Tag Archives: digital book world

Do Bound Books, eReaders, iPads Determine Content? Twitter Chat #5

10 May

I drew inspiration for this week’s Twitter Chat post from a conversation I followed a while back between my friend, (and one of the most forward thinking about all things bookish) Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, repeat offender Susan Doerr (indeed a smart girl/reader/publisher) and Peter Turner (at the tail end, but with an insightful point of view).

The conversation began with Guy’s assertion that print vs. digital is an irrelevant argument, and implying that digital devices were merely containers for content.  As ever, I both agree and disagree with each participant in the conversation:  my comments appear after the end of the conversation.

@glecharles The container is NOT a business model. The print vs. digital debate is tiresome. Content + Context = Value. #fullstop #dbw

@susanmpls @glecharles Disagree. Content is what people want, yes, but containers can be a biz model, i.e. Amazon & it’s Kindle.

@glecharles @susanmpls The container’s nothing w/o content. Kindle wasn’t first ereader; Amazon’s success was value to readers via content + context.

@susanmpls @glecharles Disagree. Content is what people want, yes, but containers can be a biz model, i.e. Amazon & it’s Kindle.

@glecharles @susanmpls If it were all about containers, Smashwords would be Amazon. Or Apple.

@susanmpls @glecharles I didn’t say it’s all abt containers, just that containers are a biz model, though, as @brianoleary says, not for publishers.

@glecharles @susanmpls If your workflow is container-centric, so is your business model. @brianoleary‘s advocacy of “agile workflows” is where it’s at.

@PeterTurner @glecharles Agree: content+context=value but container can and should shape content. #dbw

@glecharles @peterturner Yes, the container shapes (contextualizes) content but it shouldn’t define it; ideal content flows into multiple containers.

***

So I have to say, it was Guy’s comment that got my attention.  I only follow Guy on Twitter, so it took me a minute to find the conversation that followed.  But I do think that Guy’s statement that Content + Context = Value.

And I do not believe that the “container”, in this case eReaders, iPads or even printed bound books are synonymous with a a business model. Though I think we can agree that the container will influence the business model… Amazon dominates the eBook model not only due to the low cost, high service sales model they champion, but because of it’s strong online presence, and the early introduction of Kindle to the market.  It’s a different model than the traditional publisher to printer to warehouse to distributer to retail store to reader model.

So far, so good.  But here’s where I’d interject my own assertion.  The container not only contextualizes content, but content must be shaped for the unique capabilities of the container.  Because when you’re talking about something like the iPad, or even a smart phone (cell phone novels are big in Japan, for instance), you have a different set of capabilities (and limitations) than you’ll find with the beloved print book which was one of the only devices through which long form content could be delivered.

A bound book requires no power source, it’s easy on the eyes when reading by daylight, and is ideal for engraved illustrations. A backlit screen requires a battery, makes reading long chapters more difficult, but you can incorporate illustrations that move (video, animation).  While a Kindle emulates the functionality of a book (Instapaper and inanimate graphics), it still has enhanced capabilities that might shape the formation of content (annotation for example) in new and interesting ways (book clubs? school based reading initiatives?).

These containers mean nothing without content… but the funny thing is, we’ve never really wanted to pay for content.  We’ve always paid for the container, ro means of distribution: the paper a book is printed on, the cable service that delivers TV, the cinema that allows for a giant screen and a group experience).

So while I agree that content is what gives value to a container, the container will promote the success of different kinds of content.  And content should be created with the method of distribution in mind.  This is how containers and content succeed… in that differentiated, symbiotic way.

New containers allow for new and more varied kinds of content.

Those are my thoughts, anyway.  What do you think?  I’d love to know.

Digital Dickens? Serializing Books on the Internet: Twitter Chat #4

4 May

Once again, Twitter lurking pays off: Fran Toolan, founder of Firebrand Technologies (which owns NetGalley), Susan Doerr, Carolyn Jewel, and Jane L had a discussion about what internet reading will do to the print publishing industry, with Fran suggesting that online books will be serialized (something I’ve thought about too: I would have joined in this conversation, but it was already complete when I discovered it).

This is just a snippet of a longer conversation which happened on May 2, 2011.  My comments follow.

jane_l: RT @ftoolan: after reading @brianoleary ‘s http://bit.ly/j6yU9a, wondering how long it will be b4 all novels are released in serial form

cjewel: @jane_l @ftoolan @brianoleary The midlist author will have moved on , , ,

ftoolan: @cjewel @jane_l @brianoleary thought process was a bit non-linear, but pubs need to keep readers attn in an age of exponential content avail

susanmpls: @ftoolan serialization comment makes me wonder (present company excepted) will readers read more just b/c it’s avail? @cjewel @jane_l

ftoolan: @susanmpls @cjewel @jane_l don’t think so, but keeping them wanting more, from a trusted source should lead to buying more

jane_l: @susanmpls I can’t envision paying a lot of money for many serialized books. Who knows how badly it may turn out? @cjewel @ftoolan

I think everyone in this conversation is right.  Sort of.

As I mentioned, I’ve thought a lot about delivering ebooks in serialized form. I don’t know that all ebooks will be sold this way, but I do think it’s a smart idea, and here’s why:

1.) When people read on a backlit screen (smart phone, computer monitor, or currently available tablets), they read in shorter chunks.  Short chapters of 2 or 3 pages would be ideal for this format.

2.) Tablets, phones and other reading devices are often used on the go, in the spaces we used to reserve for being bored as we rode trains or waited for doctors appointments.  A serialized format requires little time per chapter, allowing the reader to consume the story in spurts, while maintaining suspense and long term interest (if it’s a good story, that is).

3.) The afore mentioned devices are all perfect for integrating visual enhancements… illustrations, animations (or moving illustrations), and video (when appropriate to the source material).

4.) Finally, the revenue model can be very attractive on both sides: cheap automatic system for the publisher, and reasonable, staggered cost for the reader.

Consider this model: serialized delivery is a low cost of method of delivery by the publisher.  If the publisher sells the serialized material 30 short chapters at a time for say, $3.00 a run, and then provides an easy pay button to purchase the next 30 chapters (let’s call it Act Two), and again for the final 30 chapters (Act Three), then the reader will ulitmately have paid about $9.00 for a standard length novel (250 to 300 pages or so).

Upon completion of the serialization cycle, the  novel could then be offered as a full ebook, and a print book as well.  The longer, staggered delivery of the story could allow the book to gain an audience over time, initial free chapters would have the possibility of spreading virally. This would also give publishers an idea of what sort of success the book might achieve in print, as internet popularity increases the sale of books across all formats.

The success of serialized cell phone novels in Japan would point to the likely success of such a delivery method… and iPad sales seem to suggest that a whole new kind of reader is buying books that suit the tablet’s format.  It seems an inevitable evolution (though it takes us back to the very root of the Victorian novel… serialized in newspapers and periodicals).

That’s our story.  And we’re working to create a serialized format for books as I’ve described above.

I’d love to hear what you think.

Online World Building: Using the Internet to Engage Readers

2 May

I’m reposting an article from January of 2010, originally appearing on my former blog.  Online world building is a term I’m using more and more when dealing with publishers and authors, so it bears a little repeating.  This concept is foundational for how I believe that books have and will be marketed in the digital age.  So next time I talk about it, I’ll be able to point you here.

***

I’ve just completed a marathon of online world building to support a virtual scavenger hunt for the book BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.  It’s hard to believe that it started just two weeks ago today, when I met Kami and Margi for the first time (in the real world… we’d been talking on Twitter for weeks), and they asked me for ideas to provide virtual promotion for their book while they were on a physical book tour.

Now, this all came out of my plans to promote my own book (several agents have the full manuscript now, I’ll let you know what happens).  My plan was to begin building an alternate reality world of websites and facebook pages representing people and places that readers would experience in the book… sort of a virtual world building.

In some ways, this is a novelist’s alternative to the platform building that has become essential for non-fiction writers.  This alternate internet based world would be used to create interest in a book that has yet to be released, or hide clues for a scavenger hunt like the one I designed for BEAUTIFUL CREATURES,  or spread virtual games that keep readers engaged while they wait for the next book in a series to be published.

Why do these things?  Well, it’s a great way to use the internet to guerilla-market a book for an unknown, unpublished author, but I think that the real value is in creating collaboration and engagement with readers to sustain and grow a fanbase… a essential thing to do when readers encounter so many media offerings every day.

Every day during the BEAUTIFUL CREATURES Scavenger Hunt, the players interacted with Kami, Margaret, me, and one another trying to figure out clues.  Complain about clues.  Declare victory. Anticipate new clues.  The more talk the better.

And we were able to engage with two established authors, Carrie Ryan who wrote THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH, and Jackson Pearce who wrote AS YOU WISH, as well as Heidi Kling, whose book SEA is coming out later this year. This allowed us to expose YA readers to other authors and books that they would likely enjoy, growing the fan base of each of the authors.

In a sense, we are creating an ecosystem where readers can consume fiction, and books (and their authors) can find and grow an audience.

This is the sort of thing that I think we’ll see more and more of in the promotion of fiction, and I want to help create these Virtual Worlds for books I love.  Drop me a line if you’d like me to do it for you.

Hitching Your Wagon to a Star: the Value of Collaboration

25 Apr

It’s been a busy time at Diabolical Toy, and so I’m reposting some of our more popular articles from our humble beginnings… This is a re-post of an article I originally wrote in January of 2010, while working with my Diabolical Toy’s first ever clients, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, the authors of BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS, and the upcoming BEAUTIFUL CHAOS.

Beautiful Creatures: The Beginning

My last week has been extraordinary.

I stumbled upon a great opportunity to work with two authors designing an online promotion tied in to their book tour through the southern states. I’ve been designing a game that mystifies and intrigues, taking the players across the internet. I’ve had the chance to interact other authors of books that I admire. And it has come as a wonderful surprise.

How did this happen? Through Twitter. At this point, it’s almost a cliche.

I’ve been chatting on Twitter with Kami Garcia since before the release of Beautiful Creaturesthe book she wrote with Margaret Stohl (If you haven’t read the book yet, get in line. It’s been on the NYT best sellers list for over 6 weeks now, and bookstores are running out of copies). Kami, Margaret and I decided to meet for lunch when I came to town for a work gig. And we got to talking… about their book, about a bookI wrote and the marketing strategy I was designing to promote it.

When Kami said “Can we use your ideas?” I said, “Sure, as long as you use me with them,” or words to that effect. It was the most spontaneous case of preparation meeting opportunity that I’ve ever experienced… really good luck, some would say.

And so with two days notice we began designing and implementing The BEAUTIFUL CREATURES Southern Tour Scavenger Hunt, a cross-internet game in which players solve virtual riddles. In designing clues, we’ve teamed up with the incredible Vania StoyanovaCarrie Ryan, the author of THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH and nowJackson Pearce, who wrote AS YOU WISH.

In a late night conversation with Kami, at the end of another grueling day of the book tour, we got to talking about these sorts of advantageous connections… the people we meet who can help us, and the people we can help. In the best possible sense, we are using one another… as opposed to abusing one another to further our own agendas.

And this is the value of collaboration through social media. Authors like Kami and Margaret and Carrie and Jackson working together to support each other. Book promoters like Vania and me who love the books and connect with the authors. And the opportunity all of us have to connect with readers to create special experiences.

It’s a simple truth. Whether you’re just starting our of firmly established, it pays to cultivate relationships with talented people you like, with the goal of creating value for everyone.

It makes sense to hitch your wagon to a lucky star.

Take the E-book, Turn It on Its End, and Shake Vigorously

18 Apr

I originally wrote this article for my friends at Digital Book World.  You can see it there, as well as a bunch of other useful information about what happens at the intersection of publishing and the digital revolution by clicking here.

Market an ebook with its enhancements

I market new books through social media channels, and I’m going to tell you why I think ebooks should be produced very differently from the current model.

Right now, an author writes a book and secures an agent, after which an editor negotiates the rights and purchases that book, after which revisions and edits are made, after which fonts are chosen and a cover design created, after which an ebook is fashioned (most likely text only) and a release date determined….

Then after all of these things are finished, someone like me might or might not be brought in the help market the book online.

As we market a book on the internet, my company will almost certainly create video segments designed to create interest in the book: videos are more likely to show up early in search pages and more likely to be clicked on when they do.

But, these video segments are created after all the previous production steps have been accomplished and the book is on its way to market.

And that’s the problem.

Any additional media created, which might include websites, animation, video, games and contests, will be built on top of already secured rights.

This limits what can be done to market the book, especially if the film rights have been secured. Also, when creating video content to advertise a book, we are very conscious that the visual aspects, the actors, costumes, sets, etc., are not directly representative of the book they promote. They are not a part of the book and may not even relate to the cover design.

Creating content like this, after the novel is fully realized, is like making a movie and then hiring a new set of actors, dressing them in similar costumes and placing them in a different setting to create the trailer, and then telling the audience that the trailer looks something like the movie being promoted, rather than parsing the trailer from elements of the film itself.

Of course, the reason we love movie trailers is that they give us a taste of what we will actually experience in the movie itself. Trailers are great ways to generate interest.

And that’s why I think we’ve got the whole ebook thing backwards.

I’ve always maintained that marketing strategy is most important in the product development stage. That means the marketing should be built into the product itself. For books, we need to reverse the order by which books are currently created, negotiated and sold.

We should produce an enhanced ebook first.

Ideally, these multimedia pieces inform the actual writing of the book. The book would be written into existing media capabilities, the way a screenplay is written to capitalize on the visual and sound capabilities of film or TV. With enhanced ebooks, it would help if some forethought was given to potential interactive capabilities, but for the sake of this article, I’ll limit myself to the video/animation elements.

That means that dynamic multimedia ebook content would be created before the physical book. In the months before the physical book is released, this dynamic content could be parsed and re-edited for distribution over the web, as well as through TV and even film. This newly edited content would be representative of the actual experience a user will have with the enhanced ebook. That makes better marketing, which means better findability.

In a best case scenario, the content is created at the same time as the book is written. While in most cases that may not be possible, I believe that the agent should package both the content creator and the author when bringing the book to market, supplying a demo of the intended ebook.

Of course, this would require a new rights model: literary agents would negotiate digital rights to include paying the content creators, much as illustrators are paid out of the advance and later through royalties.

I believe that the ebook will eventually lead the market, rather than the hardcover book: it’s easier and cheaper to sell and distribute. Edited ebook content can be used for marketing through social media. If this content is unique and interesting in and of itself, it is innately viral. By “viral,” I mean that the content is voluntarily passed on by a user to her network (not that the content will be viewed millions of times overnight; that would be more like a pandemic than a simple virus).

Ebooks have gained a significant share of the overall market in a very short time. While some of those sales may cannibalize the traditional print market, numbers suggest that the availability of ebooks Is creating whole new markets.

Ebook sales could actually undergird and support sales of print books. This would allow for more effective and authentic marketing, where the marketing is actually an extension of the product itself (the ebook, in this case). It also gives users the option to purchase the book at their preferred price point; the inexpensive ebook, the more expensive paperback, or the high-end elite hard cover.

Most customers are going to buy in their preferred format anyway. Why not create more interest upfront with ebook content?

Of course, I’m talking about specific types of books—the books that are suitable for enhanced viewing on a tablet like the iPad. Children’s picture books are a natural choice for this kind of model. While nonfiction offerings like cookbooks and home improvement books are also obvious choices, here at Diabolical Toy, we work mostly with fiction, especially paranormal, speculative and historical narratives.

I’m betting that turning the model on its end would not only allow for more effective integration of traditional and ebook marketing efforts, which is a cost saver in itself, but sell more books in both formats.