What makes an award-winning ebook: Part 1

by Allison Horton on

Lessons learned from a Publishing Innovation Award winner

Last week, we announced that two Vook-created ebooks won Digital Book World's prestigious Publishing Innovation Awards for Best Ebooks in Fiction and Nonfiction. The PIAs honor “the most innovative ebooks, enhanced ebooks, and book apps...It is the mission of the PIAs to highlight excellent publishers/authors, encourage new thinking, and improve the reading experience in the digital age."

We're proud to be a part of our authors' success, and in this post, the first of two on the subject, we look at what it takes to make an award-winning ebook in this era of rapid evolution and technological innovation.

First up, Chris Rickaby's award-winner in the fiction category, Shuffle: an e-novel. After the ceremony, Vook asked Chris for a few words of wisdom. "Whether your book ends up being award-winning or not, I think the same rules apply," says Chris. They are:

  • "1. Have a strong vision of exactly what you want to create.
  • 2. Hold on to that vision throughout the myriad setbacks, rejections, disasters and humiliations that will undoubtedly befall you on the rocky pathway towards publication.
  • 3. Once you have achieved a little success take a good long moment or two to thoroughly enjoy it. That bit's important because next you have to:
  • 4. Sit down, write another one, and start the whole painful process all over again!"

The vision

It all started when Chris was listening to a Jonny Cash song on his iPod: "the image of the shuffle mechanism and the possibility of shuffling seven stories that were each distinct but connected by shared themes and images leaped into my head." Chris had written seven separate short stories already, but he came to Vook for help with his bigger idea.

Using technology to match

Chris reached out to our VookMakers and told us about the shuffle-able reading experience he set out to invent. The challenge: at the time, it was a reading experience best suited for an app, a $20k-30k undertaking. Chris and Vook's Jeffrey Yozwiak discussed alternative solutions that could be done cheaply while reaching a wider audience. "New technologies should create opportunities for writers to be creative pioneers," Chris told Vook. He and Jeffrey conceived of an ebook with a table of contents in the form of an iPod graphic at the end of each chapter. Readers can click on any song to move to the next story. The result: the world's first ebook in which a reader can shuffle through the seven stories, reading them in any order.

"Shuffle does for reading what digital music players do for music," notes Chris. Jeffrey adds, “Shuffle is a title that can only be conceived of in the e-publishing space. Kudos to Chris for having such vision. This is only the beginning of authors creating robust, ebook-first experiences.”

Getting the word out

The success of Shuffle doesn't end with the technology. Rickaby created an entire transmedia literary project around the ebook: a shadowy fiction collective of seven writers, working under the penname James T. Raydel, called Lulzlit. With such richly layered immersive fiction, it's no surprise that Lulzlit was a finalist for the Publishing Innovation Award for Best Transmedia Project.

Try Shuffle out for yourself: click here to preview and purchase Shuffle on Vook's store, Apple, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

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