First Ever USB Multimedia Book: comrade calculator Quits Smoking

Part of self-publishing a book is learning, first hand, the trials and tribulations of self promotion. It is a fine line between working hard to make your dream come true, and being the guy at the party who wont stop trying to sell his product.

That being said I would like to promote what I am doing. Not necessarily to sell my book, though clearly that is my end goal, but instead to spread the word to fellow authors that there is another new and interesting way to self-publish YOUR book.

I’m releasing the first edition of my novel on USB. I’m doing this for a number of reasons. Financially this is much cheaper then printing traditional books because USB can be purchased in bulk for cheap with logos printed on them. Companies have been doing this for years to promote their wares at conferences. This has driven down the prices of custom USBs to the point where the idea of a small-run print of multimedia USB book is well within most author’s price range.

The possibilities are almost endless. You can have your book printed in wood; you can have your book in lego; or, if you are like me, you can have your book printed on a classic looking USB stick, but with some decorations (see below). I have been searching long and hard through the wilderness of Google for the perfect printing company price-wise and aesthetically. While a place like www.customusb.com can make any USB you could ever imagine, you are going to have to pay. Somewhere like flashdrivecanada.ca will sell you your stick dirt cheap, but you have to work within their pre-existing stock. This is one of the many challenges of this new medium, and the answer will have to depend on each author’s personal situation. I value aesthetics, and want to create a visually desirable product. I’m most likely going to paint 500 caps myself because I need my USB body to be white.

This new medium also gives your book a huge advantage over every other ebook because you are putting out a real tangible, desirable, item. In the case of my book, comrade calculator Quits Smoking, I am having my USBs look like cigarettes.

mock-up of my USB book

The last, huge advantage of the USB Book (still working on a cleaner name… Bookdrive perhaps?) is the multimedia aspect. My book is going to have a soundtrack. My book will come pre-loaded with artwork and videos. You, as author/curator, can order any files you want to enhance content pre-loaded on your USB book. Through this one innovative medium self-published books can suddenly have more to offer than professionally published ones!

Now be warned this all does add extra work for the author (on top of the endless self promotion). You need to be willing to contact and work with a large group of other artists to make your book happen. But on the flip side this automatically creates a small devoted team who are personally invested in making the project successful.

Lastly, you are going to need to sell and distribute these little wonders. To sell my first batch I am working on a crowdsourcing campaign in order to get some pre-sales to raise capital but also to build some buzz.

my campaign

And here is what I consider one of the best parts of this new medium: shipping. Depending on the shape and size of the USB they can be mailed out in a regular envelope (they are pretty durable). Compare the shipping costs of a regular letter to mailing a bulky book. This delivers all of the thrill and nostalgia of receiving something in the mail, without adding really any cost to you or the customer!

Before I go, I’ll leave you with a little taste of my book:

comrade calculator is a humanoid female built to live indefinitely. The idea at the time was if she could live forever, getting replacement organs as needed, she could one day calculate infinity. Over a hundred years (and one answer) later she is living and working in the museum of the Twentieth Century. After starting her job as part of the Calculation Exhibit, she begins to moonlight in the Smoking Exhibit. My book tells the story of her various attempts to quit smoking.

If you want more the first two chapters (and a little bit more) are available here (here for mobile readers).

Good luck to you all and I hope you like my idea.

  • Mark, I like your idea. I have a couple of questions, though. How much do you think a professionally produced USB book would cost an ordinary Jane or Joe like myself? I’m willing to accept a range or an average as an answer. Also, who sells USB books? As a writer and a reader who’d love to hear an appropriate soundtrack with what I’m writing, editing, or reading, I wouldn’t know where to look. Could some genius provide such a marketplace — and probably get bought out by Amazon a few years later for billions of dollars?

    • Ron, thanks for the kind words!

      Pricing of the product is dependent on a number of factors. Right now I’m pre-selling copies of my USB book at 13$ a pop. I arrived at this number considering what the price of a ebook and an album are on itunes, and then taking into account that this is a physical object which carries its own production/shipping costs. All of that added together (including eventual reimbursements to the artists involved) 13 dollars seemed the best balance. But time will tell if I was right on that one…

      At the moment no one sells USB books because mine is the first, or so Google tells me. Once I get my initial order in it’ll be a matter of who will carry me. But again it will be a lot of leg work on my end.

      As for the marketplace, I think that’s a lovely idea. An author of a USB book does have to, at the moment, be in close contact with a bunch of artists. Or at least be willing to ask.

      Once my book zooms to number one on the bestseller list, I’ll take a long hard look at your Marketplace suggestion:)

      One step at a time…

      • So, according to Google no less, you’re on to something original. We can say we knew you back when. I hope your book does zoom to the top, Mark, along with your idea of what a reading experience, a “book,” can become. Thank you, Gutenberg. Now we’ll move on. Images and sound along with the words. Almost like films, except with a lot more narration, and this of a written, poetic kind. A novel and a film could become indistinguishable — and make present-day novels and films seem quaint.

  • Ian

    Hey Mark…Just a minor point of clarification on our USB flash drives mentioned in your article.

    We can design and supply custom shape USB’s, as well as our stock/standard styles. We can incorporate almost any shape, logo or brand into a unique, custom flash drive.

    In your case, we can supply a cigarette shaped & colored USB. Having your own logo shape or theme shape USB is a great way to strengthen your branding and marketing!

    We could even create the USB to look like a mini book cover, complete with your title or URL! Custom USB ideas are unlimited!