Pick a handful of your favorite TV shows or movies. Now ask yourself, “How many of those stories started life as a book or graphic novel?” Or have ancillary publishing “product?” It’s becoming harder and harder to find a successful novel that hasn’t hopped at least one of the delivery forms. Why is that? Why is it so important that every story have a film, book, and graphic novel triumvirate? Or is it? Our guest blogger, author G.A. Morgan, dissects the ins and outs of medium-spanning properties.
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The land of words faces some serious erosion these days. As a native of this world, the one made up of scratches squiggles and lines that the brain translates into images, I’m feeling more and more like Mrs. Haversham haunting her decaying mansion in a rotting wedding dress. If you don’t get the reference, google “Dickens, Charles, Great Expectations.” Better yet, read the book…or, if you don’t have the patience (sorta my point here) then I think Gwyneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke made a movie of the book you can download. Or maybe there’s a graphic novel of it out there somewhere. Which would actually be cool, and all the more to my point. As a writer (and reader) of said scratches and lines and squiggles, I am told more often than not that my books need to be made into movies or a TV series or a graphic novel in order to get traction—and it’s true, because I write books about fantasy and adventure and my fans want the whole package: a book, a graphic novel, and a movie (or TV series), and preferably some cool collectibles. And actually, I’d be happy to see that, too, because my stories are really visual. They begin in my head as a sequence of images and then I have to use my skills to try (and try, and try) to adequately render the pictures in my mind into words on paper. If I could just bypass the whole fingers on keyboard, ink-on-paper, part of the process and directly download the images in my brain as images, I think I would. But, alas, I lack the skill and we don’t have that tech yet. As it stands today, I need to rely on the imagination and artistry of others to bring my books to visual life, a process that is interesting to say the least.
A book of mine has been in Hollywood for these last few months, languishing by the pool (unread, I’m sure) and not really doing much of anything except getting a tan. At first there was a lot of talk about making it into a graphic novel, and the producer who was interested took it to a company out there that does this kind of thing. There was chatter and happy talk, but in the end, the company was more interested in coming up with its own content than buying mine. That’s because my book is still just a book, and it has the average sales of a book that has not yet been discovered. Production companies don’t like risk. They want assurance of sales, which most books can’t deliver. In my case, I have decent sales but, really I’m a nobody. I’m just floating around the literary canon in my decaying wedding dress. If, however, the right person were to read my book and champion it (again, cue Great Expectations), then all of a sudden those lines and squiggles would have the opportunity to become a brand…and that is what the industry means when it says words like “traction.” It’s like a snake eating it’s own tail: get traction and you get the package, but you need the package to get traction. And though I’m happy my book has had the chance to get some sun out in LA, “traction” is not really what gets me up in the morning to face another blank page.
After all, building a brand is not what artists and writers give themselves to when they make up stories for others to enjoy, nor is it what most publishers seek when they fall in love with an image or a story or a hero. It’s not what kids or grown-up kids actually respond to when they read a book or a comic book. What people respond to is truth. Universal truth made personal…and that is why writers and artists and independent publishers all need to continue to do what they are doing even if it doesn’t have a commensurate paycheck, or a tie-in with a movie, or a Happy Meal figurine. I learned a long time ago that all I have to offer anyone as an artist is my truth, however slow my means of telling it is. That is what you have to offer, too. Period. The miracle happens when you find other artists and fans who get your truth, and are willing to collaborate and grow your story along lines you never first imagined…and that usually happens in most unexpected ways that no one can predict. It’s that experience—that deal—that keeps my fingers on the keyboard. I hope it keeps you doing what you are doing, too.
Genevieve (G.A.) Morgan is a writer and editor living in Portland, Maine. She has written books for Chronicle Books, Smith & Hawken, Williams-Sonoma, Starbucks, The Nature Company, Harper Collins, Borders Books, and Hay House publishers. Her work on health topics has appeared in numerous publications. Most recently, she is the author of Undecided: Navigating Life and Learning after High School (Zest Books/2014), and the YA fantasy-adventure trilogy called The Five Stones. The first volume, The Fog of Forgetting, (Islandport Press/2014), was followed this year by its sequel, Chantarelle, (Islandport Press/2015). She is currently at work on the final volume of the trilogy, “The Kinfolk”. Read more about her books at www.ga-morgan.com.