Friday, January 20, 2012

Indie Author Newbies Part 1 (Continued) - Getting Started Resources

see what a best selling indie author is up
to this spring - a perfect example.... 
Jessica Park's Flat Out Love - an  enhanced ebook.

NEW FORMATS                                 

The jury isn't even in yet...

But there is now an option to produce your own ebook as a very snazzy media rich ebook - or enhanced ebook. You may or may not be ready to even consider this yet - you just got started after all - but you should keep it in mind in case you work hard and end up with a very successful self published book.  You may want to take your book to the next level. 

This has in fact been going on for some time - remember talking books? DAISY books? They were (are) interactive books for your computer, great for education on all levels, visually impaired readers, and anyone looking for something more. Enhanced ebooks are like those DAISY books only they offer the possibility of adding a variety of media rich content. In fact, in the last couple of years some smarty pants book creators have made these interactive books and sold them - not as books - but as Apps.For iPads, iPods and other i-stuff. You've probably seen many of them in the App store.

Well, if you're a very intrepid author and you're earger to be on the cutting edge then this may be a good starting point for you - particularly if you author children's books, anything to do with education or non fiction. Although, I believe the gimmicky aspect of these books could work very well for fiction too (I think YA in particular) - or anything that could benefit from a gimmick.

If you're just getting started, there may (will) be a steep learning curve ahead. After all - you're adding audio, animation, video, and possibly a whole slew of other complicated forms of interactivitly into your ebook. You're making a very fancy web site (yes that is exactly what you're doing). And there are two ways (that I've found so far) to approach this: 

1. Pull all your media rich files and ebook together with details of what you want done and hire someone to do it for you. Be prepared to pay many hundreds to thousands of dollars for this. If you have stacks of money burning  a hole in your pocket, you could take a look at these sites and maybe ask them for a quote:      (this one may just be a seller of enhanced ebooks - not sure if they make them for you) (I asked for a quote and may or may not hear back from them). (no info on the site at all - it scares me)
(the prices start around $400 to build your enhanced ebook but you have to get a quote depending on what you want)
(*You may also want to check out the company doing Jessica Park's book - link above to the trailer.)
The pros - The easiest way to do it. You also get  the new epub3 version of your book that will eventually be the standard for enhanced ebooks. It will get put in libraries and bookstores as opposed to getting lost among the Apps. 
The cons - Thousands off dollars spent on a long shot. Thousands.(maybe)

2. Do it yourself and create either: 
i) a .exe file that will play on a computer (some phones and devices like iPad or Android tablets maybe - but definitely not e-readers);
ii)  an App that can upload to iTunes or the AppStore or;
iii) the posh new .epub3 version of your book - if you buy Adobe's latest InDesign, Creative Suite (CS5.5) with add ons and HTML5.

How to do this:
i) DIY make an .exe file (or possibly an epub3?). - you can get the old DAISY book software and make your talking book (use your own .mp3 or .wav files) Next you can follow the DAISY CONSORTIUM to learn how to update your book to an epub3 format. I'm not sure what all the features are that you can add into your ebook - page flipping and audio/read-a-long features were the basics before the iPad did it all for you. So I'd love to hear back from anyone that has looked into this.The links here will get you started.

Alternatively see this blog post from epublish a book:

From what I've read, there are better ways to do this than option i). If you've produced your .exe file -you still have to sell it. But from where? Your website?

ii) DIY an .exe file and make an App - Use software to create your multimedia ebook. This one (click on link) looks like it might do it - it's only $90 (to about $260 depending on your needs) and it looks like they update it often. It's really cheap so I'm a bit sceptical. Plus the web site is a little scary - but that doesn't mean it doesn't work. It might be the best deal out there. Once you've got your ebook - you can sell it from your site or go the App route (click here for details on getting you App accepted to the App store. If you're just looking at iTunes to sell from - you might be able to upload just about anything without meeting all the guidelines. I'll have to look into it more. Please feel free to add your coments about this).
*** If you have a Mac**** you can skip the hard work and download the App iBook Author (free in the App store). It lets you build a multimedia ebook from a .PDF (use audio, video). The catch is that your book becomes excluse to Apple. It's a big catch.
iii) DIY an epub3- Get Adobe In Design, Creative Suite5.5 with the latest add-ons, learn how to use it and do it yourself. (also see the post link)
create your own enhanced book

You can also start your search for open source software here or here.

The pros - It's your book and you're doing it yoursef. If you don't make it as an author - well maybe you can have a new career formatting other people's epub3's and get paid well. 
The cons - It still costs money. And if you're looking at option iii) - it's still hundreds to thousands of dollars. (Thousands - or at least one thousand- if you're starting from scratch without any Adobe software - NOT a maybe). And then there's the time. Think of the time involved.

No matter how you look at it - making an enhanced ebook is like mutating your book into a very complicated website. Only now you're renaming it,  giving it a label like 'App' or 'epub3.' And however complicated you decide to make your book - if indies start doing it now - it could very well take off and be profitable. But after the initial investment, the time and learning involved - will it be worth it? You'll have to decide. 

It might give indies the next big push to success, but it's going to be a huge amout of work.Think of the time involved that won't be devoted to writing.

If you are thinking about enhancing your book and creating it as an epub 3, see below for very important info that explains the epub3 format in detail:
**Learn more about epub3 specs here (it's a free book):
read online here 

I recently looked at a couple of blog posts that discussed the possible future of these enhanced ebooks. On one blog there was an interview with a publisher who believed that few readers would actually purchase these books. The enhanced books are too gimmicky and distracting when people really just want to read. An iPad can already read your book aloud to you if your eyes are tired or you're too busy to finish the reading yourself. Do you really need videos, interactive puzzles or animation in a book? Too much money would have to be invested to produce these things and you are limitted by what you can charge for them. 


The idea that there might be any controvesrsy surrounding this seems ridiculuous to me. You might as well say that games and movies are too distracting. They're too expensive. They'll never sell enough to make the production worthwhile. 
An epub3 is just a new format. It doesn't have to be over the top entertainment.
(Besides, enhanced ebooks have already been around for years. They were just called Apps, games and websites before. But now when they're packed into an epub3 they're called a book. Some websites are pretty simple, but they still look good and get a lot of traffic. Just think of all those non-readers out there that might just become readers as a result of the new format and interactivity?)

Anyway, it's not like the original read-only ebook format is going anywhere. Your indie book - readable on many different devices - will still be available. It will also be cheaper than the enhanced version. And - it's not like you have to turn all of your books into enhanced ebooks. Maybe you only make one of your books a multi media experience? It could be enough to give you a whole new audience. Plus your multi media ebook will be more expensive than the original. You might make fewer sales and still make more money. But you're an indie so you set the price.

Here's where I think the biggest advantages lie:

Newness. It's new. You're new. It's a chance to get into the market early. (At the moment it looks like an iPad and selected other tablets market only - but that's a very affluent market. And  the competition is trying to keep up).

You only have yourself to mobilize and educate. There's no one telling you  you can't do it.

You have control. You don't have to go big - but you can if you want. Maybe all you want to do is add your own audio track to the book, a couple of well placed sound effects, sparkly chapter headings and a simple animation or two. You can learn a lot online for free. But if you aren't up to learning the necessay web skills, you can look for cheap help at colleges (hire a student). You could join forces with other indies and share the learning. Heck, share the software.

And when it comes to making the media components, you can go big or go cheap.You could go all out and pay local actors to voice your characters for you. Or you could use your family to record the character's voices and pay them in hugs and fame later on. Just remember - you still need to produce a professional quality book to be successful - so cheap and cheesy won't work. You're trying to sell your hard work for more. And there are no guarantees you will be successful. But who can say? Maybe there is no limit to what you can accomplish?

I've really only started to look into this, so the information here is a little limitted. Like I said before - I'm a newbie. In a future post, I'll update this information with more details. Or just create a whole new post. 

I am interested in experimenting with this enhanced ebook formatting myself.  So if I make any progress - I'll be sure to post it here. If you have any information you want to share - let me know. You can even suggest your blog to me and I'll follow it (of course it would be nice if you followed mine back as well). I welcome all of your comments.

Next Post - Indie Author Newbies Part 2: List of Editing, Reviewing and What the Heck to Do With Your Book  ---- Resources
I'll start Part 2 with editing.

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