Teens Vote on Plot Developments for New Novels
Publishers in today's marketplace have been talking the talk of "engagement"—how to engage their audiences, provide direct access to authors, and make them feel part of the publisher's community and increase customer loyalty (e.g., Twitter and Facebook pages for authors, book titles, etc.). But a UK publisher is walking the "engagement" walk in a different way. Last month, Shropshire-based Fiction Express (owned by Discovery Books Ltd.) launched its new interactive website that enables teenagers to not only connect directly with authors, but to participate in developing the stories the authors are writing.
Each week, a new chapter of several books are published on the site, and readers are invited to vote on what will happen next. When the voting period closes, the authors write their next chapters (in four days) based on the results of the vote. Fiction Express believes this type of engagement will encourage reading among teens, since they have a "voice" in the story.
"The inspiration behind Fiction Express was to combine elements of popular culture that kids love-brilliant high-quality fiction, reality TV and an element of gaming," says Fiction Express Editor Laura Durman. "Our aim has been to offer kids a brand-new and exciting platform for reading which will encourage both keen and reluctant readers to read."
The site provides each book's first chapter for free, but then charges 1 "credit" for each additional chapter, anticipating that participating voters will want to see the outcome of the chapters they voted on and continue reading the books. Credits can be purchased on a scaled (quantity-based) pricing structure of: 1 credit for 79p; 5 credits for £3.45 (69p per credit); or 10+ credits from £5.90 (59p per credit). All of the books on the site total 11 chapters, so the maximum someone would pay for a complete book would be £5.90. Members make payments through Paypal and are automatically deducted in their local currency.
Seven weeks into the new launch, Fiction Express has 500 members, "and the numbers are growing daily," says Durman. It also has 482 Twitter followers, and 129 Facebook fans. "We are thrilled with the success we have had so far and the response we have received from teens and young adults," Durman adds.
Do authors mind the time crunch of writing each chapter in four days? So far, response from authors has been positive. "Fiction Express is by far and away the most exciting thing I've ever done career-wise!" said Alex Woolf, Fiction Express author.
Fiction Express holds either all rights or an option on all the rights for each of its titles. But, says Durman, "We are interested in talking to mainstream publishers about exploiting both the print and e-book rights (which are separate from the serialised e-book rights)."