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Former Googler announces new ebook venture - Part 2(Interview)

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Potboiler, L.L.C., behind the creative direction of Aaron Trout and lead animator Rudolf Montemayor, has teamed up with Vook.com to turn the world of ebooks on its head.

Potboiler CEO Jeff Gillis graciously answered some questions for the New Orleans Examiner. Part 1 of the interview can be found here along with a slideshow.

Q: Have you thought about providing readers with a subscription option?

A: Definitely - it's in the works. We're planning to release a new story every month and want to make it easy for readers to get that content so we'll offer subscriptions through Apple and Kindle Newsstand, at a discount. Each month the new story will appear right there within subscribers' Kindle or iBooks app just like a monthly magazine. We'll also offer a GetFisk app, which will basically do the same thing.

Readers can also visit the www.getfisk.com website and sign up to receive a chapter-a-day in their email which is really fun - the chapters are short and contain great visuals. It's like a little daily blast of thrilling action right in their inbox, an exciting break from regular email, newsletters, etc.

Q: Since you are already providing interactive fiction, any plans to try your hand at "Choose Your Own Adventure" type of novellas?

A: We love them. I grew up reading CYOA books and have really enjoyed revisiting them now that they're available as e-books, which are well done and fun. We've definitely discussed using this interactive method of storytelling - allowing readers to choose what the characters do and what path to follow, with a bunch of different outcomes. It works well in e-books: you come to a fork in the adventure and are given two choices, tap one of them and you're off. Currently on getfisk.com we post one-question surveys after certain daily chapters asking readers questions like where they would like future GetFisk stories to take place.

As more functionality and enhancement options become available in e-books (like the in-book linking that CYOA uses) we'll be working with our production partner Vook.com to create rich, compelling content. For instance, we're big fans of Whispersync from Amazon, which allows users to switch over to the audiobook with the touch of a button. Some e-books already offer musical soundtracks. We just want to make sure that readers enjoy and will use these options, so we really value their feedback.

Q: How has your Adwords background helped with marketing?

A: The main thing I learned is to separate marketing into two campaigns: targeted marketing and branding. With your first marketing campaign you should target narrowly - and then narrow your target even more! There's someone out there who is looking specifically for your book, whether it's "adventure-thriller focusing on current events" or "historical romance with elements of fantasy" and the web makes it easier than ever to find that person, whether they're on Facebook, Goodreads or somewhere else. If you're spending money on marketing, you want to target the segment reading your genre rather than, for instance, "all fiction readers."

Branding is a little more difficult to figure out. Authors want to get general exposure without wasting marketing budget and unfortunately, outside of maybe Dan Brown, no one can afford to air commercials during "The Walking Dead." A branding campaign will take some creativity, such as a fun booktrailer posted on YouTube, or pricing the e-book low enough or free so readers will make an impulse download, or advertising on websites where you can pay per conversion rather than impression. You might even want to look offline into sponsorships, giving out flyers, or holding events.

Q: What advice do you have for indie authors/developers trying get a foothold in today's ultra-competitive market?

A: I would do three things, assuming that there is no budget (if there's some budget, you can look into doing a little online advertising). We've spoken with a lot of new authors who have written something that isn't necessarily complete, but they're happy with it and they don't know what to do next. I would recommend:

1) Get an edit. Send your work to an editor to do a proofread at the least - whether it's a friend or someone you find online. There are a lot of online marketplaces where you can find inexpensive editors. The proofread can be fast, inexpensive and that clean-up and first set of other eyes is important.

2) Identify your genre. Find websites where people are passionate about your genre. You can even just do a Google search for something like "mystery crime fiction blog" or "sci-fi fiction discussion group." It helps to look at the landscape of your future readers and familiarize yourself with them, maybe make contact.

3) Lastly, consider taking the leap and e-publishing what you have! You might want to choose an e-bookstore and publish the first few chapters of your e-book and price it competitively, or even free. It feels great to get it out there, and you can get some honest feedback to see how people react to what you've written. You can also build up a small audience.

One final note - it really helps to collaborate.

For us, Vook has been a fantastic partner, helping us ramp up on enhanced e-book production and the intricacies of e-publishing. For instance, each e-bookstore is unique, with different file format requirements, royalty rates and more.

Vook specializes in knowing the latest and has relationships with each store. We also write the GetFisk stories with multiple writers, artists and an editor, so our collaboration is built-in. For first time authors, reach out to someone. It might be a Vook, or a freelance editor, a writing group, or another author or blogger - even the person at the local bookstore.

Enjoy this journey - it's the fun part.

Additional Resources

Erin Eymard aka The Bookworm has been an Examiner since May 2013. She also has her own book blog,The Bookworm's Fancy, and contributes to The New Podler Review of Books. For more updates, subscribe to the New Orleans Book Examiner.

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