Novelist Barry Beckham is marketing his latest book the old-fashioned way, but with a twist: by serializing it on the Net.
Like Harriet Beecher Stowe and Charles Dickens, Beckham will distribute his
upcoming book in installments. But unlike those 19th century novelists,
Beckham will deliver the material via email.
Beckham is by no means the first to make portions of his book available via
the Net. In addition to aspiring authors serializing their work on their
own private Web sites, America Online has
offered sneak previews of opening chapters by best-selling authors John
Grisham and Tom Clancy for at least a year. And the First
Chapters section of the New York Times offers opening chapters of many
books on the paper's best-seller list.
But Beckham is taking the idea a step further. For $18.95, readers will
receive installments of his upcoming historical novel about Chase Manhattan Bank, emailed every two weeks over a six-month period. An opening
chapter, available at Beckham's Web
site, is designed to convince would-be readers the book is worth the
Serialized novels are not as common today as they once were, but they
nonetheless are used successfully, said Laura Miller, a book reviewer for
Salon magazine, who points to
Armistad Maupin's Tales of the City as one of the more notable recent
examples of a successful serialized novel. The success in serializing lies
in bundling the material with widely distributed publications.
Miller said it remains to be seen whether serializing books over the Net
will take off. "If you were to ask me how to make this work, I'd say [try it with] a book by Anne Rice, John Grisham, or Stephen King," said Miller. "For a
writer who doesn't already have an audience, the main challenge is getting
people's attention to begin with, and that's a huge challenge for everybody
on the Web."