Digital, Mobile, Global, Indie? The Future Of Publishing With Thad McIlroy

Regular listeners will know that I am a (not so closet) futurist.

VR

Trying out the Gear VR at #Thrillerfest15

Today I get to indulge my passion with Future of Publishing author, publishing consultant and speaker, Thad McIlroy. Yes, we both get super excited about mobile, digital, global sales and the creative disruption of indies!

In the intro, I round up my time at ThrillerFest and talk about how Nook has shuttered all international stores except the UK, plus the release of iOS 8.4 iBooks which will have integration with iTunes, which bodes well for audiobooks.

And of course, I have to mention Amazon review pain and the Authors United protest. Plus, Deviance, the final book in the London Psychic trilogy, is now on pre-order at Amazon, Kobo, Nook and iBooks.

Thanks to Kobo who did a Buy 3 and get 30% off promotion for my J.F.Penn thrillers last week, resulting in getting up to #4 in Mystery & Thriller in Canada, just behind Girl on a Train. My sales at Kobo this month have been super duper :) I talk about tips on how you can potentially get noticed for merchandising.

This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets kobo writing lifethrough the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.

Kobo’s financial support pays for the hosting and transcription, and if you enjoy the show, you can now support my time on Patreon. Thank you for your support!

Show notes for interview with Thad

thad mcilroyThad McIlroy is a journalist, author, speaker and publishing consultant and he writes about the future of publishing. He also has writing in his blood, as a descendant of Kenneth Grahame, who wrote The Wind in the Willows. Very cool!

You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher, watch the video or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below.

  • How mobile devices are changing the way people read and purchase books, and the increased reach of authors given the proliferation of mobile devices.
  • On the new relationship between social media, mobile devices and shopping habits, and the resulting importance of brand and capturing a reader’s attention almost instantly.
  • What World English rights mean to traditionally published authors vs. indie authors
  • mobile strategiesThe creative disruption that indie authors are creating and the benefits of not being bound by traditional rules, especially if we are unaware the rules existed at one time.
  • Whether there’s a plateau in the indie book market and thriving without needing to destroy the traditional.
  • The role of print books in the future, as well as the current state of the appearance of ebooks and the difficulty in making them beautiful.
  • The rise of Apple in the ebook market and the differences in merchandising approaches on Kobo and Apple vs. Amazon.
  • Recent changes at Scribd and the popularity of the subscription model.
  • On audiobooks, Google Auto and Apple CarPlay and why audio matters for those authors with reasonable sales.
  • On the importance of metadata, including the power of a book’s description because it is a metadata field.

You can find Thad at TheFutureOfPublishing.com and his book on Mobile Strategies for Digital Publishing here on Amazon.

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Gaming, Writing And Collaboration With Nathan Meunier

Gamers love their games, many are addicted and are passionate about the experiences they are immersed in.

I think we’d all love to see more of that addictive behavior around books! In today’s show, I interview Nathan Meunier, an author and game journalist, about what we can all learn from gaming.

In the intro I mention The Author’s Guild fair contract initiative, the new Kindle for Kids Fire HD device and the interview about KDP Kids ebook creator, Thrillerfest in NYC in July. Plus, talking about Mark Dawson’s Facebook Advertising for Authors course.

99designs-logo-750x200pxThis podcast episode is sponsored by 99 Designs, where you can get all kinds of designs for your author business including book covers, merchandising, branding and business cards, illustrations and artwork and much more. You can get a Powerpack upgrade which gives your project more chance of getting noticed by going to: 99Designs.com/joanna

nathan meunierNathan Meunier is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer who covers video games, technology, and geek culture. He’s also an indie game developer and has non-fiction books on game journalism as well as indie publishing.

You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher, watch the video or read the notes and links below.

  • Nathan had always been interested in entertainment writing and also writing books, and made the shift from journalism to freelance writing.
  • The connections and also the differences between gaming and writing. And the opportunities that might be available in the near future to merge the worlds of books and games. And how he seeks out games for experiences he can’t get with movies or books.
  • The different types of games available that have narrative structure. And the opportunities available in gaming to make choices about different paths – or branches – in the story.
  • The way that gaming companies work with writers, including approaching gaming companies as a freelance writer or being part of a creative team on a contractual basis. For gaming companies, writers can focus on character development, story, narrative, branching paths and world building.
  • The parallels between large and small or indie companies that produces games, and the traditional and indie publishing worlds. Larger gaming companies often have a ‘self-publishing’ option where they will allow developers to produce a game on their platform. Nathan compares this to Amazon KDP where they provide the platform, the writer provides the content and Amazon takes a cut from the sale.
  • On Apps, freemium pricing, layers of micro-transactions and how the different platforms dictate the price people are willing to pay for the app.
  • The broadening of the audience for gaming and how different types of games can connect with different types of people.
  • On Twine, a free, downloadable program that lets you create your own choose-your-own-adventure style books. Nathan is experimenting with using Twine to combine game development, self-publishing and interactive fiction.
  • On collaboration with creative partners. Choosing partners who are a good fit to work with. Providing critical feedback without causing problems. Creating unique projects and making sure the games and products produced are ones the market is hungry for.
  • The future of gaming, including Virtual Reality. Different gaming experiences that might become available when combined with VR. And the fun at the heart of gaming.
  • On taking a shorter approach to book publishing. Writing books in shorter lengths while still providing value to the reader. Books with shorter lengths allow Nathan to experiment more, pivot quickly and move in different directions.

You can find Nathan at www.NathanMeunier.com and on Twitter @NMeunier

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Virtual Reality For Writers, Publishing And Gaming With Rob Morgan

I’ve been excited about virtual reality for a while now and today I finally get to do a whole show on it! Rob Morgan explains what VR and augmented reality are, how the technology impacts writers and storytelling as well as discussing what the future might hold for gaming, education, retail and VR socializing.

** Sorry for the delay in posting this! I was cycling through Croatia last week and forgot to schedule!! **

In the intro I talk about finishing my draft of Deviance and also my next non-fiction book, How to make a living with your writing. It’s been a big word count month so I talk about how my writing routine has changed. I mention the brilliant Masterclass course with James Patterson – I have so many pages of notes from it. Plus, I talk about some exciting new audiobook developments.

99designs-logo-750x200pxThis podcast episode is sponsored by 99 Designs, where you can get all kinds of designs for your author business including book covers, merchandising, branding and business cards, illustrations and artwork and much more. You can get a Powerpack upgrade which gives your project more chance of getting noticed by going to: 99Designs.com/joanna

Rob MorganRob Morgan is a game writer, narrative designer and voice director. Rob is currently developing stories and writing scripts for upcoming virtual reality titles across multiple genres.

You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher, watch the video or read the notes and links below.

  • How Rob moved into VR and gaming. Rob did literature at University and then moved to a digital agency. He did some work with a Sony augmented book and game – the Wonderbook, which led into a project with JK Rowling – Wonderbook: Book of Spells. Then Rob moved into working on virtual reality projects.
  • Defining augmented reality vs virtual reality. VR basically obscures your normal vision and replaces it with a helmet/pair of screens; replacing your normal vision with pixels. It has sound and haptics (touch) and smell are under development. Augmented reality is another layer on the existing world – superimposing onto your vision e.g. directions on top of the road that aren’t necessarily seen by other people. This is already here with how we use smartphone apps like maps, Google Glass and more. For authors, doing a map of your fictional characters around a neighbourhood or have monsters pop out as you walk around. There are all sorts of possibilities.
  • The aim of VR is getting to something like the Holodeck on Star Trek. They didn’t use it for just gaming, they resurrected stories and experienced more nuanced entertainment there. All types of content creators are excited about VR. They want to tell a compelling story that people want to be immersed in.
  • The technology is growing fast in the games industry, but is also about doing more social entertainment for families, as well as education, retail and social networks. The applications will be used in multiple industries. Examples in education (medics); doctor’s surgeries, example in retail from Westfield malls; social meetups in VR world High Fidelity.
  • On bookstores and VR applications for authors and publishers. Telepresence through VR for book launches would be fantastic. Retailing in a VR bookstore may not be the optimal use of the technology. [See my article here on what I think about VR for publishing] It’s not worth developing these VR retail spaces as publishers – it’s more interesting to think about VR experiences for people, ways to immerse readers in stories.

And remember, whatever the technology, storytellers and content creators will always be needed!

You can find Rob at GameStory.co.uk and on twitter @AboutThisLaterContinue Reading

Solving The Discoverability Problem: Virtual Reality And The Future Of Publishing

“if Oculus Rift achieves its potential, it will change more than just a game, but entire industries.”

From TechcrunchoculusriftCC, 16 March 2015

This is how I feel about virtual reality, Oculus Rift and all the other tech possibilities, about High Fidelity and the future of education, about how virtual reality will be the next shift in media – and will impact publishing in a similar way to the ebook revolution.

This article first appeared on The Future Book yesterday (16 March 2015.) And before everyone freaks out at the next new thing, I believe this will happen on a 2 – 5 year timeline, so it is not imminent! But something to get excited about (if you like this kind of thing!) I’ll keep you up to date on it over time.

Customers will always want books, in that they want entertainment, inspiration and education in some kind of packaged format, but how they shop is changing and how they experience the world is changing too.

Imagine walking along a street of bookstores, each one with an enticing window display of eye-catching new covers that appeal to readers of a certain genre. You walk inside one with the dark, brooding atmosphere of the crime/thriller lover and find yourself in a bookstore with shelves of books configured just for your tastes. You’re drawn to a cover, pick up the book and start to read. You turn the pages, feeling the quality paper, smelling that new book scent. You continue browsing and when you’re ready to purchase, you choose your format and the book is sent to you in the format you choose.

Then you take off your VR headset and carry on with your day.

The Virtual Reality Bookstore

With a VR bookstore, or street of bookstores, you could have:

  • Infinite stock with a display that changes when the same customer re-enters, meaning they are exposed to more product
  • Algorithms tailored to present people with new books, or books related to what they have read before and might like next
  • Avatar bookstore owners and assistants who can talk about their recommendations – the same personal touch you get in independent bookstores
  • A global reach with niche bookstores so any independent could set up a curated store and have customers entering from anywhere, solving the problem of foot traffic and high costs of running a physical bookstore
  • Stores tailored to nichesg. Apple style chrome and glass for tech geeks, candlelit rooms for Gothic, flower filled boudoirs for romance readers. And of course, less cliché environments too!
  • Libraries for reference based on the great libraries of the world where people can find digitalised versions of books that aren’t available for sale anymore. In my ARKANE novels, I have a portal that leads into the Bodleian Library where my characters consult ancient texts in a VR Radcliffe Camera
  • Virtual author appearances where people can come and hear authors speak in the niche bookstores – without the costs of actually getting the author there. Like a webinar but with the full immersion VR experience
  • The customer can browse the shelves, picking up books and reading them. They can feel the paper with haptic technology, and yes, they can even smell that new book smell. They can then click to buy in whatever format they like – print on demand shipped immediately (via the drones, of course!), ebook or audiobook format to their device. Or maybe the new VR format where you’re immersed in the story, particularly popular in the romance stores

I see a Harry Potter style Diagon Alley where as a bibliophile, I can go and roam, discovering new and exciting books. Since I buy books (digitally) almost every day, I’d probably be in there a lot!

The financial model

The costs will involve buying and developing a VR domain, and the algorithms that suggest virtual product need to be designed. Yes, there is a technical challenge here. But just imagine the upside:

  • Fewer physical stores – and those that there are can be run as ‘experiences’ and ‘destinations’ as per Apple/Google. The jobs will be in curation and management of the online stock as opposed to shipping, opening boxes, stocking shelves. But there will be many more curated digital stores that appeal to different types of readers. As an author writing in the thriller niche, I would definitely want to curate my own store, recommending books that I enjoy and earning affiliate income. A kind of Goodreads meets Penguin Random House’s My Independent Bookstore but in the virtual reality space where I can control the look and feel of my store. Many of us already do this kind of thing with lists of recommended books and affiliate links but this would be much cooler.
  • Lower costs and increased profits. Income from customers, either through some version of retail pricing decided with publishers or through an affiliate model. The opportunity for up-sell based on what the customer is interested in, as well as personalised recommendations. More books produced but using digital formats and print on demand instead of print runs meaning less wastage and pulping.
  • Global penetration into a market that is increasingly online. With both Google and Facebook invested in getting another billion people online, this won’t take long and virtual browsing customers can come from anywhere.
  • And just imagine the data you will be able to capture! All those juicy details about browsing habits and what people buy. You could test covers, using different versions for gender or age group or nationality. You could test price points, placement and even titles. The possibilities here are incredibly exciting for data geeks!

Virtual reality is (almost) here

You might think this sounds crazy but the technology is already here and the first wave will be mainstream in the next year. Forbes reports that the VR market is expected to grow to $407.51 million and reach more than 25 million users by 2018.

Yahoo reports that Facebook has Oculus Rift, Samsung has Gear VR, Microsoft has the HoloLens, and Apple and Google Project Cardboard also have developments in progress. Car companies are using VR for virtual test drives at car shows, and Sir Paul McCartney has launched a VR app for 360 degree concert footage plus immersive effects.

Gaming companies are taking it further, so players can use their hands in the game, a technological advancement where the body becomes the controller in VR space. And one of the biggest investments will be in education, taking MOOCs into the next level with virtual immersive learning.

But it goes further than tech because the virtual reality community has already been proven in SecondLife, an online world now 12 years old. I have a friend who makes a full-time living designing virtual clothing for avatars on SecondLife. She spends much of the year on cruises as the costs are incredibly low with digital product and she can work from anywhere. There are bookstores in SecondLife and there are authors who run events and retreats there too. The ecosystem is incredibly rich … but it’s not immersive. It’s not VR and never went mainstream because it was too early.

But the creator of SecondLife, Philip Rosedale, has now started High Fidelity, which is part funded by Google Ventures, and looks like it could be something like a SecondLife world in VR. They have just raised another 11m in funding to build deployable virtual worlds, to “quickly generate a virtual space to meet and interact with.” That sounds like it could turn into a virtual bookstore, or a virtual conference, an author group, a writer’s group and so much more.

Let’s look a few years into the future

We’re not competing against each other, we’re competing against gaming and on-demand film/TV as well as music. These industries are embracing VR and the immersive experience will take consumers even further from books. We need to embrace this technology and invest in where the online retail environment will be in five years time.

I’m super excited about the opportunity ahead and if you’re interested in VR for publishing and the future of books, I’d love to be part of cross-industry group to discuss this further. Let’s design the FutureBook!

Are you excited about virtual reality? Or are you still getting to grips with ebooks :) Please do leave a comment below and join the conversation.

Top image: Flickr Creative Commons Oculus rift headset by Ian Muttoo

Ebooks: A Treasure Trove For Dyslexic Readers

 Reading has always been my escape as well as my hobby, my education as well as my entertainment and inspiration. I am a book junkie! But there are people who struggle with reading.

typographyI have dyslexia in my family and I have friends with children who are dyslexic. I usually point them towards Richard Branson, as an example of becoming successful despite the challenge. But I have always felt a particular pain at the struggle to read.

Today I have an article from James Nuttall, a psychologist who is also dyslexic, about how ebooks have transformed his own reading and his passion for helping others.

While growing up, I knew that I had a reading problem.

During elementary school and upper grades, I struggled to read. I was basically a non-reader. While in the upper grades I read John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony and George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The only two books that I read cover to cover.

Every day, I watched my family read books, magazines and newspapers. I longed to do the same.

When I went away to the university, I visited the University of Chicago Reading Clinic. At this clinic I learned that I had dyslexia. While in the university I had other students read all my books and library research to me. I persevered with my studies and earned a Ph.D. in Psychology from Michigan State University.

After leaving the university and without readers, I again was not able to read very much. Then technology improved so I was able to scan print books onto my computer and turn them into audiobooks for myself. I liked using ABBY FineReader OCR software to digitize print books and Nextup’s TextAloud to turn the digitized books into mp3 audiobooks. In this way I was able to read books that interested me. I often like to read books on technology, the information age, and the sociology of economics.

For many years e-books were very marginal. But in December 2007 Amazon launched their Kindle e-reader.

Amazon made hundreds of thousands of e-books available for their Kindle. In February 2009 Amazon came out with the Kindle 2 with built-in text-to-speech which could read books aloud. Fortunately, now the Kindle Store has over two million books available and 99% of the Kindle e-books are enabled to be read aloud with text-to-speech. Text-to-speech is a computerized voice which can read text aloud. These voices today sound just like real people reading aloud. I particularly like the voices that are build into the Kindle Fire.

I have both an Apple iPad and a Kindle Fire. Since these tablets can read aloud, I now have millions of books available to me to read. Additionally through the internet every day, I read e-magazines and e-newspapers.

My tablets allow me to fulfill my childhood dream of sitting in my easy chair and reading books and newspapers just like any other person.

It is a miracle to visit the Kindle bookstore and to buy an e-book and to start reading.

For a person like myself, who must read everything in digital format, having millions of digital books is exciting news. I have spent the majority of my life locked out of the book world. With my Kindle Fire, I now have the world of print available to me.

dyslexia ebookI am so pleased to finally read so many books that I have written a book for parents of dyslexic dyslexia and ipadchildren and other dyslexic people.

My book Dyslexia and the Kindle Fire Overcoming Dyslexia with Technology talks more about this topic and there is also a companion volume for the iPad.

Fortunately, young dyslexic readers will never know the anxiety of not reading.

My final word is, “bring on the books!”

Top image: Flickr Creative Commons Typography jumble by Bill Dickinson