‘The Sword of Air,’ – Using Punk Publishing and iBook to stand out in a crowded market place.
Authors are publishing new YA Fantasy titles every day and it is getting harder and harder to stand out in such a crowded market place. This is why I decided to publish ‘The Sword of Air,’ my first novel as an iBook. With world building creative options like music, HD video, 3D modelling and photography to colour my world I was able to create a book unlike anything else on the market.
We are on the edge of a paradigm change in the way people consume their stories. Sales of printed books are falling every year and the sale of ebooks are rising. I believe this change is even more evident with children and young people today. Kids are brought up with broadband wireless and touchscreen technology. It’s not just that they know how to use it from a young age, it’s in their mind, part of their consciousness and it affects the way they think. In schools teachers use internet enabled, interactive touchscreen whiteboards instead of blackboards and chalk like when I was at school. Children expect everything to be linked to the greater hive mind that is the internet and something that isn’t interactive is almost bizarre.
I was also inspired to publish ‘The Sword of Air,’ as an iBook by writers such as Isaac Asimov and Neil Stephenson. In Asimov’s short story ‘Robbie,’ and Stephenson’s ‘The Diamond Age,’ both writers envisaged a world where books were more than just print. They came alive and talked to you, reacted and interacted with you. That world is now. The iPad has brought science fiction into reality.
The challenge has been to take the audience with you. When I’m marketing the book I have to try and get people excited by the story but also explain what an iBook is. Not easy in a short advert or a Facebook post!
Apple has given everyone the iBooks author software for free because they have a very forward thinking strategy towards their users. This software enabled me to take my story and illustrate it in a way that isn’t possible in normal printed books. Music, video, 3D modelling and photography gives my readers a much more visceral experience rather than just being told about the events that unfold in the course of the story. Surely if this new technology best described as ebooks meets movies, gets more young people interested in reading again then that must be a good thing?
Don’t get me wrong I love printed books as much as you do and own many beautiful editions. I just believe young people expect more from books today than we did as kids. Why should books be just pages of printed text and not more interactive. The technological tide is rising and taking all of us with it whether we like it or not.
Of course there are barriers with any new technology. Producing an iBook unlike anything else on the market has not been without its frustrations and difficulties. Firstly the technology is so new and cutting edge that it is only currently available for iPad and Mac. If you don’t own either of these devices then you can’t read ‘The Sword of Air.’ As a writer this has been incredibly frustrating for me because I know a lot of readers have been disappointed because they are unable to access my book. It has also caused problems in the marketing stage of the publishing process because I have lost out on reviews because people willing to do so did not own an iPad or a Mac.
Secondly it can be difficult to make your work visible because you can’t publish on Amazon or similar platforms. You have to use the iBooks store.
However I think the greatest barrier for writers is that iBooks author has such a steep learning curve. This technology is not user-friendly like software such as WordPress and Facebook. I had to team up with a computer whizz known as ‘The Producer’ on my blog, to get the book I wanted out of iBooks Author. This is why despite the interest in iBooks authors are not yet taking advantage of this new technology for their storytelling.
Producing an iBook requires you to source media, photos, video, music, even 3D models. My partner in making the iBook, ‘The Producer’ is a great photographer and was able to contribute some stunning photography as part of his involvement. The other aspects, the music, the video etc… has to be licensed. So this does mean you have to commit to your book and invest some money up front. This is a challenge but realistically these days, creating a best-selling book without investing money up front is very unlikely.
Once you’ve got all this media, you need to be able to manipulate it, to get it into a package that fits the story. This does require a (reasonably) high level of skill in multiple software programs, e.g. iBooks Author, iPhoto and iMovie.
‘The Sword of Air,’ is an epic fantasy story set in an altered reality of medieval Ireland. Sixteen year old Niamh Kelly’s village is burnt to the ground by the Raven Queen’s Fomor army, and her adoptive grandmother is brutally murdered right in front of her. She is forced to flee into the forest of the Nadur with only an old storyteller, her best friend Rauri and his wolfhound Bran for protection. Hunted by the Raven Queen, the brutal ruler of Ireland, and her armies, Niamh desperately searches for the forgotten Fae people to help her. She must find allies and the power within herself if she is to survive against the dark powers of the Raven Queen.
Characters such as the beautiful but merciless Raven Queen and bad boy Jareth, Crown Prince of the Fae, spring from the page with hundreds of beautiful photographs, that go full screen at the tap of a finger. Sound effects put you inside the action instead of just being told about it. The cinematic soundtrack adds another layer telling the story and giving depth to the characters as the book progresses. Short movies built right into the story put you inside the characters head, let you see what they see and feel their emotions.
iBooks Author allowed me to build the character map for ‘The Sword of Air’ as an interactive guide for the reader. As they come into the story each character and location is described at the end of each chapter. A fantastic feature for a high fantasy book with a large cast of characters and multiple location changes.
If you have the patience and determination to overcome the barriers that come with iBooks Author then there is so much you can do with this software to make your book stand out from the crowd and literally wow readers.
I hope that you will love ‘The Sword of Air.’ You can download the first three chapters for free from the iBooks store to experience the exciting multi-touch features for yourself.
‘The Sword of Air,’ is new, different, exciting, and I promise you won’t be able to put it down. It is punk publishing at its best. Pushing the boundaries of the publishing medium to create something new.
There are many (and myriad!) challenges in putting together an iBook. But the total creative freedom is so liberating and empowering! You only live once and I wanted to do something amazing. Despite all the challenges, I’m really enjoying the journey.
Once you’ve read ‘The Sword of Air’ I’d love to hear what you think of the story, the technology and how you think this will develop in the future.
You can follow ‘The Sword of Air,’ at www.swordofair.net
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R. J. Madigan