Monday, July 2, 2012

Gimmicky Books and Indie Success

Book gimmicks have been around a long time. Possibly as long as books have. Snarl if you want, but really, what is a book gimmick? You could argue that just about anything making a book more than text alone is a gimmick. After all, what are comic books and graphic novels? Maps and illustrations? Pop up covers? The inclusion of puzzles the reader has to solve before moving on in the story? These are just a few examples of gimmicks that have helped sell books for many years.

More recently, we've seen books that spill over onto the web with additional content that accompanies the story. We've got digitally interactive books, enhanced e-books and my personal favorite, customized novels (I only add this last one because that's what I do - and yes, it's a gimmick).

You might wonder what any of these gimmicks have to do with indie writers. It's a fair question. After all, gimmicky books are risky. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. So what good is gimmicky to an indie? It's not like all indies have sacs of money lying around to invest in making their books gimmicky. They wouldn't need those gimmicks helping to sell their books if they had those sacs of money in the first place.

My answer is that with more and more of us indies out there, we need something to give us an edge. How many times have you heard "If you want to be successful as an indie, write a really good book?" Sure. Great advice. But that won't give you an edge over anything traditionally published. Even a lot of great honest reviews might not help - because as an indie you can really only do so much without money. And it doesn't matter how good your book is if nobody likes it. Books are subjective. Always have been.

Now if you, as an indie, were looking for some kind of gimmick to help sell your book, what would it be? It has to be cheap or free to make. That's a given.

About a month ago, I came across an article about video books that were a kind of a failed experiment put out there by one of the major publishing companies (I think it was Harper Collins). From what I understand, it failed big time. This might have been because of the changes in technology for enhanced e-books or because of the prohibitive cost of the video books (kind like the prohibitive cost of most traditionally published e-books). It got me thinking. Instead of trying to make enhanced e-books, why couldn't indies try the video book format? It would be far easier for an indie to make one - there's enough free software out there to help you do it and it would require far less technical knowledge. Of course the average novel would have to be broken up to make it readable/watchable. Maybe each video could be only a chapter in length?

I can't say that a video book would be all that quick or easy to make, but it could be done for free. And there are so many devices that can play the videos. It just might be the gimmick to give indies an edge.

Video books by Harper Collins

See the article above about Harper Collins' video books. It's interesting but what I'm really thinking of for a video book is a little different. I imagine a video book to look a little like the old Windows MovieMaker productions. You know - The story text appearing over a background video (or image). Page turning. An audio track that could read the words, have background music, sound effects etc. - but is mutable and can be paused because it's a video. It could be a digest version of your book or the whole thing broken up into many videos.

What do you think? A go or a no? As an indie, I'm up for the challenge if you are. I'd love to read your comments on this.

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