Join Plympton’s brainstorm for the #twitterfiction festival.

Plympton will be taking part, somehow, in the Twitter Fiction Festival (11/28-12/2). As we’ve mentioned before. Anyone can apply: published, not published, self-published.

They really want to push Twitter as a creative platform for storytelling. What does that mean? Well we are just beginning to brainstorm. If you want to join in, sign up below for our twitterfiction[at]plympton.com discussion email list, or jump in on our Google doc.

Need inspiration? A great example discussed was Pulitzer Prize-winner Jennifer Egan’s short story Black Box, which was published both on Twitter and in the magazine this past May. As Deborah Treisman, fiction editor of The New Yorker, explained at the #twitterfiction NYPL event: Egan spent over a year on it, with an intent to be published on Twitter, even though she was not herself a Twitter user. The  8,500 word story was parceled out between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.  for 10 days. It was an example of “tune in” fiction.”

Another great example of narrative fiction on Twitter is Arjun Baju, winner of the Shorty Award, who tells terse narratives in exactly 140 characters.

Last, similar to Baju, The Guardian recently asked novelists to write a complete story in 140 characters (in the spirit of Ernest Hemingway, and”Six Word Memoirs“?). Some of our favorites:

James Meek: He said he was leaving her. “But I love you,” she said. “I know,” he said. “Thanks. It’s what gave me the strength to love somebody else.”

 

Helen Fielding: OK. Should not have logged on to your email but suggest if going on marriedaffair.com don’t use our children’s names as password.

Announcing the Twitter Fiction Festival! Online from Nov. 28-Dec. 2, 2012 #twitterfiction

Today at an event at the New York Public Library, Twitter’s Andrew Fitzgerald announced the first ever Twitter Fiction Festival, which will take place from November 28 to December 2, 2012.

 

Anyone can apply, published, not-published, self-published. An estimated 12-20 authors will take part, judged by the strength of the creativity of their submission. The festival, which will have a schedule of events, will take place entirely online. (With a few fun events IRL, including one at NYPL on December 2!)

Fitzgerald, who himself is a fiction writer, argues that Twitter is a platform ripe for experimentation and that we are only in the early stages of learning what we can do with the 140 character tweet. Great examples of authors experimenting with Twitter include Jennifer Egan and Teju Cole.

Why is Twitter doing this? As Fitzgerald explained, Twitter believes that it “is a platform that could be exceptionally powerful for storytellers,” Fitzgerald said. “Fiction is part of that.”

(more…)

Jenny on “The Third Tier” of Publishing

The Seattle Times just published this piece by Jenny on the emergence of the “third tier” of publishing, and what we can learn from the blogging revolution.

WHEN I was a young New York Times technology reporter at the turn of the millennium, we scrupulously defined “blog” as short for “web log,” followed by helpful descriptions now wince-inducing in their narrowness — “a personal website” or an “online diary.”Within six years, blogs and online-first media have become an ascendant force in the political — and cultural — landscape.

The book-publishing industry is now going through the same painful transition, as the world’s largest book fair, Frankfurt Book Fair, opens Wednesday in Germany. It’s a perplexing time for authors. Opportunities are shrinking with the publishing houses who have long underwritten the livelihoods of writers. Meanwhile, Amazon.com and other e-reader and tablet platforms beckon with promises of potentially lucrative self-publishing that bypasses traditional gatekeeping and distribution.

Of the 100 best-selling titles of all time on the Kindle, an astounding 27 were directly released through Amazon.com’s self-publishing platform. But do-it-yourself publishing is burdened by DIY marketing, copy editing and cover design. It’s a distressing path for writers who just want to write.

But a new choice will emerge, if changes in journalism over the past decade serve as a guide.

In journalism, a watershed moment came in 2004, when the Democratic National Convention credentialed 36 bloggers as members of the media. (My article headline: “Year of the Blog? Web Diarists Are Now Official Members of the Convention Press Corps”). And by the 2008 presidential election, blogs and online-first media had come to dominate politics. One-person endeavors, such as Talking Points Memo and Daily Kos, matured into full-fledged businesses.

Investor-backed ventures such as The Huffington Post and Politico were launched (now both have won Pulitzer Prizes). And by then, The New York Times and other media stalwarts had taken the cue, rolling out their own expanding suites of blogs.

So we see a sequence: Legacy media organizations — in this case newspapers, magazines and cable networks — are buffered by a Cambrian explosion of individual voices initially viewed with a “not-one-of-us” disdain by the establishment. In between, a third tier is rising that combines the scale and rigor of enterprise with the nimbleness of the newcomers.

That third tier is now emerging in book publishing, bringing together the production quality and professional aesthetic of the imprints with the flexibility and speed of a digital-first mindset.

Startups, such as the Atavist and Byliner, started with short-form nonfiction, and are expanding. Hollywood producer Scott Rudin and media mogul Barry Diller recently announced a headline-grabbing $20 million investment in their new digital-publishing venture, Brightline. New companies are targeting romance and erotic literature, one of the most vibrant areas in e-publishing.

My first book was published by a traditional publisher. My new literary studio, Plympton, is making a bet on serialized fiction for digital readers.

These digital opportunities will be good for writers, and readers, in the long run. More efficient distribution and “printing” frees us from the cost constraints of paper, brick and mortar. Publishing can open itself up to creative new formats and the resurgence of old ones. Just as television allowed for a viewer experience distinct from that in movie theaters, digital readers can give us a different experience from the dead tree. Already, we are seeing experimentation with serials, novellas, subscriptions and lending libraries. Books can be re-imagined. Novels can be updated.

To be sure, there are worrisome trends that come from a shifting landscape: concentrated market power, fragmented platforms, incompatible and rival formats, demands for exclusivity and a drumbeat of legal battles.

Marketing of e-books (unless you are Amazon.com) is still an amazingly hard nut to crack. There is no effective equivalent for the front table at a bookstore and accelerating readers’ discovery of new titles along an infinite digital bookshelf is neither art nor science yet.

The publisher who solves that challenge will discover a large part of the formula for long-term success.

Jennifer 8. Lee is co-founder of Plympton, a literary studio focused on serialized fiction. She is the author of “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles” and a former New York Times reporter who splits her time between Boston, San Francisco and New York.

Yael’s Open Letter to Writers

Yael Goldstein Love wrote the below piece for The Huffington Post:

Fellow fiction writers,

Let’s be frank: we’re not the healthiest-minded bunch. If we were we’d spend our days doing something more pleasant than writing fiction. But lately we seem to have taken a turn for the worse. We look out at the shifting landscape of publishing – e-books rising, big publishers quaking – and obsessively ask, both publicly and privately, Is the novel dead? Is it all Fifty Shades of Twilight from here on out? Are we going the way of the poets, soon to be read by only each other?

The fear is palpable in any group of fiction writers larger than zero. (Non-rhetorical question: how often do you come away from a literary gathering without some new tidbit of doom? The famous writer who couldn’t sell her new novel. The legendary editor who’s been canned.) The effects of this fear can be seen in our bad behavior. Take, for example, the embarrassing overreaction to the e-library LendInk, when the Twitter-fueled confusion of several dozen novelists brought down a site that was actually making them money. (It has since gone back up.) In 2010 The Guardian observed that in the United States, “Declaring the death of the novel is now almost as much of a literary tradition as the novel itself,” and since then I’d say the balance has shifted.

(more…)

Introducing Plympton

 

Photo Courtesy of Gizmodo

Welcome to Plympton!

Plympton has officially launched with its first three serialized novels. Each is a compulsively readable, genre-bending good time. We hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we do.

But more than that, we hope you’ll find yourself excited about the revival of this delightful and sensible medium for fiction. In the 19th century, few books were published without first being serialized in newspapers or magazines. Serialization was a great way to test-run a story’s viability and to build an audience. It provided writers with a means to earn a living on an ongoing basis, and readers with an intimate and immersive relationship to the stories they read. Readers lived inside these stories day by day, wondering and speculating between installments, growing with characters over the course of months or even year.

But don’t take our word for it. Take the word of dismayed clergyman Thomas Arnold who in 1839 decried the runaway popularity of the ungodly serials this way: “The works of amusement published only a very few years since . . . not being published periodically, did not occupy the mind for so long a time, nor keep alive so constant an expectation; nor, by thus dwelling upon the mind, and distilling themselves into it, as it were drop by drop, did they possess it so largely.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Digital readers offer a unique opportunity for the revival of this devilishly addictive medium. And the changing market for fiction grants some urgency to the effort. The major publishing houses are continually cutting their fiction lists and most magazines have stopped publishing fiction altogether. Online self-publishing offers an alternative, but without the support — editorial, financial, and more — that writers need if they are to take the risks that literature requires of them.

We believe the time is right for a third layer in the publishing world, a nimble alternative to the major publishers and the online markets. And we believe that serialized fiction, with its competitive digital price-point, its capacity for generating audience, and its built-in emphasis on strong storytelling, is the perfect medium for creating this third layer.

 

Happy reading!

 

Love,

Plympton