Lisa Holton started a new book packaging company called Fourth Story Media. Her idea is to take the book well beyond print. If she can do it, and it looks like she may well be able to, both publishers and writers will be happy. Holton is no neophyte. She’s the past president of Scholastic Trade. Now, she’s at the helm of “a deep multimedia YA series called The Amanda Project that HarperCollins is launching this fall.”
She’s focusing on kids because they’re more likely to accept books delivered in multiple formats.
The series, which she calls a “Rashomon-style” tale, follows a high schooler named Amanda who, after showing up as the new girl in town, disappears. Each book, penned by a different author (à la 39 Clues), is written from the point-of-view of a different student—all part of an enclave searching for Amanda. The online component—built heavily around girls' interest in social networking and creating their own content—is the fascinating part. Readers can go to an ancillary Web site to discuss (and create) potential fates for Amanda, and HarperCollins plans to publish storylines contributed by readers.Holton spent the last year of her life, she says, researching the possibilities, including attending game conferences.
The meticulously designed look of the site along with the depth of its functionality—it will allow users to create online alter egos, to blog and to create and share artwork, among other things—is the product of many hands, including Web developer Happy Cog, and various designers, coders and architects.
She sees her company as a conduit for publishers that want multimedia properties but don't know how to bring them in-house or build complex digital add-ons.We’ll see how many publishers will embrace the new technology. It’s expensive, so the payoff will have to be worth it.