Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Package that Niche!

I’m here to say that ebooks may be the best thing to hit publishing since, well, mass publishing was invented.

And I don’t mean in the sense of opening up publishing avenues to any schlub with a story to tell – though that is certainly to our advantage as well – but I do mean in the sense that we as writers can get a feel for what exists out there, quality-wise, as we assess our own writing and compare it to what is getting published traditionally, what is being published electronically, and what is being put into the vanity press that is the ebook put out by the common man without a publisher, without quality control and, frankly, without much of a chance to succeed unless a mass following develops and forces that author into a wave of goodwill.
Yes I’m babbling a bit. But it’s good babbling.

You may recall earlier my review of Bob Brooks’ Tales from the Glades of Ballymore, an ebook I recently acquired for free. A good read all the way around – so it stuns me that it’s not been published by a traditional publishing house. Brooks may have his own reasons for going the electronic route, and for that I applaud him. He’s inspired me to do the same with Yershi the Mild this summer.

I also recently read Boyd Brent’s Diary of A Superhero Kid, and, frankly, didn’t think much of it. Boyd has published other books and, by the looks of the Superhero Kid, wants to ride on Jeff Kinney’s coattails into the kiddie lit market. Can’t say I see him succeeding.

So what makes the two authors and their books different? Both are, in my opinion, solidly written (though Brent has an odd mix of British spellings with Americanisms throughout, so he needed some better editing along the way).

First, I think the difference is a question of niche.

With the success of Harry Potter and the Wimpy Kid books, everyone is trying now to get into those niches. The good will rise while the bad will settle rather quickly to the bottom of the pool. Without illustrations – the strength of Kinney’s work – Brent doesn’t have much of a chance of standing out.

Brooks, on the other hand, hits his niche nicely and in a very quiet way succeeds in convincing his readers that his stuff is worth the time to read.

Then there’s also a difference in packaging.

Brooks teams up with a wonderful illustrator – how he managed that I don’t quite understand, but kudos to him for doing so. His writing is good enough he doesn’t need illustrations, but the illustrations augment the overall ebook package. Brent, whose book screams for illustrations, tries to get by with an acceptable cover and then abandons the reader with blocks of text and nothing else. A successful ebook, then, needs what a good print book needs: Packaging.

So that gets me to thinking: How can I get some illustrative packaging with Yershi the Mild? A back-burner thought is to have my kids read the book and to have my oldest, an aspiring cartoonist, help with the illustrations. That’s one approach. Maybe a bit twee and trite, but it’s an approach. I need something to spookify the entire spooky package in order for this book to sail.

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