My novel, Super, is now available on the iPad, which fills me with tremendous joy–not only is it wonderful to see my book in one of the most prominent “bookstores” on the planet, it’s also wonderful to finally be able to present the book in a format that can handle the interactive needs of much of Super‘s content.
But of course it’s not all about fancy features and interactivity. Sometimes it’s just nice to see elements from the book with a little color.
Does the RBZ sign really need to be in red? Yes. It really does need to be in red. The black-and-white printed interior of the paperback version is fine–but it doesn’t have a red RBZ sign.
The artwork of Super was lovingly created by graphic designer Charlie Potter, by the way. He’s brilliant and gave both the print and iPad versions of the book a special touch of verisimilitude.
Of course, Super wasn’t built to just be a book–we created so many supplemental videos and other content to go with it, but if you were reading the print version, you would have had to go to my website to find them. Now they’re linked directly from the iPad version of the book.
The novel is structured like a series of exams for superheroes trying to achieve the next level of superhero-dom. So naturally there’s a quiz at the end of each chapter. In the print version, there is no way to tell whether you got the correct answer, but in this version, you can get instantaneous feedback on how good of a superhero you are.
We created an online version of the test alongside the print release of Super, wherein people can take the exam and/or view other people’s (sometimes hilarious) answers. But once again, people had to put the book down and go to the website to try that out. Now the online exams are linked directly from the iPad version of the book.
There is also a lot of free content available to increase enjoyment of Super–an in-depth book club discussion guide, a PDF for printing out and folding a chapter of the book into your own cute little mini-booklet, as well as other resources. We created most of these resources alongside the print version, but now they’re accessible directly from this new version of the book.
Sure, these resources were available before, but they were heavily under-used. Now, readers will have access to these resources through a Super Action Link located in the book, right where someone would want to possibly explore the additional resource.
Naturally, the iPad version of Super takes advantage of the many features of the format, such as a lovely table of contents.
We also transformed some pieces of the novel from static images to interactive infographics. In the following example, the reader can tap the various steps in this stick figure comic book panel to follow the action.
Using this format also gave us the ability to simply make things look better. Alabaster Wight’s journal entries never looked better (handwriting designed by Kristen Mullin Bakken).
The features help with the presentation of the art, too. As an example, we turned this static image from the print version into a part of a slideshow. The slideshow is a sequence of images demonstrating how to perform a very specific superhero procedure from a fictitious manual. Tip: Don’t forget your titanium cable!
We took advantage of the glossary feature of iBooks Author to add a character glossary. In Super there are about a dozen characters, mostly superheroes, that you need to keep track of (if you want to score well on the exams).
The character glossary gives you a little background about the character, tells you which chapters that character appears in, and if they’re a superhero it’ll tell you their superhero name AND real name (in case you have trouble remembering both).
And I wanted to show you this comment card, just because it’s one of my favorite parts of the book, and it looks lovely in the iPad version.
Will there be more iPad books coming out of me in the future? Undoubtedly. The authoring tool is easy to learn and it begs for the type of interactivity I like to design content for. I may even have to design the first iteration of the sequel to Super in it….
I’m super happy to announce that Charlie Potter has officially joined the 12 in 12 project as Art Director. This means that he’ll be responsible for producing the covers for 11 of the 12 titles (one of the titles will be put out by Uno Kudo, the non-profit organization headed by designer Erin McParland), as well as oversee the development of any guest art included in the project. For one or two of the titles, he’ll do some interior illustrations also.
Charlie Potter is the brilliant book designer for Super, a book that required an intense amount of design in simulating physical documents as well as emulating the look of a corporate superhero environment (letterheads, etc.). As part of promoting Super, Charlie also developed posters, desktop backgrounds, stickers, props for the trailers, and more!
He produces great work on deadline and is an all-around wonderful team member to work with. The 12 in 12 project is lucky to have him aboard!
Charlie has already designed the cover of the first title we will release, Adventures of Dogboy (coming soon–like in a week!).
Beyond Charlie Potter signing on as Art Director, I have some other good news for the 12 in 12 project as well: an excellent publisher will be picking up a pair of the 12 in 12 titles, and I’m talking to yet another publisher about possibly picking up one of the other titles.
It’s comforting to know there are publishers out there who are embracing the immediacy of publishing and adapting to this fast paced world. They are adopting Crash thinking and rolling with it!
All in all, it looks like so far 4 of the 12 titles could have publishers backing them (the three I mentioned before and the iPad version of Super, to be published by Emergency Press). It’s only February. And we’re about to release the first of the 12. We’re a little behind pace right now, but we’re just getting started.
I’ve known Eleanor Evans of Bellesouth since 2005 through the social networking site known as MySpace and other social networking sites. Over just a few short years, she’s actually figured out how to make money at blogging, a fact I am in awe of. She was also a strong member of the Super Action Team, a group of amazing marketers and social networking gurus who volunteered to help me promote my novel, Super.
It is with great pleasure that I present an interview with Bellesouth’s industrious and brilliant creator, Eleanor Evans, in which she answers critical questions about unemployment, godliness, and how to become a paid blogger.
Aaron Dietz: When we first communicated about doing an interview you said something about pretending it’s a Barbara Walters Special, so I watched some of those to prepare. And if I may, I’d like to steal some questions from her, starting with the following:
At one point I heard that you thought you might do a show like The View. Is that true?*
Eleanor Evans: Ha! No. You might be confusing this with the time I was interviewed by Star Jones on her short-lived Court TV show for breaking a high-profile story during my newspaper days. She said, “You go, girl!” to me. That’s as far as it went.
AD: That is hugely impressive! Once again I am in awe of you.
How did you feel when you read about the three heads of the auto companies taking private planes to Washington?*
EE: Absolutely annoyed. I hate flying just as much as the next guy, but if I need tons and tons of money I’m taking whatever cheap, multi-layover trip I can get. Or I’ll just drive my ’04 Focus so they’ll see that I’m so broke I can’t afford to use a car wash.
AD: If you were President, what would you do about unemployment?*
EE: First of all, I’d try to recover revenues by pushing for legislation that would place a tax penalty on any U.S. corporations that create more jobs through outsourcing than through domestic hiring.
Secondly, I would push for tax incentives for U.S. corporations who can report at least 25 percent new, domestic hires during the tax year.
I would also end the Bush tax cuts, as they have done absolutely nothing to create jobs. The revenue created would significantly offset our debt.
I would also push for vocational training for jobs we desperately need. The industries that are seeking workers are in health care, homeland security and public health, education, oil-mining and extraction, and engineering services.
I also would push for more development in the creative economy, as more and more Americans are going into business for themselves through writing, art, design and handmade goods.
Sadly, I don’t think those outsourced jobs are coming back, and if they left those countries, how would they be able to live? I don’t want to see the same China that existed 40 years ago.
We need to pay attention to the “Buy Handmade” movement and how it’s enabled lots of Americans to earn substantial incomes. Bloggers are also doing the same thing.
AD: Amen. This stranglehold of bad politics going on could be completely alleviated by a strong shift in purchasing habits. Your words here are quite poignant.
We refer to you with deep respect as Your Holiness – are you a god?*
EE: No, but if I was a God, I would be Poseidon. He carried around that HUGE trident. I bet I could catch some really tasty fish with that thing.
AD: Ha! Now anyone reading this post knows what to get you for a gag gift. And now just to shift the tone a little bit, I’d like to ask you some questions that were NOT originally generated by Barbara Walters.
On one of your many online profiles, you claim that you “get excited about the little joys in life.” Can you name some of these little joys you get excited about?
EE: When I’ve had a really bad day, I open the front door to my condo and my dog immediately runs up to me to show me how much I was missed. Getting hugs from my mom, my friends and their kids. Sharing inside jokes with my mom while we’re out in public.
AD: How did you end up becoming a paid blogger?
EE: It all started in about 2008, when I was looking through my Google Reader recommendations and I happened across a blog written by Julie Vazquez. It told stories about her life and her kids but also included product reviews, giveaways and other interesting posts that would attract readers. I found out Julie wrote for a company called IZEA (www.izea.com), which marketed itself as a leader in “sponsored conversations.” Basically, you are paid to write honest reviews about products, services and promotions. So I joined IZEA, started writing a little bit here and there, and eventually my blog took on a new life and I was joining other groups and getting more offers. It’s still paying just a little more than milk money, but it is growing and I am continuing to learn from people.
AD: How did you get into the whole “mom” blogger market?
EE: From the days of MySpace blogging, the greatest portion of my readers were stay-at-home moms. For some reason I have always connected with them, even though I’ve never been married, I don’t have children and at the time I worked a 40-hour-a-week job. I think right now “mom blogging” is getting to be VERY big, especially since we’re in a recession, people are always looking to save money. At the same time, businesses can get a lot more exposure by allowing trusted writers with word-of-mouth marketing standards to give honest opinions on their products. It attracts me because I have the power not to promote or write about something that goes against my principles.
That’s the best part about working for myself; I call the shots, I agree to the terms, and I don’t have 15 different bosses coming up to me to remind me to put the cover page on my TPS reports.
AD: I’m always so proud of myself when I get a pop culture reference. Office Space. See that, everyone? My memory works sometimes!
So, where do you see the blogging thing going in the next five years?
EE: I have no idea where it’s going. I think the mom-market novelty will wear off soon and that it will take a few good writers and promoters to keep up. It’s like Mary Kay. There’s always gonna be someone with the pink cadillac and some others with a closet full of product they can’t give away.
AD: What’s in store for you and your site, Bellesouth?
EE: As far as Bellesouth is concerned, I’m still going to be adding stories and anecdotes from my life, but there will also be a lot more reviews, giveaways and post exchanges such as the one we’re doing here. But I’m also working very hard on my Facebook fan page (http://www.facebook.com/bellesouthblogs), where I’m posting deals and giveaways from other sites, as well as engaging in regular dialogue with them.
I take a lot of things from my reporter days, including my philosophy that you have to genuinely earn people’s trust, and once you do, you must spend every day earning their trust again and again. Engage your readers; respond to their comments even with a simple “Thank you,” and be sincere in everything you do.
AD: Since we met through MySpace and we both took part in the explosion of user-generated content that occurred there not that long ago, I thought I’d close with a few MySpace survey questions, just for old times’ sake. Here goes:
What did your last text message say?**
EE: We have received a request to add your mobile phone number to REDBOXALERTS. Please reply Y to confirm your subscription. Msg&data rates may apply.
(I’m not gonna reply to that one.)
AD: Have u every liked someone who had a girlfriend/boyfriend?**
EE: Every liked? Now I KNOW you copied this from MySpace.
AD: Busted. I wanted to be authentic. Copy editing the questions wouldn’t have felt genuine.
Why did u get a myspace?**
EE: One of my college friends said I needed to get on MySpace and start a blog, because I would be very good at it, people would read it and laugh.
AD: And the rest, as they say, is history. I think it’s fitting that I close this out with an old school emoticon, for old times sake.
* An actual question taken from a Barbara Walters Special. Can you guess which celebrity Barbara Walters was talking to?
Ben Loory’s Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day is a book of fairy tales for adults. Kind of. The tales have this sort of secret ingredient in them that makes you feel incredibly wise when you read the book. Like, while you’re reading it, you might think, “Of course I don’t know why that man did that thing in this story, but I feel like I’m almost smart enough to figure it out even though it’s an unsolvable puzzle. Take that, person-who-got-better-grades-than-me-in-elementary-school.”
When Ben Loory read a piece from the book in Denver, my girlfriend and I both cried. When Ben Loory sent me the manuscript for a blurb, I held it in my heart each night for a summer while my girlfriend was in Taiwan. Oh, to get through the day and have stories from this book awaiting you!
Here’s the blurb I wrote:
“Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day is a book that comes alive when you read it. It will stand on its own, pet your hair while you sleep, and hold the umbrella over your head in the rain.”
During the initial three months of Super promotion, the fabulous Super Action Team helped me promote Super by posting links to all the amazing things we created: free additional materials and fun things related to the book.
I wanted to post a list of all the impressive things here, because they’re really amazing, and a lot of people worked very hard to create them. So here is the Great Super Action Team Compendium of Super Links:
And of course, the biggest thing we did for Super was let people read it for free. It’s still available on the Web, starting here, but one additional feature of the Web version is that we added fun videos and other links to some of the pages, including the following:
10. Does it have Kevin Bacon in it? Oh, come on. That doesn’t narrow anything down at all….
11. Does it feature Joe Pesci playing a terrible superintendent of a veritable slum who is sentenced to live in his own building for six months? That’s The Super. And Joe Pesci is not granted any super powers during this movie.
12. Does it have a dream within a dream within a dream? That’s Inception! Now you’re not even trying!
The video is finally out for the Superhero Pub Crawl that took place in Seattle this past February.
Never before have I been around so many cameras and media documentation. Pretty amazing! Thanks to Arianne Garden Vazquez from Crash Film School and to Chris Hammersley for this excellent video production!
If you’re not familiar with Team of Heroes, please check out the Team of Heroes Facebook page. They are heroes from a universe pretty similar to ours, and they might be coming to a theater near you. Plus, they have really great costumes. That’s them, up there, posing with me.
There were other great costumes, too. Like the following:
Everyone had a lot of fun and no one got carried away. I did get picked up, though.
Below is an image of real life superheroes Blue Sparrow and Black Knight exiting Harlow’s in a very cool walk. Don’t they look badass?
Not only are they badass, they also impressed me as people who are extremely good citizens of the world. I was already a fan, but now I’m a big fan.
Super book designer Charlie Potter also enjoyed their company. In the photo below, he’s showing a few favorite pages of the book to Blue Sparrow. Is it my wildest dream to have real life superheroes become familiar with my book? Yes. It is.
I had heard that Black Knight and Blue Sparrow might drop by, but I never predicted that Phoenix Jones was going to make it. Phoenix Jones has been making international headlines as a real life superhero in Seattle. It was an unexpected honor for him to come to the event. He gave hugs, shook hands, and gave a lot of his valuable time to talk to everyone that wanted to speak with him.
Note: Yes that is a copy of Super in his utility belt, which could be the definition of the best thing ever.
Phoenix Jones is a very articulate speaker and an expressive, caring person. It was amazing to meet him and the other real life superheroes. They all struck me as impressive examples of human beings, and I was inspired by their grace.
The primary point of this pub crawl was to celebrate superhero lore. To have living embodiments of superhero literature at the event made it that much more spectacular. I’m looking forward to the next time we meet….
SEATTLE, WA — There is a sense of danger in the air. All we’re doing is walking around in the Pioneer Square area as bars let out for the night, but when you’re walking around with two real life superheroes looking for crime, it feels more dangerous somehow.
The two superheroes are Phoenix Jones and Black Knight. Their patrol is slowed by crowds of people wanting pictures with them. Phoenix is especially popular.
Someone says to Phoenix, “Hey, I’ve seen you on YouTube!” He smiles big at Phoenix and then looks at Black Knight. “Now you got a sidekick!”
“I’m not a sidekick,” Black Knight says. It’s the third time I’ve heard him say that.
I watch the two superheroes pose for more pictures. Nearby, a film crew gets footage of the whole interaction. They’re the crew of Matt Harrison and Ryan McNamee’s documentary called Citizen Heroes. They’re graciously allowing me to tag along with them so I can observe some real life superheroes in action.
Director Matt Harrison is on hand, keeping a sharp eye on the crowd to make sure the members of the camera crew are safe.
Assistant Director Ryan McNamee takes a quick break from shooting to tell me he has his bulletproof vest on. I put my hand out and pat his chest–yep, I guess that’s what a bulletproof vest feels like.
“Last time,” Ryan says, “we walked into a crowd of drug dealers and they were like, ‘If you don’t put away those cameras, we’re going to pull out a shotgun’.”
We follow Phoenix Jones and Black Knight as they make their rounds. I get a little bored while they handle a big crowd until I realize that they seem to be working the crowd, looking for anything out of place or potentially wrong.
Nearby, three members of Seattle’s police department stand on the raised median in the street, watching.
Phoenix Jones and Black Knight continue their patrol. The bar crowds dwindle. The documentary crew engages the superheroes with a few questions as we walk.
I’m lagging behind, trying to stay out of the camera’s view. I’m getting almost comfortable.
Then Phoenix Jones shouts, “HEY!” and takes off. The camera crew jogs after Phoenix. I follow the camera crew, completely unaware of what I’m running toward.
Then I hear a loud boom. Adrenaline surges through me. I keep running toward the sound.
I still can’t see what’s going on from behind the camera crew but I catch a glimpse of a man sort of messing with or dropping a temporary No Parking sign, the fold-up kind they put out for special events or irregular street cleaning.
Phoenix asks him if the nearby car is his. Apparently the guy was using the No Parking sign to try to bash open the car’s window.
I finally catch up to everyone else just as the guy tries to run.
Swiftly, Phoenix Jones snatches him by the arm and pins him to the ground. Black Knight covers him, holding up what could be pepper spray or mace in case it’s necessary.
The guy they just caught stops struggling after a short while. “Someone call nine-one-one,” Phoenix Jones says.
I’ve just had a massive shot of adrenaline. My body isn’t processing auditory sound yet. Later, after I’ve had a chance to see the camera footage, I’ll realize that Phoenix has already asked for someone to call 9-1-1 several times already. By the time I finally figure out what needs to be done, Director Matt Harrison is already calling.
Phoenix Jones stays in position, holding the guy on the ground.
“Are you okay?” Phoenix asks him several times. Yep, he’s okay.
A small group of people approaches from down the street. “We got nine-one-one comin’,” one says. They also called it in.
“You guys saw what just happened, right?” Phoenix asks them without getting up off of the detained guy.
“We got you, bro’,” says one of the witnesses.
“Can I get someone’s jacket?” Phoenix asks.
Finally, I realize I can do something to help. I take off my jacket and Phoenix tells me to put it under his head. I wedge it under the guy’s forehead so his face isn’t resting on the concrete. I still feel bad that I wasn’t faster to call 9-1-1.
The police arrive quickly and take over the scene. They know Phoenix and their interaction seems professional if not somewhat cordial. They ask questions of Phoenix, the witnesses across the street, and the guy that was caught.
While we wait for the police to finish their report, Phoenix goes over the incident with Black Knight. They talk about what went well and what they could have done better for next time.
I take a look at the car and I see paint from the No Parking sign smudged onto the window of the car. No damage, otherwise. This was a crime prevented.
You can watch footage of the exciting parts below, courtesy of the Citizen Heroes documentary (coming soon).
I text my girlfriend. It’s 4:30 in the morning and she’s waiting up so she can pick me up when we’re through and also to make sure I’m safe.
Earlier that night, we had a long talk about how following the superheroes on their patrol is a potentially dangerous thing to do, about how it’s possible that I could be hurt or worse.
I explained that this is a rare opportunity to see what is one of the beginnings of an incredible world-changing movement, and that, to me, witnessing this was a risk worth taking.
So she let me go.
After the police finish their report, and after the superheroes decide to call it a night, my girlfriend comes to pick me up.
The sun is still down. The streets of Seattle are quiet. As I get into the car, I can’t keep from smiling.