Friday, March 19, 2010


I've said before, the potential benefit of the eBook will NOT be strictly as an additional format, but an innovation in product—bringing in new ideas so the book becomes something else entirely, on a new plane of things, and a Publisher's Marketplace (the freebie, not the purchased version) update this week gave an example of just that:

[Note: Helen blogged about this yesterday, and from an industry/ knows what she's talking about perspective, THAT blog will probably be more informative (but hopefully this one will at least amuse you, my comments should be apparent)]

eBook Releases from Grisham and Baldacci

[blah blah blah Grisham backtitles blah...]

Separately, when David Baldacci's new book DELIVER US FROM EVIL is released on April 20, [is it just me, or does he look in serious need of lingerie training?]  Hachette Book Group's editions will include an "enriched" electronic version they're calling the Writer's Cut eBook. In the release, HBG ceo David Young says, "For David Baldacci's fans, this is a chance to see his creative process revealed, and deepen the connection with an author they love to read.  This enhanced eBook is the perfect marriage of innovation and great storytelling."

[AHA! Now THAT is what I was talking about!]

Baldacci tells the AP, "I want people to have a great experience and give them a behind-the-scenes look at what I do, the way you would have it on a DVD." Priced at $15.99, a dollar above the starting list price of the regular ebook (which would go to $12.99 after hitting the bestseller list), the enhancements include an alternate ending to the story, deleted passages, an audio interview, video of Baldacci at work, and research photos taken by the author. Thus it will work on ebook platforms that handle video and color, but "Hachette is still working on the enriched version and is unsure of its availability" on eInk screens.

[Hmmm... that's nearly twice as much as the $9.99, but we all know the $9.99 is a bad idea for the overall industry, at least on NEW books that are also released in hardcover, as the likelihood of poaching from regular sales will grow with really large differences between 'e' and regular price--see, I know stuff.]
Baldacci also indicates that, though he received some negative online reader "reviews" last when when the ebook of FIRST FAMILY was selling initially for more than $15, sales followed the general increase in the market: "I just saw the royalty statements for 'First Family,' and sales for the e-book were up 400 percent over the e-book of my previous novels. It was a very vocal minority that was upset and at the end of the day it didn't have any impact."
[Yeah, but in this case, he doesn't know how much he MIGHT have sold had it gone for say, $12.99—I am all for the ENHANCED above $15, but I'm thinking it may be too much for plain old book e-version—except those really long ones... I figure about HALF seems right for a book that has no hard copy—doesn't that seem right? That half would be for the story and half for the physical thing? Maybe it's just me. The innovation though, that's another story...]

In an online interview with Charlotte Abbott on Friday, Young and HBG svp of digital Maja Thomas indicated that the company is working with many of their biggest authors--including Stephenie Meyer, [I want to see a Meyer book with the opportunity for readers to improve her writing *cough*] James Patterson [and a Patterson where the reader gets paid to write their OWN Patterson book!], Michael Connelly, Brad Meltzer and others--on a variety of experimental enhanced ebooks. Thomas noted "some of it is platform-specific, and some of it is platform agnostic," adding, "we'll have to see in the next few months how much the consumer loves what we have done." Calling it "a very exiting and dynamic time," [can I get a BOY HOWDY! --it is exciting, really.]  Young emphasized the importance of now "having direct feedback from our readers," adding that "boy, do we hear from them."

In the interview, they also said that the company has digitized and made available as ebooks 90 percent of the books on their list that lend themselves to current electronic formats. When it come to electronic rights and royalties, Young said "we certainly have one or two issues around that [ya think?], but it is literally a handful of authors where we are still having to negotiate those rights with agents." He also noted that "some of our authors do not want to appear in this format, and that's absolutely their prerogative." For more quotes and reflections from the interview, Mike Shatzkin writes about it on his blog.

So I thought maybe what WE could do today (that being a royal we, initially, because looking around my basement, I don't see any of you BUT, once I've done my thing, PLEASE ADD!) is BRAINSTORM some things that might be done with this.

I am not a big fan of deleted scenes EXCEPT in the case where the original book was too LONG and scenes were only cut to get under a certain page count. (y'all know this detail makes me just a little hostile, yes?)

'Skip the Sappy Shit' Version

Now I've heard complaints (mostly indirectly) that men don't like all that relationship garbage. Maybe there is a handy version of the book that excludes all that (or summarizes it: “Dave thought Juanita was pretty hot,” instead of getting into the development of the relationship)--push an option, and voila!  Book is now free of all that pesky crap.

Sex it Up, Please (ET, I'm talking to you)

Likewise, a 'more graphic' or 'less graphic' sexual preference could be selected (though you know our teens would be sneaking in to read the graphic one, right? However, I think graphic sex via books is preferable to graphic sex via the magazines between the mattress and box springs—yeah, I know they're there. I learned about sex from reading “Summer of '42” after all, and hold an 'anything that makes them read more is good' attitude.)  But right now, romance and erotica are solidly separate categories, when in reality, there is PLENTY of room for overlap.  I think there is an opportunity, particularly for erotica authors, to reach an audience they currently don't.  That probably sounds biased, but I think it's easier to program deletions than write new stuff that isn't in the normal reportoire. 

Take Me There!

Links to images of places mentioned, inspiration behind ideas, the authors image of what the characters look like?  There is a ton of room to add visual links or historic information (sheesh, how much easier is the footnote process.  The last fiction book I read with footnotes was Dracula (the Bram Stoker version) and the notes really help, but interupt flow--how fabulous to have it be OPTIONAL in the full sense of it.  And MAPS!!!!!  I get all excited about maps.  I know it's a strange fetish, but I adore them.  When books have maps at the front I am CONSTANTLY returning to the map.  How fabulous to be able to have a dozen little maps embedded, especially in fantasy--there could even be a dot to note where the character WAS at the moment that moved, depending on what page you'd come from.

Pick Your Ending?  How about Expanding that Decision Making?

This was my original idea on the matter. I love the idea that readers might be able to make decisions—thrillers, especially: do you trust that guy, or not? Do you get in the car, or not? Do you run or fight? But I think there is HUGE potential in say... women's fiction: so many of these stories pivot on decisions, and I love the idea as both writer and reader of being able to explore BOTH directions--in fact one of my partially plotted, a few scenes written books begins memoirish but sends the MC into a coma where she LIVES the other branches of choices she'd made, but with full knowledge of it being DIFFERENT.

I also wrote two separate endings for my FIRST EVER 'novel' (a Harry Potter story about Eileen Snape), though mostly that was reader pressure--they'd fallen in love with my characters and couldn't stand that I was so rotten to them. (actually they said they loved it, but begged for the happy one, too)

So what do you think?  Any Innovations YOU can see that need exploring?  Do you have any plans for them in your own writing?


TreeX said...

Alexandria, right, that map? ;)
Egypt in any case, what with Giza and Pharos on it :)

Which annotated version of Dracula did you read? The new one, by Leslie Klinger? -- the e-book/PDF version of the Harry Potter in Fifteen Minutes has the usual link-to-footnote embedded in the PDF btw, which I found strangely satisfying :)

But other enhancements for ebooks are an interesting idea... Interactive bookmarks spring to mind; especially useful for textbooks -- you know, the sticky notes version where you write on each little tab ;)

Or optional illustrations; personally I dislike too many pictures, or too rich a layout for my textbooks, but I know there must be people that actually find it easier ;))

Sugar said...

OOh I'm liking the more sex thing..maybe in the deleted scenes..where we can go...maybe I am a closet vouyer..maybe options to learn more about the characters past, thoughts etc..idk..could be fun!

Jan Morrison said...

if you don't make it so I can read it in the bath I don't care about the other stuff particularly the sexy stuff!

Watery Tart said...

Joris-you're totally right--on the non-fiction ESPECIALLY, what a fabulous way to keep the notes with the text!

Sugar-I would LOVE to have the 'character development' scenes that get cut because publishers are sure we all have too short of attention spans for it--TOTALLY on board there! *giggles at the vouyer*

Jan-I like to read in the bath, too, and I do a HUGE majority of my reading walking (as usually in the bath I am WRITING) and a kindle or some such thing is just not something I want to bang around as much as the books I walk with get banged around. CONCEPTUALLY though, I love some of this stuff---only when it has the added value, though.

B. Miller said...

What a cool post. Thanks for sharing, Hart. I wonder if I should "skip the sappy stuff" in my MS? There is a romance threaded in with all that horror. I feel like it's important, though.

Helen Ginger said...

I think you're definitely ready for the enhanced e-book. You already have enough for a couple of books.

And I think you did a better job on the e-book article!

Straight From Hel

Watery Tart said...

B. WRITE the sappy stuff, but plan for an eButton that will skip it for the dudes! Women prefer it in there!

Helen-Poo! You have all the professional stuff DOWN--you know much more and link to better resources. I get a little Zany, and where something hasn't happened yet, the fact that I'm unhindered by reality may help. *snort* But people like you who actually KNOW something are essential for people like me to actually make any progress.

I SOOOOOO want the eBook for Confluence---SOMEBODY will want my scenes I had to cut to get the word count down! (though it's hard to think I'd be willing to clean those parts up as much as the parts that go into the main book)

TreeX said...

I had another couple of ideas during the mailround today (apart from the 1500 word position paper that is now magically written :) )

- Interactive editing; some books have just too many niggling little factual errors to be entirely enjoyable; I don't mean changing the big facts to fit your story, but more things like writing the big piratical historical novel in such a way that it almost fits, but just so that they would have sunk during the first hurricane, let alone the obligatory single-ship action -- of course, mr Crichton was already dead by the time they found the book, so I don't blame him, but I think the ability to stick annoying things like that in a sort of wiki would be nice :)

- I know this is supposed to be already a feature of e-textbooks, but it's just so cool I'm sticking it in here too: the ability to handwrite notes into the text using the stylus, and then have those things automatically edited up into a big Word file using standard fonts and that links to the parts of the text they were notes to :)