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?

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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.

Self-Publishing News: 5.23.2016

This week in the world of self-publishing:

First off, this little press release put out by Author Solutions on May 18th via PRWeb: the self-professed “world leader in supported self-publishing services” made an announcement last Monday to the effect that “it has entered a development partnership with immersive content studio Legion of Creatives. Through the relationship,” the press release goes on to state, “Legion will actively review indie book titles within the Author Solutions catalogue for possible film, television and digital adaptations.”  For fans of Author Solutions this is pleasant news indeed, but the company has its fair share of detractors.  Even critics have to admit, however, that the prospects for self-publishing as a whole are broadened by these kinds of pioneering partnerships–in the future, they are likely to not only be available to all self-publishing authors, but to be made much more affordable as the market broadens and competition increases.  For the original press release, follow the link!

In this, the first of two articles put up by Publisher’s Weekly on May 20th related to hybrid publishing, contributor Nicole Audrey Spector puts together a comprehensive guide to getting started with hybrid publishing––much as we did with our March 2nd blog post.  As Spector puts it, going hybrid is to seize upon a “third option”––an option “which fuses aspects of traditional publishing with self-publishing, often for an up-front fee. At least that’s one definition,” she writes: “as any author exploring the territory of hybrid publishing will find, it’s complicated.”  It’s complicated in part because hybrid publishing is not the same thing as being a hybrid author––the former involves a specific publishing model which incorporates the flexibility and authorial rights of self-publishing with the resources of traditional publishing … and the latter is usually used to describe an author who has published through both the traditional and self-publishing models (and may also have dabbled in the hybrid one) or may have moved from one to the other.  Spector goes on to describe the workings of various hybrid publishing companies and the experiences of several authors who have used them, and closes with this warning: “Hybrid publishing does have its drawbacks and is assuredly not for everybody.”  The “key,” she writes, is “for authors is to do their homework, connect with peers who have published with hybrids, and determine their expectations and goals from the start.”  Wise words all around, I should think.  You can read the rest of Spector’s guide here.

Brooke Warner contributed the second May 20th piece on hybrid publishing to Publisher’s Weekly, and her interest isn’t in explaining the concept to beginners a la Spector’s piece, but rather to project a forecast for the hybrid publishing market over the coming years (an equally vital task, I think!).  Says Warner, founder of hybrid firm She Writes Press, “Within hybrid publishing there exist many creative models, defined largely by what we’re not.”  The struggle has been for self-realization and self-definition, and to exist at the center of their own narrative––that is, not on the fringes of the self-publishing vs. traditional publishing catfight.  “As more hybrid publishers continue to enter the market,” she argues, “we need to start to define ourselves more by what we are, which requires certain standards to be adopted and certain industry practices to change.”  How to go about oding this?  Well, Warner has an idea––in the form of a brief manifesto:

Hybrid publishers ought to be meeting the standards of their traditional publishing counterparts—both editorially and in design. Hybrid publishers ought to have traditional distribution, or to find better inroads into the marketplace than currently exist in the self-publishing sector. Hybrid publishers ought to qualify to submit their books to be reviewed traditionally and to enter contests without being barred because of their business models. Their authors ought to qualify to join any professional organization they want without facing the discrimination that currently exists against any author-subsidized model.

Well, that’s a rallying cry if I ever heard one.  And with a pedigree like Warner’s to back it up, maybe the various power-players will listen.  Even if they don’t, Warner writes, “We’re tapping on industry doors and witnessing some acceptance and some pushback, but, since we’re here to stay, we’ll just let our books do the talking.”  Powerful stuff.  To read the rest of Warner’s article, click here.

 


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As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Monday to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

KellyABOUT 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.

Self-publishing’s Strongest According to Inc. Magazine

Inc500Cover2Inc. Magazine released its annual top 500 fastest growing US businesses yesterday. Outskirts Press, Inc ranked #268 on the list, and exclusive among full-service self publishing outfits. With on-demand publications up 132% over the previous year, Outskirts Press finds itself the fastest growing provider in the fastest growing segment of the book publishing industry. Congratulations Outskirts Press.

Author Solutions – the only other self-publishing related provider recognized, came in at 3266 among the top 5000 companies.

Congratulations self-publishing.

– Karl Schroeder