Thursday, August 18, 2011

eBook Writing Tools

If you want to write digital books, you'll need digital book-making tools. O'Reilly lists software for writing and designing digital books:

  • Demibooks Composer. For release later this summer, designs iPad books.
  • My Story Book. Another iPad design tool (see video below) due soon.
  • Aquafadas. A plug-in for Quark and InDesign to create eBooks rich in images.
  • Active Reader. A plug-in for Unity game developers to create graphic novels from games.
  • Periodic Technology. In beta, a tool from Atavist for iOS, Kindle, Nook, and Android (soon) that enables rich links that can be controlled from a CMS.
  • Moglue. Software (Mac or Windows) to create kids books for iPad or Android. Open beta soon.
  • InteractBuilder. Software (Mac or Windows) to create kids books for iPad.
  • App Press. Online site to build an iOS / iPad app for a book.

Some of these tools are for programmers, while other are simpler to use.

For instance, the My Story Book folks have made a how-to video that gives an overview of the entire process to create an eBook you can sell online at the Apple Store.



App Press provides a similar how-to video:




Scrivener is an authoring tool not included on O'Reilly's list that will create ePub- and Kindle-format files that work on iPad, Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, and Android devices. I've described in-depth experiences using Scrivener here. Scrivener also outputs to file formats like Word that are useful for creating printed books.

In an entirely different approach, consider HTML5 authoring tools to create cross-platform digital books. Here is a look at Aside Magazine. Aside is similar to Flipboard for the iPad, but it's based on HTML5 code rather than iOS proprietary code. The preview below gives an idea of the richness of HTML5.





I haven't listed any HTML5 tools in this post. HTML5 is rolling out in browsers over the next few months (you can use it in Chrome and Safari now). Full HTML5 market penetration only takes place when everyone upgrades their browsers. Expect to see traditional HTML tools upgrade for HTML5 support as well as new authoring tools tailored to eBook production.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Writing the eBook First

What's Going on in Publishing?

Mike Shatzkin gives a comprehensive update on eBook sales and marketing here. According to recent sales data from Simon & Shuster and from Penguin, publishers are making the transition to eBooks with lower sales and higher profits. Some highlights of Shatzkin's post:

  • eBook sales blip up in Q1 when people download content for new Christmas eReaders.
  • 14% of book revenues are due to eBooks, and unit sales for eBooks are much higher.
  • Simon & Shuster claims Jaycee Dugard’s “A Stolen Life” sold 100k eBook units on first day of sales versus 75k units of the print version.
  • Publishers have made only a small portion of their titles available in eBook format.
  • Marginal costs of printed books will increase because the fixed costs (design, printing presses, distribution infrastructure) are amortized over fewer and fewer units.
No real surprises in any of this. I contend that publishers will get squeezed as prices continue to drop. Price elasticity says that unit volumes skyrocket when prices fall below $2, a price point at which publishers have trouble extracting profit, but self-published authors do not.

Why Don't Publisher Convert More Titles to eBooks?

Publishers are busy developing eBooks rather than re-publishing books in eBook formats.

Shatzkin talks about future eBook products:
One great imponderable is what the market for ebooks will be beyond the verbatim replication of narrative text. That’s where the growth has been. For illustrated or enhanced or apped ebooks, the success stories are anecdotal, not indisputable trending. It’s true that the right devices aren’t as widely distributed yet, but it is also true that we have no clear evidence that those ebooks will be as compelling to the consumer as the narrative text ones. We do know they’ll cost more to create.
eBooks are a different medium than paper.

In the music world of iPods and tablets, Björn is pioneering apped music albums with her release of Biophilia. Users download the "mother app" for free along with a free song. Then the Biophilia app guides listeners to buy additional apps that each come with a song.

Following Björn's example, it's easy to imagine selling installment stories or subscription periodicals in the form of apped eBooks.

eBooks also provide ways to integrate multimedia (images, music, sound, video) with the text in ways that printed books cannot. Cookbooks can refer readers to video demonstrations of menu preparation or updated lists of suppliers for hard-to-find ingredients.

What if eBooks contained their own promotions? I've posted several video book promotions on this blog, usually produced by the author. Simon & Shuster now has its own Youtube channel for book promotion. Here's their promotion for a book on sharing in the digital age.




If a high quality promotion like this were contained in eBooks themselves, eBooks could market themselves with quick, high impact trailers.

Danger (and Opportunity) Ahead!

In the eBook medium, including multimedia is treacherous, though, for longevity. A book of words will always have a home in an eReader device because words are simple to store and display. If the layout of the words is important to the story, that may be lost. But the words themselves will survive generations of eReader evolution.

Multimedia, on the other hand, may not survive. How long will Flash last after the introduction of HTML5? How long will a popular music codec like MP3 last? Multimedia authors pushing the limits of new eReaders risk obsolescence in a way that traditional word-only authors do not.

The market is creating opportunities for new book products. Traditional authors cannot sit on their hands. Even if their words are moving, eloquent, and portable to future eReaders, word-only authors are competing for virtual shelf space with a new generation of eBook writers who will capitalize on eBook functionality to create a new generation of stories.

In the coming year expect to see a new market for books written to be eBooks first and, perhaps, only.

Monday, August 1, 2011

From Amazon to Buy.com

When California adopted its budget last month, it required sales tax on Internet sales. The next day Amazon notified me by email that our marketing affiliate relationship was over.

How I wept! I'd just set up a gay film blog and a gay book blog with nice links to Amazon so readers could purchase a DVD or book they'd read about on the blog. Perfect product placement. It worked, too. I'd already sold a book on Amazon. The blogs sat idle while I figured out a way to monetize future traffic.

The answer: Replace the Amazon Associates program with Linkshare and Buy.com. I read that it was possible, but it took me a few hours to figure out how to make it work. Buy.com does not have its own affiliate program. It does affiliate marketing through Linkshare. If you want an alternative to Amazon to provide products, here's how to do it.
  1. Set up an account at LinkShare today! (Of course, I make some money if you press that link and sign up, thank you).
  2. Linkshare has a notion of Marketing Channels (look under the My Accounts tab after you've successfully logged in). You probably want to set up a marketing channel for each site or blog you will populate with Buy.com links.
  3. Once you have Marketing Channels set up, select one. You select one of your Marketing Channels with a pulldown at the top right, next to your Site ID. If you only have one Marketing Channel, its already set to that Channel.
  4. Select the Programs tab on the Linkshare page. You can find advertisers by category here. To request an affiliate relationship with Buy.com, enter "Buy.com" into the Advertiser Search in the top right, then click through the approval process.
  5. Repeat steps 3. and 4. for each Marketing Channel. After you've set up a relationship with Buy.com for each Marketing Channel, you're ready to add products from Buy.com.
  6. To create an advertising link for a product available on Buy.com, go to the Individual Product Link Builder page on Buy.com.
  7. In the Buy.com Product Link Builder, enter your 11 Digit Publisher Code from Linkshare. Unfortunately, Linkshare doesn't provide a simple way to find this Code. Go to the Links tab on the Linkshare site. Generate a Link Code by selecting an advertiser (e.g. "LinkShare Referral Program" or "Buy.com"), selecting a link type (e.g., "Banners / Images"), selecting any link and pressing the "Get Link" button. A pop-up will display the link code at the bottom. Look for the 11 characters following "?id=". That's the Linkshare 11 Digit Publisher Code you place in the Buy.com Product Link Builder page. Whew! A couple of hints. Make sure you've selected the proper Marketing Channel on the Linkshare page (see Step 3 above – ­­­each Marketing Channel has a different 11 Digit Publisher Code). Also, copy the Publisher Code somewhere where you can find it quickly so  you don't have to go through this excruciating process again.
  8. Next, in a new browser tab, search for the Buy.com product you want to advertise. Copy the URL of the product, and paste the URL into the Buy.com Product Link Builder.
  9. If you just need a URL and not HTML code, you don't need to enter anything else. Press the Create Link button at the bottom.
  10. If you want the HTML code for a text link, fill in the text you want, and press the Create Link button at the bottom. You don't need to enter the Buy.com Sku.
  11. If you want the HTML for a picture link rather than a text link, skip the "text you want displayed" and enter the Buy.com Sku number from the Buy.com product page you found in Step 8. Then press the Create Link button at the bottom. Hint, if the product you found doesn't have a graphic or photo, you  can use the Buy.com Sku from another product that looks similar.
And that's all there is to it!

As a Blogger user who was used to the simplicity of the Amazon Associate interface, this is a let down. The interactions between Linkshare and Buy.com are clunky, to be polite.

If you follow these directions, though, you should be able to get your Linkshare account set up and create your first Buy.com product link in under a half hour.