Tech reporters Jason Hiner and Lyndsey Gilpin are bringing a modern twist to the way people can consume books by releasing theirs on the Web in serial format. "Follow the Geeks" will be released one chapter at a time, every few weeks.
Their book is about 10 digital entrepreneurs and innovators who have thought outside the box when it comes to shaping their businesses and forming their careers. The theme of the nonfiction book is the "future of work" and each chapter is a dedicated profile on one of the entrepreneurs. While Hiner and Gilpin won't yet say who these people are, they do say, "They'll definitely be names that people will know."
Publishing stories in serial format is nothing new. Authors Charles Dickens, Rachel Carson and Truman Capote all serially released their work years ago, says Hilner. But, with the new murder-solving podcast "Serial" now surging in popularity with roughly 1.2 million downloads an episode, there appears to be a revival of this type of publishing.
Like "Serial," each chapter of "Follow the Geeks" will be free online for a set amount of time. At the end of the series, the book will be for sale as a hard copy, audio book and digital book. To get the hard copy designed and printed, along with other costs, Hiner and Gilpin launched a crowdfunding Indiegogo campaign this month. In addition to raising money, Hilner and Gilpin hope the campaign will help create a community and conversation around the book. The first chapter is slated for release in early 2015.
CNET News caught up with Hiner and Gilpin to talk about "Follow the Geeks." The following is an edited Q&A. (Disclosure: Hiner is editor-in-chief of TechRepublic and Gilpin is a staff writer at TechRepublic. CBS is the parent company of both TechRepublic and CNET).
Q: What was your impetus for this idea?
Hiner: The germ of the idea started about five years ago. Because I published a couple of books before, I said I didn't want to do another book the traditional way. I said if I do another book I'd like to release one chapter a time and put them on the Internet and do something fun and innovative with it. I talked to a number of people about it and got somewhere between a head scratch and an eye roll. It didn't really go anywhere. And then, earlier this year, I told Lindsey about the idea. For her, the light bulb went off. We developed it into something much bigger than what my original idea was. The mission is in the vain of trying to get more people involved, build a community and turn the book into a conversation.
Give us an idea of what this book is about
Gilpin: The theme, the future of work, is basically saying the future will be a lot more entrepreneurial. It's just not as easy any more to have a 9 to 5 job. Each chapter is a profile of one entrepreneur, their lives and their careers. They all have takeaways about the future of work and some lessons to be learned.
Any hints on who these 10 entrepreneurs are?
Hiner: We're not saying yet. What we will say is that they're all amazing and they all have great stories. Many of them are new media innovators -- people who have worked in tech, worked in media and definitely have made names for themselves. Part of the fun with serial publishing is having a little suspense. Each of these chapters will stand on their own, so one of the bits of suspense will be who the next one is going to be.
What are other reasons to do serial publishing?
Hiner: There are several reasons, it's to create community, get the information out there quicker and take advantage of the insight of the audience. It typically takes an author a year to write a book and it takes another year to get it in the hands of people. In that period a lot can happen, the world changes. One of the ideas with serial publishing is to get the information out there as quickly as possible -- get it in the hands of readers and get their feedback.
Will the chapters change with the audience's input?
Gilpin: The chapters will be complete when we release them, they'll be edited by both of us and be full stories. We are open to the idea of people submitting feedback if they really like something and want to see more of it or have some piece of information we don't know. We love the idea that this gives them the chance to tell us about it.
How does the crowdfunding campaign play into the project?
Hiner: One of the great things about crowdfunding is you figure out who are your most loyal and interested readers. If they're willing to give money before the thing has come to light, they're probably really really interested. Instead of being accessible and responsible to a publisher who's given you an advance, you're accessible and responsible to your most loyal and active readers who've put up money for you to be part of the campaign.