An Update on the Beatrice Project

As I write this, I’ve just put together my notes for what I’m going to say at the Book Bloggers Conference panel on… let’s check the program here… “syndication, monetization and affiliate programs for your blog.” To some extent, I’ll be talking about the limitations I’ve seen in revenue-generating strategies for blogs such as affiliate relationships with online retailers or ad sales. For websites with the highest traffic in their category, these can be very successful, but for the majority of blogs below that popularity threshold, they’re much more likely to simply be a source of what I’ve called “beer money” or what Paul Graham has called “ramen profitability.”

(Now that I think about it, those are two distinct categories. “Ramen profitability,” in the context of a business startup, implies that you’ve poured everything into this project and it’s making just enough to sustain itself while you continue to search for the financial breakthrough. “Beer money,” on the other hand, suggests that you already have a primary income source to cover your sustenance needs, and what you’re making on this project is a little bit extra—not enough to go wild, but enough to occasionally treat yourself.)

From that not-so-exuberant starting point, though, I’m going to ask the audience members to think about what else they can offer their readers, focusing on things that (a) those readers would value enough to buy, and (b) those readers can’t easily find anywhere else, at least not at the level of quality they can provide. When I took stock of my situation, I came up with an app version of Beatrice that would combine feature-length Q&A transcripts of conversations with writers and video extracts from those conversations. Since the successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this spring, I’ve been focused on making this a reality.

There’ve been a few changes to the game plan along the way. After talking things over with a developer, I felt that it could be more feasible to start out with enhanced e-books rather than a standalone app; I asked my Kickstarter backers (and a few other people on- and offline whose judgment I value) what they thought, and the consensus seemed to be that as long as I was staying true to the fundamental concept of using video and interviews to introduce readers to great writers, I was good to go. So I downloaded Apple’s iBooks Author software and started building my first issue.

Beatrice #1 coverRight now, on my iPad, I’ve got a proof edition of that issue, featuring interviews with Deb Olin Unferth, Darin Strauss, and Alina Simone. I’ve been testing it out: making sure the design elements are uniform, the videos all work, the text has been cleaned of typos, and so on and so forth. While I’m at the Book Blogger Conference and BookExpo America, I’ll show the ebook to a few people and get additional feedback. Then, once the trade show is over, I’ll go over the proofs one more time and prepare to submit this issue of Beatrice to the iBookstore. It’ll be a free download, as I promised when I ran the Kickstarter campaign. And then I’ll jump right into putting together the next issue, which will offer interviews with Jodi Picoult, Alica Albinia, and Nick Dybek for $2.99. And then the issue after that, and the next one… including another free issue around the holidays, because folks on Kickstarter were really generous not just to me but to Ad Astra Books & Coffee, and I’d said that if we both met our fundraising goals, I’d come host an author event there, which is on the calendar for late September!

I’m really excited about how this project is coming together, and I’m looking forward to being able to show you more of it as I complete each next stage.

4 June 2012 | uncategorized |