I've laid out the baseline creative strategy and revenue stream for Felicity: serialized e-published text as the core platform, plus light interactive elements on the web in which the audience can be members of the Ancient Order of Turtles. This is Tier 1. It is all, by design, something I can create and execute on my own.
But everything would be better and more wonderful if I could bring in a partner for even this core tier. Given what I'm trying to make, my best bet for a partner would be a publisher to help with cover art, marketing and PR, distribution, story editing, and web design. These are all things I can do... but the work would benefit markedly if I had help. I'd get access to more resources and probably a much larger audience out of the gate; my publishing partner would get the prestige of trying something innovative and ambitious, plus of course money. I will do everything in my power to make sure it's lots and lots of money.
This structure might be hard to implement with a traditional publisher, simply because the timing would be lightning-fast by publishing standards, so such a partnership would bring in some significant challenges for me and for them regarding process. But if someone believes in Felicity enough to go in on it with me, then that's halfway toward solving that equation in the first place.
If any of you out there happen to be a publisher interested in talking to me about Felicity based on what I've said so far, please do email me. I'd love to chat about it over coffee.
Philosophy of Adding Tiers
Now let's talk about how and why I'd add in other tiers of content to Felicity. New tiers would absolutely have to do two things:
- Add value to the story for the audience. If the new platform isn't actively making the story better or providing an experience the audience genuinely wants, then I'm not being true to my vision, I'm disrespecting my audience, and I should be very, very ashamed of myself. Especially because every new element must also...
- Create a revenue stream. Every single one of these additional tiers is something I don't think I could implement DIY-style, because they require resources and skills I don't have. The people and businesses who do have them deserve to be compensated if they decide to throw their lot in with me. Even aside from any idealistic stance, it's a bad bet to go to a partner to ask them to fund my web series or indie film or graphic novel with no plan for how they'd recoup their investment. I have to know where the money will come from to sell the concept to a partner.
With those two items on the table, let's look at Tier 2 of Felicity, probably the easiest one to implement: tangible goods.
I'm a big fan of story archaeology. It can add tremendous depth and immersion, and make the audience feel more connected to the events of your fiction. A few books have been printed that include bundled artifacts ranging from photographs to letters to cards, and even a board game. Unfortunately, the whispers I hear from the publishing world indicate that the cost of creating such a bundle is a little too high to make it a sustainable practice. Including all of that stuff increases the cost of designing and fabricating the book markedly, but the price point you can charge for it isn't enough to make up for it. The margins are too slim, the ROI isn't there, it's awesome but it's just too expensive.
But... what if you were to make that stuff and sell it separately? Then it becomes its own independent revenue stream, instead of sucking the margin from an existing one.
So Tier 2 of Felicity is tangible artifacts. Printed stuff is easiest: An initiation pack for new Turtles, to start with. Madame Zee's tarot cards. Plot-pertinent documents that Felicity finds over the course of the story that I do not want to spoil for you. Maybe other small objects, too, if my partner could accommodate it: Poker chips, weighted dice, singed footprints from a hellhound.
In my perfect vision, a reader would subscribe to a service during the serial e-publishing phase and receive items in the mail over the course of the season at precisely the moment in the story when they become the most interesting. When the season is over, individual items or even the whole bundle would go on sale in store shelves alongside the bound version of the whole season.
You could still have a deluxe print version with all of this bundled in, like those other books have done before... but since it would be the deluxe version of something else, you could get away with charging a higher price point for it. Creative purpose: Check. Revenue stream: Check.
Next up: Tier 3, over which I am having a fierce internal debate with myself. I'll share it with you, and maybe you can even help me sort it out.