Help us! Everybody! Gotta stop this idiocy before it starts. Unless you think that the absolutely worst thing about television belongs in publishing now?
STARTUP WANTS TO BE THE HBO FOR READERS
by Calvin Reid
Serial Box is a new digital publishing venture looking to attract readers with serialized genre fiction that is produced very much like TV shows. The startup offers original fiction in e-book and audiobook formats that is delivered directly to consumers on a weekly basis. Readers can choose which medium they want, or use the Serial Box app to access both and even toggle between them.
In addition to emulating TV’s episodic presentation, Serial Box is also adopting the TV writing model, employing a team of writers to produce each season-long series with material that will run for 13–16 episodes. Currently in beta, Serial Box launched to the public on September 16 withBookBurners, a paranormal crime story written by Max Gladstone, Margaret Dunlap, Mur Lafferty, and Brian Francis Slattery. In late October, the company will release Tremontaine, a swashbuckling 13-episode love and adventure series written by Ellen Kushner, Joel Derfner, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Malinda Lo, Racheline Maltese, and Patty Bryant.
One of Serial Box’s cofounders is Molly Barton, former global digital director at Penguin Random House, who left PRH in 2014 to launch her own publishing startup. “Why not create original books like a TV series?” Barton asked. “We’re trying to blend TV and book story creation.”
“While I was still at PRH, people were talking a lot more about TV shows than books,” Barton said. “Episodic storytelling offers easy entry points; you can meter out the story.” Barton’s cofounder, Julian Yap, a former senior counsel in the Justice Department and a self-described big reader, said he began to formulate a business plan around serial publication when he noticed he wasn’t reading novels anymore, mostly because “I didn’t have the time.” However, he was drawn to consuming more TV and comics, he said, because “there’s no time barrier; you can tune in and tune out. They’re accessible.”
Brought together by a mutual acquaintance, Yap and Barton became business partners when they realized they both shared a vision and a tagline—both had conceived of the project as “HBO for readers” before they met—for a new kind of reading venture.
Serial Box, its founders emphasize, will focus on creating original episodic genre fiction….