So Amazon launched a new publishing program called Kindle Serials yesterday, but it’s not the only company with serialized fiction on its mind. In fact, three of the eight Kindle Serials launch titles were created in collaboration with a new startup called Plympton.
The company was founded by Jennifer 8 Lee (former New York Times reporter, author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles) and Yael Goldstein Love (author of The Passion of Tasha Darsky). Lee tells me that she was inspired, in part, by the success of the Kindle Singles program, where Amazon publishes works that are longer than your average short story/magazine article but shorter than a full-length book. Costing as little as 99 cents, Singles seem to be close to the ideal price for digital goods — as Lee put it, they cross the “impulse buy/why not” threshold.
At the same time, she says, “You don’t make money from getting people to pay 99 cents once.” Instead, you get them to pay 99 cents again and again and again, which is why Plympton is reviving a classic-but-dormant idea — novels that are broken up into smaller episodes, like TV shows or comic books. Plympton says that for its first series, the titles have been broken into five chunks of between 8,000-25,000 words, and a new installment will be released every two weeks.
Lee says Plympton calls itself a “literary studio” because it takes some elements of the Hollywood development model and combines it with traditional publishing. Not only does it look at submissions from writers, but Plympton works with authors from early in the creative process to help them develop their ideas. And even though classic authors like Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle wrote serial novels, Plympton had to do a lot of work to figure out how the model would work today. One of the biggest challenges, Lee says, was solving the “episode three” problem — it’s relatively easy to write a good “pilot“, but it’s harder to turn that into an engaging, sustained narrative.
The company is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise $30,000. In addition to raising money (Plympton is already profitable, thanks to the deal with Amazon), Lee wants to use Kickstarter to build up a community of readers.
Speaking of Amazon, despite the obvious advantages of a partnership, I wondered if Lee was worried at all about eventually being crushed by her partner — which is, after all, getting into serialized publishing itself. She says it’s not really a competition, because Plympton is “a little tiny thing” compared to Amazon.
“It’s such a nascent field,” Lee says. “The more the merrier.”