Why And How To Use MultiMedia To Enhance Your Ebooks

Recent surveys have shown that children are reading more and engaging with digital devices.

ElearningThey are true digital natives. But I’m 38 and while extremely comfortable with technology, I’m still part of the generation that was raised on print. I think our minds are trained to what we’ve always known so we can be resistant about the possibilities.

The enhanced e-book has been discussed for a while now, but hasn’t gone mainstream, while at the same time apps have exploded. How can we shift into using multimedia in our books? In this guest post, Harry Guinness from Bawdy Zebra explores some options.

A book no longer has to be printable.

The very idea of what makes a book is beginning to change; are eBooks still “books”? What about eBooks that would never work as print books, say ones with hundreds of pictures? If they’re still “books”, what happens if you start to include video? For years instructional books have come with companion DVDs, why not just include it in the text itself?

The technology is out there to begin creating books with more photographs than words, and even videos, slideshows and interactive web content like twitter streams. 

Now not every book should begin including photos and videos – that would be ridiculous. For example, I have a soft spot for epic fantasy (I finished the last book of the Wheel of Time in a single seventeen hour sitting; if you know what that means, I’m judging you, as well as myself!), and not for a second do I think the inclusion of reams of photos or videos would add much to my enjoyment. Likewise, a lot of fiction really won’t benefit by adding such content directly into the text – but there are still options. Here are five points on why, or how you could begin to add multimedia content to your books.

1. It costs you practically nothing.

A few years ago if you said you were going to release a book with close to one hundred full-size colour photos for the price of Big Mac Meal you would have been laughed at. But that’s what we did, it’s just not printed on paper! The additional expense of adding photos in particular is minimal. The camera in your iPhone is more than capable to take stunning photos – especially of landscapes – so why not add a few.

2. It adds to the readers experience.

This is more of a non-fiction point, but if you are writing a biography or a travelogue or anything else really, it is the perfect opportunity to include photos and videos. Nothing adds more to the experience of a travel book as photos of the stunning vistas – except perhaps an interactive 360 degree panorama. If it’s a biography, instead of just including a few pictures in the centre, litter the book with relevant photos, include videos of famous performances and speeches even!

3. Build it into the book.

I think there is a serious market for an enterprising mystery writer to write a book that builds photos and videos and audio segments into the story. I genuinely think that someone is going to have a huge hit on their hands with a book like that and if you want to have a shot and that, come, talk to me. I am interested in doing business with you!

4. Use it to make the readers see you.

In so many books, the author becomes a secondary consideration after the characters. I can’t begin to list the number of books I’ve read where the authors name is forgotten as soon as I put it down while the characters live on in my head. Why not have it that instead of a written introduction, as soon as the reader opens your book they are treated to a video of you thanking them for buying it. Suddenly the author becomes significantly more memorable.

5. More and more people are reading on these devices, make use of them.

The number of tablets out there is going up and up and by extension, the number of people reading on them. These devices all have features that are not being utilized. Differentiate yourself from the competition and use them! Don’t be left playing catch up in a few years.

If you want to see a simple example of whats beginning to be possible, please check out There Are Other Rivers by Alastair Humphreys, I worked with Alastair to create an unprintable version of his book! Go to www.ThereAreOtherRivers.com for more information.

What do you think about multimedia in books? Is it just for kids books or textbooks? How can it be used with fiction? Please do leave your thoughts or questions in the comments below.


Harry Guinness is the founder of Bawdy Zebra (http://bawdyzebra.com), a new multimedia publishing company; he worked with Alastair Humphreys (http://alastairhumphreys.com) to produce the best possible version of There Are Other Rivers available! You can get it for the iPad here (https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/there-are-other-rivers/id553864798) or in loads of other formats – including dead tree – here (http://thereareotherrivers.com).

Bawdy Zebra has a load more exciting content in the works and you can find out more on Harry’s blog (http//:harryguinness.com/blog).

Top image: BigStockPhoto E-learning concept

How EBook Readers Shop And The Importance Of Sampling

An author at a conference recently asked me for tips on publishing on the Kindle and then said that he didn’t actually read books on digital devices.

ebookreaderssamplingI was kind of gob-smacked because how else are you going to know if there are problems until you start getting 1 star reviews?

When you publish a print book, don’t you buy it immediately to test the process and the quality? So why not do the same for ebooks?

If you’re going to digitally publish, I believe you should own an e-reader, even if just to test how your book looks. They aren’t expensive anymore so there is no excuse.

It’s also important to understand how ebook readers shop, because they are the high-volume readers, the ones who will make up the bulk of your digital sales.

How do ebook readers shop for books?

I read around 95% digitally, on a Kindle Paperwhite and through the Kindle app on my iPhone. I don’t own every device but I certainly test the .mobi format on Kindle and the ePub format on my desktop reader and my iPad and iPhone. I am also a voracious reader, getting through 3-5 books per week, more on holidays. Not having a TV helps!

This is how I shop:

a) I hear about a book on twitter, or I see one at a physical bookstore, or see a review somewhere, or find something I like in the Amazon store Top rankings for categories I like. I surf for fun in the Last 30 Days area.

b) If the book is available as an ebook, I download the sample right away and put it into a collection marked Samples. If the book isn’t available as an ebook, 99% of the time I won’t buy it unless it is an author I am committed to. I have other Collections on my Kindle marked ‘To Read’ which are books I have bought but haven’t started yet, “Reading” for ones I am reading now and “Make Notes On / Review” for those I want to revisit to write notes on or review on Amazon & Goodreads.

c) In between books I am currently reading, I go through my samples. If I make it to the end of the sample, I will usually buy the book because I am hooked. If I don’t, I delete the sample. No sale. I usually give a book 3 clicks of my Kindle before I delete it. Harsh, maybe, but life is too short to read books that don’t call to you.

So your marketing efforts, your book cover, your book description and reviews have helped your book get this far, but it is the sample that leads me to buy. I probably delete 60-75% of my samples so I have a harsh approach, but I don’t think I am an untypical example of a high volume ebook reader (although if you are one also, I’d love to know what you think in the comments!)

Make sure your sample makes the reader want to buy

Your book has to start with something that hooks the reader.

This isn’t new advice – if you want an agent, the first page has to hook them, and readers of print in bookstores may browse the first page, but because there are so many ebooks available, readers are increasingly unforgiving if a book doesn’t fit what they are looking for.

Here’s some tips:

  • Get into the meat as soon as possible. Put all the acknowledgements and extra stuff at the back, not within the sample. I was severely annoyed recently to download an Angela Carter anthology of short stories to find that the entire sample was an essay about her work and the stories didn’t come until later. I looked for a better version.
  • During the editing process, make sure you pay particular attention to what will hook the reader. If non-fiction, what is the problem you’re solving. If fiction, why would the reader read on? What have you caught their attention with? What loops have you opened mentally that they must close?
  • Make sure the formatting is excellent and easy to read throughout. I have deleted samples straight away when they start with coding errors. It denotes a lack of respect for the reader. This is why you need to test and curiously this has happened with more traditionally published books than indie. Seriously, one book was entirely formatted in Bold. Did no-one even check it? (Make sure this doesn’t happen to you!)
  • If non-fiction, DO include the table of contents. If fiction, your chapters don’t really add anything so aren’t so necessary.

What other suggestions do you have for improving samples? How do you shop for ebooks? Please leave your comments in the notes below.

Ebook Publishing On Kobo With Mark Lefebvre

Amazon is not the only game in town when it comes to ebook publishing.

Yes, they may be the dominant partner in the US and the UK, but in global markets, ebook retailer Kobo is doing some brilliant things. In today’s interview, we get into what Kobo can offer you as an author.

In the intro, I talk about my trip to Hungary where I did some shooting and also some research on an ARKANE novella for next year. I’ve also been doing NaNoWriMo and working on a new crime series, as well as doing a lot of speaking and also launching a new online course – so it’s been a busy month!I reflect on the fact I have created one novel and 5 multimedia products this year – in 2013, I will be focusing much more on the fiction side!

mark lefebvreMark Lefebvre is Director of Self-Publishing & Author Relations at Kobo.com, as well as being an author and editor. You can listen above or watch the interview on YouTube here.

  • Mark started writing when he was 13 and still writes horror/ twilight zone fiction under the name Mark Leslie. He moved into bookselling as he’s passionate about books and publishing. He is traditionally published but also self-publishes his short story collections.

What is Kobo and how does it fit into the publishing ecosystem?

  • Kobo is an ebook seller, original spun off Canada’s largest print retailer, so it has a large use base in Canada. Three years ago the focus was short reads. Read freely is the philosophy. There’s a free app for all platforms and no DRM (digital rights management which locks down ebooks to a retailer). It uses ePub standard so you can read the books on any device that allows ePub.
  • Kobo was bought by Japanese based company Rakuten in early 2012 which gives Kobo an opportunity to expand even more globally. Kobo partners with retailers locally – WHSmith (a high street store), Chapters Indigo in Canada, Borders in the US and now the independent bookstores with the American Publishing Association. We talk about the global reach and ‘kobo speed’ as Kobo is available in over 200 countries. On the wall at Kobo, “if it seems like things are in control, you aren’t going fast enough” (Mario Andretti)
  • Everyone does want to make sure there’s more than one game in town. One overwhelmingly powerful company dominating the market is a bad idea. No one company should have that kind of power. There’s got to be a choice as a reader and an author.

For self-publishers – Kobo Writing Life

  • Kobo Writing Life is now available for self-publishers.  The best thing for me personally is getting paid in my own currency, GBP, electronically to my bank account. Whereas my Amazon USD income still comes by monthly checks which sometimes get lost.
  • The books that sell the best on Kobo are fiction – romance/erotica, thrillers, mysteries, sci-fi. But there’s also been an upsurge in short reads – or long-form articles e.g. a long journalism piece.
  • You used to have to go through Smashwords as an author to get to Kobo so it was an indirect process of publishing, but now it is direct so you can make price changes quickly with no significant wait, as per the Amazon KDP platform.
  • Selling more books on Kobo. Firstly, make sure there’s a link from your website. Many authors just list Amazon. Kobo wants to be a business partner with you as a publisher, a business-person. The Kobo dashboard contains information on where you sell in each market including a map of the world. Kobo is constantly working on their own search algorithm and refining it, as well as merchandising opportunities and lists. Ongoing, Kobo will be adding more possibilities to authors – they are constantly developing so watch this space!

espresso book machinePrinting with the Espresso Book Machine

  • Ebooks are exciting, but print on demand technologies continue to advance. The Espresso Book Machine is a large printer attached to a binder that prints a book in the time it takes to make an espresso. They do have self-publishing options now – very cool! It’s the meeting point between print and digital, and they are partnering with companies like Xerox, LightningSource, Google and ABA in order to expand.

kobo writing lifeYou can find Mark at MarkLeslie.ca

You can publish direct to Kobo at KoboWritingLife

If you have suggestions for Kobo, you can email: writinglife@kobo.com

Do you publish on Kobo? What are your tips for selling more on Kobo? or do you have any questions about this platform? Please do leave a comment below.

Publishing Ebooks For Dummies With Ali Luke

Today we are going beyond the basics of ebooks in my interview with Ali Luke, who is the author of Publishing Ebooks for Dummies as well as a fiction author, well-known blogger and internet entrepreneur.

Ali LukeWe talk about what people are still getting wrong, ebook pricing and why Ali went with a publisher instead of self-publishing.

In the intro, I mention how totally manic I am right now! I talk about my (attempted) prep for NaNoWriMo and how I am just finishing the latest Exodus edit before sending to beta readers. I’m also working on ‘Turn Ideas Into Cash’ and there’s still time to sign up for the free prelaunch video series and webinar if you want to expand your business in multimedia (mainly for non-fiction writers).

Today’s Podcast Sponsor: High Striker by G.T.Rigdon

High Striker GT RigdonHigh Striker is an unparalleled Old Testament/Carnivale thriller whose central character could be described as a God-obsessed fusion of Hannibal Lecter, Dexter Morgan, and a carny. A remarkable journey through time and place that dares to confront the challenging question: What is the line that separates good and evil, coincidence and providence, delusion and reality?

High Striker by G.T.Rigdon is available now on Amazon & free on Kindle 29/30 Oct 2012. Find out more at GTRigdon.com

Find out more re podcast sponsorship here.

Interview with Ali Luke

publishing ebooks for dummiesAli Luke is the author of Publishing Ebooks for Dummies with Wiley as well as Lycopolis, her indie published novel. Ali is a prolific blogger, featuring on some of the biggest blogs on the internet, like Copyblogger and Problogger as well at at her own site Aliventures.com. Ali has been on the show before, talking about her novel Lycopolis

  • ‘Publishing Ebooks for Dummies’ is about how to publish your own book without a publisher, but Ali did this with a traditional book deal with Wylie.

Self-publishing is a core part of Ali’s business but there is a kudos with a traditional publisher like Wiley which is great for reputation building, for speaking, or even guest posting. To the wider world, there is still cachet and the bookstore distribution is also great, as well as the spread of Ali’s own brand. She will reach people who don’t know her online. Wiley were great about including examples of her own work as well as links to her blog and twitter. The primary reason was not financial, even though there was an advance, plus Wiley pay on time and the process is swift – excellent compared to some publishers.

 What are people still getting wrong with ebooks?

  • There are some fairly basic errors crop up over and over again. (1) Use professional cover design. There’s no excuse for this when there are so many pro-cover designers online.
  • (2) Use pro editing. Ali mentions that  she went through 4 drafts of her novel Lycopolis before hiring a pro-editor who suggested cutting around 50,000 words and redesigning the book. This was really difficult but it is so important to get a professional to help you pick up on stuff other readers might have missed. Your sample is critical as an ebook, so the writing needs to be really tight. Life is too short to read a crappy book.
  • (3) Write another book. Don’t focus all your efforts into one book and promoting that book. The way to be successful is to write multiple books, so keep writing as well as marketing. Ali talks about the sequel to Lycopolis which she is currently writing and hopes to use NaNoWriMo to get that prioritized.

 On ebook pricing

  • No one really has a clue about pricing, but we discuss it anyway! Don’t be too dogmatic about pricing – there are strong arguments either way e.g. 99c is devaluing your work vs/ 99c is important to sell more books. There is no right answer, so be open to using different price points. Ali is using $2.99 for Lycopolis which gets her into the 70% royalties. With the sequel, she will make sure the first book is cheaper than the follow ups. We mention Lindsay Buroker and how she uses free for the first of her fantasy series. Free is definitely a valid pricing model and has its place, but generally when an author has multiple books. You can also package books together.
  • As an entrepreneur as well as a writer, Ali also sells Blogger’s Guides, PDF non-fiction material for $27. Using the description ‘guide’ is more appropriate than the label ‘ebook’ these days and this is a common model for online entrepreneurs to sell premium material. The audience for these guides hang out on blogs and twitter etc, and selling from your own site means you can price higher than the expected price on Amazon. Our language needs to be expanded somehow as there is some confusion about the word ‘ebook’ these days.

On working with a publisher

  • The Wiley For Dummies brand is very established and they have clear ways of working, formatting etc so the process was smooth and went from idea in Nov 2011 to printed book in Oct 2012. This is very fast for traditional publishing.
  • On being an entrepreneur and not having the freedom to be in control of the book. Ali likes a lot of control and self-publishing is amazing for this, but Ali enjoyed the support of the Wiley team for things like deciding on the table of contents which helped her plan. Ali said the process was “surprisingly enjoyable” as it took some of the choice away so things could move faster. She also had the confidence that Wiley knew what they were doing so Ali got on with the writing.

Marketing non-fiction vs fiction

  • Ali is pretty internet-famous for guest blogging, which is effective for non-fiction but not so much for fiction. It worked well for her blogger’s guides at $27 each, so she figured it would work for Lycopolis at $2.99 but people don’t seem willing to buy fiction off the back of guest blogging. But for non-fiction it works very well. Ali has been doing a lot of guest posts for this book, but won’t do it again for fiction.
  • Choose your target blog and read a lot of their posts, then write the post to fit their blog. Make sure the post is your best effort. Plan things in advance as right now this blog is 3 months backlogged. Getting a relationship with the blogger over time is also a great idea.
  • Ali talks about using book reviews for Lycopolis, and she basically hand-sells these to people who might enjoy it. This takes time and patience and a long-term approach.

How to become a bestseller

  • If you want to sell lots of copies, which isn’t everyone’s goal, then write in a genre that is popular. But you still have to read and enjoy this genre, don’t jump on the bandwagon. Be realistic – experimental literary fiction won’t sell as well as gritty crime thrillers which sell well right now.
  • Write a high quality book, regardless of what genre it is. Be respectful of your readers.

publishing ebooks fo rdummiesPublishing Ebooks for Dummies is available now on Amazon.com and other ebook and print stores. You can also find Lycopolis here.

You can find Ali at Aliventures.com and on twitter @aliventures

The Secrets To Ebook Publishing Success. A Must-Read For Authors.

I’ve been a fan of Mark Coker and Smashwords for years now, and Mark continues to deliver value to authors through his distribution platform but also through sharing his vast knowledge of digital publishing.

Free ebook: The Secrets To Ebook Publishing Success

He has just released a free book ‘The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success” which contains a serious number of tips that will help you make your work better, as well as some amazing insights into successful authors who publish through Smashwords.

I learned heaps from the book. It really is well worth your time whether you are indie or traditionally published. Here are just some of things you will learn about.

  •  A great overview of the changes in the industry
  • Some financials around self-publishing, bootstrapping and resource allocation
  • Tips on ebook covers that work
  • Metadata magic and why it’s important as well as the algorithms that impact our book sales
  • Why writing more books and books over 70,000 words is critical for longer term success
  • How trust and brand loyalty work
  • Why distributing through one site is short-sighted, even if that site is the biggest bookseller in the world. [OK, so I was one of those authors who took my books off Smashwords in order to try Amazon KDP Select which requires exclusivity. However, next week I will be republishing my books on all platforms based on some of Mark’s points in this well-written chapter – as well as how impressed I am with Kobo.]
  • Using strategic pricing as well as free
  • Why patience is important and the sales behavior of different books – the invisible book, the slow boil, slow builder and breakout book.
  • Why you shouldn’t fear piracy
  • On long term platform building and marketing
  • Word of mouth and how books go viral, or not
  • How readers find books and how to optimize your touch points
  • It’s not about book launches anymore, it’s an ongoing marketing approach
  • Think globally about your book and the expansion of ebook markets
  • How to behave as an indie – let’s be generous with each other – this is not a zero sum game

…and much more.

So what are you waiting for? Click here to go and download Mark’s ebook on Ebook Secrets and then spend an hour reading it – and take notes!

Related Resources on Ebook Publishing

* My interview with Mark Coker when we met live in Australia in 2010 – we get enthusiastic about the possibilities for authors

* Interview on Smashwords blog with Brian S Pratt who went from earning $7.82 in a quarter to $25,000 in a quarter, and $200,000 in a year from his books.

* Interview on Smashwords blog with Ruth Ann Nordin, romance writer who went from earning $0 to $75,000 on Smashwords

* Ruth Ann Nordin’s little ebook about marketing available on Smashwords (also free)

* The Smashwords Blog where Mark shares lots of great data