Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Interactive Ebooks? Almost...

So, I was thinking about enhanced ebooks, and decided to try something that, AFAIK, hasn't ever been done before.

I recently got hooked on playing Escape the Room games. Not just cell phone apps, where you solve point-and-click puzzles to advance the story, but board games that challenge you to follow the clues and get away before the time is up, real-life games where you go into a room with a group of people and a guide and actually tried to escape by following a carefully constructed scenario, and mail-order subscription games where every month you are snail-mailed a mysterious package that you have to figure out.

And I thought: Could something like this be adapted to ebooks?

I came up with a concept. A serial killer is emailing me, author J.A. Konrath, and taunting me to prevent his next crime.

My first, grandiose way of doing this was to have the killer leave clues about the murder in his emails to me. Then readers could solve the mystery like the sleuth in a mystery novel.

But that already exists. It’s called “a mystery novel.” There’s no user interaction. There’s no “solve a puzzle to advance” dynamic that I enjoy in other media. And mystery novels are vicarious, not hands-on and personal.

I rejigged my concept, and decided to have the killer send me cryptic puzzles, which linked to his website, www.StopAMurder.com. If I could solve the puzzles and type in the correct answers, it would bring me closer to stopping him.

If I failed, someone would die.

Since I don't want anyone to die, I decided to enlist my readers to help me.

STOP A MURDER was born, combining aspects of both thriller fiction and interactive games.

Here's how I pitch it:


This is unlike any mystery or thriller book you’ve ever read before. You play the sleuth, and as the story unfolds you will be tasked with solving puzzles to prevent a murder from happening.

In this five-book series, you’ll uncover the mind and motivations of a nefarious killer who is plotting to commit an unspeakable crime.


Each book contains an epistolary collection of emails, texts, and letters, delivered to thriller author J.A. Konrath, by a serial killer. This psychopath is sending detailed, cryptic puzzles and brain teasers that lead to clues about who will be murdered, why, when, where, and how.


Some of the puzzles are easy to figure out. Others are much more devious.


Do you like solving mysteries? Do you enjoy brain teasers or escape-the-room games? Are you good at spotting clues?


Only you can stop a murder. 


Are you smart enough?

Are you brave enough?
Let the games begin…

#1 STOP A MURDER – HOW: Puzzles 1 - 12

#2 STOP A MURDER – WHERE: Puzzles 13 - 24
#3 STOP A MURDER – WHY: Puzzles 25 - 36
#4 STOP A MURDER – WHO: Puzzles 37 - 48
#5 STOP A MURDER – WHEN: Puzzles 49 - 60
STOP A MURDER - ANSWER BOOK

This series works best with an internet connection, using a color e-reader or app to enter answers on the killer's website. A black and white e-ink device will work, but the interface will be smoother if used in conjunction with a computer or smart phone. 

While each book in this series can be read and enjoyed on its own, the experience will be richer if read in order, and if the internet is used.

Over the five book series, you'll need to answer more than seventy puzzles. When you answer correctly, you are rewarded with more clues that can stop a murder and reveal the killer's identity.


Intrigued?

I've released all five books, and the answer book, on all platforms. They're currently live on Amazon, and they will soon be on Kobo, Nook, Apple, and Google Play. There will also be a paper version, with all 70 puzzles, plus answers.

Check out my website for more info.

I did a beta test for this a few months ago, via Facebook (I've killed the old posts to prevent spoilers, but the site is still there for readers to exchange hints and tips.) The overwhelming majority (96%) of readers liked it. Since then, I've radically changed the story, and improved the interface. It's bigger, better, scarier, more fun, and easier to use.

I hope everyone reading this blog gives it a chance. If you do, please leave a review.

Now I'll take some questions.

Q: Joe, does this mean you're blogging again?

Joe sez: I dunno. I haven't really had much to say lately. This project is something completely new, so I thought it was worth blogging about. But in the last six months or so, there hasn't been anything happening in the publishing world that I felt a need to comment on.

Q: Why are you releasing this on all platforms? Are you done with Kindle Unlimited?

Joe sez: Like many self-pub writers, I've made less money since KU was introduced. That said, I believe Amazon is still the biggest game in town. But for this project, the books are only about 7500 words each, even though they take several hours to complete. It doesn't make fiscal sense to put them into KU, because I'd be getting paid pennies even though readers are getting many hours of entertainment. Also, as you'll see when you begin to read this series, I spent a great deal of time and money on these STOP A MURDER books. I'll never recoup my investment in KU.

Q: There has been a lot of talk about KU scammers. What are your thoughts?

Joe sez: There will always be scammers. It's unknown if scammers are hurting the KU payout, since payouts are decided after a pay period ends. It isn't a zero sum game when the pot is created after the month is over. And the pot keeps climbing higher. I've heard the All Star Bonuses have been affected, which ain't good.

Q: How about visibility?

Joe sez: Scammers are certainly taking up bestseller spots. I'm sure that hurts. How much? I dunno. I've never seen any studies about how many ebooks are sold based on bestseller list presence. Having increased visibility is no doubt helpful. And my own buying habits on Amazon have me occasionally scanning the bestseller lists to see if there is anything that piques my interest. But I'd need to see data that differentiates sales between books on and off the bestseller lists to fully understand how much of a boost those books get. Data Guy, you got any ideas? Does being #100 on a list really boost sales as opposed to being #101 and off the list?

Q: Didn't you promise the next Jack Daniels book would be out, like, ten months ago?

Joe sez: I did. And I'm a jerk. But it will be out soon. So will the next two Phineas Troutt books. All three books are basically finished. I just need to do rewrites.

Q: I noticed that all of your Jack Kilborn titles are now JA Konrath titles. What happened to Kilborn?

Joe sez: Konrath is the bigger brand, so now all Kilborn books are Konrath books. But I am still going to continue that horror line, and have several horror books coming out next year. They'll just be published under the Konrath name.

Q: What happened to your bad movie blog?

Joe sez: My son, Talon, and I are still watching bad movies. He's in college, and I'm just waiting for him to put our notes online. We'll get back on it. And eventually compile the reviews into a book.

Q: You've got the STOP A MURDER series, and three more novels out by the end of the year. What's next?

Joe sez: I'm putting the finishing touches on a children's rhyming picture book, and I still need to finish the TIMECASTER trilogy, do sequels to THE LIST and ORIGIN, and finish the horror novels I've already potted out (THE GREYS, CLOSE YOUR EYES).

Q: Will there be more Jack Daniels?

Joe sez: Yes. Jack will be back in the upcoming novels OLD FASHIONED and SHOTS. Not sure which will come out first. I hope to get everything I've mentioned above done by the end of 2018... unless STOP A MURDER does well. Then I'm dropping everything and doing a sequel. I already have something in mind.

Q: And what about this blog?

Joe sez: If writers have a topic they'd like my opinion on, ask me in the comments.

17 comments:

BRYAN HIGBY said...

First, great to have you back Joe, even if it is on a temporary basses. Second, great to hear that you have so many projects coming out. Third, love this interactive idea. I'm in. I'll be exploring the stories this weekend! Do you have any children illustrators for your children's picture book? I know a couple.

Anonymous said...

The is something similar in the gaming world called Alternate Reality Games which put the player as part of the game where online media is used to send problems and clues to tell a story.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternate_reality_game

Elise Stone said...

This also sounds very similar to traditional interactive fiction, which has also experimented with multimedia in addition to straight text games. In fact, the annual IFCOMP is underway right now. https://ifcomp.org/

Kevin Riley said...

It's great to read a new post from you. I love the idea of interactive ebooks, and had been toying with how it would be possible to pull it off, but decided I definitely didn't have the right skills to do so. Based on your writing I believe you do and I look forward to reading them.

Joe Konrath said...

Do you have any children illustrators for your children's picture book?

Hi Bryan. Yep, got an illustrator. Thanks!

The is something similar in the gaming world called Alternate Reality Games

I'm familiar with them. I played one ios app that sent texts as part of the game/narrative. It was fun, but reactive/intrusive. The game could be paused when you were done for the session, but it was more like following a trail of breadcrumbs than actual problem solving. I liked it, but I don't think I'd write one.

This also sounds very similar to traditional interactive fiction

Yeah. I tried with Banana Hammock, failed, and wouldn't do it unless it suddenly became hot.

Based on your writing I believe you do and I look forward to reading them.

I think I succeeded, as best I could, with bringing my vision to the world. But I have no idea if the world is interested.

Nicole said...

Joe, it's great to hear from you again!

If KU has made it so everyone is earning less as an indie writer, is there even a point in putting all my energy into it and trying to carve out a small niche? I published a few things in 2013 but then had two kids and have only just recovered some of my life back enough to put energy into it. I have zero insight into the financial aspect of what indie writers are earning.

Anyway, I know you've got a lot of indie published friends. It'd be cool to have some data about how significantly KU has impacted writers.

p.s. are you doing the Mysterious Package company sets? Because daaaaaayum! Those look fun.

Mark Asher said...

Good luck with the new books, Joe. They sound quite interesting.

So for people like me who are interested in the indie writing scene, can you go into a bit more detail about how KU has cut into your sales income?

I pay for KU and I guess I sort of get it. If a book is in KU I just download it instead of a sample. I might read two pages and move on or enjoy the whole book. I have some KU books on my Kindle right now that I have never looked at after downloading. I just have too many books on my Kindle. A lot of them get buried and I forget they are there.

I also see a lot of articles about declining ebook sales, but I suspect they never account for indie sales in those articles or how it's gotten easier to check out ebooks from libraries via Overdrive. It also doesn't surprise me that sales of traditionally published ebooks have fallen after the publishers were able to raise the pricing. I will not pay $10 for an ebook. I won't pay $8 either.

Anyway, good to see a post from you again.

Ken Riches said...

Ordered for download, looking forward to the journey.

Ken Riches said...

Actually, ordered paperbacks, so Beth will get to share as well :o)

Joe Konrath said...

If KU has made it so everyone is earning less as an indie writer, is there even a point in putting all my energy into it and trying to carve out a small niche?

I have no idea who is earning what on KU. I know my income has dropped about 40%. But I also haven't put out a new Jack Daniels novel in over a year, so that can also account for the drop.

Writers write. If you're a writer, you're going to keep on keeping on. If you can quit, you should. There are much easier ways to earn a buck.

So for people like me who are interested in the indie writing scene, can you go into a bit more detail about how KU has cut into your sales income?

About half of my "sales" on KDP are KU. But when I prive a book at $4.99, I make about $2.70 off a sale. When that same book is read on KU, I get around $1.50.

I'm not complaining. I think KU is a smart idea. Naturally, I wish Amazon would pay more. I also wish that it rained craft beer. Amazon does what Amazon does.

Mark Asher said...

Thanks Joe. So a full read of a KU book results in almost half the revenue for you? How exactly does Amazon justify that? Is it because they give it better visibility?

Have you thought about taking some of your books off KU and spreading them around to all platforms?

I don't know how powerful KU is. I've have gone back and forth about cancelling it. I don't feel I always get my money's worth because there are months when I may only finish one book. Then there are months when I'll read six books.

Anonymous said...

But when I price a book at $4.99, I make about $2.70 off a sale.

Joe, has Amazon changed the percentages? They used to pay 70% for books priced between $2.99 - $9.99. In your case that would be $4.99 x 0.70 = $3.50. Am I missing something? Thanks.

Joe Konrath said...

But when I price a book at $4.99, I make about $2.70 off a sale.

Typo. $3.99, make $2.70. You are correct that $5 is $3.50.

Have you thought about taking some of your books off KU and spreading them around to all platforms?

I have thought of doing this. And I will someday. Currently the Stop A Murder series is universal. We'll see how wide does compared to Amazon.

Brian O'Rourke said...

Joe - I'm intrigued by your latest idea. Hope it works out well for you. It will be interesting to see how fiction changes--and doesn't change--during this century. Part of me thinks it almost HAS to evolve into something different in order to compete with all the other media. But then another part of me thinks fiction will remain fundamentally the same kind of thing BECAUSE it is exactly what we like it to be.

Jim said...

FIRST...
Dude... it's so awesome to see you're still out there. I'm not kidding, I kinda missed you, OK? Whoa... in a 'yo, where's Guiseppe, ain't seen him around?' way, OK? If I was more pantier waisted, I' say stuff like I missed you and junk... but I ain't that... so in a beer drinkin' football lovin way...
YO! JOE! Howya doin'

Yeah, I'd like to ask a buncha' Indie author stuff right now, but... I got something in my eye or somethin...
dam...

Nicole said...

I'm not complaining. I think KU is a smart idea. Naturally, I wish Amazon would pay more. I also wish that it rained craft beer. Amazon does what Amazon does.

I mean, craft beer. Hell yes, please. The best thing that has happened to beer since the discovery of hops and beer and everything. If you ever get out to SLC, you HAVE to try 2Row. My favorite "new" beer is New England style double IPAs and these guys have one or two that . . . I mean, they taste like heaven.

Thanks for answering my questions. I've done more digging and gotten more answers and obviously if I could overcome the urge to write and be read, I would. Maybe when I'm 70 and I realize giving up IS the only logical thing to do.

Yeah, I'd like to ask a buncha' Indie author stuff right now, but... I got something in my eye or somethin...
dam...


This hit me, right in the feels.

Stefficel said...

Nice Blog!
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