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 price.
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."