Eric Huang: “If you don’t love or believe in your story from the start, you’re in for a bumpy ride”
The director of the digital agency Made in Me and VP and Publisher at Ameet Publishing, one of LEGO’s global publishing partners, hosted the first online Q&A session about entrepreneurship and storytelling in IMPACT Growth community.
He defines himself as a “failed paleontologist” from Los Angeles who loves “travelling, spending way too much time in museums and on Instagram”. Eric Huang tried his hand at research and wanted to work in film, but he landed his first real job as a secretary at Disney Publishing, where he worked for six years in various editorial roles. Since then, he has lived in the US, UK and Australia, working in a variety of publishing and children’s media roles, including Penguin Australia and Penguin UK. Besides, he was also development director at the London gaming company Mind Candy. Nowadays, he is the director of Made in Me, an award-winning digital agency, and also the VP and Publisher at Ameet Publishing, one of LEGO’s global publishing partners.
As an expert entrepreneur and storyteller, we invited Eric to host the first Q&A session we organize in IMPACT Growth community, so our members could get some inspiration about branding in order to spread the word about their projects.
“The best stories come from the heart”
He told us some secrets about how to create and sell a story, highlighting that even though there is not just one way to create a story, the best stories come from the heart, stories that the writer has an emotional connection with or stories about a topic the writer really cares about. “The stories that have stood out through decades are those that were personal and that came from a love of the subject matter”, he added. Besides, Eric explained that a story has to be true to your own experiences and emotions, because “if you don’t love or believe in it from the start, you’re in for a bumpy ride”. Moreover, he pointed that the success of a story comes from common human experiences. He also added the importance of creating a story so it can be experienced in a variety of formats, so the word can be spread broader, and advised to write the “pure” story before making it commercial.
Also, he remarked how startups can benefit from partnering with big companies to use their resources, resources that a small startup doesn’t probably have. “Big companies feel more relevant dealing with startups. It’s something fun for the staff, something different”, he said. The key, he noted, is to find an advocate inside the big company, a person who you can trust and is passionate about your idea. But it is also very important the person pitching: “Investors put their trust in the person pitching. They have to believe you first. I’d rather have a great person and a mediocre idea than a great idea and a mediocre person behind it”. Moreover, he mentioned that buying licenses is a great way to reach a broader audience, converting a big company email database and their brand’s reach to your product. That is why he suggests going to licenses trade shows, like Brand Licensing Europe (BLE) in London or Licensing Expo in Vegas.
“Investors put their trust in the person pitching. They have to believe you first. I’d rather have a great person and a mediocre idea, than a great idea and a mediocre person behind it.”
The future: “A blend of physical and digital play”
Speaking about the future, Eric thinks that AR/VR is something that will massively affect the entertainment, media and broadcasting landscape. “Someone will crack it”, he foretold, as he said that physical technologies will not go away, so there will be a blend of physical and digital play. “I don’t think storytelling will change. What’s new are immersive experiences like PunchDrunk’s productions, ‘You Me Bum Bum Train’, ‘Pip’s Island’… where it’s a theatre show where the audiences wanders around in a six-story building and can do anything”, he explained.
Regarding books, Eric describes as brilliant ‘The Book of Dust’ by Philip Pullman, because “the world he has created is so real because it’s rooted in our world, and it taps into shared experiences that we all have: the same fears and hopes”. Besides, Eric recommends to buy books at local stores and join communities such as Goodreads.
To close the Q&A session, Eric wanted to remind us to be passionate about what we do and to keep it simple. He revealed us that they had a rule at Penguin: “If your book idea you wanted to publish couldn’t be described in two sentences, it was probably too confusing for consumers to spot on a shelf in a bookshop where there are 100s of other books”. His second tip was to base stories on classic human behaviours and play patterns, as well as he remarked the importance of being flexible to fix the failure.
Even if sometimes it can be hard and it can take years to sell a story, never give up… J.K. Rowling spent 10 years trying to sell Harry Potter! 🙂
More about Eric Huang
Apart from his impressive background, Eric sits on the advisory board of several children’s media companies, lectures at universities in Europe about children’s licensing, media and technology, and he also consults for a variety of organisations from start-ups to global entertainment conglomerates, advising on publishing, digital, and brand strategy.
You can follow him on his social networks: