Thursday, June 23, 2011

ebook Success From Across The Pond

I've been emailing a new friend from the UK - Justin Cook, who has been poking around the internet (like all of us) looking for information on ebooks. I guess he found what he was looking for because he's now published his first ebook and good things are starting to happen for him.

I'll let him tell about it in his own words:

"The book has been a real success since it's release last week with a good opening sell, and daily I am making sales, so that to me is a good start and can only get better. I'd never considered making my own ebook until reading your blog and watching your helpful and inspiring videos. Glad I did as I now have extra income, a larger customer base and lots of inspiration to write many more books on teaching cartooning. I also want to write and illustrate some children's books too, so hoping to start that too very soon.

I teach 2D animation and cartooning via downloadable video courses on my and my main program of choice for this is Toon Boom's Animate. Toon Boom have been very supportive of my work and when they saw a copy of the 'How to draw faces' ebook they decided they'd love to include it in with a product launch in the next month for one of their software packages called 'Flip Boom'.

WOW! I never thought about my ebooks possibly sparking other projects or opportunities but I guess it's like that Kevin Costner line: "If you build it they will come." This is so true! I think the tendency for most of us is to wait for the phone to ring. As artists we pour our hearts and souls into the creation of beautiful works...and we want people to find what we do and LIKE IT. The reality is that we need to make it happen. We have to go beyond the creation and find ways to get our message and art out where people can see it.

Justin is a great example of this - he took action - made his book - and created an opportunity beyond the sales of his ebook alone.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

99¢ ebooks Good or Bad For Us???

Ok, where to start? First some facts: Monkey & Croc was indie published on B&N 6 months ago. It's now selling between 100 and 150 copies/day and it's offered for only 99¢. It's now sold over 10k copies and oh yea - This is AMAZING TO ME!!!

But I think this brings up a question that I haven't tackled yet: Is selling 99¢ ebooks hurting the ebook and traditional book markets? If the average picturebook sells from $12 - $15 and the average children's ebook is somewhere between $3-$7 how can 99¢ ebooks be good for anyone?

I think the best answer is that I don't really know. I'm sure I have some haters out there who are disgusted that I was able to bypass the "right way" to take a book to market via a traditional publisher....and I'm sure those same people are probably thinking that the 99¢ price tag is going to further erode our industry. In many ways I have to agree with them. First I would never claim that Monkey & Croc is better for having skipped the editorial process. In fact I'm sure it could have been refined more and given a more interesting sub plot or something to make it more memorable to children - I'm a novice writer at best. And Mathematically selling books for a fraction of the price would have to influence over all book prices to drop over time.

So why do it? Why hurt the very industry I've been a part of for 15 years? I guess my best answer is that I believe that prices are going to fall anyway. That if I don't offer my books for a low price others will cut me out of potential sales. That selling a higher volume will allow me to take advantage of B&N's search algorithms. That if I sell high volume I might be able to see more opportunities in the future due to my books popularity. In the end I believe that like songs and movies - ebooks will eventually end up at the 99¢ price point. An argument can be made that it costs Hollywood millions of dollars and man hours to produce a 2 hour movie that can entertain you for only 99¢ so why do we think that an ebook should be worth more?...and how long can a children's ebook entertain your kids and how much did it cost to produce?

I learned a valuable lesson early in my career as an illustrator. Without getting into too many details illustrators began participating in re-selling their work in stock illustration houses (think stock photography) in the early 90's. About 3 years in illustrators realized that the stock houses were undercutting their prices - so they were effectively cutting themselves out of commission work with their own paintings in the stock houses. A grass roots effort was made to pull their work out of those stock houses in an attempt to keep prices higher for commission work. I was one of the ones who pulled my work and refused to do future business with the stock houses. The ideal was sound and the leaders of the movement were well intentioned and extremely hard working but in the end we lost to the overwhelming support the stock houses received from the masses of illustrators willing to accept their terms.

I had a close friend who was receiving well over $100,000/year just from his stock house checks. His argument at the time was: "While I realize that in the end my participation is causing an erosion in overall illustration prices it doesn't make a lot of sense for me to turn off this amazing stream of income." I enjoyed my moral high ground as I said goodbye to my $25k/year stock house money and both of us remained and still are great friends today.

It took me years but in the end I realized that I probably walked away from hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next 10 years while the stock companies grew and the commissioned editorial and advertising markets virtually disappeared.

I think one of the most interesting phenomenons we see all the time in our country is Walmart. Say the word Walmart at a party and see how many frowns you produce but the truth is they are the biggest brick and mortar retailer period. And some of those same scowling Walmart haters usually find themselves sneaking in for this or that - excuse ready if they run into someone they know.

Price matters - to almost everyone - and in this economy ebooks are becoming more and more attractive to people as they worry about their jobs and inflation. You can hope that people will do what you want them to do but in the end they'll do what's good for them.

I would love to hear you guys weigh in - If you totally disagree with me please comment - I certainly don't have all the answers.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sneak Preview - Senorita Gordita

I've been working hard on Helen Ketteman's picture book - Senorita Gordita - a fractured fairly tale of the little ginger bread man story. Set in the south west Helen and I got to revisit the sights, sounds, smells, and flavors that we explored in Armadilly Chili also written by Helen. Instead of a smart alec fast ginger bread man we're dealing with a sassy tell it like it is over confident zippy corn cake - "gordita". Helen has a way with words (duh she's an author) and writes one of the funniest re-tellings of this classic tale. I knew I was going to have a blast illustrating her story when I read it for the first time. I was laughing so hard that my wife had to know what was so funny all the way from the living room.

Senorita Gordita will be out from Albert Whitman towards the end of this year and of course I'll let you know when I get my first copies.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Physical Books VS Indie ebooks

I just got back from the Utah Festival of Books in Provo where I spoke on a panel and the discussion of ebooks came up which inspired this weeks blog post.

Since I’m a lover of both physical and ebooks - I don’t have a favorite but I think it’s always good to analyze them both for their advantages and disadvantages. I decided to list both pros and cons from the consumer point of view as well as the author/illustrator point of view if working with a traditional publisher vs indie publishing ebooks. If I miss some points please help me by adding your insights as I know I’ll have a different list than some of you. So here we go...

Physical Books Pros:
Having a tangible artifact
Larger format for illustrations
Better legibility in strong light
Developing a physical library
Guaranteed advance against royalties
Eligible for Caldecott and other medals
Inclusion in school & public libraries
Can be signed
More prestigious
Edited by professionals
Marketed by professionals

Expensive to purchase
Expensive to publish
Can get damaged/ lost
Hard to see in dim light
Heavy - unwieldy
Less Eco friendly
Limited to multiples of 4 page counts
Travel to purchase/ wait for delivery
Can go out of print

ebook pros:
Inexpensive to purchase
Inexpensive to publish
Disaster Proof/ download from your account
Reading in the dark
Light weight - easy to carry thousands of titles
Eco friendly
Adjustable font size
Unlimited page counts
Publishing freedom/autonomy
Instant delivery
Quicker to market/ royalties
Never goes out of print

ebook cons:
No physical artifact
Comparatively small viewing area
Hard to view in strong light
Not as gift-able
Less ownership pride
No guarantee of earnings
Not eligible for most book awards
Can’t be checked out at the library
Can’t be signed
Less prestigious
Self edited
Self programed
Self marketed