Courtney Milan is releasing enhanced ebooks of her backlist, and wanted to host a giveaway to celebrate. Heck yeah! But of course, I have questions.
Sarah: What's an enhanced ebook?
Courtney: Enhanced ebooks are books that have an additional, non-book component to them–things like audio, video, pictures, author commentary. They're the director's cut of a book, except there are no directors.
Here are two other romance authors who have self-published enhanced ebooks. Christina Dodd has put up enhanced versions of her Lost Hearts series. She’s added some deleted chapters, author commentary, and other materials to the back of her book. Her goals were to include chapters at the end that were deleted from the original, and to provide value-added for readers who might have bought the original edition.
Cherry Adair has also put up enhanced versions. I haven’t had a chance to speak to her, but she’s added a lot of bonus material. She has pictures of…well, everything from weaponry to planes to her main characters. She has her original brainstorming notes, the mission statement of her unit, dossiers of her main characters. And much, much more.
More specifically, what are your enhanced ebooks like?
I've made enhanced ebooks of my first books, originally published by Harlequin (Proof by Seduction, Trial by Desire, Unveiled, Unclaimed), and my first novella (“This Wicked Gift”).
My primary goal in making enhanced editions was to regain a little bit of control over those works. Specifically, I wanted to:
(1) match the cover branding to my later works;
(2) make my novella available as a standalone version;
(3) make effective use of my back matter in those books to build my author platform and cross-sell my other books; and
(4) make the books available at a price point that would draw in new readers.
Even though I licensed the unenhanced text to Harlequin, I retained the right to make enhanced editions on my own. So now I've done that. Of course, this doesn't answer the question–what makes these editions enhanced?
In addition to the text of the book itself, you'll find deleted scenes, author commentary, pictures of settings, and audio clips.
That brings me to my secondary goal: I’m kind of an enhancement curmudgeon. When I’m reading a book myself, I don’t want no stinkin’ enhancements. Give me the story!
So all the enhancements are at the end of the book. You want to read the book straight through? Go for it. Prefer to read the enhanced content throughout the book? I’ve also linked (unobtrusively, I hope) to the enhanced content throughout. You can read it whichever way you prefer.
So TL/DR my enhanced ebooks offer more content for less money.
As an added bonus, they'll all be available at the introductory price of 99 cents for the first 2.5 weeks–until July 25th.
Here they are:
They're being distributed by Entangled. I granted Entangled a nonexclusive license for a (very) limited time, and delivered final files and the cover to them, all of which I produced on my own. They then uploaded these into their system. Self-publishers can't upload materials with audio/video to Barnes and Noble and Amazon through their self-publishing portals, and not having these available on Amazon & B&N would pretty much sink the project from the beginning.
Sarah: What was the process for development like?
Courtney: I wanted a file that would deliver the same experience on every vendor that supported it. That was hard, because Apple allows a lot more bells and whistles than any other vendor; Amazon, by contrast, will only allow you to include audio/video in its older (KindleFormat7) format, so on Amazon, you get no bells, and maybe one whistle.
So I made a list of potential features, figured out which ones I could implement cross platform, picked the most interesting enhancements I could add, and went from there. I then sent this list to my chief (well, only) project manager, Rawles Lumumba, and she came up with some of the specifics where she could, and nagged me to do everything she couldn't.
In terms of development time? I realized this was possible in April of 2011 (from J.A. Konrath’s blogpost). 2011 to late 2012 were spent in a period of legal assessment. We did preliminary beta-testing in late 2012 to early 2013, discussed this with Harlequin in mid-2013, worked out some distribution kinks in late 2013 and early 2014, and were in production from mid-2013 through mid-2014.
Since “we” is me and Rawles, and since I also wrote books and did other things during that time, you shouldn’t imagine a massive team working on this around the clock for years. It was more like me grimacing at 8 PM and shaking my fist at myself for deciding to do these when I really just wanted to read a book and hang out with my dog.
Sarah: Was it difficult to decide what features to include in the enhanced version?
Courtney: Er… The features I discarded were awful and terrible and nobody would want them anywhere near a commercial product.
Rawles helped me out a lot with the enhanced materials: coming up with ideas for pictures of settings, for instance, asking questions for the commentary at the end, and so forth. Since she reads my books (and by all appearances vaguely likes them) her opinion was crucial for deciding what might be interesting to my readers as well.
Of the possible features that were only marginally horrifying, I ditched video for bandwidth reasons.
Audio…well, I didn't much like audio because (a) I hate the sound of my voice, (b) audio is not accessible to the deaf, and (c) what does audio give you that plain text does not? Only the not-so-dulcet sound of my voice, and see (a). But I felt audio clips were necessary to bullet-proof the enhanced editions on the legal front. So they’re in. Sorry, guys.
But for your amusement, here are the really, really terrible ideas that I discarded.
(1) I spent weeks trying to figure out how to build an interactive game using extremely kludged-up KindleFormat8 features. What kind of game?
Well, suppose you have a button that you can press, and when you press it, you can change one image to a different image.
There. That's your game. Kindle interactivity is…not quite there yet.
Anything that wasn't boring was stab-your-eyes-out horrifying.
(2) There was also a terrifying period when I explored using animated gifs in a book. The actual phrase “they don't have to be good animated gifs” was used in a chat with Rawles.
There are no animated gifs in the final version.
Sarah: I'm correct that these books are best read on a tablet and not on an eInk device, yes?
Courtney: If you're an enhancement curmudgeon? Read 'em anywhere. The book part functions everywhere.
I tried to make sure that even the enhancements at the end would be mostly accessible on an eInk device. Most of the additional content—author Q&A, commentary, and deleted scenes—is plain text, and so it won't matter where you experience it.
The only things that will suffer on an eInk device are the audio clips (a few per book) and some color photographs/sketches.
But even if you only have an e-ink reader, almost all of the additional commentary freely available on the web at http://www.courtneymilan.com/enhanced/, so those who prefer to read on e-ink can do so, and then can go and pick up the few things they missed on the web.
(As an aside, I'm also putting it up for free so that if you bought the books previously, you don't have to rebuy them to get the additional content.)
But if you want to get the full, 100% in book experience, then a tablet is your friend.
Which is why I’m doing a giveaway. Want to win an iPad mini?
Sarah: Yes! Yes you do!
We have here a giveaway! One grand prize winner will get an iPad mini and a complete set of the enhanced Milan ebooks. Five runners up will receive the complete set of enhanced ebooks. Ready to enter?
Standard disclaimers apply: I'm not being compensated for this giveaway. Void where prohibited. Open to international residents where permitted by applicable law. Must be over 18 and ready to read. Whereas, upon participation in the contest as aforesaid, said participant shall nontheless deliver hereunto all such paraphernilia as reasonably necessary and appropriate. Notwithstanding anything hereinafter to the contrary, the contest shall nonetheless be conducted as heretofore described thereupon. By submitting an entry to the contest as set forth herein, each entrant does acknowledge and agree that, in the event such entrant is victorious, such entrant will perform a ceremony reasonably appropriate to such circumstance, including, without limitation, the Miposian Dance of Joy or, in the alternative, a weightless upsidedown Humpty Dance. I'll select the winners at random on Monday 17 July 2014 at 12pm ET.
You can entry using the Punchtab widget below. If you have any problems with the widget, please email me!