The future of books — and Blake’s books

Those of you who came by today looking for the latest chapter of Lost in Silver… God bless you. I just got back from serving a long day on Jury Duty, though, and while Lost in Silver IS a finished novel, with each chapter I’ve posted I’ve been doing editing and formatting work I just don’t have the energy for at the moment. It will return next Monday, I promise.

But on my way to and from the federal court where my duty took place, I was listening to a podcast by the brilliant Scott Sigler. Sigler is one of three authors who, through a combination of excellent work, boundless enthusiasm and a kick-ass work ethic, have made me a believer in the power of new media. I don’t think most people have the slightest idea just how much the publishing world has changed in the last few years. And perhaps even more importantly, it’s still changing. It hasn’t stabilized yet, and while there are a lot of theories about what exactly it’s transforming into, nobody can stay for sure.

But I’ve been looking at the innovaters in the new media, looking at the things they’re doing. And I realize the way to move forward in this new space is by innovating, by coming up with the next step before anyone else, and by giving people something they want. And I firmly believe that the future of entertainment will come in a model that involves giving people stuff for free and cultivating a fan base that will support your commercial endeavors.

I’m still new at this. I’m still trying to figure out how to do it. The Siglers have been doing it for a long time now. But I realize that if I’m serious about doing this, serious about being a storyteller… well… I’ve got to get serious. eBooks and podiobooks are paving the way for new readership in ways never imagined before. And so far, I’ve got only one product available in this New Media playground. That’s just not enough. What I’m thinking I want to do — need to do — is simply put more stuff out there.

The obvious question, therefore, becomes what is the best way to do it? And in truth, the more I think about it, I don’t think there really is just one “best way.” I’m thinking of lots of things, lots of ways to try to break out, and slowly, I think I’m developing a plan.

First of all, there’ll be some changes here to Evertime Realms, mainly in the form of the original fiction I post here. Don’t worry, I’m still going to finish Lost in Silver and (one of these days) Summer Love. And I’ll still post short stories here when the mood strikes me. But for book-length fiction, I’m thinking of something new.

These days, it’s remarkably easy to put together an eBook. You can do the design yourself, save it in the appropriate formats, whip up some accounts and bam — you’ve got something that can be distributed — even sold — for eBook readers like the Amazon Kindle without going through a traditional publisher. Although I don’t quite have the know-how to do so, you can do the same thing and make the book an iPhone or Blackberry app. And of course, there’s the podcast novel format, which I’m already in love with and long have been planning to return to.

So I’m thinkin’…

What if I were to start giving this a shot? Right now I’m co-directing a play and (soon) taking a night class. But by the end of October, my schedule will be much clearer. This is the time to start, by taking the podcast novel I’ve already released and putting together a digital package. If I release A Long November as an eBook in November itself, I could try pushing it at Christmas. I could even include the other Christmas short stories I’ve written in the package.

Then, I’m thinking of launching my own podcast feed. I want to go back and use Podiobooks.com again for any future podcast novels I produce, but as many authors have proven, having a dedicated feed for your own work can be a big plus. In addition to podcasting my fiction, I could also chime in with short mini-podcasts from time to time — I’m thinking of a sort of audio version of my old Think About It columns, for those of you who remember those. This feed, too, would start in November with a re-release of A Long November. By starting with something that’s already written and recorded, I would be able to get a head start on whatever I decide to do next. (And that is a decision that’s not entirely in my hands, I should tell you — keep whispering Project Rebirth, Project Rebirth). But ultimately, my plan would be to more or less consistently have some sort of podcast fiction coming down the line. Lost in Silver would be on the feed, along with Summer Love, last year’s NaNoWriMo novel Cross Purposes, and several other things that are finished or close enough to finished that I can seriously think about putting them together this way. And each podcast launch would be accompanied by an eBook version.

I’m not inventing the wheel here. Nothing I’ve suggested is anything new — other, far more innovative people than myself are already doing these things. I don’t want to just come in following on everyone else’s coattails. But at the same time, I’ve got to be in the game before I can win it. All of these things I’m thinking about — they’re a launching pad. A way to get my foot in the door.

So let me talk directly to you guys. My friends. My family. And those utterly awesome people who just pop in here because they like what they read. If I were to do this, if I were to pour my heart and sweat and possibly blood (because if there’s anyone who can damage himself while recording a podcast it’s me) into this new project, is it something you’d be interested in.

If you’ve got an iPod or MP3 player, would you listen?

If you’ve got a Kindle or eBook reader, would you read?

If you’ve got an iPhone or Blackberry, would you dig an app?

And do you have any suggestions that could help me here? There’s a comment button on this page for a reason, my friends. I’m not too proud to listen to anything anybody has to say. This is a big commitment, and to be perfectly honest I think I’ve already decided to try it — at least most of it. What I want from you is to help me figure out how to do it right.

20 Responses to “The future of books — and Blake’s books”

  1. August 10, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    You know my answers love.
    Id buy every box of Wheaties in the supermarket if you wrote the back of the box.
    Im beside you every step of the way.

  2. August 10, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    I think this is a great idea. It’s hard to make waves in any kind of publishing effort these days, but putting the material out there to be noticed is easy. For you, as a verbal storyteller, the audiobook is a great way to go. It’d drive up notice and let people get to hear the story from you, in your own delivery, hearing it as you’d imagined it.

    And for those of more hardcore readership, like me, keeping some kind of print version available is always good. Publishing and media presentation may change, but books will never fully go away. It’s still too easily accessible and collectible. I do not have an eBook reader, beyond Adobe Acrobat, but will read text from it.

    I do have an MP3 player and would listen to chapters or whole books on it. Especially from authors I really enjoy. I sadly admit I haven’t tried anyone I do not know, but I’m willing to try it out.

    I don’t think I’ll ever have an iPhone or Blackberry, so I cannot weigh in on a phone app, but I am willing to bet that the interest is there.

    Good luck in all you do.

    • August 10, 2009 at 10:01 pm

      Thanks, Dean, I really appreciate it.

      I’m glad you mentioned the traditional publishing formats, since I forgot to mention them myself. I don’t think paper books are in danger of going away any time soon — not entirely, at least. There’s an established framework there and a writer would be a fool to declare he didn’t want to work that way at all. Everything I’m thinking of doing would be part of a long-term goal, ultimately trying to find a way into those more traditional outlets.

      And give some of those other podcast novelists a try. There are great ones putting out better books than anything in the stores. 🙂

  3. August 11, 2009 at 1:27 am

    I say go for it. However, if you’re going to launch a podcast feed, do yourself a HUGE favor and record the entire book before you begin. Putting out a podcast every week is vastly harder than anyone thinks. And I promise you, something will come up in your life that will make you go 2-4 weeks without an episode — if you record the whole thing ahead of time, that won’t happen. Consistency is key. You podcast every week, without fail, and your listenership will grow. Good luck!!

    • August 11, 2009 at 5:56 am

      Thanks, Scott — your support absolutely means the world to me. And thanks for the advice. That’s actually the reason I was thinking of starting this with the one book I’ve already got recorded — to buy myself extra time to get the next one ready.

      I already co-host a weekly podcast, so I’m familiar with the rigors, but I also know how much more work is involved with something like this than there is with the sort of chat show that we do. The more I think about it, the more psyched I get for it, though.

  4. August 11, 2009 at 7:41 am

    Blake, I know my age group is probably not your target audience, but I’ll pass along my opinions anyway. Might be something that strikes a chord.

    I love your stories and value your reviews given via your podcasts. I agree with Scott as to having an entire thing going at one time. I was reading your Summer Love every week then left hanging since it is unfinished. And I fully intend to read Lost in Silver, but waiting to make sure it all gets posted. LOL However, I think a weekly posting of interest, whether it be a podcast or whatever, is a great way to get readers enticed into returning. However, the public is fickle. Always looking for the next best deal so you have to keep ’em coming back.

    I prefer to read a physical, paper book, but I am not opposed to reading a chapter online. I have a couple of e-books in my computer that I’ve never taken time to read. I don’t have a kindle, but I would love one. That would give me another choice when waiting for doctors and such, and places where crocheting is not possible.

    Other than in the car when traveling, an audio book would not be my first choice. I get sidetracked too easily. Then I lose track of the action. I might could use it while exercising though. Might try that today. 🙂

    I don’t have an iphone, blackberry, or ipod. I do have an mp3 player. I think I’ve got A Long November on there, but I haven’t listened to but a couple chapters I think. I would buy it as an e-book though and as a paper book, esp if portable. I would buy YOUR book whatever the price, but I always thought Publish America’s books were priced too high. There is a crochet book from them I got from the library for that reason.

    Any news on the republication of Other People’s Heroes? Still wanting another copy of that one.

    IMHO you need to make Blake Petit a household name. Do you own the domain name? If not, I’d try to get that. (I just tried it and it is not in use) You have a lot of places where people can find you, but it’s hard for my brain (granted, it’s not the best one around LOL) to remember what is where. It would be great if I could go to blakepetit.com and get the links to everything. I am hardly likely to forget your name. The mailing list and Facebook pages are helpful to me because at my fingertips is a description of what the podcast is about and a link with the name of the podcast in question.

    As to time to write, there will ALWAYS be something to take you away from that. Schedules will never be clear. If you want to write, you have to write regardless of what else is going on in your life. And I understand that is considerable! You’ve accomplished a lot so you must be doing something right.

    Hope this is helpful and not offensive. Good luck! And keep us posted.

  5. August 11, 2009 at 8:05 am

    “I want to go back and use Podiobooks.com again for any future podcast novels I produce, but as many authors have proven, having a dedicated feed for your own work can be a big plus.”

    Do both, like Sigler and many others. And what Scott says about being DONE with recording is right. Go ahead and dish it out over time, but get the bulk of the work done. *Especially* if you already have one weekly podcast to worry about.

    And our new relationship with Smashwords makes getting your text in ebook form — including the Kindle — a breeze.


  6. August 11, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    I say go for it. Since you run a podcast you know that most of the time you do the podcast because you are passionate about it. It’s great to get listener feedback but really at the end of the day you do it because you love it. So approach this the same way and it will work out. Can’t wait to see what you have in store.


  7. 9 AJ
    August 11, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    i’ve been contimplating my own ‘web-presence’ the past few weeks, and i plan to impliment some of the same ideas that you’ve mentioned in this article.

    the best thing, in my opinion is providing a quality product, for free. podiobooks are great, i have the ‘stanza’ ebook reader iphone app. so yeah, i’d listen/read your works, if offered in a variety of formats.

    i think the best, in my opinion, is to offer your work out there, for free, and give something for the collectors and the fans something to purchase.

    the best idea in my opinion, is to create a section of your (future) website to collect email addresses (valid) in exchange for download links for podiobooks, apps, ebooks, etc. to build your potential marketplace. still give it away for free; but offer something special for those who want to buy a physical product. make each ‘package’unique. something you’d like to own as well.

    give a hand written note/signed book at a bottom tier. a 5 minute phone call to discuss the book or just to talk for the next tier up. signed cover-art print by you and the artist. something personal, or something that you’d like to have from another author.

    set up a system that’d let them allow to read rough drafts or character outlines… or just other short stories, for free. keep them updated through an author blog, photoblog about what you’re doing.

    set up the emails that you gathered from the free downloads and send out a newsletter when ‘something big’ is happening. you’re doing a public book signing, or you’re gonna start releasing a new book. just don’t abuse it. don’t sell the list to add agencies.

    (having blakepetit.com [etc] as a domain name is a great idea).

    incase you cannot tell all of this is very stream of consciousness, but take it as you see fit.

    always keep in mind that you’re doing this for yourself as an artist/storyteller, to get your stories told, and to give to your fans, something that they’d like to have.
    don’t do the radiohead model. do you really want to see 1000 downloads at $0.00, because they don’t want to risk the money on an ‘unknown’ storyteller? and they probably wouldn’t come back to ‘donate’ anything.

    make your website easy to access, have sections that have a blog(s), news feeds, downloads/podcasts and contact info. forums and links too.
    okay, i’m done rambling

  8. August 11, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Thanks to everyone who has chimed in here.

    Sandie — I really do feel bad about Summer Love. One thing I haven’t really discussed here is how that particular book got derailed when I discovered Rich Riordan’s Percy Jackson novels. Excellent books. Wonderfully written. But there are a LOT of similarities to what I was planning to do with Summer Love, and I’ve found myself somewhat crippled, artistically, trying to figure out how to tweak things so it doesn’t seem derivative. Fortunately with Lost in Silver, the entire book IS finished, and while I did skip yesterday, it won’t be an issue of not finishing it at all..

    I listen to most of my podiobooks while driving too. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I do a lot of driving, so that makes it easy on me.

    Other People’s Heroes? Wait for it… wait for it… any day now…

    Offensive? Not in the slightest. This is just the sort of opinions I want to hear.

    Evo — I was thinking just the same thing, about doubling up. And looking at Smashwords makes me feel highly optimistic about that process.

    Bryan — Ah, a fellow podcaster. You know my pains well.

  9. August 11, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    I doubt I could add any of real value here, but I would absolutely go for it. Getting your stuff out there is the point, and you might get some new fans along the way, which is always great.

    And I envy your ability to podcast a novel. I could never do that. (Because, with my voice, whatever I read would be a comedy, no matter how awfully violent the scene. A laugh a second with Minnie Mouse. :D)

  10. August 11, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    I am almost finished Percy Jackson The Seas of Monsters. Thanks for the heads up on that series. Very enjoyable reading.

  11. 15 bigwords88
    August 12, 2009 at 8:17 am

    The comments you have received are very positive on new media, but storytelling (y’know, the words ‘n’ everything) has alwys been manipulated to fit whatever was available, so none of the ideas push beyond current ability. I would suggest you pick two formats initially and see how they work for you, because getting bogged down with a sinking format is the worst feeling in the world.

    When I have thought, seriously, about doing cross-media on the net I always come back to the issue of time. I’m not able to devote a great amount of time to podcasting, so I don’t do it. Nobody wants three-minute blasts of a story, and that is all I can manage without some sort of interruption. Getting e-books together is easier, and it is something I have been looking at as a way to get material ‘out there’ to an audience.

    This is a purely subjective view, buy I prefer readin books on paper, followed by e-books. There is a number of problems I have with ‘readers’ suck as Kindle, so it is only ever on a computer I will read these downloads. I like reading continuing books in blogs (you can find a bunch of them among the old AW blogs), but unfinished ones really annoy me. Uh, no offense to anyone who has abandoned theirs…

    One of the ideas which made me rather excited when I thught of it was a multiple-format story which could be read on a number of levels. A self contained blog-diary (from a character), an e-book, a podcast, a comic strip, a series of photographs and other media building together to form a cohesive story. Putting one together is another thing entirely. I’m sure there has been moves into this idea somewhere, though most fall into TINAG multimedia.

    There was a period at the start of the new millennium when the forms of what have subsequently become known as ‘new media’ were seen as distractions rather than real opportunities. They now outnumber traditional paper publishing by a magnitude, so tapping into them seems to be natural as a progression of your web prescence.

    A suggestion, if I may:
    You seem to be thinking along the lines of a solo project, and may underestimate the commitment that such a position may place you in. Have you considered doing a joint project, just for funs? You could get a couple of other writers aboard, a few people who have done voice acting for audio drama, maybe a Flash animator or two… You’ll share the workload (and yes, it is hard), but the emphasis won’t be placed squarely on your shoulders. There’s many capable people out there, so it shouldn’t be too hard to form a small group of creatives.

    Whatever you chose, you know there is support following you’re progress. Good luck.

    • August 12, 2009 at 2:39 pm

      Actually, until a couple of months ago I was planning to get together voice actors do to a dramatization of my first novel, Other People’s Heroes. Unfortunately, for reasons I can’t discuss yet, I discovered I can’t do it with that property. I would still like to do it with something else someday, although my experience in podcasting has taught me that as hard as it is to put together a voice track with one speaker, when you start adding extra actors it gets exponentially more difficult. It can definitely be rewarding, but unless there was a full-time producer, it would only increase the burden. I do want to do it someday, though, when the right project comes to mind.

  12. August 12, 2009 at 8:52 am

    I have seen blogs where the authors blog as a group, with each one contributing say a blog a week. I have also seen stories written with a different person writing a chapter each week. I found that really interesting as each person would have a different style and even the writers don’t always know where it will eventually go.

    • August 12, 2009 at 2:40 pm

      You mean a “Round Robin”-type story? I’m actually a big fan of those myself, and I even did a few back in my high school days. That would be a cool idea. Hmm… I wonder who else may be interested in such a thing…

  13. August 12, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    Yes, that is exactly what I meant. Kate’s SIL had opportunity to write a chapter in one of these and did a great job on it. IMHO, it’s a good venue for both new and experienced writers to have opportunity to get in the public eye, practice, and improve their craft.

    • August 13, 2009 at 7:35 am

      I like that idea, and it could be a lot of fun. I don’t know if it’s necessarily something I would do in relation to this particular project, but it might be worth it to see if I can gather up some people interested in joining in.

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