Making It: A Novel of Madison Avenue
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Helen’s first book, Making It: A Novel of Madison Avenue is a coming-of-middle age story about a woman and a business (advertising.) It’s sort of like Mad Men thirty years later, from the point of view of an older, wiser, married Peggy Olson.

Successful, feisty and approaching a Certain Age, Audrey is afraid of becoming obsolete in the ever-changing ad business. As the industry goes digital at the turn of the century (1999), the old-line Madison Avenue firm Tadd Collins where she’s worked for twenty years merges with a boutique shop with virtual offices downtown. Most of Audrey’s longtime colleagues are fired, including her boss, but Audrey is promoted and partnered with Kabal Prakash, an ambitious, attractive hotshot from London. As she flirts with a relationship with him, her irritation with her husband grows. Should she give in to her new boss and his youthful corporate ambition? Or does she belong with her gray ponytailed husband, whose only ambition is to perfect his recipe for mead?

Making It: A Novel of Madison Avenue is the first e-book to take literary fiction readers out of the box of the book by offering opportunities to further explore characters in a digitally enhanced epilogue.

Epiblog (Spoilers Alert)

Making It: A Novel of Madison Avenue offers a digitally enhanced epilogue that jumps to content “created by” each character.

Thoughts on Creating an Epiblog

This novel ends not in words, but in visuals. The visuals tell readers, at a glance, what happens next. Visuals are hotlinked to content “created by” the characters, extending the story world beyond the book. Posts and pictures and letters are in the voice of each character. The “epiblog” provides one more layer of insight into the characters, without jeopardizing a reader’s own psychic constructs of them–for instance, no profile pics.

Interactivity is a new tool in the storyteller’s arsenal, but the internet–though we take it for granted and have designed our lives around it for decades– turns out to be a shaky foundation upon which to build a book. I learned from talking to the publisher’s digital team that inserting links is tricky because every e-Reader is a different digital format. So links that work on an iPad may not work on a Nook. Links won’t work for readers who open the book on the subway or on Wi-Fi-less planes or anywhere off the grid, which includes more readers than you might think.

I learned that interactivity can’t be integral to story in an eBook, because it will frustrate readers unable to access it. I also learned that not every reader who can access interactivity, wants to interact with a book this way. “Ads kept popping up when I got to the end of your book,” a friend complained. Incredulous, I worried that online advertising had already weaseled its way onto eBooks.“For some sort of liquor.” Ah. she was referring to the website I’d created for the fictional meadery. To her, advertising was advertising and nothing she expected, or wanted, to see.

Incredulous, I worried that online advertising had already weaseled its way onto eBooks.

“For some sort of liquor.” Ah. she was referring to the website I’d created for the fictional meadery. To her, advertising was advertising and nothing she expected, or wanted, to see.

I was further unnerved by a question from my publicist.

“How are you going to keep up the transmedia campaign?” she asked. “How will the characters grow and change in virtual space?”

I hadn’t thought of the epiblog as a transmedia campaign. I’d thought of it as another layer in the novel, another chance for readers to bond with my characters. Once my characters jump out of the book, must they keep changing? Must they abide by the rules of real-time? I’d spent ten years on the novel. Must I keep writing it, ad infinitum? Just the thought of this was exhausting.

I decided: every book does end, even if its storyworld continues. Holden Caufield has been sixteen for sixty-two years. Clarissa Dalloway’s 1925 dinner party still isn’t over. My characters could remain suspended in time, too.

Suspension doesn’t preclude real-time connection, though. My fictional meadery offers a contact page and any reader who troubles to “contact the proprietor” is rewarded with a personal email “from Audrey.” Because enabling a reader to reach out and touch a storyworld makes that world real in a way that’s not possible via static text on a page.

Discover Ancient Artifacts

Ad nerds will delight to find buried in the text objects common to ad agencies in earlier eras:

• Mechanicals
• Proportional Scales
• Letrasets
• Spray mount
• Stopwatches that wind (every copywriter had one)
• Typewriter ribbon in two-tone red and black
• Yellow paper for drafts, white for revision
• Carbon paper used to make copies
• Wordstar
• T-squares
• X-acto knives
• Paste-up departments
• Photostats