Articles by Max Rivlin-Nadler

2013 Predictions for the eBook

2012 was a landmark year for both independent publishers and eBooks. While eBooks surged ahead of sales of hardcover books, independent publishers were heralded with widespread acclaim and acceptance as part of a vibrant literary scene. This piece on NPR, summarizes the hurdles that independent publishers have overcome, as well as a few success stories and author insights. Listening to the piece is a great way to cap a landmark year for independent publishers.

But don’t rest on your laurels just yet! Over at The Huffington Post, there are more predictions for the year ahead, including the idea that the glut of eBooks will probably continue. The guess is that as more independent authors bypass major publishing houses, eBooks will flood the market and that out-of-print titles will find new circulation as previously established authors begin to convert their titles to eBooks. But the increased competition should not scare off aspiring writers, the article states. More readers than ever will be searching for eBooks, providing even more opportunities for authors to find an audience.

Another phenomenon to watch out for is the “Black Swan” effect. The Black Swan effect is when a book from an unheralded author becomes a runaway success despite improbability. Expect to see even more of this in 2013 because large publishers have trouble locating Black Swans because of the myriad boundaries they put between themselves and authors. Publishers need to work through agents, who are yet another barrier between the writer and the marketplace. The marketplace, with its democratic way of allowing the cream of the crop to rise to the top, has a penchant for identifying Black Swans. Readers reward novels that are genuinely good, different, and provide something that readers have not already seen. For aspiring writers, the hope is to be that Black Swan, while publishers will continue to put up barriers between themselves and those classics-in-waiting. Expect more and more modern classics to emerge from the ranks of independent publishers.

Expectations for 2013 are sky-high in the world of independent publishing. 2012 was a year of success after success, and 2013 looks to be just as awe-inspiring. What are your predictions for independent publishers? In which new direction would you like to see publishing go? What are your own personal writing goals for 2013?

eBooks: A Home for Long-Form Journalism

Have you heard the phrase ‘eBook singles’? If not, this refers to short pieces of fiction or journalism that are sold for less than five dollars. The success of eBook singles has paved the way for bigger players to get involved. Last week The New York Times released its first eBook Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek, which is a long-form, reported piece about a group of skiers trapped after an avalanche in Washington State.

The eBook itself contains original material that wasn’t included in the newspaper version of the piece, and uses several new techniques that enhance news reporting. Seeing a reputable periodical like The New York Times embrace eBooks is a testament to the value of the format. For years there has been talk that journalism is at a crossroads and that newspaper reporters are in a race to the bottom – getting paid less for stories that have a dwindling readership. But, what we see happening here is simply indicative of a change in both format and pay-schemes.

Journalists and media outlets, by taking advantage of eBooks, are entering a voracious reading market. When people buy e-readers, they read more, and they’re able to read a wider variety of content. E-readers can provide an outlet for long-form journalism pieces that are too long to fit in the layout of a printed newspaper, but too short to publish as standalone books. As readers and writers, we welcome the return of long, thoughtful, journalistic writing. Cheers!

Is it time to destroy your little darlings?

Photo by vogmae on Flickr

Your book is your baby. We get it. That’s why we know how hard it is to objectively edit your work. But just because it’s a hard step in the process, doesn’t mean you can ignore it. It’s important to find a way to remove yourself enough from your work in order to get a clear, outsider’s view.

In that spirit, here are some tips for editing your novel:

1) Walk away. Not forever, but it’s incredibly important to read your novel with some fresh eyes. Even a week away will allow you some critical distance that you can use to help edit and see your whole structure better.

2) Destroy your little darlings. We all love the cute little sentences we’ve written, that flowery prose that convinces us we’re just the most talented writers we know. Guess what? This is hard to admit, but those pretty little darlings of yours are probably not so great. Beautiful moments in literature often emerge from simple descriptions and observations on the human and natural world — anything too convoluted will reek of trying just a little too hard. Keeping it simple doesn’t mean eliminating beauty.

3) Enlist trusted friends and editors. This could be the scariest moment of editing. The world has not yet seen your masterpiece, and this is the first step. And boy, is it a rough one. Your trusted editors and friends will be reading a piece of fiction that hasn’t yet been seen by other eyes. They will be of great assistance, pointing out flaws in grammar, continuity, and things that downright just don’t work. Inversely, they will also let you know what parts are great, where you shouldn’t change a thing, and how much they like it. It’s a quick dive into a cold pool, but for your novel’s sake, you have to do it.

4) Enlist professional services. Start with the Editorial Quality Review, in which, “a professional copy editor will review your book and provide a diagnostic tool of invaluable advice regarding the editing needs of your book. This service also includes a helpful 5-8 page sample edit to illustrate the level of edit recommended for your book.”Follow up with a Copy Edit Service.

What helps you edit your piece? Has editing made your novel’s better or worse? Do these tips work? Let us know in the comments below.

Additional Reading from the Lulu Blog:

DIY Proofreading

How To Choose An Editor

The Editorial Process

Collaborative Storytelling with Kids

When I was little, I took stories my parents told me and added to them as I drifted to sleep. My mind would take a story and turn it into something very different. Bedtime stories becomes so much more than just stories in the imaginative minds of children — they become worlds.

Thanks to independent publishing, children and parents are using teamwork to create polished novels that can be shared with other young readers. A profile in Wired details how a father and his two young sons were able to collaborate on a successful fantasy book for children. Nimpentoad, which the family published independently, has been a success as well as a learning experience for the two young authors, Josh and Harrison. The boys have been selling their book at farmers’ markets, participating in public speaking engagements and agreeing to interviews for profiles in Young Entrepreneur Magazine. They are learning at an early age that publishing is just one step in the process of becoming a successful author.

Josh, Harrison and their father, Henry, are part of a long history of intergenerational writers who have used writing as both a teaching experience and a way to bring generations together by changing storytelling into a more participatory process. Writing groups around the country use intergenerational writing practices to keep seniors and young people interacting with one another.

Intergenerational writing can also help children with learning disabilities by encouraging them to continue to write outside of the classroom setting. Hal and Alex Malchow wrote their fantasy novel, The Sword of Darrow, when Alex, who is dyslexic, needed encouragement to continue his uphill climb toward reading at his own grade level. Alex was able to use the confidence from writing the book to tackle his own disability.

What intergenerational writing have you done? What have you learned from young storytellers, and what is your best advice for them?

Related Services: Children’s Formatting Service

The Rise of “New Adult” Fiction

It’s everywhere you look — media about young people in their 20s, trying to figure things out. It’s on HBO, it’s in film, it’s definitely in the blogosphere (it’s also the writer of this blog post, obviously).

Image by: Pete Ashton

Millenials,” as they’re known, have become a hot commodity in the media landscape, as this tech-savvy generation learns to deal with a recession and a prolonged adolescence that includes internships, grad school, and making a million different decisions about what they want to do with their lives.

So, it makes sense that a new genre of literature might emerge about this set. And, of course, it has emerged from authors who use multi-platform publishing. Cora Carmack, who self-published her book, Losing It, saw her book rise to number 18 in the New York Times bestseller list without it even having a print edition. She was then offered a contract from HarperCollins to write more books, as well as a re-release of Losing It.

The term itself – New Adult (NA) – was coined by St. Martin’s Press as a midway between adult literary fiction and young adult books. It didn’t really take off until this year, however, as scores of independent writers began writing novels that talked about these “Millenials” in an engaging, experimental and exciting way. A new website, call NA Alley, reviews a number of “NA” titles that are popping up from independent authors.

That a new genre would explode from the ranks of self-published authors makes total sense. Publishing through an open platform allows writers to experiment as well as publish books that might not already fit into a niche market. By finding readers, they are creating their own markets, and big publishers are beginning to notice. Publishers now follow the independent authors, not the other way around. 

As readers continue to look for new books that they can relate to, novels have to change with the tastes of each generation. Unfortunately, large publishing is slow. Independent writers, always keeping their ears to the ground, can identify new genres, know what they want to read themselves, and publish it without having to wait for the market to catch up with them.

Creative ways to ‘gift’ an eBook (since you can’t put it in wrapping paper)

When we think of the holidays, we think of children ripping off wrapping paper in a near-psychotic frenzy, holding up their gifts, and then profusely thanking their parents (or sometimes not — sweaters from aunts just don’t get treated with that much excitement). Adults tend to be more restrained when receiving gifts, but still look forward to the mystery of gift-giving, be it in a large plastic bag or cardboard box (I still prefer ripping off the gift-wrapping).

But how does one give an eBook? I mean, it’s obvious why someone would want to do it, but it lacks the physicality of, say, a new personal electronic, or that beloved Lego set. So how do you capture that magic in something that will be electronically delivered?

By getting creative.

Slate has a wonderful roundup of ways to give an eBook. They point out the great idea of matching an eBook with beloved reading accouterments like blankets or coffee mugs. I would throw in a “Snuggie” for good measure. While Slate‘s piece is a little tongue-in-cheek, pointing out how difficult it is for an eBook to replace the physical nature of some other presents, The Chicago Tribune points out that most readers and online shops allow you an option to buy an eBook as a gift, which will automatically download eBooks to your loved one’s reader.

While it doesn’t quite match the wrapping paper frenzy, it will pack quite a wallop when all of a sudden someone’s e-reader is now packed with new titles.

Personally, I’m still a little attached to gift wrapping. By pairing an eBook with something that will enhance the reading experience, like an e-reader holder or a bean-bag chair (those still exist, right?), you make your gift larger than just an eBook — you make it a whole experience.

So how do you give eBooks? How have you surprised your loved ones, and how are you planning to do so this year?

Mozilla Popcorn for Online Video

As Mozilla’s Ryan Merkley points out in his TED talk, the nature of video on the web hasn’t changed much over the past few years. Besides a higher resolution and faster streaming times, videos remain static and non-interactive. Even books, with the advent of interactive eBooks, have found ways to become interactive and use the full resources of the Internet. But with a new product called Mozilla Popcorn, that might all change. Popcorn allows content creators to adorn videos with links, and other media, like maps or a photo stream, to create a full-content experience. The interface is simple, and the product itself, in keeping with Mozilla’s open-source principles, is free.

As content creators, writers are constantly looking for ways to promote their own work. While book trailers are popular, they often fail to capture the artifice of the novel they are producing or match the quality that other media outlets offer. Popcorn allows writers to promote their books by interlacing an online video with links to text, illustrations, and even the link to buy the book itself.

How To: Create Your Own Audiobook

When publishing an eBook, it’s smart to promote it with sample chapters or an author interview. But what about producing your own audiobook to accompany it as well?

Producing an audiobook can be time consuming, but it’s extremely fun and makes your book available in yet another medium. You can just choose a brief excerpt to use, maybe a funny scene or illustrative passage, which will help promote your book when you give it away on your personal website. Here’s a short guide to how to create your own audiobook, entirely for free.

1) Get an audio editing program. If you don’t have professional audio recording programs, like Protools or Ableton, don’t fear! A simple, free program called Audacity is incredibly simple to learn, and can be used on almost any computer. If you have an internal microphone, you’re all set to record.

2) Pick a passage to record. For starters, pick a manageable goal. Try not to aim to record your entire book. Consider focusing on a scene or chapter you find particularly strong, and maybe one that includes a variety of characters, to allow for some fun voice acting.

3) Cast and record. Cast your audiobook by either reading it yourself, or sharing the narration with a variety of friends or colleagues who have been assigned roles. You don’t even have to be in the same room — you can record different parts at different times.

4) Edit. Try to make the recording as clean as possible by eliminating pauses, editing out background noise, and re-recording unclear parts. If you haven’t edited audio before, it should take just a little practice to get the hang of it.

5) Add some character. Here’s where you get to have a lot of fun. Add some background music and sound effects to liven up your narration. Just a few additions can completely change the quality of the audiobook. For some free background music published under Creative Commons license, check out the Free Music Archive. For sound effects, be sure to explore FreeSound.

6. Post. After making sure everything sounds right (make sure to play it for a few people), post that audiobook! Be sure to post in a compressed format, such as .mp3. You can even post streaming audio at Soundcloud.

So now that you have the tools, the red light is on!

Who’s tried this? How’d it go?

Could pay-what-you-want pricing models spell more money for creators?

In the fall of 2007, Radiohead released their seventh studio album In Rainbows as a digital download using a pay-what-you-want model. At the time, the decision blew some minds. Pay what you want? Whatever you want? For a RADIOHEAD ALBUM??

The decision to pursue such an untested marketing move exhibited real guts on the part of the band and, more importantly, a lot of faith in their fans. By reconfiguring the transaction and empowering the customers, Radiohead managed to flip the script. Although fans were given the option of paying nothing for the new album, pre-release sales exceeded total sales from their previous album Hail to the Thief, released via traditional means. 

Then again this summer, the internet was agog about comedian Louis CK’s no-frills sales approach. In December of last year, CK turned heads when he bypassed a corporate release of a comedy special, instead selling it directly to viewers for $5 on his website. Then, in June he pulled a similar move: selling tickets to his upcoming tour directly to fans, rather than through Ticketmaster (which can occasion a 40% service charge). The result of both experiments was stunning: CK made over $1 million dollars in just 10 days from his comedy special and bypassed $4.5 million in ticket sales in two days.

But would this work for books? (So goes the question in my head, always). Perhaps so! According to a story published this week in The Guardian, a pay-what-you-want experiment in eBook bundling is turning heads and making serious cash. Put together by Humble Bundle, Inc., the Humble ebook Bundle is a collection of 13 eBooks sold at a price determined by the purchaser, but of at least 1 cent. Customers who pay more than the average price — currently sitting at around $14 — unlock extra content (more books, in this case). In another interesting twist, customers are given the option of dividing the money they spend between several recipients as they see fit, including the authors, Humble Bundle, and a variety of charities such as Child’s Play Charity, the Electronic Frontier Foundation,  and/or the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

And how about the content backing up such a good idea? Surprise, surprise, it’s great stuff! The bundle includes work from contemporary sci-fi greats such as Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, and John Scalzi as well as up-and-comers like Lauren Beukes, Paolo Bacigalupi, John Scalzi and Kelly Link.

Sales of the bundle are astounding. In just two weeks, the bundle has made over $1.1 million dollars, with over 80,000 bundles sold at an average price of $14.18. These sales figures are staggering (Lauren Beukes points out that 80,000 copies is “New York Times bestseller-level sales.”) The response to such a radical sales model is heartening.

Pay-what-you-want and direct sales models spell exciting possibilities for the publishing industry. Could a sales plan like this become more regular? How could bundling young authors and bestsellers benefit both? Let’s hear your thoughts on how this could change the game.

Additional Reading: Would you let readers price your book?

Turning Your Blog Into Your eBook

One of the most frustrating truths of running a website is the ascendancy of new content. No matter how you lay out your website, more often than not, new content will take center stage, relegating older content to the recesses of your website, only reappearing when someone happens upon it through an internet search. It’s sad to see such good material get buried, and is clearly a limitation of the blog format.

But the blog isn’t the end of content, by any means. To get more mileage out of their content, bloggers have begun turning their webpages into eBooks. By turning old content into new profit, they also give some pieces that might deserve another look the chance to get one. This tactic helps bloggers advance their brand and provide offline consumption of their writing. Not only that, but bloggers already have access to a targeted audience (their site visitors) which makes publishing an eBook that much more viable. Besides the ever-present Tumblr-books (think cats doing funny things), some successful books have started out as blogs, including the basis for the film Julie & Julia.

EBooks also give a website the chance to showcase work around a specific theme or topic. If you run a cooking website, it might make sense to publish an eBook around Halloween that presents recipes for candy or other sweets. Or if you run a political website, an eBook that comes out highlighting your best writing about the upcoming election might also be a smart idea.

EBooks push the pause button on the lighting fast internet, and allow for reading to be more reflective and not reactive. Revisiting pieces before publishing them in an eBook, with updates of course, compels readers to get the eBook, and not just find the pieces on the blog itself. An eBook can also be a better way to engage contributors to the blog, who will see their writing published across multiple mediums, instead of flaming out quickly on the front page.

Turning a blog into an eBook gives old material new life, helps disseminate your content farther, and gives it an even better chance of earning money. What does a blogger have to lose?

Ready to start you own eBook?