Do you remember choose-your-own adventure stories? They were the ones so prevalent in middlegrade book series (go Goosebumps!) where you got to pick if the heroine was going to jump the fence into the carnival (turn to page 15), or if she was going to play it safe and head home (turn to the next page).
Books with a choose-your-own-adventure structure allowed their readers a level of control not normally associated with the one-way communicative style of reading. With the explosion of digital publishing, the idea of collaborative books is also gaining traction. Choose-your-own-adventure stories very well may become write your own adventures in the future, as readers are invited to contribute to ebooks on an ongoing basis.
Terry Jones writes on the innovative concept in his chapter, “Why Digital Books Will Become Writeable,” in the book A Futurist’s Manifesto by Hugh McGuire and Brian O’Leary. Terry, the founder and CTO of Fluidinfo, demonstrates how the future of digital publishing may be found in this collaborative writing and editing model of the ebook, a la Wikipedia.
Jones writes, “Such a program could easily request and display opinions, ratings, annotations and page numbers your friends are up to. It could provide definitions, translations, footnotes, extra images, links, and the like. Additional information can be independently tagged onto the same underlying objects by other applications, with the ‘book’ being rebuilt or updated dynamically as needed.”
Crowd-sourced funding for books is already a reality. Organizations like PUBLSUSH Press, IndieGoGo, and Kickstarter have been getting a great amount of attention for their unique financial models in which fans get to vote and donate to books they support. They’ve been enjoying much success, too; Rich Burlew, author of the webcomic, “Order of the Stick,” recently raised $1.25 million for his project on Kickstarter—the only book project in the site’s history to surpass the $1 million mark.
What do you think? Are writeable ebooks the future of digital publishing? Would you buy them? And, more importantly, would you contribute to them? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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Publishing is not a one-size fits all endeavor. Which option is best for you depends on your skills, genre, goals, project, and budget. The questionnaire below will help you identify which publishing option to pursue:
Would you rather:
- Not spend your own money and get paid up front
- Pay just to print in exchange for a moderate return
- Make a reasonable up-front investment for a higher return
Would you prefer to:
- Let someone else handle the entire process
- Manage the process yourself
- Retain creative control while working with an experienced team
In terms of marketing and sales, are you more comfortable:
- Handling your marketing, but knowing the publisher’s credibility will carry you through the distribution chain
- Handling all of your marketing and forgoing retail distribution
- Coordinating your marketing efforts with an organized and strategic campaign through retail and specialty distribution channels while having the option to sell directly
In terms of creating content, are you more comfortable:
- Writing it yourself, but working with an editor to finalize it
- Writing and editing it all yourself—I’ll hire an editor if I need one
- Writing it yourself, but using the help of a ghost writer or an editor to organize your thoughts and save time
When it comes to design, would you rather:
- Leave it to the pros
- Do it yourself
- Have creative control, but work with a skilled designer
When it comes to distribution, do you want:
- Access to a traditional distribution chain
- To sell them all yourself
- A combination of traditional distribution and the ability to sell books on your own in return for the full cover price
Mostly 1’s: Traditional publishing is probably the best option for you.
Mostly 2’s: Vanity, new technology, or self-publishing may be best for you.
Mostly 3’s: An independent/hybrid publisher is likely the best fit.
Regardless of which option you choose to pursue, it is vital that you protect yourself by doing your homework, taking the time to weigh the pros and cons, and analyzing the option’s ability to help you meet your short and long-term goals. Publishing a book is a smart and crucial step toward building your brand. Take the time to do it right.