My career has been as a novelist and screenwriter. But when I came to LA decades ago, I really wanted to be a rock and roll star. Who didn’t?
Since then I’ve always tried to blend my music and writing. My first attempt was when I submitted a screenplay with a custom made leather cover. The cover included a pouch on the front big enough to hold a cassette tape that included songs I’d written for the screenplay.
A few years later I recorded an album in support of my novel Trick of the Light. I literally wanted to sell the album and the novel packaged together, but ultimately they had to be sold separately.
My first real opportunity to put my music in a book came in 2012. My plan was to embed the songs I’d written for my novel Cathedral of the Senses in the eBook version of the book. But it was very early days and Kindle did not support embedded media at the time.
Since the idea was so new, just putting media of any kind in ebook required workarounds, third-party programs, and hours of customer support.
In 2012 Apple’s .ePub files supported embedded media so I designed a version of Cathedral of the Senses for the iBookstore. The process was incredibly challenging and there were lots of trials and even more errors, but I was determined to see my music-in-a-book dream come true.
Each chapter in the novel contains a short sample of a song appropriate for that particular scene. When you watch a movie you hear songs that were not necessarily written for that movie. Yet they capture the emotional tone of the scene. (In the movie “Street Crimes,” which I wrote and directed, I also put parts of two songs in the film. I mention this only to establish that I’ve done both: Put music in film and in books.) Readers could choose to click the link and hear the song or not. They could also click another link redirecting them to iTunes to buy the song. (The book is still available in the Apple Bookstore, where you can download a sample. Cathedral of the Senses is also available in regular eBook and paperback formats on Amazon.
Eight years can be the equivalent of several lifetimes in the digital age, and putting media in your eBooks is a lot easier to do now. Although I published two more “media enhanced” novels using the iBooks platform (Trick of the Light, and I, Walt Whitman), I haven’t published a new novel with embedded music in about eight years. That is about to change. I’m planning to finish my new novel, Shakespeare’s Cadillac, early this summer and the eBook format will include excerpts from a dozen new songs. The songs themselves will be available on a companion album (available on iTunes and Amazon Digital, as well as popular music subscription sites like Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora).
While publishing a new novel is interesting to me, this article is the first in a series that will help you decide if a “media enhanced eBook” is right for you. Here are several points to consider.
- Novelists can add their own or other people’s music to their eBooks (if they have the rights to do so).
- Non-fiction books about music are perfect “enhanced eBook” candidates, e.g., biographies about a musician or band, or even an eBook about your band or gigging experiences. That said, it is impractical to embed full versions of lots of songs in an eBook for reasons I’ll go into in more depth during this series. But even if you could, you would be better off, from a sales or business point of view, to sell the eBook inexpensively, or even give it away, and create links to music download stores. Consider how powerful a tool this can be: You provide an “impulse buy” link at the exact moment the reader is enjoying your work the most.
- Businesses can use eBooks as high-end premium items. Your eBook can become a “store” by embedding short informative audio and video files. The videos can be short 30-second examples of how your product works, or they might promote your consultation services. Put contact information and links to your company’s website and social media next to the videos.
- Another extremely practical use for media in eBooks is the MEMOIR BOOK. Short interviews (with links to full YouTube videos) with family members can become treasured, and readily accessible, keepsakes for future generations. Short digitized excerpts of old films and videos are perfect embedded media content. The great thing about an eBook is that you don’t have to print and ship thousands of copies when you’re only going to sell a few dozen or a few hundred to family and friends, as is the case with most Memoir books. And finally, you can add to the memoir book every few years by simply uploading an updated file!
In the next part of this series I will tell you How to Put Music in Your Novels and make it a fun project. For example, if you’re a novelist, what about setting up collaborations with your songwriter friends? How cool is that?
In subsequent installments of the series I will talk about, and provide examples of, Best Uses of Embedded Media in Your Business eBook, and How to Use Embedded Media in Your Memoir eBook.
If you have any questions about the series please feel free to contact me via the Contact Form on this site.
The accompanying music soundtracks for Trick of the Light and Cathedral of the Senses are available on iTunes and Amazon Digital among other music download and subscription sites.
Cathedral of the Senses on iTunes, Click Here. Cathedral of the Senses on Amazon Music, Click Here. (Note: Songs on the Cathedral of the Senses album are performed by various artists, mostly from Sedona, AZ.)
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