The Shatzkin Files

Enhanced Ebooks, Part 3

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This is the third and final post of a series which spells out a new ebook strategy for trade publishers, expressed in the form of a letter from the publisher to its authors. The first post — the beginning of the letter — expressed the publisher’s intention to invest in a database of digital assets to enhance all their ebooks, and to take advantage of the different opportunities presented by different ebook formats. It also was candid about how little the publisher really knows about what the revenue potential will be for ebooks. The second post covered the first item we anticipate the author will want to know: “what is an “enhanced ebook.”

This post covers the second and third items: what’s required of the author to get this done and what is the deal between the author and our imaginary entity, National Trade Publishing (NTP).

Obviously, there is only a limited amount National Trade Publishing can do to enhance an ebook without help from you and our other authors. So what do we need from you to really make this happen?

That answer breaks into two parts: things of value we think you have from the process of creating the book and value we think you can add after publication.

Do you have bibliographic material or sourcenotes that we won’t be including in the book? Have you archived links to source or related material on the Web? Did you write descriptions of characters or places in your book that you wouldn’t mind revealing, and which would be of interest as extra material to some of the people who will read your book?

We will give you the opportunity to contribute to each ebook’s underlying dictionary. Will you use it?

Video and audio material are welcome. You can talk to your audience about this book, or the next book you are working on, or even another book you’d recommend to them. We’ll give you guidelines for what we think will work best (brief, in a word) and we’ll be screening for adequate quality and appropriateness, but we want to give buyers a “From the Author” section of an enhanced ebook that gives you a lot of leeway.

We want to use the “space” we have in an ebook to tell readers more about the book you’ve written, about the world of the story (if fiction) or to give them a broader or deeper drive into the subject matter (if non-fiction). That can be done through your writing or by things you can refer us to, through things on which we can get the necessary rights to embed them or through things we can only link to. And through any media.

Which brings us to the trickiest part of all this: what’s the deal? (Blogger’s note: I am going to put some numbers in here. The numbers aren’t as important as the conditons and circumstances around the numbers.)

Our standard deal for ebook sales is to give the author 25% of the net amount received by National Trade Publishing.We’re not going to change that. We’ll pay the same on these enhanced ebooks, even though some of the material, such as the dictionary, will be provided by us.

In addition, we will ask only non-exclusive rights to the enhanced ebook material. If you write something original for this purpose, you can give it to us and then re-sell it as part of something else, as long as our rights to sell the ebook we’ve created are undisturbed. Although we certainly can “pull” material from an ebook much more readily than we could from a book we are storing in print in our warehouse, the administrative cost of doing such a thing across our list would be uncontrollable. (Hint: we can negotiate an ability to pull material if you pay us something to do so.)

We recognize the potential for advertising in an enhanced ebook, or for promoting another book and benefiting by referral revenue from its sale. We will give authors veto power over accepting these revenue enhancements in their ebooks, and we will share 25% of the value of that advertising or referral revenue. If you bring us the advertiser, we’ll pay you an extra 10% of the revenue.

We will be entirely in control of the pricing of the enhanced ebooks, of course. Our strategic desire is to drive UP the price we can get for them, but, tactically, we may price them anywhere, or give them away in a promotion, or give them away as part of the ebook sale.

We’ll want to allow TTS use of the ebook wherever it is available, but we’ll block its use where we have that option at an author’s request.

So the “deal” we’re looking for is that we’ll each put forth extra effort to promote our still-primary product, your book, and to develop a better understanding of what the future primary product, the enhanced ebook, might be. We expect many of our authors to be enthusiastic about this idea from the beginning, and for many of the others to join with us gradually as we develop this concept. We hope you’ll be our partner in this effort from the start.

PS: Since I started this series of blog p0sts, I learned about a peer-reviewed study of ebooks created by John Warren of the Rand Corporation. John’s article is very thorough and reviews important points about ebook capabilities, including hyperlinking and multimedia, and about pricing experimentation that are not covered in my series of posts. However, it does not cover what I consider to be the central point of my pieces: which is that a publisher needs to set up a database and a new interaction with authors to really move into the ebook era. The book-by-book approach, which is normal and which is what the Warren piece also assumes, will not be cost-effective for consumer ebooks for some time, perhaps years.

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