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The “How to Fail” Enhanced Ebook That Never Was

Just a half-year ago, I thought "enhanced" ebooks were soon to be the future of reading.  Wrong.  I now realize they aren't much more than a curio, no different than an audio book.  Sure, I'd bet some people prefer to use them over the normal words-on-page (or -screen) books, but not most of us.

Even worse, there still aren't any enhanced ebooks out there that are actually good.  (As far as I can tell--please tip me off to some good ones in the comments if you know of any).  It's sad when the most advanced ones currently out there are Nick Cave's "The Death of Bunny Munro" and Ken Follett's "Pillars of the Earth" (which was truthfully just an app built to promote and supplement the Starz mini-series of the same name).

Which is why I thought I had a chance to make a real splash with a HOW TO FAIL enhanced ebook for the iPad.  Alas, after talks with countless designers across the globe, the time-frame, economics, and pure art (or lack thereof) drove me away from pursuing it any further.  Nevertheless, I still have some "wireframe" sketches I made back when I thought a HOW TO FAIL enhanced ebook was soon to be a reality, and me its auteur.

Warnings: SPOILER ALERT and NSFW (poorly-sketched nudity)

PHOTO ONE is from Chapter Two:  "How to Fail to Not Get Mistaken for a Bum."  From L to R it shows a well-dressed "successful" businessman quickly morphing into a failure, drunk and passed out in garbage.  (As a book viewer you'd use a slider to view this transition.)

PHOTOS TWO AND THREE are from Chapter 5:  "How to Fail to Live in a Healthy Environment" where HOW TO FAIL protagonist Stu Fish laments the fact that his successful friends live in much nicer places than him.  This would be an overlap whereas PHOTO TWO shows a typical ritzy Manhattan highrise with all the fixins.  You'd touch the screen in certain places to see PHOTO THREE underneath which would reveal the comparable things in Stu's crappy Hell's Kitchen walk-up (i.e. you'd touch the doorman in photo two and see a passed out wino underneath in photo three).

PHOTO FOUR is from Footchapter Five-B:  "How to Have Fucked Up Neighbors."  It shows a blueprint of the same Hell's Kitchen walk-up and the crazy neighbors that live in Stu's building.

PHOTO FIVE is from Chapter Six:  "How to Fail in Love" and focuses on the series of Kama Sutra sex position cards (some that worked, some that decidely didn't) that Stu and his girlfriend Ash once used to try and spice up their failing sex life.

PHOTOS SIX AND SEVEN are from Footchapter Six-B "How to Have a Sordid Past."  In this footchapter, Stu discusses how when he was a virgin loser in high school he spent time "studying" all the breasts in the world and soon became an expert.  Thus, this would be a "make your own breast" machine whereas the user could select the preferred breast type (mosquito bite, naturally firm, etc), areola type and color, and nipple type (photo seven) to create their own perfect breast (photo six).

PHOTO EIGHT is from Footchapter Eight:  "How to Avoid Your Ex in a Small Town."  It shows a map of Manhattan (and a little of Brooklyn) just like you'd see on the subway.  You could toggle this map between "normal," "rush hour" and "weekends/holidays" to see the various places Stu is "allowed" and "not allowed" to roam so as to not run into ex-girlfriend Ash.

PHOTO NINE would be at the end of the book.  A simple SUCCESS/FAILURE generator whereas the user would check off some boxes and fill in some info about their childhood and the machine would predict their chances of adult success.

After revisiting these sketches, it's probably wise I never pursued the enhanced ebook any further.  I would have surely put an end to the genre with my shit.  Maybe that would have been a good thing...

For more of my crummy drunken sketches, check out Genesis of a Book Cover.


“BLURBS” – Director’s Commentary and Deleted Scenes #3

This Director's Commentary touches on fucking blurbs:

Man, I'm starting to feel like Andy Rooney with these things ("What's the deal with blurbs?!")

And here are the Deleted Scenes, my two alternatives I considered putting on the "How to Fail" back cover instead of blurbs.

First, I thought it would be a great idea to take my Fail-anetics videos and add the quotes from those to the book to encourage browsers to check out what's inside, something like:

When I wake up in a pile of garbage, can I use my morning wood as a sundial to tell what time it is?  Page 7

Is there any more noble dream than hoping you get laid off with a juicy severance package?  Page 83

Would I be a more successful adult if my parents  had been assholes?  Page 43

But something about that just seemed a tad amateurish.

My second idea was to spoof things, make the book seem edgy:

(excerpts from other publisher's rejection letters)

"I'm going to pass."  --Katherine, [Redacted] House

"I did not fall in love with ["How to Fail"] in the ways that I need I’m sure you’re aware it’s a very difficult time in publishing right now, and I feel that I need a strong connection with a book in order to publish it."  --Emily, [Redacted] Publishing

"Dear Authors: Thanks so much for letting us take a look at your materials and please forgive us for responding with a form letter...Unfortunately, your project does not suit our list at this time." --Michael, [Redacted] & [Redacted]

My publisher said this idea actually made me look pathetic, not edgy, like no one had any interest in my book.  And, you know, he was right.  Besides that, satirizing the concept of blurbs with jokey ones has been done to death, and is probably lamer than just having blurbs (or not having blurbs).

But, all things considered, and I can't believe I'm saying this, I'm glad I had blurbs.  And they DID actually help me sell at least one book.

If you enjoyed this, check out these other Director's Commentary and Deleted Scenes:

#1 -- "FUCK YOUS" (dedication page)
#2 -- "QUOTING BIGGIE SMALLS" (including famous quotes)

Also, if you’ve read "How to Fail" and haven’t yet left an Amazon review, please take 30 seconds to do so here. Thanks for your feedback!


“FUCK YOUS”– Director’s Commentary and Deleted Scenes #1

This post is the introduction of two new segments.  Director's Commentary will be like those lame add-ons to DVDs that no one listens to.  Except, hopefully you'll watch and listen to mine where I'll talk about interesting and humorous aspects of the writing and making of "How to Fail."  Like the "Fuck Yous" page which I discuss here:

The second new segment is Deleted Scenes, again like those lame DVD add-ons, but hopefully not lame this time.  The original draft of "How to Fail:  The Self-Hurt Guide" was a 550 page behemoth.  It obviously had to be cut down because people nowadays can barely read an entire blog post that has a *MORE AFTER THE JUMP* button.  As William Faulkner said about editing, you must "kill your babies," and a lot of good material had to be cut for one reason or another. I thought it might be interesting to share that stuff.

As discussed in the video above, here's the original Fuck Yous that was at the start of the book up until the absolute last second before going to print:

Fuck Yous...

To all the people who didn’t believe in me, the adults that taught me nothing legitimate, the teachers that ignored me, and the creative writing professor who gave me an “F” because I started sentences with conjunctions.  And, to all the Hollywood dunderheads who wouldn't know good writing unless someone else already took a chance on that writing and it became a hit beforehand.

When I lost the war, but not a little tiny battle, I was still able to have the slightly less caustic, detailed, and humorous anti-dedication that ultimately made it into the book:

Fuck Yous...

Oh, I've got plenty...

I'm not sure which one is better.  I kinda think bitter is better. How bout you?

*Does any one know of any other books with Fuck Yous dedication pages (or something similar)? List in the comments.

Also, if you’ve read "How to Fail" and haven’t yet left an Amazon review, please take 30 seconds to do so here. Thanks for your feedback!