This E-book is a Game Changer for Storytelling

Here at TKZ we often discuss trends and changes in the publishing industry. Over the weekend I read a book that offers a glimpse of the future of e-publishing. It turns out that the future is multi-media, interactive, and fun!

FIND ME I’M YOURS, by Hillary Carlip, is the rom-com story of Mags Marclay, a love-challenged, artistic millennial who goes on a scavenger hunt to find true love. As the story unfolds, the reader encounters Mags’ original artwork, polls, graphics, videos, and embedded links. The links connect to custom websites having to do with various aspects of Mags’ universe.

I was blown away by the multi-media features of FIND ME I’M YOURS. It took my brain a few chapters to adapt to the story’s interactivity. For example, I initially assumed that all the websites contained within the story were fictional. Then I hit one site that talked about dog parks in LA. It described actual dog parks, including the one I frequent in my own neighborhood. I felt my brain go, “Wait. What?!” (It turns out that all the custom-designed websites in the book are fictional, but many contain “real” information.)

And that’s the thing about reading a story in multimedia format. It combines the brain-intensity of reading a story with the distinctly different experience of surfing the web and social media. Occasionally, I experienced a slight disconnect between the two flavors of the reading experience.  The longer I read the entertaining, fast-moving story, the more I found myself wanting to “stay” in the story. Once I fully engaged with the story, I spent less time navigating to the embedded websites. 

But that may be because I have an old brain that is slow to adapt to new technologies. I’m sure that people under 30 won’t be distracted at all by interactivity. In fact, I think they’ll eventually demand multi-media content in their stories. For example, imagine if HARRY POTTER included links to interactive websites exploring Harry’s universe? Or a cozy mystery with a cooking or crafts theme, with embedded links to websites containing recipes or patterns? The possibilities are limitless. This book offers a new storytelling paradigm that is truly exciting.

After reading FIND ME I’M YOURS, I had about a thousand questions I wanted to ask the author, Hillary Carlip, and the production team behind the book. They graciously answered a few questions via email.

(And after you read the Q and A, please share your thoughts about multimedia, interactive ebooks).

Q and A with Hillary Carlip and team

Q: Who did all the grunt work of coding and setting up links and websites? What software and tools were used? Did you pay professional actors and artists for the videos and graphics? They’re very high quality.

A: Thanks! Probably the only person in the world who would come up with the idea of integrating 33 websites into an eBook novel would be an artist and web designer. Hillary’s owned her own boutique agency, Fly HC Multimedia, for over a decade, and she’s got a small, talented, all-female core tech team of web developers and programmers who built out the Find Me I’m Yours “storyverse.” Most of the sites were programmed using Joomla, although a few of the sites are Tumblrs. Our lead developer is creating a totally innovative footer plug-in that ties all of the sites so that if someone stumbles upon one of them without knowing anything about Find Me I’m Yours, they can quickly tell that that site is tied into a compelling bigger-picture project. And of course Hillary was hands-on throughout the process, doing plenty of the grunt work, and also working closely with several of the component makers to get their help in making the whole experience as responsive and as user friendly as possible. Hillary also either designed the graphics or art directed other talented artists she found.

Q: The interactivity worked very well for this chick-lit style story involving a scavenger hunt. Do you see this type of interactivity applying to other literary genres, or even literary fiction? Can you describe an example of how the format might apply to other genres?

A: Yes, absolutely.  We’ve actually trademarked a term we think describes this experience – “CLICK LIT.”  CNN called Find Me I’m Yours “the BOOK of the FUTURE,” but we just see this as simply STORYTELLING of the future. And this format would work great for all types of literature – mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction — you name it! People already turn to social media, wikis, etc. to dive deeper into stories they love. Why not give readers built-in, content- rich outlets and the ability to get personally involved and entertained by integrating pictures, videos, websites, social media channels, etc., right into the story itself?  You can imagine with a thriller the kind of clues you could work into websites, etc!

As for the videos, Maxine Lapiduss has written, produced, and directed some of television’s most popular sitcoms, so she was able to get high quality work done on a modest budget. We cast professional actors in key roles, such as the romantic lead, Mr. WTF, and the “hacktress” roomie and pin-up model, S.H.A.R.I.  Maxine is producing all of the series and ancillary content. We feature amazing new talent like Babbs and Maria Lopez starring in #whitepeopleweddings and established talent such as Susie Essman (Curb Your Enthusiasm) who stars in Dear Tabby, a photorealistic, disgruntled cat who gives advice to problem pet owners. Everything is being done at the highest quality of lighting, shooting, writing that we can afford. 

Q: Are you maintaining the websites in the book, or is someone else? Are these sites intended to take on a creative life of their own? (I’m thinking of the patriotic picture site and the ‘I F#cked Up’ sites, in particular).

A: Yes, we are maintaining and adding to the sites every day.  Of the 33 websites, more than half were conceived from the get-go to be ever-expanding, with new original content including blogs, vlogs, articles, web series, photos, and more being added all the time. We also have numerous options for readers to add their own content on sites like (which Mags, the main character, started featuring pics of “Questionable Patriotic Displays”), and (a public apology site started by Mags’ cheating ex). Whether you are in the process of reading Find Me I’m Yours or have finished the book but want to stay involved in the story, there are loads of ways to interact, engage, share your own content, and get and stay personally involved with the story and characters.

27 thoughts on “This E-book is a Game Changer for Storytelling

  1. Mixed feelings about this. Seems the height of being ‘taken out of the story’ on one hand, but the prospect of visiting all these websites sounds downright educational, and fun.

    • Thanks for commenting, Amanda! The brain functions involved in reading, vs. surfing around, are so different, you’re right. I can imagine that this approach will catch fire with YA and children’s fiction, especially!

    • What’s the definition of ‘book’? Does Find Me I’m Yours fit the definition? Certainly it’s an alternative form of storytelling/entertainment. But look at the size of the team that’s required to create and maintain it. The initial financial investment was enormous, more like developing a game than a book. The writer/storyteller becomes a small cog in a large machine. How many writers have the money to bankroll that, especially with no guarantee the project will sell?

      Another interesting alternative is Colin Frake on Fire Mountain. It’s an enhanced ebook written by Nick Phoenix. It’s a young adult fantasy and has seen tremendous success in the Apple store. Phoenix is half of the wildly successful movie trailer music production company Two Steps from Hell. He hired a world-renowned award winning artist to create 48 original illustrations for the work. They’re old-school detailed pen-and-ink style drawings. Phoenix’s business partner, Thomas Bergersen, created a music soundtrack to accompany the text. Phoenix supplemented with some compositions of his own. The soundtrack is available for separate purchase and for listening on Google Play and YouTube. Colin Frake is perhaps closer to what I would define as a book, but it’s certainly a project beyond the means of most writers, especially those attempting to break into the business. Scary thought if this is where we’re headed.


    • Thanks for commenting, Kathy. Perhaps all entertainment media will eventually merge and become hybrids in the future. Writers will need to continue to examine what role we play in that process.

    • As will I – though I do wonder as Amanda does in her comment whether this interactivity takes a reader out of the story too much…for fantasy it makes more sense…but I speak out of ignorance and need to check both works out!

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Kathryn, I’m always interested in new twists and turns in technology, particularly as they apply to books. I will definitely check this out.

    • This merging of technology, media, and storytelling is definitely worth following as it finds its place in the traditional publishing world, you’re right, Joe. Thanks for commenting!

  3. I think anything that gets more people reading is great. I think I would enjoy this and plan to check it out. It also gives me ideas for marketing and enhancing the fan experience. It’s a great idea of using what you know. I think it is what we do as creative people, use what we know, our talents to help us stand out in the crowd.

    • Thank you for the input, Sherri! If I were a major publisher looking for new avenues to develop, I’d be hiring a team of professionals like the one Hillary has. But it probably won’t happen. Publishers aren’t generally known for embracing new technology. Maybe this would be something for Amazon to develop?

  4. Interesting! Thanks for sharing this, Kathryn.

    Personally, I wouldn’t be crazy about seeing all these links in fiction, as I want to immerse myself in the story and not be constantly distracted by other possibilities and tangents.

    But for nonfiction, it’s a great idea, I think. For example, in my SPELLING ON THE GO and to a much greater extent, in my upcoming GRAMMAR ON THE GO (released tomorrow), I have tons of live links to jump around the e-book internally, plus a few that lead to outside sources, like the Chicago Manual of Style. The internal links are the selling feature of these e-resources, as the whole idea is to save writers the time of scrolling through several print or electronic pages to find what they want — with the clicks, they’re there or within a few words in an instant, then they click on another link (one on every page) to get back to the “Key,” the bank of initial letters with links.

    • So you’re already incorporating some of this, Jodie! I could see a cozy mystery linking to recipe sites, I think. readers seem to crave the little chapter frames at the beginning of chapters, so maybe they’d like links to related content as well? For example, I was told to add diet, exercise, and beauty tips at the beginning of each chapter of my Fat City Mysteries, because the theme was weight loss. I could see readers enjoying the option of clicking to websites containing exercise tips, videos, etc. One time a reader told me that she had actually used the tips from the book as a program to lose weight! Thank goodness I’d researched the tips, and they were all valid. I would have hated to lead someone down an unhealthy path!

    • Now that you mention it, Kathryn, I could see those kinds of links working very well in a cozy mystery, especially if they’re at the beginning or end of a chapter and not within the chapter itself, or in the middle of a scene, which would be very disruptive, I think, and annoying to me. But a related recipe or link to how to make a craft mentioned, or patterns for crocheting or knitting, etc. – yes, those would be nice added perks to a cozy mystery.

  5. Mind officially blown. I do see the problem with cost for small authors like myself, but I also see and entire new media realm. I’ll have to check out this and the Fire Mountain above. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I’m old fashioned. I want a story to be a story and to form my own imagination of the characters, settings, etc. But the younger gen is used to short, quick distractions and it might appeal more to them.

    • Thanks, Nancy! I think it will turn the reading experience into something more like web surfing. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but definitely will find a niche.

  7. Certainly some possibilities and more in there. Whew! And in my opinion, Susie Essman, simply stole the entire show. As I recall, didn’t she have the last line? I’m still laughing over that bit in the restaurant with the chef.

    I lived across the street from the Longs Drug, where Larry was essentially banned. Other scenes shot around the neighborhood were hysterical.

    This one time my wife went to the Starbucks to buy the New York Times. Sitting by the window was someone who looked a lot like Larry David. (Could there be clones of him?) The guy was reading the magazine section out of the Times. Oddly, when my wife brought the paper home, the magazine section was missing. Whaddaya think? Could it have been him? I bet it was.

  8. I am a geek. I love computers and games and tech, but this concept thoroughly annoys me. I am not entirely certain why.

    I think one reason it bugs me is that I see it easily turned into corporate sponsorships. Like the “ads” for cars in TV shows.

    But on the other hand, artists have often had sponsors. Think about the Renaissance. Would we have the great works of Michelangelo, Da Vinci and others if wealthy families, courts, and churches hadn’t sponsored them?

    But I find myself leaning more toward the old woman with her quiet wisdom telling tales in the market for coins.

    I think it depends on what audience you desire.

    • Hi Wren! I think this type of writing will eventually become similar to writing for TV–writers will get paid by studios or other entities which can front the considerable cost of development. Those writers will happily sign on, as KS Ferguson earlier suggested, to become well-compensated cogs in a very big machine.

    • I agree. And hey, I love a well told TV episode. The Brits seem to be masters of the craft. I think there’s some storytelling mojo in their water.

      I think the important thing to remember as writers, no matter the venue or the backers, that the story is the thing.

  9. This isn’t a game-changer–it’s going back to what we originally thought was going to happen with books. Hyperlinking (links embedded into the text) was the golden child of the first wave of the internet. It was thought that all books would contain this and we would love it. In fact, part of my dissertation was on this concept. As it turns out, most people who read fiction just want to read the story. They don’t want to be constantly taken out of the story to go to more info or a photo or a game or whatever. What this is a “game-changer” for is that it is the harbinger of books as blatant ads for products. And that makes me sad.

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