I’ve been thinking a lot about the best way to tell stories and then get them to people. Yesterday I discovered GUMROAD, which offers a great pay-what-you-want system for artists to sell their books digitally. I bought a PDF from it, paid five dollars, all lovely.
The problem is PDFs. PDFs, man. They’re universal, seems like everyone can use them, but they feel kinda flat. Basic. If you want to tell the most amazing story in the world, laying it out on a PDF feels like making a cake with just the basic ingredients. It’s fine I guess, but y’know.
I was seeking out the advice of the excellent MARC ELLERBY on all the different ways and means of creating a book to sell digitally. From GRAPHICLY, to using THIS great new idea for easily creating your own E-Books (it will be fascinating to see how it turns out), there are a few different approaches. Once that’s done, and you’ve created something for multiple devices, you then have to get the product to your readers. The main outlets like Amazon and iTunes all seem a little restrictive, controlling, and inevitably take a slice out of your share. But they do, of course, reach a score more people than you potentially could on your own.
What I liked about Gumroad was the control. The incredibly simple transaction. Here’s some money, oh hey thanks here’s my book. Whether it’s a novel, a comic, or (in my case) an illustrated novel. No middle men, instead a direct communication between creator and reader. I love that.
Which is fine, for PDFs. But alongside the how of all this, I’ve also been really thinking about the what. What does a creator provide? A story, of course, but beyond that, could you provide the experience that goes WITH the story?
Apps. What if instead of making your story an ebook, you made it an app?
There are already excellent examples of this. WORMWORLD is one, where the comic already exists online, but you can download the app to keep updated on chapters, and even pay extra for the full experience. This experience includes sketches and even commentary. It is, frankly, such a stunning comic, I’d imagine it’s really paying off. BOTTOM OF THE NINTH is another beautiful example (thanks to @mattkamen for the tip).
These are such professional examples, it can be a little intimidating. But the idea is key, they are not just telling you stories, they are hauling you into the whole world they have created, and it’s a far more memorable experience because of it.
And creating apps is easy right? Pfft of course not. It’s highly skilled, especially to do it right. So hypothetically I was wondering if the following route could work, using a few different internet processes.
First you set up a Kickstarter/Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign, to pay for a developer to create your app. Wormworld actually did this in the start. Kickstarters of course are, themselves, a skill in themselves, and you’d have to offer some rather fantastic things to not only reward funders but, again, build your world for them. Use Kickstarter as a means to reach people and create, not just raise money.
Once/ if you make it, create the app. It features the story, of course, in an easy-to-read format (I’m glossing over the complexities of doing that, yes. I wouldn’t like to guess what a developer has to go through to create a beautiful and intuitive product), and it also features extras – nice title screens, sketchbook stuff, exclusive content, means to share some of the content across social networks.
The app goes on sale for however much you think, it would be tempting to price it as an ebook but apps do have their own unwritten rules and you have to be careful not to price yourself out of the market.
Alongside this, for those who don’t want to, or can’t, download the app, offer a PDF version on a pay-what-you-want system. It still tells your story, it’s not the full whammy of the app, but it reaches people you couldn’t otherwise reach.
And why not serialise the story online? That’s always the most immediate way to reach people, before they have to pay for/download anything.
This is what I’m thinking. The reason I’m blogging this out is because I’d genuinely love any input from you. Any problems you think might arise, any flaws in the system. A lot of this theory is taking a few things for granted, of course.
It would just be great to find a more natural, and involving, way to get your stories to your readers.
NOTE: Another great example of an app for reading comics is THE PHOENIX app, as created by PANEL NINE.
NOTE 2: In my search I also found THIS, a means to create your own interactive stories. Will be interesting to see how it works out.