Enhanced E-Book of the Heroes

September 12th, 2010

So, my enhanced e-book consultation threw up some interesting suggestions.  Several were those who said the digital revolution would only happen over their suppurating corpses.  No problem, for you there will be various paper-based editions.  Several were those who said they would never be interested in extras of any kind.  You are more than welcome, for you there will be straightforward text-based kindle and epub (and probably other format) editions.  For those of you who might have more than a passing interest in fascinating insights into the development of my writing, and of The Heroes specifically, here’s the package we’ve come up with for an enhanced ebook of The Heroes.  Alright, alright here’s the package my editor’s come up with:

  • Full Text of The Heroes
  • Unabridged Audiobook of The Heroes, narrated by Steven Pacey
  • Introduction by the author
  • Afterword by the editor
  • In depth behind-the-scenes interview with the author (in text, audio, and possibly video), covering genesis of the idea for the book, influences, discussion of the six central characters, the writing process, the revision process from plan to completion, the importance of maps, the development of the cover
  • Five maps showing the battlefield, and unit positions at the start of each day of the battle
  • A dramatis personae
  • A 20,000 word planning document, with rough early plans, character sketches, and more detailed plans for each part
  • Several chapters presented at varying stages of revision, annotated by the author to illustrate the editing process
  • Cover file – all the briefs, sketches, and rough versions of the different elements of the cover, and of the combined cover, hopefully with some commentary from the award-winning artists and designer
  • Author biography
  • Links to other interviews and relevant websites and blogs
  • Archive of all blog posts during the writing and editing period
  • In due course, I hope we’ll be able to add The Fool Jobs, a short story featuring characters from The Heroes, though that may not be available until later in 2011

Price point is not decided yet, but we’re probably looking somewhere in the region 0f £20-£30, and before the howls of horror and outrage begin, may I point out the audiobook alone retails for £20.  For those of you not interested in the audiobook, we may also do a considerably cheaper version without it.  I’m interested in the idea some raised of a bookmark that can keep your place between audiobook and ebook, we’ll look into that one.   The possibility of optional hyperlinks to a dramatis personae is also one I’ll bring up.  It may be that the amount of work required to do some of those things would be too great given that this will probably be something of relatively limited appeal.  But it’s an experiment.  We’ll see if there are any takers, and if there’s a market at all we’ll no doubt begin to experiment with pricing and content and refine the concept to make it more attractive.  If it works, enhanced ebooks of Best Served Cold and The First Law, with a similar range of extras, will probably be put out there.  As more sophisticated features become more commonplace, no doubt it’ll become cheaper and easier to incorporate things like interactive maps and glossaries.  I hope so.  But we shall see…

Posted in news by Joe Abercrombie on September 12th, 2010.

38 comments so far

  • Andres J. says:

    That’s definitely a very sweet deal. Thanks for taking the time and effort in putting it together for us.

  • Jesse Denos says:

    Thanks for sharing this info. I’m quite curious as to how all of this e-book stuff goes. If the package mentioned above becomes the norm…that could be really interesting. I don’t honestly know about how much people will pay, but I would seriously think about it for works from authors I like.
    Keep up the great work (you’d be one of the authors I really like by the way)!

  • Monica says:

    I published an enhanced e-book back in February called THE QUEEN OF CROWS. Using a magazine style layout, I incorporated several elements including a full color character illustration and the first draft of the story.

    Based on the awesome reviews I’ve gotten, readers are very receptive to the design.

    If you’re interested, you can see what we did along with some of the reviews here:


  • Joe says:

    I love the entire concept of an ‘enhanced ebook’ and the ideas you have listed are spot on!! The ability to have a bookmark for both text and audio formats would be great!! Often when reading a book and especially during one of my many ‘re-reads’ I will listen to the audiobook when driving, walking, etc. and then having to hunt down my place in the actual book or the opposite trying to find my place in the audiobook can get tedious. I would definitely pay the ‘enhanced’ price for all the extras. Too many times after finishing a great read I want more more more and this way even tho the story has ended I can get just a liiiitle bit more out of the extras.

    I look forward to you releasing an enhanced ebook. Keep up the great work!!

    Joe C.

  • ogbebaba says:

    Sounds great, will it be available on the Iphone?

  • Troy says:

    OK I guess someone has to be the retarded Guy but how would you go about getting an enhanced ebook?? This sounds like something I would be interested in but a noob when it comes to such things! 🙁

  • Nick Sharps says:

    I have to say I’m impressed, I’m not an e-book fan but this has got me salivating. I think that this is a real fan service, not just a digital copy.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Honestly, at this stage I’m not absolutely sure what formats we’re talking about. Hopefully that will become clear in time…

    I’m pretty much of a noob myself. Never actually read an ebook in my life. But I’d guess the enhanced version will be available to download from the same venues as the standard e-book version – kindle edition from amazon, epub (and possibly others) from such as waterstones, book depository and many other online retailers.

  • ogbebaba says:

    Well there are free Kindle and Ereader apps on the Iphone and I have a Iceberg Reader version of Best Served Cold on my phone so chances are it will be available from Itunes in one format or another.

    Oh and like joe I would love a bookmark that holds my place in the audio version and the text version.

    JOE you should have your own app on itunes.

  • Jens says:

    That’s a nice package, but since you’ve mentioned the maps of the battlefield earlier in this blog: Will the maps still be included in the old fashioned paper-versions of “The Heroes”?
    And the “Dramatis Personae”?
    Maybe those “Extras” are not exclusive to the ebook?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    You speak the truth. The olde fashioned paper versions, and indeed the standard ebooks, will also contain five maps showing the development of the battle day by day, and the dramatis personae (though for this book I call it an order of battle), as well as, you may not be surprised to learn, the aforementioned “full text of the Heroes”.

  • Matt says:

    No worldbuilding extras, and I even asked nicely! 🙁

    In all seriousness, this looks like something a lot of people will…pirate. Not a nice thing to say, but at the hefty price tag, it isn’t easy to justify. People will have a hard time rationalizing paying MORE for a download than a hard copy of the book. If someone was absolutely desparate for more Joe Abercrombie (which let’s face it is everyone) then they’ll probably read their hard copy, dowload the extras for free, sift through them and that’s that. I’m not encouraging people to do this but that’s the way a lot of people will think.

    I don’t know wy publishers can’t figure this ebook thing out properly. If you make an ebook a couple dollars (or pounds for you Brits), loads of people will buy it. Hell, I’d buy one for books I already own a hard copy of, just for the convenience. But no one likes being ripped off, and regardless of what it costs to produce it, an electronic copy just can’t cost more than a regular copy becasue it is so much less valuable. Adding extras only makes it more obvious that what you are getting shouldn’t cost so much. Get rid of DRM, make it cheap, and people will flock to it. Try to gouge the customer and all that will happen is more piracy.

    Not complaining against you, it obviously is not your decision. I just wanted to complain. =)

  • Troy says:

    As this may be true matt there are still some honest people out there that want to support the joe abercrombie foundation 😀 hahahaha I am one of those people! To put it in a simple matter this guy deserves his money and I will happily pay the piper so to speak!

  • Shay says:

    Oooh I cant wait. Will this enhanced ebook be available on Kindle or just the regular version?

  • Robbie says:

    I am definitely interested in a version of this without the audio book. I don’t care for audio books, it’s much harder for me to visualize everything when it’s being read to me. Not to mention there are voices which I don’t particularly enjoy.

    I would buy the non-audio version of this enhanced e-book for sure.

  • WantIt says:

    This sounds absolutely fantastic and I will definitely buy it. Very much looking forward to the early versions and notes on revisions. I buy extended editions of DVD/BluRay for the same reason (and e.g. the directors commentary of “Alien” was at least as good as the movie itself)

    £30,- would be a bit steep IMO, and I for one would favour the slimmed-down edition without Audiobook. If such deluxe packages also do indeed become available for your older books I’d almost definitely buy these too.

    The only other absolutely crucial thing is: no DRM. Apart from the “moral” aspect, I can’t use it if it is DRM’ed (all my machines run Linux), and DRM doesn’t prevent copying in the long run anyway. Since this is something the publisher can influence, please try to get them to understand that DRM means less sales (at least to the likes of me).

    Lastly, will this be out at the same time as the hardcover?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Cheers to those who are interested, I am pleasantly surprised. Definitely I will put forward the idea of a version without audiobook.

    I absolutely agree with you on the DRM issue, alas these decisions are made at a level not only above my editor and my imprint, but above my entire UK publisher, which is part of a multinational multi-media conglomerate with a company-wide policy. I will continue to agitate but, you know…

    No doubt some people will pirate it, just as pirated editions of the First Law were available in crappy scanned form long before the books were even being sold as e-books. That’s inevitable, and whether it’s a bad thing or actually not that bad a thing at all is debatable. Either way it’s a fact of life, and my own feeling is that we need to deal with the world as it is rather than as we’d like it to be, treat consumers like adults, embrace e-books as an opportunity rather than a threat, remove DRM and just provide an easier, safer, more efficient means of supply than do the pirates, at a reasonable price. Then I think people will be willing to pay, or at least the great majority will. I entirely agree with you the e-book should cost less than the physical edition, but a couple of dollars, especially for a newly released book, ain’t going to happen, at least not as standard. The cost of producing an e-book really isn’t much less than that of a printed book. The unit cost is less, sure, but the vast majority of processes inherent in book production still apply with an e-book, especially, you know, paying the author. There seems to be a very ill-founded notion that e-books cost nothing, it’s all profit. Not so or anything like so. A model that prices new books that low just isn’t sustainable in the vast majority of cases, either for publishers or authors, and the bigger a share of the market ebooks become, the less sustainable it’s going to be. Now giving away, or nearly giving away some e-books may be very sensible as a promotion, but on the whole you need to be very successful as an author already before you begin to think that way. The reason why publishers aren’t particularly keen on making ebooks hugely attractive is that by doing so they risk destroying much more viable hardcover markets. No offence, but that’s a little bit of a concern for authors too…

    I’m also not sure what you mean by “adding extras just makes it more obvious that what you are getting shouldn’t cost so much.” Surely extras that you can’t provide in a printed book are one of the great advantages of an e-book, and one reason why you could, possibly, justify a higher price point?

  • Benny says:

    I don’t totally agree on the piracy issue. I believe people who would want the extra-super-dooper ebook version will be people who closely follow Joe’s works already. People like us who actively seek his work and workings via the Blog.

    Now, i can’t speak for all of you, but i would feel a dirty slime bag if i didn’t pay for this because it would be like stealing from somebody you know.

    I will be honest and say i have downloaded movies and music guilt free because i’m totally detached from the artist. I know it’s totally the same and it’s theft reguardless of your relationship with the victim but i don’t think the piracy risk for an enhanced e-book is that great.

    Well, that’s my thoughts anyway. I’m sure some people will steal this but they are probably people who would not of paid for it anyway.

    Keep up the good work Joe!!

  • Tom says:

    What about the real copies of the book? Do they get any cool bonus stuff too?

  • WantIt says:

    Joe: I understand that the DRM decision happens at a level far removed from authorial control. Sometimes I wonder why these corporations, who really do not understand the digital media world (and, it almost seems, do not want to) even buy the digital rights to books at all. It seems much more worthwhile for them to just buy the dead-tree rights and leave someone else to pick up the rights for ebooks.

    Maybe one way to make the marketing execs listen a bit more would be to hold a quick poll on your blog, with the simple questions “1.) Will you buy The Heroes as an ebook if it comes with DRM? 2.) Will you buy it if it comes without DRM?” The number of people answering that question will no doubt be insignificant in relation to the total number of sales you have, but they may at least provide a marker.

    Lastly, because it can’t be said often enough, on the theme of “ebooks should be almost free”, Charlie Stross has a great series of posts on Common misconceptions about publishing, and one in particular dedicated to ebooks.

  • […] found. On an aside, I just read an interesting entry on Joe Abercrombie's blog about his upcoming 'enhanced' ebook. Basically, Joe had asked his readers for suggestions on enhanced ebooks a few months ago, and now […]

  • Brett Littleproud says:

    Just give me the damn book! Any format is fine………..:)

  • David says:

    This seems to be another attempt at making books more “interesting.” Not that it’s not a neat idea to incorporate things beyond the essential words, I feel like this is going to be a blip on the history of writing.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Naughty boy. Home taping is killing music.

    All physical copies of the book come with extra bonus wraparound cover, exclusive title page with author name and book title, dedication and acknowledgements, over sixty chapter headings, fully centred page numbers, and full edited and revised text of The Heroes including all four parts and extra special additional bonus fifth part, which concludes the story. In all seriousness, they will contain the five maps too, as will standard ebooks.

    I agree with pretty much everything Stross has to say on this.

    Asking for this idea to figure large in the entire history of writing seems like a bit of a big ask. I’m more than happy to settle for “neat idea” and see where it leads us. The entire ebook market is still a tiny proportion of the whole, but it’s growing rapidly, and you can bet additional content as a concept will grow with it. It’s not really about making books more “interesting”, it’s about offering some extra content and seeing if enough people are willing to pay for it.

  • Bloody Nine says:

    Sounds really quite cool, Joe! It would probably take me forever to get through all that stuff, but it would definitely be worth it (although I’m of a mind that I’d prefer the version without the audiobook, but we’ll wait and see both prices…). Really interested to see all of the extra content!

  • Dan says:

    It all sounds great Joe, anything that expands the Abercrombie world is cool with me and I will buy. What I really would like to see is an “art of the North” (or something like that) where we could have a coffee table book of painting and drawings of several characters and settings from your books. Now that I’d shell out for!

  • Troy says:

    Ill second that motion dan!Ill gladly give Mr. abercrombie some US currency for that.

  • Matt says:

    Hey, great to get your thoughts. I guess maybe I need to rethink my price point of <$5. But I'm curious as to the costs behind an ebook. Obviouly they have to pay you, but I was under the impression authors made a relatively small percentage of the book retail price. If a hardcover is say ~$20 US, does an author make more than a couple dollars off that? Not expecting you to break down your monthly earnings but I'm just really curious about this.

    Because other than the author's check, there's not a lot of readily apparent expenses. Online distribution is dirt cheap, you only have to compile the electronic document once (something you have to do for a hardcover anyway, which would be a lot more effort I imagine than it is for an ebook). I have a hard time accounting for the cost. To be honest, it looks like a ridiculously hefty profit margin.

    As for my comment on extras just making it seem even more overpriced, here's my (somewhat counterintuitive) explanation. I feel gouged by ebooks already when I buy them. If someone gives a list of 'extras', they also are including a price raise. And the list includes things like "the complete text of the heroes", 5 maps, non extras, plus other extras which sound closer to filler than extras. Granted some of them sound really cool but combined…I just feel like I'm being ripped off even more. Most of these extras are added at minimal expense to the publisher, meaning the profit margin is probably even more bloated.

    Now, I don't want to take it out on you, because your the author, not Gollanz or Tor or any publisher. It's just that until somone actually breaks down the retail price of a typical ebook into a pie chart for me, I'm going to feel a bit cheated every time I buy one.

  • RonjoI says:

    Ok put me down for one. Just looking at the response left by Matt(it is kind of in my face as I begin to write my own response) I guess I should feel angry about the price point I am not. Seems fair to me to get all that extra. Not sure I need all those formats of the same material but since I have never had the option before I would love to try it. I hope authors continue to grow beyond the confines of the printing press. It has been a few centuries and the production is about the same as the first printed bible. World building can go so much further. The real bonus to get a glimpse of a man I respects process as a book is crafted, O yes sign me up for the full package.

  • mike says:

    They aren’t half rippen into you Joe!!! Bolt your doors and board over your windows, i think the ebook seems perfectly reasonable for what your getting

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Charlie Stross does a very good job of this if you follow the second link WantIt posted, but in essence, the unit cost of an ebook – that is the cost to produce an extra unit once you’ve made one, is very small. You have to pay the author (and due to the low unit cost royalties are much better for authors, say 25% compared to 10-15% for hardcovers or 5-10% for mass markets if they aren’t heavily discounted which they often are, which is one reason why I’m very interested in e-books as a market), you have to pay the retailer, but you don’t have the costs of printing, distribution, warehousing. But the thing is those costs are very small for a printed book as well. The vast majority of the costs of making a book are in producing that first unit – the commisioning system that finds the work, the editing, typesetting, artwork and design, the huge range of back-office functions that the publisher provides – production, marketing, publicity, strategy, accounting, dealing with booksellers, some of which costs are ongoing, and all of which, if you think about it, still apply to an ebook just as much as to a paper book. You still need to bring the public to the work – you need some form of bookseller and some form of managed relationship with them, you need advertising and marketing, you need design because the cover is just as important online as it is in a bookstore, if not more so. You need setting because the more general public won’t be satisfied with crappy left justified text, they want an ebook to look as good as a printed book, if not better. Now if ebooks are a tiny, specialist fragment of the market, there’s an argument to say – all this stuff is done already, the cost of making an ebook from your finished hardcover is minimal. But as the ebook market grows in size, and it very clearly is doing, that argument becomes unsustainable. Ebooks need to shoulder their share of development costs. Very successful books, whether in print or ebook, very quickly cover those initial costs and each unit makes a large profit, true. But a good part of that profit is used to subsidise a lot of less successful books and authors, and a lot of new authors with no established audience, in the hope that they too will one day become cash-cows. That’s how publishing tends to work – a few successful works subsidise a lot of less successful ones. So huge pressure on pricing tends to result in very heavy discounting of clearly commercial product, while more experimental, new, edgy product tends to get priced higher and higher to become more and more niche, or disappears altogether. There’s an extent to which the supermarket selling model is making this happen already, even in print books. This is why I think ebooks should clearly be priced lower than their hardcover or mass-market equivalents, but not dramatically lower. They aren’t dramatically cheaper to make.

  • MikeS says:

    Reading this list of features not only makes me want to get the ebook over the actual printed book but buy an iPad to read it on too. Can’t wait for the Heroes.

  • EbookFan says:

    MikeS: If you want a device for reading ebooks, do yourself a favour and get an E-Ink device (Kindle, Sony Reader etc.), rather than an LCD device like the IPad. E-Ink is much easier on the eye (you really start noticing this if you’re into reading books for hours on end), especially under non-ideal lighting conditions. Plus, they’re cheaper, lighter and have a longer battery life. In the end, this means you’ll start treating your ebook reader just like a book, take it to the beach, keep it in your coat pocket for the odd five-minute read in the subway, and so on. With the difference that you always have a whole library of books available (and the device in your hand actually weighs a lot less than what half of these books would weigh individually).

  • Wilfred says:

    I will buy the actual book, but then read it in e-book form (which I’ll pirate as paying twice for the same book is even too much for me). All this to keep the book as pristine as possible to put in the Joe Abercrombie Shrine.

    Though I don’t mind paying extra for the e-book extra’s. Do you have a paypal account Joe?

  • Colin Johnston says:

    I’m not so worried as Wilfred about creasing my hardcover copy of the book, but also don’t much like the idea of paying a lot extra for an e-book (especially a standard one) on top of the paper version. A number of technical booksellers now give a voucher to purchase the electronic version for a fraction of the cover price if you’ve bought the paper copy. Is this likely to be the case for your books too in the future?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Colin J,
    Don’t know about that – not that I’m opposed in any way – it’s just the type of decision that – along with pricing policy – is made way over my head, and even the heads of my editor and her superiors – in corporate halls of glass, marble and unyielding steel by hatchet-faced men in suits made from crushed diamonds. At least that’s how I imagine it…

  • David N. says:

    So now that the book is out, any word on this “enhanced e-book version”? I got the Kindle version, and intend to buy the book again when it hits paperback (to be consistent with my other Abercrombie books), but I would also be interested in all of the cool features you listed for this.

  • James says:

    Is there any news on when this enhanced ebook will be available? I know you’re probably the wrong person to badger about this Joe, but maybe you could put in a word with your publisher to let us know when to expect this?

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