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Interview: Ryan Copple from Riese the Series

Riese6I recently interviewed Ryan Copple from Riese the Series: Is this your first video series?

Yes, this is our first foray into a serialized media. We've all worked on smaller projects, such as pilots and short films. It's been good practice to prepare for something as big as Riese.
That sounds interesting.   Most of the best series have a rich story arc knitting all the episodes together.  This is a good sign for the series.

Why did you decide to make a steampunk series?

It's funny, people have really taken to branding us a "steampunk series", which I don't 100% agree with. Don't misunderstand, I love the steampunk genre, and there are lot of elements we drew from it for the show. I love all the anachronisms in steampunk and the way you can meld eras together to create an entirely new world. We are, however, not having this story take place in a Victorian-era, which is more typical of steampunk. That's why we always try to say steampunk-inspired - we were heavily influenced by the story elements and aesthetics of it, but it would be unfair to the genre itself to say we were totally steampunk.
I've often felt that genre is more of a trap than an aid to marketing.  Creators should always feel free to transcend the genre labels applied to them.

What other steampunk books/series/comics do you like?

[reus name="Last Exile"]I haven't read that many steampunk books yet, though people have been giving me a list that I need to get through. I'm more familiar with the film and television aesthetic. My personal favorite is 'Last Exile', an anime series that people often put with steampunk. The story is great, and the designs and aesthetic is wonderful.
Last Exile is a great series.  The story is brilliant and the show is truly well designed.  I have to say the same about Riese.  While I haven't seen the your show yet, the materials you have made available exhibit those same qualities of design and aesthetic.  The look and feel of your site and trailer have only added to the excitement around the series.

If you had to compare Riese to another series/movie, what would you compare it to?

If I had to pick, I'd say it's a cross between.
The emergence of the Webseries allows the return of the serial: a singular story told over multiple installments.  As a fan of the format, I cannot wait to see what you are going to do with it.

How did you decide to make an Alternative Reality Game (ARG)?

We wanted to create an adventure that would help draw viewers into the world of Riese before we launched. By immersing them in the story even before the show began, we thought it might make players feel more connected to the show as they've been introduced to many of the elements already.

What was the ARG creation experience like?

Well, it's still going on, and it's both exciting and daunting at the same time. I'd say the biggest challenge is keeping up with everyone. You can spend days and days creating puzzles that you think will be challenging, only to have them solved in 15 minutes.
I feel your pain.  We have been toying around with the idea of building an ARG for my next book.  There is a lot to consider and too many variable to consider before release.

What has the response to the ARG been?

Positive so far. My biggest regret is that we lack the resources to make it as expansive as we would have liked. We've kept it pretty small in scope this time, but I know that we have another one planned for down the road that'll be even bigger, assuming the show succeeds.
It would be a great thing if there were an open source ARG engine to make construction easier for everyone.

What tech are you using to make the series?

One big technological asset has been shooting with the RED One. It's an amazing digital camera that has absolutely revolutionized film. It also makes more sense to use for us, as a webseries, because our content is going straight to computers. Shooting on film, while beautiful, would be overkill for a project such as this where the picture quality won't translate to streaming as it does on HD television screens or movies. With the RED we can optimize our media platform and do it economically.
The RED cameras produce wonderful video.  It should set you up for multiple versions of the video.

How many people are involved in making the series?

Too many to count off the top of my head - we've got the creators, producers, costumers, set designers, writers... the list goes on and on! We're incredibly blessed to have each and every one of them on our team though, as we couldn't do it without them.

Do you have plans for merchandising the series? (t-shirts, statuettes, dvds)

When we launch we'll also be rolling out our merchandise store, which will feature apparel and other smaller accessories. Eventually we plan on selling episodes digitally and DVDs. In addition, we're also developing an iPhone card battle game to tie-in with the show.

Sounds interesting.  I cannot wait to see the series.

Do we need $4.00 Books

Lith Print: Ghost Forest
Image by Matt Callow via Flickr

Mark Coker over at the Huffington Post wrote an interesting post calling for Publishers and Authors to move to a $4.00 eBook.

Here in the U.S., most consumers already think twice before shelling out $7.50, $15.00 or $30.00 for a good read. If a book at the current prices represents a big purchase for citizens of the world's most affluent economy, imagine the cost burden for the vast majority of the world's literate people (Mark Coker).

It is not hard to agree with the idea that books cost too much.  $5-$10 seems to be the sweet spot for books.  When Liquid Sky first came out, the book cost $20, and it was not easy to sell.

Imagine how hard it is to walk up to people and say, "Hi, you don't know me, but could you give me $20 to know me better?"  Try it some time and be prepared for rejection.

After we split the book up, each volume is now around $8, and they sold well.  The lower price point really helped sell the book.  I am curious about the idea of $4 books, but I think that price point is more of a macguffin than a real price.

Affordable Access = Smaller Books

By offering customers a cheaper, smaller and less expensive format, publishers expanded the available market for their books and enabled a larger number of readers to gain access to affordable reads (Mark Coker).

That is the key.  Smaller and cheaper formats.  Lower the cost of a book would require shrinking the size of the book.

The industry started looking for smaller books a little while ago.  Personally, I have focused on serializing my work so I can still tell the complex stories I love and still keep the word count down.  I am not sure there is another way to lower costs.

eBooks require readers

amazon-kindle-ebook-readerEbooks also hold the promise to expand the worldwide market for books. Hundreds of millions of new middle class and literate consumers have come online outside the US, especially in developing countries.

...

Since it costs the author or publisher next to nil to "print" each copy of an ebook, ebooks are extremely profitable on a per-unit basis, even at a low selling price (Mark Coker).

I agree that ebooks are cheaper to make, but the cost to the average reader is just too high for now.

Most people do not like read books on their laptop or desktop computer, so to sell to they need to get an ebook reader.  The Kindle costs between $300 and $490, while the Sony ebook reader costs $300.  For $300, you get the reader... that's it... books are extra

Books are not music

The industry needs to realize that books are not music.  We were used to spending money for a discman to listen to our cds, so when Apple introduced the iPod and iTunes, it was natural for us to buy an iPod instead of a discman.  It was easier to use, and so we bought it.

We are use to just buying books and using them.  The psychological barrier to purchasing an ebook reader is much harder to get over.

For $300 ebook reader, we could buy:

  • 40 books for $7.50
  • 20 books for $15.00
  • 10 books for $30.00

Lets just take the average of 23 books.  The reader asks themselves: "Should I buy 1 ebook reader or 23 books?"  Which would you do as a reader?

For ebooks to catch on, Amazon and Sony need to offer book credits with the purchase of their readers.  It is easier to spend $300 on an ebook reader if you get 20 free books.  The reader would be a loss leader, and they would make up the difference on the sales of books through the device.  If they implemented this solution, readers would go mainstream.

Until something like that happens, the iPhone, Courier Pad, and Android devices are the only hope for ebooks long term survival.

Range of Formats

Not all books should be priced at $4.00. Publishers should segment their markets to ensure they're delivering a range of products and formats that offer the target customer value that exceeds each price point (Mark Coker).

Agreed.  For now, the best model appears to be:

State of the industry

Some might argue book publishing isn't in trouble, as evidenced by the industry's continued growth. True, the industry has grown in recent years at 1.6 percent annually between 2002 and 2008, according the Association of American Publishers. Yet this growth is a mirage. Publishers are maintaining the illusion of growth by increasing prices. If we adjust for inflation, unit book sales have been in decline for many years (Mark Coker).

Writers, like myself, need to look to the future, and find a way to keep our industry alive.

(via Personanondata)

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Do we need $4.00 Books

Image by Matt Callow via Flickr

Mark Coker over at the Huffington Post wrote an interesting post calling for Publishers and Authors to move to a $4.00 eBook.

Here in the U.S., most consumers already think twice before shelling out $7.50, $15.00 or $30.00 for a good read. If a book at the current prices represents a big purchase for citizens of the world’s most affluent economy, imagine the cost burden for the vast majority of the world’s literate people.

Mark Coker

It is not hard to agree with the idea that books cost too much.  $5-$10 seems to be the sweet spot for books.  When Liquid Sky first came out, the book cost $20, and it was not easy to sell.

Imagine how hard it is to walk up to people and say, "Hi, you don't know me, but could you give me $20 to know me better?"  Try it some time and be prepared for rejection.

After we split the book up, each volume is now around $8, and they sold well.  The lower price point really helped sell the book.  I am curious about the idea of $4 books, but I think that price point is more of a macguffin than a real price.

Affordable Access = Smaller Books

By offering customers a cheaper, smaller and less expensive format, publishers expanded the available market for their books and enabled a larger number of readers to gain access to affordable reads (Mark Coker).

Mark Coker

That is the key.  Smaller and cheaper formats.  Lower the cost of a book would require shrinking the size of the book.

looking for smaller books

eBooks require readers

Ebooks also hold the promise to expand the worldwide market for books. Hundreds of millions of new middle class and literate consumers have come online outside the US, especially in developing countries.
...
Since it costs the author or publisher next to nil to “print” each copy of an ebook, ebooks are extremely profitable on a per-unit basis, even at a low selling price.

Mark Coker

The industry started a little while ago.  Personally, I have focused on serializing my work so I can still tell the complex stories I love and still keep the word count down.  I am not sure there is another way to lower costs.I agree that ebooks are cheaper to make, but the cost to the average reader is just too high for now.Most people do not like read books on their laptop or desktop computer, so to sell to they need to get an ebook reader.  The Kindle costs between $300 and $490, while the Sony ebook reader costs $300.  For $300, you get the reader... that's it... books are extra

Books are not music


The industry needs to realize that books are not music.  We were used to spending money for a discman to listen to our cds, so when Apple introduced the iPod and iTunes, it was natural for us to buy an iPod instead of a discman.  It was easier to use, and so we bought it.

We are use to just buying books and using them.  The psychological barrier to purchasing an ebook reader is much harder to get over.

For $300 ebook reader, we could buy:


  • 40 books for $7.50

  • 20 books for $15.00

  • 10 books for $30.00


Lets just take the average of 23 books.  The reader asks themselves: "Should I buy 1 ebook reader or 23 books?"  Which would you do as a reader?

For ebooks to catch on, Amazon and Sony need to offer book credits with the purchase of their readers.  It is easier to spend $300 on an ebook reader if you get 20 free books.  The reader would be a loss leader, and they would make up the difference on the sales of books through the device.  If they implemented this solution, readers would go mainstream.

Until something like that happens, the iPhone, Courier Pad, and Android devices are the only hope for ebooks long term survival.

Range of Formats


Not all books should be priced at $4.00. Publishers should segment their markets to ensure they're delivering a range of products and formats that offer the target customer value that exceeds each price point (Mark Coker).


Agreed.  For now, the best model appears to be:


State of the industry


Some might argue book publishing isn't in trouble, as evidenced by the industry's continued growth. True, the industry has grown in recent years at 1.6 percent annually between 2002 and 2008, according the Association of American Publishers. Yet this growth is a mirage. Publishers are maintaining the illusion of growth by increasing prices. If we adjust for inflation, unit book sales have been in decline for many years (Mark Coker).


Writers, like myself, need to look to the future, and find a way to keep our industry alive.

(via Personanondata)

Dark Horse's iPhone Comic App

Terminator-Death-Valley-comic1

Dark Horse Comics is launching a new iPhone app, and is offering the four-volume The Terminator: Death Valley comic (originally published in 1998) as iPhone downloads for 99 cents per issue.

Terminator-Death-Valley-comic2

I like the idea of Dark Horse branching out, looking into new mediums for delivering comics.  I'm not that excited about a Terminator comic but if this works and looks good we could be looking at a new method for delivering comics.  Imagine getting a subscription app that would allow the comic reader to receive new issues downloaded directly to them and in a portable format.  I hope that Dark Horse will explore making it available for other devices in addition to the iPhone.

(via SFScope)