at their website: ownit.london

– Sharna Vincent