Review Blog

Jun 24 2011

Co-Designing e-books Literacy Mystery Quest

cover image

Read about a project from Hazel Edwards, author and Jane Connory, graphic designer to set up a store for ebooks and merchandise to match.
A Guest Blog for Read Plus by Hazel Edwards and Jane Connory
Hazel's Viewpoint:
Our e-quest began in a local park. School holidays. My 10 year old grandson and his mate were to cook 'hippo footprint pancakes' on camera at Channel 31's 'Kids in the Kitchen' while I read my picture book to screen.
Serendipitously, I met graphic designer Jane Connory and her children, playing in the park. Innovative Jane lectures in e-skills amongst other graphic subjects, and wanted to illustrate children's books and followed up with her portfolio.
I'm a formatting tragic, but have a backlist of intellectual property rights. My author website was undergoing a major overhaul as my daughter Kim became my e-business manager and I learnt how to upload my own material. I was aware I needed help in re-formatting selected past titles so they would be accessible on all e-readers, not just Kindle, plus they would need new covers and ISBN and updating of some content.
Initially I wasn't aiming to become an e-publisher, just to rescue some 'orphaned' titles which have been good stories, but take-overs, mergers or poor distribution had lost opportunities to get them to appropriate readers. As an educator I had always supplied teacher resources with my books, and wanted to consolidate these on my own web-site. Often readers of my picture books had no idea that I wrote adult non-fiction or mysteries.
1. My long term goal was to sell my own e-books internationally to save time and learn the new electronic medium.
2. The choice of junior literacy mysteries in two proven print series for the test was deliberate. Literacy is an area I am passionate about. Hero Art, the sleuth in Project Spy Kids is an ace problem-solver but is challenged by reading. The Frequent Flyer Twins are international Asian-Australian ten year old sleuths.
3. Creating a series name and using the same cover but with a different colour, linked the titles. Thus 'Project Spy Kids' was created. The Frequent Flyer Twins had always been a sub title on the second series, but this was reversed on the e-book listings.
4. Aware that the cover, title and one line descriptor were the only clues, the covers had to be enticing for the age group.
5. Jane would create the e-formatted books and new covers and would merchandise the illustrations on Red Balloon or elsewhere in t-shirts, mugs and logos.
6. Jane also formatted my rough 'How to Design Your Own Mystery' resources. This has become the MOST valuable download for teachers and librarians giving a follow-up activity involving writing and problem-solving skills..
7. We added valid curriculum dot points to reassure teachers of our reading relevance.
8. The shopping cart took considerable planning to put into place and make simple for a potential customer to buy. The variables were that I have some print titles where publishers sell those books, some where I hold the e-rights, others where I hold both print copies or others where I will be offering only the e-version like in Project Spy Kids and The Frequent Flyer Twins. Later we may offer POD (print on demand) but at the moment, we are testing with electronic versions, only, from my site.
9. Jane experimented with a FaceBook page for the titles and explained:
'The world is still trying to find ways of utilising social networking.
Asking your existing database to 'Like' your Facebook page, allows them to see all the updates, photos and links you post to the page.
The pages are free to create, Google add them to searches .'
While aware some schools do not permit use of Facebook, we're still experimenting with ways of encouraging reading.
Own Face Book Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Project-Spy-Kids-Series/181162638598927?sk=wall
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Frequent-Flyer-Series/162505443811158
10. Security of e-book versions to prevent piracy also meant complex structuring on my website. Unfamiliar with e-books, the web designer thought we were talking Visa and credit card security at first. This has been a significant and almost a year-long process for all of us.
11. I had to buy a collection of ISBNs to add new ones to any e-book versions of older print titles. You can buy these singly or in groups from DW Thorpe.
12. Publisher name. We haven't got one. Using the author as brand.
13. American bank accounts and tax file numbers. The paperwork involved in publishing on Amazon is very American centric, and so I decided to stay very local, and just from my own website at present.
14. Had to get a PayPal business account in order for clients to have safe payments On Kim's advice we priced the individual mysteries at $2.95, rather than Amazon's 99 cents. Already getting bulk orders of sets.
Winning a Giraffe Called Geoffrey ISBN 978-0-9871078-6-2.
Mindspaces ISBN 978-0-9871078-7-9
Birds on the Brain ISBN 978-0-9871078-8-6.
Zoo Poo Clues ISBN 978-0-9871078-9-3
15. In future, the dilemma for me is to sub-contract e-book formatting, learn how to do it myself (which detracts from my core business of actually writing the books) or just put up pdfs for creations like classroom playscripts.
I've always offered some free resources, but the decision is which ones?
16. Choice of e-text titles is vital e.g. I think the junior literacy mysteries are viable for the next year. After that, students will expect more hypertext links and games style whizz bang options.
17. My 'Writing a Non Boring Family History' title is a viable e-book because there are linked workshops and talks and a niche market of international genealogists. The Mormon lady author in the USA, who is a fan of my book, tells me the family history market is eternal for her but I'm an atheist. She sells her book at 99 cents on Amazon.
18. Picture books are more complex, and on hold especially since I'm not the illustrator. Currently my website has links to the e-books for sale by my publishers and also to their print books.
19. I'm featuring a monthly print book from my site. Longterm I'd prefer to offer only e-books, and to link with future web chats or mentoring. 'Authorpreneurship' is my planned 'original' e-book only, to be created in the next year and linked to workshops.
20. 'read the t-shirt' for Project Spy Kid may be a future literacy project.
That park meeting with Jane has been a year-long apprenticeship to put up our trial e-books, but long term, these titles will have to be self-sufficient financially. Now, some literacy skills will be shared via the website.
And we hope, new readers (of the human variety) will be created.

Jane's Viewpoint:
Being able to learn new technology as it appears has become part of my job as a graphic designer, and collaborating with Hazel on this project was no different.
Hazel is a strong ideas woman and envisaged these two series of books as eBooks without either of us really fully comprehending what this would entail. It was a great opportunity for me to illustrated the covers in Adobe illustrator and format the documents into books in InDesign. I then had to teach myself how to produce these files as ePub documents and navigate the process of marketing the books.
A steep learning curve but the idea that we are forging our own path is exciting.
I have two young kids who are as much at home on the iPad as they are at home. They are always grabbing for my mobile devices and I am happier when they sit and read the eBooks I have created rather than watch the movies I have downloaded.
Combining reading with new technology makes it interesting and fun for all the young digital natives out there!
I now also have the opportunity to teach this new concept of publishing to my graphic design students at Holmesglen Institute. Maybe they'll be teaching their employers a thing or two in the years to come.
Hazel has an online store and these e-books are available.
Illustrated and merchandise designed by Jane Connory

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