Book Business January/February 2013 : Page 6
News The Revolution Will Be Digitized A look at the ebook conversion process of one of America’s most trailblazing authors. By Brian Howard ( b u zz Pub FEBRUARY M ark Z. Danielewski, the author of mind-bending, paradigm-busting works House of Leaves and Only Revolutions , has made a career of turning the novel on its head. Unsurprisingly, he’s attempting the same with ebooks. The digital version of the Los Angeles-based author’s The Fifty Year Sword (Panthe-on)—which in print features elaborate stitched illustra-tions—came out late last year and is neither a print replica nor a reflowable document. Rather, the fixed-layout epub takes the fastidiously constructed ghost story for grownups to another level, incorporating an original score and a collection of text effects that are triggered as the reader turns pages “I was in many ways the art director and [e book pro-ducer] Lillian Sullam was the technical director,” says Dan-ielewski on the phone from Los Angeles. The author takes a very hands-on approach to the design of his books, which is why he was intimately involved in converting The Fifty Year Sword , the first of his books to be rendered digitally. “My role was to take what I had designed in In-Design, [and] things as crude as paper and thread, and help transfer all of that to a format that seemed amenable to an ebook format, and then to actually begin to deepen that experience. Lillian and I worked very closely. I’d sug-gest possibilities for a certain sequence and we’d look at how that would resonate The Fifty Year Sword incorporates live-action animation, text effects and an original music score, all triggered by reader actions. thematically while not being an example of using one too many tricks.” Danielewski points to a passage about a “valley of salt” where words become blurred, and a forest of fall-ing notes where letters and words disintegrate. “Not only does it literalize the theme,” he says, “it creates a sense of immediacy in the reader who is trying to get through the page before it dismantles in front of her eyes.” The book’s original mu-sic, which is cued by specific page turns, was written by Danielewski’s friend Chris-topher O’Reilly, who’d composed the pieces for a staged shadow play of the story when the book was first published in limited Dutch release in 2005. “I’d got a grant to support Chris’ role [in the live performanc-es]. It dawned on us: Why not use it for a score for the ebook?” Sullam employed an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the thematic varia-tions and avoid repetition. Beyond the granular de-tails, there are bigger issues at play. For instance, is it the same book now? “At what point are we 6 FEBRUARY 2013 | BOOK BUSINESS
The Revolution Will Be Digitized
A look at the ebook conversion process of one of America’s most trailblazing authors
Mark Z. Danielewski, the author of mindbending, paradigm-busting works House of Leaves and Only Revolutions, has made a career of turning the novel on its head. Unsurprisingly, he’s attempting the same with ebooks.
The digital version of the Los Angeles-based author’s The Fifty Year Sword (Pantheon)— which in print features elaborate stitched illustrations— came out late last year and is neither a print replica nor a reflowable document.
Rather, the fixed-layout epub takes the fastidiously constructed ghost story for grownups to another level, incorporating an original score and a collection of text effects that are triggered as the reader turns pages “I was in many ways the art director and [e book producer] Lillian Sullam was the technical director,” says Danielewski on the phone from Los Angeles.
The author takes a very hands-on approach to the design of his books, which is why he was intimately involved in converting The Fifty Year Sword, the first of his books to be rendered digitally.
“My role was to take what I had designed in In- Design, [and] things as crude as paper and thread, and help transfer all of that to a format that seemed amenable to an ebook format, and then to actually begin to deepen that experience. Lillian and I worked very closely. I’d suggest possibilities for a certain sequence and we’d look at how that would resonate thematically while not being an example of using one too many tricks.” Danielewski points to a passage about a “valley of salt” where words become blurred, and a forest of falling notes where letters and words disintegrate. “Not only does it literalize the theme,” he says, “it creates a sense of immediacy in the reader who is trying to get through the page before it dismantles in front of her eyes.” The book’s original music, which is cued by specific page turns, was written by Danielewski’s friend Christopher O’Reilly, who’d composed the pieces for a staged shadow play of the story when the book was first published in limited Dutch release in 2005. “I’d got a grant to support Chris’ role [in the live performances].
It dawned on us: Why not use it for a score for the ebook?” Sullam employed an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the thematic variations and avoid repetition.
Beyond the granular details, there are bigger issues at play. For instance, is it the same book now?
“At what point are we Moving away from the novel entirely and moving into a new art form?” asks Danielewski. “Expectations need to be put aside and managed differently. … We didn’t want to get too ahead of the text itself so that it became an animated movie of sorts. That’s where we spent the most time [on the project], determining what not to do. At what point are we moving too many letters around?
At what point is there too much sound? At what point are we interfering too much with the whole experience?”
It’s a question Danielewski will grapple with as he and Sullam convert the more intricate House of Leaves and Only Revolutions into digital formats. (The two started with House of Leaves but “that was so immense and complicated that we backed down” and tested the waters with the much shorter Sword.) How best to navigate this new intersection of media while remaining true to the original works, which are hybrids of text and design themselves?
“I’m concerned with image as well as text,” explains Danielewski, who’s quite aware of the cognitive minefield through which he’s tiptoeing. “There’s something that language does—it tickles certain parts of our mind. It registers in a way that image doesn’t.
… There’s also something about image that’s tremendously powerful and highly mnemonic. … My vocation has always encountered this bifurcation between image and text. And maybe there’s a third part with music. What my books do, I’m coming around to, is explore that world between them. It’s not one or the other. It’s actually that liminal place on the threshold of image, on the threshold of language, that maybe conjures, tickles, enacts something that’s a little new.”
When you put it that way, it’s almost a comfort to know that Danielewski’s the one on that front line where ebooks and multimedia meet—testing the limits, fully aware of the implications.
Will YA Revive The Short Story?
Once upon a time, there wasn’t much market potential for YA short stories. These days, though, digital publishing has made one-off narratives an appealing format for readers and a powerful marketing tool for publishers.
In December, Harper Collins debuted its new digital imprint HarperTeen Impulse, focusing on YA short stories and novellas and publishing between one and four works a month. Among the first releases was “Breathless” by Sophie Jordan, a companion to her bestselling Firelight fantasy series. Additional titles include stories by Sarah Mlynowski, Cynthia Hand and Walter Dean Myers.
The standalone original shorts, priced at 99 cents to $2.99, enable the publisher to quickly deliver content while enticing digi-reluctant teens to buy ebooks.
As a marketing tool, shorts engage teen consumers hungry for more content between releases in a series. “If you loved the first book in a trilogy and it seems like an interminable amount of time until the second book comes out, here’s a digital novella to tide you over,” says Christina Colangelo, director of integrated marketing at HarperCollins. “Whether they’re from a different character’s perspective or offering insight into a part of the world that the novel doesn’t explore, these are rich pieces. And beyond that, we’re hoping [Teen] Impulse will also be a place to introduce new authors to our alreadyengaged audience.” Short stories are even working their way into publishing contracts. When debut author Lissa Price sold her novel Starters to Random House, the contract included three shorts set in the futuristic world of the book. The plan was for the first to come out just before the book’s publication, with subsequent stories to be released before the sequel, each offering a glimpse into secondary characters’ perspectives while enriching the novel with new subplots.
Price says that short-form content is an ideal fit for today’s readers. “Publishers are looking to reach people using phones and iPads, and short stories lend themselves to being read on these devices.”
Elisa Ludwig is the author of Pretty Crooked, the first of a YA trilogy from Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins.
Industry Innovator: Rafiq Ahmed, Demibooks
Remember when book apps for tablets seemed like extravagant publicity stunts for deep-pocketed publishers? Of course you do—it was only a couple of years ago. Well, much has changed, including the ability of small publishers and even self-published authors to create engaging apps for the iPad. One of the best-known platforms for creating book apps is Demibooks (others include Inkling, MAZ, Biblio- Crunch, iPublishCentral and Robot Media). Demibooks offers a book creation app as a download on iTunes ($5.99), and charges a publishing fee of $249 to prepare completed books for sale. Authors or publishers can learn to use the composing tools themselves or work with professional developers trained in the platform for between $4,000 and $10,000, depending on scope. (Demibooks Studio also provides this service.)
Any way you slice it, it’s much less expensive than what one would normally pay for app creation.
Most Demibook projects are done for the children’s market. Company co-founder and CEO Rafiq Ahmed calls it “the easiest, most cost effective way to create rich, interactive books on the iPad.” Book Business recently caught up with Ahmed at the Media App Summit in New York, where he talked about the product and the expanding app marketplace.
Book Business: What was the gap in the market— the pain point for authors and publishers—that you identified when starting this company?
Rafiq Ahmed: The pain point is that the apps are really expensive to make.
You have to hire software developers. You have to learn how to code. You have to have a really good sense of design. When you are creating products for children or interactive stories, design is really important. We don’t give you a cookie cutter tool where you pick three options— we give you an entire software framework within which you can decide how you want to build a book.
BB: So each book can have a different feel, a different functionality?
RA: Absolutely. We’ve built a lot of functionality into the platform … You have a lot of options there. [On the other hand] if you have a portfolio of 50 titles or 100 titles, then you may want to have some commonality.
You may want to have categories of different books and then take similar approaches to them.
BB: You can assist with distribution as well?
RA: That’s right. At Demibooks we have two ways to distribute. One is through the [Apple] App Store itself. The second product we have is [an online marketplace] called Demibooks Storytime. It’s a curated multi-publisher app store focused on kids’ books. We’ve got brands like McGraw-Hill Education and children’s publishers like Kane Miller. We’ve also got a lot of independent storytellers. We curate the very best of that, and we have a directto- consumer sales team— about 7,000 sales consultants from our partners at EDC, a distributor for Usborne Books—promoting Storytime.
The premise is that between the app store and Storytime, you’re going to get more [sales] volume.
BB: Do most Demibooks users come from the selfpublishing market or are publishers also finding this to be a useful tool?
RA: We’re finding both. We have a lot of enthusiasm among self publishers because they can get in at a very reasonable cost. Publishers want to get their content out there but are hesitant because it costs so much, so it’s a really cost-effective way for them as well. If you are a new publisher especially, if you don’t have a huge brand … this is as lowrisk a way of getting into this as anything else I can think of.
BB: You were here at Media App Summit talking about discoverability. What’s some advice and best practices you would give publishers and authors related to the discoverability challenge?
RA: You cannot go far creating a crappy product. You’ve got to build good products. The story—the content— still is king. And then not overdoing the interactivity. Using a tool like composer, but being selective in what [features] you put in to make a really compelling story.
BB: Is that especially true with children’s books?
RA: Yeah, because it can be distracting. It can distract from the story. Too often you see kids playing [with a tablet] and pushing this and that but they didn’t really even read the actual story.
The other important challenge is marketing. Marketing means blogs. Marketing means getting enough ratings and comments in the stores you’re in. It means [creating download] spikes in the first few days. It means really having a social media strategy and savviness. Coming into stores like Storytime is also part of what we are suggesting, rather than just [marketing] single apps. Whether it’s our store or somebody else’s, I think the store provides a little more of that support and promotion.
Segment Focus: New Adult
Mostly Grown or Prolonged Adolescence?
Growing up doesn’t really end at age 20, so why should young adult fiction stop there? The New Adult genre, a growing subset of young adult lit, aims to give voice to the post-high school experience and its implied transition to independent living: college, moving away from home, traveling, starting first jobs and even sex. The content may be darker and more mature than what is traditionally found in YA, and the protagonists range from late teens to early 20s, but the stories offer many of the same kind of identity challenges and coming of age narratives as their YA brethren.
New Adult is emerging as quickly as publishers and authors can define it. St. Martins Press is credited with introducing the term “New Adult” as early as 2009, when it launched a contest for manuscripts featuring twentysomething characters. With older readers clamoring for YA books and driving their sales beyond publishers’ expectations, the hope is that New Adult will fill what St. Martin’s editorial assistant [Sarah] Jae-Jones (a.k.a JJ) has called a gap in the current adult market. Jae-Jones’ ran the publisher’s November 2009 contest that’s credited as the opening bell for this market.
So far, it seems that the industry is hedging its bets on NA’s growth. Penguin imprint Razorbill has jumped into the game with a number of titles, including the originally self-published novel Easy by Tammara Webber, which has sold more than 150,000 copies. Self-published 20-something author Cora Carmack landed a high six-figure deal with HarperCollins for her book Losing It and two other titles. Meanwhile, Random House has devoted a digital-first imprint to New Adult books, called Flirt. Smaller-scale publishers such as Carina Press and Entangled have announced their own NA lines. Entangled will be releasing 30 NA books between May and December 2013.
As with erotica and paranormal genres, much of the talent for NA books is being cultivated from digital self-publishing. “[This is] because until recently not many editors wanted to see NA, and even now, some still don’t,” says agent Suzie Townsend, who represents Cora Carmack. “And of course there wasn’t—and still isn’t—a section for this age group in the stores. But there’s clearly a market for well-written and engaging NA books. I think we’ll see more of them selling to publishers.”
While the lack of an NA section in bricks and mortar stores has been a drawback for publishers in the past, Entangled publisher Liz Pelletier predicts that stores will inevitably have to recognize the bestsellers in this category and start making shelf space within a year. “Everyone is seeing this as an untapped market and there are hundreds of authors out there who have written spectacular NA books that have never seen the light of day. For publishers, that is very exciting.”
The readers are already there. Goodreads has noted that the number of readers identifying, reading and rating New Adult books has spiked in recent months. The blog NA Alley was created last year to promote the genre’s offerings. “In September, Publishers Weekly reported that over half of young adult sales come from adults. The ‘over-18’ crowd makes up a significant portion of the YA audience, and from what I’ve seen, makes up a significant portion of the NA audience, as well,” says NA Alley blogger and author Carrie Butler. “What’s interesting about the rise of NA is that its success can be attributed to the most powerful tool in any marketing campaign: word of mouth.”
Put Me In The Story
produced by: Sourcebooks
price: Free with one digital book
Imagine the look of delight when that special child in your life sees his/her name in the bedtime story you’re reading together. Sourcebooks’s new Put Me In The Story allows caregivers to bring bedtime stories to life, with the ability to personalize interactive stories with a child’s name, making him/her the star of the story.
“Put Me In The Story is unique in that it takes bestselling picture books that children, parents and educators already know and love, and brings your child into those stories,” says Dominique Raccah, publisher and CEO of Sourcebooks.
“For kids, seeing their name throughout the book makes them feel special and gets them excited about reading. For parents, these books create an unbelievable bond.” These digital books offer a level of interactivity that is not available in customized print books. With subtle animation and sound effects, children are encouraged to engage with the story.
“One of the first pages children see is the title page that reads ‘[Insert name]’s Night Night Book’,” says Heather Moore, senior publicity manager at Sourcebooks. “It’s their book, so kids are really loving that.” The app is free in the App Store and comes with Marianne Richmond’s The Night Night Book. Additional books are available as in-app purchases for $4.99 (I personally recommend Dream Big, Little Pig! By Kristi Yamaguchi). Sourcebooks plans to add at least one new book to the store each month.
Interactive iBooks from Providence eLearning
produced by: providence eLearning
price: $9.99 each
Do you love classic literature but find those big dusty thomes and tiny Old English type intimidating? Providence eLearning’s Apple iBooks can help. Filled with interactive material, such as video lectures, audio narration and review questions, they add a new level of engagement to those glorious, if occasionally unapproachable, texts. These features are all designed to enhance learning by helping reinforce what students read and giving instant feedback from within the book.
“The narrators are top educators who are passionate about their material,” says Cole Mathisen, e-learning coordinator at Providence eLearning. “We combine their literary expertise with technical expertise to create the ultimate comprehensive and interactive learning experience.” There are currently six titles available, including Macbeth, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Beowulf and The Poetry of William Blake, with more on the way. Providence plans to release a new title each month.
Atlas By Collins
produced by: harper collins publishers Ltd.
If you thought global atlas apps began and ended with Google Earth, now there’s Atlas by Collins. Drawing on the HarperCollins UK imprint’s rich history in map publishing, Atlas by Collins takes a different approach to geographic exploration. While not as granular as Google Earth and its grainy, stitched-together satellite images, Atlas by Collins focuses on beautiful, well-organized globes, all with full swipe and zoom functionality and arranged under three thematic headings: atlas essentials, people and power, and living earth. With seven distinct globes, each with its own set of overlays (a population globe visualizes distribution, density, urban population, etc.), Atlas by Collins packs a lot of data onto your tablet.
As each globe must be downloaded individually, the app can be a bit of a memory hog (minimum 620MB and maxing out at 1.1GB), but individual globes can be removed from, and added back to, the device. Collins, which was founded in 1819 on the principle of “creating knowledge for all,” has plans to add more globes in the future, bringing even more functionality and value to an app that’s as powerful for personal use as in the classroom.
Read about HarperCollins app Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Universe at bookbusinessmag.com.
Read the full article at http://digitaleditions.napco.com/article/Pub+Buzz/1289151/143161/article.html.
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