Friday, August 27, 2010

On Beyond Ebooks

I'm loving the ebook revolution.

Obviously, I enjoy the money I'm making (close to $500 a day).

But it's more than that. I'm able to do things I never could have done in the traditional publishing world.

Not only can I release ebooks when they're finished (rather than waiting a year), and have much greater control over the content, cover, and title, but I can also play with the format and do new, interesting things.

With TRAPPED, I released two different versions of the novel in the same ebook download. The author's version and the uncut version. It's pretty cool to show fans all the stuff that was cut, added, and changed, and let them decide for themselves which one they prefer.

With SHAKEN, coming out in October, Amazon is also releasing a dual ebook. SHAKEN takes place during 1989, 2007, and 2010, and jumps around in time. I had a ball writing it, and showing Jack at various stages in her career while she chases the same bad guy over the course of twenty years. But along with the author's preferred version, the SHAKEN ebook will also come with a linear version. If people want to read the book chronologically, rather than go back and forth in time, they can. And even cooler, it reads well in both versions.

Eager to romp in this new digital playground, I have two more projects that will be released in September.

One is secret, and I'm not going to mention the title or the subject yet. But I will say it is a horror novel. And I will say I'm writing it with three of my peers. Those peers are F. Paul Wilson, Jeff Strand, and Blake Crouch.

When I was working on TRAPPED and ENDURANCE, I followed the same formula as AFRAID. In nutshell, I took a handful of characters and dropped them into a terrifying situation, then followed each of their journeys as they fought an insurmountable evil. No chapter breaks--just direct cuts from POV to POV.

It occurred to me that I could write a book in this style with other authors, and it would be a snap. Instead of me writing every character on my own, each of us could control a character, and the book will follow each storyline until they all converge. It's the exact same formula as AFRAID, TRAPPED, and ENDURANCE, except we can write it in 1/4 of the time, and it will benefit from four unique inputs.

I've worked with Paul, Jeff, and Blake on projects before. We're all having a blast putting our heads together and writing this outrageous, horrifying, over-the-top horror epic.

The thing is, this couldn't have happened in the print world. We would have had to get all of our current print publisher's approval (because of no-compete and first look clauses), had to have found a buyer, and had to have toned down some of the violence (this sucker is violent!) But doing this on our own, we have complete control, don't have to answer to anybody, and can write a novel just for the sheer joy of it. Then we can release it immediately after completion, and get the lion's share of the royalties.

I also am playing with the ebook format in another way. Remember the Choose Your Own Adventure novels from the 80's?

I wrote one with Harry McGlade (from the Jack Daniels series) as the hapless hero.

At the end of each section, you decide where Harry goes next. This results in hundreds of variations, and over a dozen different endings. This interactive format is perfectly suited to ebooks, where clicking on a link and being instantly transported to it is easier than flipping through a dead tree book, looking at page numbers.

The book is ridiculously entertaining to read, and I don't think I've ever had more fun writing something. Because the humor is so offensive, I never would have been able to sell this to a traditional publisher.

But with Kindle, I can really utilize the format to do things that publishers can't, and won't, do.

It's beyond liberating. As a friend of mine said, "Joe, you're finally unbridled." Which is what it actually feels like. I can run free, do what I want, and connect with readers on my own terms. I'm not restricted by anything, including my imagination.

Ebooks are more than just putting your run-of-the-mill stories into a digital format. They can actually do more than print books, and offer artists new, exciting opportunities. And we haven't even broached on the "enriched ebook" possibilities with audio and video.

I'm thrilled to be a writer in 2010. It's too cool.