A Radical New Way To Tap the Kindle Economy

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The publishing world is in mass-flux. While this terrifies some writers, other entrepreneurial-minded writers and self-publishers are licking their chops.

Sean Platt is one of them. You may know him from WriterDad.com, GhostWriterDad.com, CollectiveInkwell.com and his contributions all over the web.

But it’s a pretty radical new approach to “episodic” or serialized digital fiction with his Yesterday’s Gone series that’s turning a lot of heads these days.

In this in depth interview we look at how a new generation of authors is trying to leverage the exploding “kindle economy,” most with little success, and how Sean’s radically different approach may create a whole new model for e-fiction and beyond.

Links mentioned in the interview:

If you’re the slightest bit interested in what Sean’s doing and how he’s doing it, I’d run and grab the entire first “season” (c’mon it’s like $4.99), read the short 100-page books and, more importantly, deconstruct how he’s writing each one differently than the typical novel and how it might apply to your own quest to bring great fiction to life, have a blast doing it and get paid well for your efforts.

+++Timely Tidbits+++

  • TribalAuthorCamp – Authors and aspiring authors who are willing to do the work needed to succes – the next semester begins Monday, October 17th – grab one of the remaining seats today. Click here to learn more
  • Entrepreneurs – Andrew Warner of Mixergy just posted an incredibly in-depth, 1-hour video interview we did on how entrepreneurs, founders and start-up teams can better manage and even embrace uncertainty to build better companies faster and with less suffering. Check it out here.
[FTC Disclosure – You should always assume that pretty much every link on this blog is an affiliate link and that if you click it, find something you like and buy it, I’m gonna make some serious money. Now, understand this, I’m not talking chump change, I’m talking huge windfall in commissions, bling up the wazoo and all sorts of other free stuff. I may even be given a mansion and a yacht, though honestly I’d settle most of the time for some organic dark chocolate and clean socks. Oh, and if I mention a book or some other product, just assume I got a review copy of it gratis and that me getting it has completely biased everything I say. Because, books are like a drug to me, put one in my hand and you own my ass. Ethics be damned! K, you’ve been warned. Huggies and butterflies. ]


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40 responses

40 responses to “A Radical New Way To Tap the Kindle Economy”

  1. I really enjoyed this interview! Sean you’re up to some really cool stuff, and I loved hearing about your process and the business model behind it. I also like how this came together for you to be the best thing you’ve written, it’s amazing how that happens. 🙂

    Jonathan thank you for hosting this interview, what a treat. 🙂

    • Sean says:

      Thanks Nathalie!

      Yeah, that was totally unexpected. I wanted really good, figuring great could come later when I could afford the time.

      Turns out, great has nothing to do with speed!

  2. Well done, J, excellent anecdotal tale of how disruption and new biz models are changing the way media is consumed – love it http://www.slideshare.net/stepbate/perspectives-for-authors-in-the-post-digital-age

  3. Tess says:

    Thanks for the interview and keeping us up on what’s going on in the Kindle world. Passing it on to friends.

  4. This isn’t that new. Holly Lisle has been talking about doing this for YEARS. Many years. I suppose Sean Platt just found out how to do it for himself. Holly had the idea of a bunch of writers doing it with a bunch of stories. That would have been way cooler.

    • Sean says:

      I’m still figuring out how to do it for myself, but loving the adventure. Dickens did it 200 years before either of us, and before King. Arabian Nights did it millennia before that.

      I would love to work with other writers. Can’t wait.

  5. Lee Libro says:

    Brilliant! This model for writers forges new paths, exactly what self-publishing is all about. Of course, the premise of the story has to be exciting, and surely the ideas in “Yesterday’s Gone” has captured my imagination. Though I’m a Kindle owner, I’m not much of an ebook format fan. It takes a lot of story to pull my nose out of the ink and paper format. As a fan of “Lost” and Stephen King, I’m looking forward to learning more about the series and will be visiting the site right after this. I might just have to spend more time on my Kindle 🙂

    • Sean says:

      Hey Lee, can’t wait to hear what you think! Reader reaction has been one of the most fun things about this project so far! Thanks, much appreciated.

  6. When I was a tween/teen I was all about the self-publishing. I did everything from a little neighborhood newsletter, printing three or four copies at a time using pieces of “not-hardly-used” carbon paper my dad would bring home from work to photocopied ‘zines with covers I’d make in Corel Draw and stories composed in Word Perfect.

    Somehow, moving on towards self-publishing at least some of my work just seems right. I love that the barrier to entry is so small that I don’t necessarily have to think of something that Walmart will want to put on the shelves – I can concentrate on what I’m passionate about and have found that others are passionate about and serve a niche audience well.

    • Sean says:

      And it helps that you have a great voice. You’re one of those writers who will be able to genre hop, plus you can write fiction or non. This really is an area where bloggers have an edge. Speed and quality, no publisher. YAY!!

  7. Interesting interview, Jonathan.

    I think one of the things missing from this discussion is the REASON why someone writes a book. If it’s to make a million dollars, then “good luck.”

    But if it’s to get credibility to open doors (writing a book, marketing it enough to get some traction, take it to #1 on Amazon (which we did with our first book), and then handing it out to people to people as a super-powerful business card), then a regular book (say 200+ pages) is viable.

    Sean’s ideas are great. But it does depend on WHY someone writes a book, don’t you think?

    Charlie Seymour Jr

    • Jonny Drury says:

      I totally agree. Intention is everything. This requires a lot of integrity and self-exploration. It’s just not good enough to churn out stuff just because you can… This is why there’s so much rubbish around.

      • Sean says:

        Great points!

        I write books because the format excites me to no end. I love writing in all its forms. That’s the common denominators. The reason for each book is different.

        Some books will be about experimenting with a format.
        Some books will be to scratch an itch.
        Some books will be to teach.
        Some books will be for authority.
        Some books will be for my children.
        Some books will be for my wife.
        Some books will be for friends.

        Anyone who publishes garbage will fail, no different from a garbage website online.

        • Jonny Drury says:

          Thanks for your reply Jonathan. I notice you didn’t put ‘Some books will be to make money”. So in the light of that, what’s your reaction to the emphasis on Platt’s writing “Trashy”? Sorry I’m confused by the definitions and discrepancies and having been influenced by Michael Bywater’s ‘Big Babies’, I think there’s still serious integrity and/or responsibility concerns here. I know where he’s coming from and I might even have a go at writing trash for the mass to raise some cash… Of course it’s different for every writer so maybe that’s the answer and I’m just being too damn serious for my own good.
          : )

          • Jonny Drury says:

            ps. Sorry, dumb of me not to notice it’s you Sean writing this blog – you and Jonathan both have similar grins : )

          • Sean says:

            I don’t see trashy as a bad thing. I like trash as long as it’s good. Stephen King books are trashy and I’ve loved them my entire life. Tarantino movies turn trash into art.

            I’m not using the word trashy to suggest a diminishment in quality, I’m doing it to articulate a tone.

          • Jonathan Fields says:

            It’s a great question and I agree with Sean. One, when he says trashy, it’s more about tone and topic than quality. And, Sean also happened to be a phenomenal writer.

            But, let’s take this to another level…

            I get concerned when I hear a lot of writers I know who view anything with serious commercial potential or mass appeal as necessarily devoid of quality or integrity. Not saying this is the case here, but I’ve heard that refrain so many times in the community.

            “James Patterson is a sell-out,” they say, “he can’t write to save his life.” Meanwhile, millions of people line up to gobble up everything he puts out. While it may not rise to the level of world-class literature, he’s creating experiences that are bringing smiles, thumping-hearts and moments of delight to the lives of millions of people every day. And somehow that’s a bad thing?

            If you can have fun writing, craft stories and ideas that in some way bring experiences into peoples’ lives that make them think, laugh or cry and earn a nice living doing so, who are any of us to say “that’s not real writing” or “there’s something wrong with that.”

            Why is there any less integrity in that than there is in writing purely with highfalutin literary intent?

            And, most importantly, who am I, who are any of us, to stand in judgment?

          • David Wright says:

            @Jonny – When Sean is talking about trashy, he’s talking about popcorn movies. Big, fast-paced, and just a fun ride, a guilty pleasure sorta book, but maybe not too deep in characterization. A big concept sorta book, if you will.

            And though Sean might have started out wanting to write a popcorn book, it became much more than that, with deep characterization, complex storylines, and undercurrents of timeless themes which run deep. And while Sean may have been surprised at the deepness of the book, I wasn’t at all. We are huge fans of GREAT serialized stories and GREAT serialized stories have GREAT characters.

            But I also agree with what Jonathan said. If a book is good, and people enjoy it, who cares if it’s considered literary greatness?

          • Jonny Drury says:

            Thanks for all your thoughts guys, it’s really been worthwhile to me. I guess I might be a little jealous (as an artist) of not being able to allow more creative flow, but I’ve been exposed to some serious philosophical issues in the past years. We are continually pumped full of confusing values – look at the dangers that *excessive* pleasure is bringing (you heard it’s called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it, right?). As a natural storyteller and writer, I guess I’m still struggling to seperate the beauty of innocent entertainment and discovery from the seriousness of life. I suppose your ‘trashy fiction’ is your own way of dealing with that. Peace : )

    • David Wright says:

      @Charlie – I can assure you that we wrote this because we love the ideas – both the story and the format.

      Furthermore, I don’t see serialization as a sure shot commercially. If anything, it’s pretty damned risky at the moment, because so few writers are doing it, and no big ones (that I know of) are currently doing it. So we not only need to find people who like the genre we’re writing in, but people who like serialized books… or people we can convince to try out serialized fiction.

      Some people hate the idea of serialization. We could have written three shorter books, probably, and been better positioned to make money (although there are never ANY guarantees that any book will sell). Could have even done it under a pseudonym, and nobody would know we were writing the fiction equivalent of an all flash/no heart blockbuster.

      I write books I want to write and that I’m excited to write. Simple as that.

      If you could overhear the brainstorming sessions we’ve had on Yesterday’s Gone, it would be like listening to two kids plot out an awesome TV show.

      “Well, what if we did THIS?”
      “Oh my God, we can’t do THAT… can we?”

      Having said that, I think the timing is right for serialized fiction in eBook format. Prior to now, trying to self-publish a serialized book was far too cost prohibitive for most writers.

      Amazon and eBooks has changed that. And I think writers who have been wanting to do something like this for a long time, like Sean and I, are finally being given the opportunity to take that chance.

      • “I write books I want to write and that I’m excited to write. Simple as that.”

        I think that is the most profound thing you’ve said. Years ago I had the privilege to co-author the life story of the last of the big band leaders, Si Zentner. I always remember what he said about being a musician: “It’s a God-given blessing to be able to make a living doing something you love.”

        I’ve also always been a fan of the book “Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow.”

        I’m not rich, and I’m still trying to figure out how to leverage my talents (I’m also an artist) to support myself. But I can honestly say my needs have always been met, and I’ve always had enough money to do what I love.

        You guys are an inspiration. Keep the great info and encouragement coming!

  8. “You need to build critical mass” — perhaps the best bit of advice I’ve heard on e-publishing. “Bite-sized content” is definitely something I look for at times, for instance, when commuting. Been wondering when the Dickens model would make a modern comeback. Great discussion, such an exciting time! Can’t wait for the epilogue…

    • Sean says:

      Thanks Debra!

      That’s one of my favorite things about this, the juxtaposition of ultra modern and super old fashioned.

  9. Faith says:

    Hi Sean,

    I’m curious if you will be pursuing Kindle Singles as a route for your books. I know for a long time the thinking has been to only focus on the $2.99 and above price point. But it seems like your shorter episodes would be perfect for the new Kindle Single model.

    The Kindle Single wasn’t always a very clearly priced platform, but now the 70% royalty option is available for Kindle Singles priced as low as $.99 (Below is taken directly from Amazon.com)

    “Accepted Kindle Singles are published using the Kindle Direct Publishing platform, which means that the author earns royalties on each sale. Kindle Singles must have list prices between $0.99 and $4.99, and authors can choose the 70% royalty option for their accepted titles, even when the list price is below $2.99.”

    Anyway, just a tidbit I thought I’d pass along. I haven’t pursued it myself but hope to do so in the near future. Thanks so much for helping to open the ebook market even further.

  10. Sean says:

    That’s a great idea, Faith! Thanks! I hadn’t even thought of that. I know it’s pretty tough to get the singles approved, but we haven’t even tried. I thought of it more for non-fiction. But that’s a great idea. We’ll look into it. Thanks!

  11. caitlyn says:

    Did you guys phone each other so that you would wear matching shirts? (This is what I got from the video? Hmmm, boot-to-the-head.) 😉

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Too funny, before we hit record, we were actually making fun of each other for both wearing v-neck t-shirts to the party.

  12. […] Jonathan Fields‘ interview with Sean Platt who is embarking on a serialized fiction adventure:  ”A Radical New Way to Tap the Kindle Economy.” […]

  13. Thank you so much for sharing this interview, I am blown away by the cross-pollination of treating the serialized bits as TV “episodes”…and then I look over at my bookshelf and there are the 6 tiny little “booklets” that make up The Green Mile by Stephen King.

    Hiding right under my nose, as it were.I remember reading them as they were coming out and being heartsick that the last one was published (in the US) while I was working in London in the summer of ’96. I had my girlfriend bring it with her when she came to visit me, as it wasn’t yet being published in England.

    Poor thing, she had to spend an afternoon by herself while I devoured the finale. And we hadn’t seen each other in two months. LOL.

    Looking forward to checking this out, and BTW: Best. FTC. Disclosure. Ever.

  14. […] blogs such as Lateral Action, David Airey and got some great responses from a trio of top writers here, (a good reaction to me asking the reasons for writing ‘trashy’ / pulp fiction…) […]

  15. Fran Sorin says:

    I couldn’t resist; got online and ordered Episode 1 of Yesterday’s Gone. It’s a keeper. I couldn’t put it down; which means that my schedule this morning was screwed up. A great read…am loving what you’re doing. Fran

    • Sean says:

      Hey Fran!

      SO happy to hear that! That makes me very happy. Amazon would LOVE to know how you feel about it, too. They told me so. 🙂

  16. […] Jonathan Fields: A Radical New Way To Tap the Kindle Economy The publishing world is in mass-flux. While this terrifies some writers, other […]

  17. […] Inkwell. But our focus is on interviews and guest posts, such as the ones we’ve done with Jonathan Fields, Copyblogger, and Jane […]

  18. […] interviewed via video at Jonathan Fields blog […]

  19. Doug Lance says:

    Great interview guys!

    Sean, you might want to think about getting Serialized Fiction into the Kindle Periodicals program. I edit eFiction Magazine (http://amzn.to/eFicMag), which I started in college less than two years ago. Now, I work on it full time. It is great building up a subscriber base because the numbers just go up and up, and every month there is a steady income to grow the business more. Let me know if you want more info about it. It is super easy to set up and I can give you template files that would make it even easier!

    Thanks again guys!

    • Sean says:

      I would LOVE that, Doug. Thanks so much!

      I’m sean – michael – platt, then add the at gmail and the dot com. 🙂

      Thanks again!

  20. […] Here is the interview with Jonathan Fields and Sean Platt […]