Monday, September 12, 2011

Musings – Soundtracks for Books?

An interesting article in the Atlantic  has gotten me thinking about the future of writing and books in general lately.

ipod and books. the music and the words :)The e-book is here to stay. With the release of the Kindle and the iPad, e-books have now reached critical mass and are a mighty force in the publishing world.

Technology has steadily changed the way we write over the last 10 years. Social networking, the ability to easily create a platform for your book and attract fans for your project, makes it easier than ever to publish and distribute your work.  But technology has also created some interesting new ways to market your work.  For example, the advent of the book trailer. On the surface, this seems to be, well, a dumb idea.  A video trailer for a book? It makes no sense. But many authors have done it and their sales figures support increased interest and sales as a result.

e-books are game changers. For non-fiction writers, you can now embed links to other resources mentioned within your book, incorporate videos of how-to perform a difficult task, list other resources that might be helpful to the reader, and don’t forget about inserting ads for the author’s other products or possibly the products of other writers or services.

The soundtrack is a natural extension of the reading experience.  Our generation grew up with every movie having a soundtrack, which often included songs written specifically for the movie (by the hottest flavor-of-the-month artist) along with the musical score for it.  Musical cliché’s have emerged as a result of this (check out TV for examples). Writers sometimes forget that books ARE a visual medium. Writers use words to paint a picture in the reader's head, so why not include a soundtrack to help evoke a certain mood or feeling?  I find writing with a musical score playing in the background helpful, and many other writers also swear by this technique.

Jodi Picoult included a CD with her latest book Sing You Home  this spring. She thought that a soundtrack was a good idea because it helped the reader get into the mindset of the character, Zoe, who happens to be a songwriter.

This is nothing new.  Some audio books have featured musical scores and sound effects in their works for years now. Works dramatized for radio have been around for decades.

So what does this mean for writers? Do we need to go back to college and get a Masters in Music Composition to reach the best seller list?  No.  You can add a soundtrack to a book, put together an incredible book trailer, add interesting and informative links to your e-book, but none of these will matter if the writing sucks. Period.  Fancy bread, gourmet mustard and rare spices cannot make a crap sandwich taste like anything but a crap sandwich.

Everyone has seen an incredible movie trailer that manages to amaze and fill you with slack-jawed awe. You shell out $10 for a movie ticket, another $12.50 for popcorn, candy and soft drink, only to discover that the trailer contained all of the best scenes in the 2 hour suck-fest. You tell everyone you know not to waste their time or money on it. The word spreads and the movie plummets down the top box-office movie listings to fade away to an obscure DVD release 4 months later.

In a world where another book is published every 10 seconds, you must write a good book.  Good books get noticed. Authors who care about quality by providing good content, clean, spell-checked, grammatically correct prose will find an audience in this new marketplace.  Those that embrace technology and collaborate with others to make the message stronger will be noticed even more.

Writing a book has always been a collaborative process. Writers, editors, publishers, marketers, agents, and even fans contribute to the process.  But now writing a book may involve a larger cast: a web-master, a video producer, a composer, a social media consultant, and who knows how many more people to bring tomorrow’s books to the audience.

Bottom line: Write good books, and stay informed on how the latest trends and technology impact the publishing business. But good writing always comes first.

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