BookTrack: Why Soundtracks For Books Are Great For Readers And Authors

I just did a fantastic event in Auckland, New Zealand, so a big thanks to everyone who came! Plus a big thanks to BookTrack who sponsored and organized the event, as well as Auckland Libraries who hosted it.

booktrackSo what is Booktrack?

First up, watch this quick video to get the idea about what it is – watch below or here on YouTube

In order to learn more about this, I interviewed Paul Cameron, CEO and co-founder of Booktrack about the service. In this video, we talk about why he and his brother started the company and what they want to achieve, as well as the benefits for authors and readers. You can watch below or here on YouTube.

Highlights of our discussion include:

  • People often read in public accompanied by a soundtrack of some kind – either to shut out ambient noise, or to accompany the story.

Books are (currently) one of the only entertainment choices that doesn’t have synchronized sound.

  • Authors often choose soundtracks as they write, and share it with readers. For example, check out the Undercover Soundtrack on Roz Morris’ blog
  • Booktrack takes a movie style soundtrack and synchronizes it with individual reading speed via apps. You can create these yourself for free – and it’s super fun!
  • Booktrack has a LOT of music and sound available to use – you can’t just use any music because of copyright
  • I mention how soundtracks on film are designed to underscore emotional elements, and no film is complete now without a soundtrack. Booktrack is aiming to get to this point in the future.
  • Readers can find Booktrack on the app stores or online Booktrack.com – it’s free to use and try at the moment.
  • The company’s aim is to become something similar to Audible but without words – selling books with soundtracks direct to consumers.

budapest booktrackMarketing and sales with BookTrack

Book marketing is a constant challenge for us all and one way to stand out is by having more than just text available. If you can add sound to your words, it brings another atmospheric dimension to the reading experience, and may be enough to draw people into your book.

The easiest thing to do is to check out a few books. Here’s my prologue for One Day In Budapest, and Hugh Howey’s Sand

You can easily share the Booktracks on social media and email, and coming soon, you’ll be able to use embeddable widgets on your website.

In terms of monetization, you can add a link to all the platforms where people can buy your book as part of the free aspect of the platform. In 2015, Booktracks will be available for sale, so could provide another revenue stream.

booktrack

Five useful tips for using Booktrack

I asked author D.C.Grant to share her tips for using the service. You can check out her book, Where the flag floats, here on Booktrack.

Dawn also has a book for authors, The Booktrack Author User Guide, which will help you if you want to do DIY.

flag floatsWhen you are creating a sound track for your book using Booktrack, it is called booktracking.

  1. Treat booktracking time like writing time – block off a period of time with no distractions, switch off email/ text message/social media notifications. Also limit or exclude other sounds, or work using a headset so that you can concentrate on the tracks.
  2. Booktrack short sections at a time. Don’t attempt to do too much all at once.
  3. Keep pen and paper handy, or a note-taking app like OneNote, to make a note of the tracks that appeal to you as you go through the results of your search criteria. It’ll be a certainty that you won’t remember the track that you liked on page 2 by the time you get to page 6.
  4. If you find the diversity of music tracks overwhelming, search for a composer whose music suits the genre/theme of your book and make that your ‘go-to’ composer when choosing tracks. For a showcase of composers and the type of music they produce, use the Booktrack Music Showcase.
  5. Layer your sound – start with music, then layer on an ambience track and finish with sound effects. Or layer two ambience tracks and then sound effects. Or a music track and two ambience tracks and no sound effects. The choice is up to you. You can layer on as many tracks as you like, but too many and things may get muddled! Play it back to make sure it’s not too much and that the sound effects don’t get overwhelmed.

Booktracking can appear daunting but there’s no better way to learn that to just jump in and do it! Have a go today.

BIO: D C Grant writes books for boys because she reads books for boys. Her favorite authors are Lee Child and Bernard Cornwall and with these influences she was never going to be a romance writer. D C Grant currently lives in Auckland, New Zealand but was born in Manchester, England and lived for twenty years in Durban, South Africa. She currently lives in a New York style loft apartment with a slightly psychotic cat called Candy.

Here’s how to make a Booktrack

You can find out more at Booktrack.com or on twitter @booktrack

What do you think about this? Do you ever listen to music/movie soundtracks when reading? Have you tried using Booktrack as a reader or as an author and do you have any tips or thoughts? Please leave your comments below and join the conversation. 

 

Freedom Of Expression, DRM, Piracy And Censorship With Cory Doctorow

On Fri 13 June, I went along to The Literary Consultancy’s conference and heard Cory Doctorow speak about DRM (digital rights management), the scary side of monitoring, why you shouldn’t support DRM and some sobering information about the freedom of creation and the internet.

cory doctorow TLCI don’t have DRM on my indie books, and I certainly support the fight against censorship on the internet, BUT this talk helped me realize the extent of my own ignorance about these issues.

I’m now remedying this situation by reading a LOT more about it – this is a critical part of our future as creatives and as internet entrepreneurs. I hope you will feel the same way after you’ve listened to this speech.

You can listen to the talk below. The main talk is the first 23 mins and I’ve broken down some notes below. After 23 mins is the Q&A

Here are a few notes:

Doctorow’s 3 Laws

  • Anytime someone puts a lock on something that belongs to you and won’t give you the key, it’s not there for your benefit. On why DRM is a bad idea. Also, how Hachette is one of the publishers with mandatory DRM. Plus, indies should make sure they actively choose not to use DRM – on some of the distribution sites, it is auto-selected. It’s certainly not necessary – as publisher Tor is now DRM free.
  • Fame won’t make you rich but you’ll have a hard time getting sales if no one has heard of you. Starts around 9mins in. Discusses how the deal for creators has got worse as the big conglomerates have consolidated into larger organizations. Talking about copyright laws, entertainment companies and law suits that are trying to control technology. Mentions Hugh Howey and indie authors, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and Madonna switching to the concert organizer instead of a record label/distributor.
  • Information doesn’t want to be free. Starts at around 17mins. On censorship, privacy and more. The laws that protect DRM also stop the disclosure of flaws that can harm you. Scary stuff about ‘ratting,’ how your devices including your computer’s camera can be hacked – but now it is illegal to inform you how you can protect yourself. Seriously, this is awful stuff.

More information

What do you think about these issues? Please comment below. If you’re specifically knowledgable about this area, please add links in the comments to more resources. This feels like a critical topic for us to be more educated about.

Publishing: Why You Should Care About Ebook vs Print Formatting

One of the fantastic rewards of writing a book is being able to hold a physical copy in our hands. Regardless of other definitions of success, the thrill never goes away.

letterpressI’m a huge fan of print-on-demand, and one of the most popular posts on the blog is Top 10 tips on self-publishing print books on Createspace by Dean Fetzer. Today, Dean is back to share a common question about formatting ebooks vs print.

I get asked this question a lot: “Can I use my CreateSpace PDF for the ebook version?”

The simple answer is ‘no’. Well, you could, but I doubt you’d be very happy with the finished results — and more importantly, neither would your readers. Frankly, a PDF is the last format you should use to create an ebook from as it does so many things that you just don’t want an ebook to do.

Flow vs rigid formatting

With a printed book, you want to control as much as you possibly can, from how the text aligns to the headers at the tops of the pages to where the page numbers sit on the page: that all needs to be exact to provide the best printed reading experience you can for your readers.

Ebooks, on the other hand, need to flow. You’ve no idea what the person reading your book is reading it on, much less whether they use really small text or enlarge it so they can read it easily. Even if all you format your book for is the Kindle platform, each model varies in the way it displays the written word.

If your book doesn’t adjust to that, they’re not going to enjoy reading it.

Differences in Kindle formatting

 

You can see from these three examples how different even the Kindle platform is when each device displays the book differently.

Ebooks are basically created using hypertext, the same language that web pages use to format content for the internet, albeit with fewer options for styling the text for the viewer. (No, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to learn HTML to set out your book, it just means you need to think differently about how you do it.)

The key for ebooks is about ‘flow’: how does your text look when you enlarge the font size on your reading device? What happens when it gets smaller? The pages reformat themselves automatically to fit the screen of the device and your book needs to do that, too. This is the main reason page numbers are pretty much worthless on an ereader — how do you know what page it is if the text has reflowed to fit the screen or the needs of the reader?

Minimal formatting

Your printed book looks great on paper, but that’s because a lot of effort has gone into making it fit the page, not to mention all the other work that goes into setting a book out for the printed page. Not so with ebooks – if anything you want less control.

The key to a successful ebook is to minimise the amount of additional formatting: that means no funky fonts, no weird margins and try to avoid tables or other text constructs in your copy that require a specific format.

I know, I know, “it looks so much better if that funny bit is in Comic Sans” — trust me, nothing looks better in Comic Sans. And if you want to keep your reader interested, you need to make the reading experience as easy for them as possible.

Keep formatting to a minimum. This means that rather than use an unusual font that isn’t supported by a lot of devices, go for bolding a basic font or use italics instead. If you have to use a different font, put it in a graphic. That way you can control the look and feel without resorting to embedding unusual fonts or anything else that will look bad on an ereader screen.

Sure you can indent a paragraph, just don’t try to lock it into a particular size or style at the same time. Don’t use drop caps as that’s another option that will just cause problems.

First tip: keep it simple. By that I mean take out any text formatting that is going to cause the reader problems with your book.

Graphics

Photos or other images need to be high resolution for a print book – at least 300 dpi – it’s just the way printers work and the best way to get good results from your printed book. Graphics for ebooks, on the other hand, only need to be screen resolution.

So the simple explanation is that graphics need to be resized. Don’t worry, this is done by a lot of the converters out there, so it’s not a huge worry, but if you use a lot of images, I would recommend resizing them yourself before you put them in the ebook to avoid complications later. And by all means, keep them to a  minimum.

Tip: keep images to a minimum and resize them before you submit your ebook.

Page breaks

Page breaks or section breaks are important in print and ebooks, as they keep chapters from flowing into each other and separate text you don’t want flowing on from a previous text block. Use them.

One of the worst crimes in terms of manuscript formatting I’ve seen is the use of paragraph returns to separate pages. I spend a good portion of my life taking paragraph returns out of manuscripts. So don’t do it. That’s what page and section breaks are for. I prefer section breaks between chapters because that’s more useful than a simple page break and provides a better standard of break.

Tip: use section breaks between chapters.

File formats

Okay, you’ve got your file ready for publication in print, so now what? That print file is a good place to start, just remember that you’ll need to simplify it for your ebook. It’s probably too complicated and not necessarily laid out in the right order to suit your electronic version.

For your ebook, you need to get it into the right format for the device you’re planning to publish on. The most popular version of format is the ‘.epub’ file format. Yes, I know, Kindle Direct Publishing until recently preferred a ‘.mobi’ file format (don’t write in), but they will now accept an unbundled .epub file, but that’s a whole different kettle of fish.

Personally, I always submit a .mobi file to KDP as I know where it’s been. By that, I mean that it is formatted in such a way that nine times out of ten I can predict how it’s going to behave.

This is probably the most common question I get asked: “How do I convert my book to the right format?” The straight answer is there is no simple way to do it that will guarantee you the best results. I usually code my books by hand until they’re ready to be made into an epub file, then convert them to .mobi for Kindle.

“How do I get my book into a .mobi format?”, I can hear you ask? Well, that’s the difficult part. No one has yet come up with an easy way to generate a .mobi file, although it’s easy enough to convert a file with a shareware app like Calibre. I find that Calibre’s conversion is a bit too rough and doesn’t always compile the files correctly.

A simple way to get to an .epub is to import a modern Microsoft Word file (.docx) into Calibre and then convert it to the epub format. You will need to add a table of contents and either link them to bookmarks for each of your chapters via the Hyperlink function or produce the file on a PC which will allow you to embed the links as HTML. Why the Mac version doesn’t do this, I don’t know.

Once I’ve got the epub file, I put the book through Kindle’s free application KindleGen on the Mac to convert it to a .mobi file. This isn’t something I’d recommend for everyone, as it uses Apple’s Terminal application and does take a bit of know-how of the Unix command line to do this kind of conversion.

If you’re converting to a .epub file, I would recommend Calibre as the results for that conversion have been pretty good for me. Once you’ve produced an epub file, you need to see if it validates by using something like ePub Checker or use an online validator to test it. If it doesn’t pass the checks, it won’t be a submittable file. And it won’t always give you enough information about what is wrong with the file.

There are a number of places to look for advice online but I’d recommend Mobile Read for general advice and great forums, Joel Friedlander  is always a good source (here he talks about decision making when producing your ebook) and this blog entry has some great resources, too. Oh, and Joel Friedlander has just added a new kind of template that allows you to do both versions from the same file.

I know Joanna uses Scrivener to compile her ebooks and is happy with the results, but again, it takes a bit of work to get it to come out correctly to the standard you want. Personally, I don’t like giving that control up – hey, I’m a control freak with a perfectionist streak, what can I say?

Alternatively, you can always pay someone like me to do the conversion, so you don’t have to or you can submit a Word file that you’ve reformatted to be as simple as possible, to KDP or one of the others and hope for the best.

The end result

This is what you’re looking for: a file that passes KDP or any other ebook platform’s checks to get your book published. It’s not an easy job and if you’ve seen a badly formatted ebook, you know exactly what I mean.

The final tip I’d give is to do the best you can to make sure your book provides a great reading experience for the reader.

And I can help!

If this all this seems too daunting, I can help you produce the best ebook for your project. And I’m reasonable!

Dean Fetzer - www.deanfetzer.com

You can find more information on the services I provide at www.gunboss.com or contact me through the form on the site.

Dean Fetzer is the author of four thrillers, a former pub reviewer and has been a graphic designer for more than 20 years, designing for print and then the internet before naturally moving into book design.

Selling Books At Kobo And Publishing News With Mark Lefebvre

We’re lucky to have more than one option to distribute and sell our books globally as self-published authors, and today I’m focusing on Kobo.

In the intro, I talk about the launch party for Deadly Dozen (valid until March 8), 12 mystery/thrillers for just 99c (or equivalent). Plus, the royalty change at ACX and updates on my own writing.

mark lefebvreMark Lefebvre is Director of Self Publishing and Author Relations at Kobo. He also writes horror and dark humor under Mark Leslie.

  • How Kobo differentiates itself by being a collaborative partner with leading booksellers around the world. Kobo Writing Life was the first to offer payment in the author’s currency, which Amazon KDP then picked up. It’s great to have a comparison service, a challenger to keep everyone honest!
  • We also discuss the scheduling of promotions which you can do on Kobo, and can help you get visibility, as well as making sure the promotions start on time. It’s not dependent on being exclusive, and you can be free on Kobo at any time. [I use free on Kobo to get Amazon to price-match for permafree]. The Kobo Writing Life team mine the scheduled promos for gems and great deals for customers.

What do the Kobo merchandising team look for?

  • Obviously you need the best book you can write, plus a book cover that is aimed at your target audience. It’s
    kobo mark lefebvre jf penn

    J.F.Penn with Mark Lefebvre at the Kobo booth, London Book Fair 2013

    also important to think of the perspective of the booksellers’ curation process. Kobo is a bookseller and will make more money on higher priced products, or on pleasing customers with deep discounts. Mark also mentions the networking potential of being a ‘real person,’ so definitely say hi to the Kobo Writing Life team at conferences.

  • Kobo Next is a list of new authors and new books for people to discover. The authors and books that make it there are handpicked, and are proposed to merchandising teams.

Kobo News: Sony, new CEO & global expansion

  • We talk about the potential for global growth in 2014-2015, as well as translation deals, for example, what Kobo are doing with Bella Andre/Lucy Kevin. Plus, pricing by different territories, critical to seeing update in other economies.

On balancing two author brands

kobo writing lifeIf you’re not on Kobo yet, check out KoboWritingLife.com , which also has a blog and podcast for authors. [I’m on the next episode!]

You can find Mark on twitter @MarkLeslie and his fiction blog here.

Publishing And Marketing Tips For The Apple iBookstore With Mark Coker From Smashwords

As much as I love Amazon and KDP, it’s important to remember that they are not the only publishing option for authors.

smashwords appleAs ebooks move far beyond the mature markets of the US and UK in 2014, I think all authors should be aware of the other platforms that compete, and in some cases, dominate.

A few weeks ago, Mark Coker did a presentation for the Alliance of Independent Authors on the opportunities for publishing and marketing in the Apple iBookstore.

It’s a long video but well worth watching if you’re not making many sales on iBookstore, because there are things you can do to maximize your chances of sales. I’ll certainly be making some changes myself based on Mark’s talk.

Watch the video below, or here on YouTube.

Here’s some of my key takeaways from the video:

  • On the Apple eco-system, the iBooks app is downloaded more then the Kindle app and the Apple hardware devices have a far more hardware penetration into markets than Amazon’s Kindle. iBookstore is now in 51 countries and on every Apple device.
  • Different books break out at different times on different platforms. Apple has a more human-powered marketing approach vs Amazon’s automated algorithms. This can mean some opportunities for marketing that aren’t just based on sales spikes. Apple’s team are looking to find new books to please their readers and they find them through many different methods.
  • There is no restricted free period on Apple and no price-matching. Free books have 91x more downloads than paid books on Apple and iBookstore promote free more because they are primarily a hardware company, wanting to keep readers in their eco-system.
  • For Apple sales, try using the Widgetbuilder and tools that link directly to your Apple sales page. How do you expect to sell anything if you’re not directing people there.

I’ve been a fan of Mark Coker for years. You can check out an early interview I did with him in 2010 here. We were raving about the exciting times in publishing several years ago, and Mark’s site Smashwords continues to explode with exciting news every few weeks and more opportunities for indies.

I’d love to hear any comments you have about iBookstore. Have you had sales success on iBooks? Have you used any of the Smashwords functionality for Apple? Do you have any iBookstore specific marketing tips? Please do leave a comment below.