From the Archives: “The Vook? Yes, Vook.”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: January 27th, 2010 ]

There will likely be a good deal of hype this week about a cool new multimedia option called the Vook.

What will this do to the self-publishing industry, and will yours be the first independently published piece available?

Whatever happened to Vook, with all of its big dreams and potential for self-publishing authors?

vook

Well … it’s complicated.

Once upon a time, Vook began as a response to what NYTimes author Motoko Rich called an “increasingly elastic” notion of what makes a book … well, a book, and as publishers began to “mash together text, video and Web features in a scramble to keep readers interested in an archaic form of entertainment.” His words, not mine. (I don’t think books are archaic, at all!) Still, a Vook offers … more.

Take, for example, several ‘vooks’ which Rich details in his article, vooks published in partnership with the traditional Big Five publishing house, Simon & Schuster:

In one of the Simon & Schuster vooks, a fitness and diet title, readers can click on videos that show them how to perform the exercises. A beauty book contains videos that demonstrate how to make homemade skin-care potions.

Not just how-tos are getting the cinematic work-up. Simon & Schuster is also releasing two digital novels combining text with videos a minute or 90 seconds long that supplement — and in some cases advance — the story line.

In “Embassy,” a short thriller about a kidnapping written by Richard Doetsch, a video snippet that resembles a newscast reveals that the victim is the mayor’s daughter, replacing some of Mr. Doetsch’s original text.

And even when he published his article in 2009, Rich was recounting some degree of success, at least on the part of the author, publishing partner, and Vook itself:

Bradley J. Inman, chief executive of Vook, said readers who viewed prototypes of “The 90-Second Fitness Solution” by Pete Cerqua or “Return to Beauty” by Narine Nikogosian “intuitively saw the benefits of augmenting how-to books with video segments.” Mr. Inman said readers then “warmed to” the fictional editions.

Jude Deveraux, a popular romance author who has written 36 straightforward text novels, said she loved experimenting with “Promises,” an exclusive vook set on a 19th-century South Carolina plantation in which the integrated videos add snippets of dialogue and atmosphere.

Ms. Deveraux said she envisioned new versions of books enhanced by music or even perfume. “I’d like to use all the senses,” she said.

So what happened to the Vook? Well, as we reported in 2015, it became something else. Not for lack of enthusiasm or some sense of failure, but after successfully raising financing in 2010, partnering with major publishing houses in 2011 and 2012 to release several popular vooks, launching a brand-new self-publishing platform in 2012, acquiring a digital imprint (Byliner) in 2014, and rebranding itself in 2015 as … Pronoun.

Which was promptly acquired by Macmillan.

That’s what happened to Vook. Instead of becoming something great and unique and a friendly face in the self-publishing community, it took another path. Pronoun still purports to be a self-publishing platform, but the jury’s still out on whether it will make enough of a profit for the Big Five publisher to continue providing it as a service down the road. When it comes to traditional publishers buying out self-publishing platforms, historically, things have not gone all that well. You only have to look to Penguin’s acquisition of Author Solutions in 2012, which got lost in the shuffle when Penguin and RandomHouse merged the following year. It still exists, but authors have seen a steady decline in the variety and quality of services offered, while Penguin-RandomHouse has primarily used the service as an “audition” tool rather than a genuine self-publishing service. In other words, the parent company isn’t all that interested in seeing your book hit the market unless it’s likely to make them a lot of money. And what if you weren’t interested in writing a blockbuster?

Seems mighty limiting to me. So we’ll see where Vook goes from here.

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

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