Tuesday, November 22, 2011

L.A. Times really excited about novel concepts of book serialization, packaging

Yesterday on Twitter I mocked the hype about a new novel by Mark Z. Danielewski, a novel which will be -- shocking new idea!! -- serialized in 27 "volumes." Today there's more information about it in this L.A. Times column.

From this article I want to draw a single quote, emphasis mine:

It's possible that [our publishing] schedule could be accelerated. We're constantly open to new ideas -- where will we be in 2014? Maybe digital releases every week, every few months a trade paperback or hardcover. The novel is designed to accommodate, anticipate various platforms.

I take it that he means this particular novel has been designed to "accommodate" (not to mention "anticipate" -- wow!) "various platforms" -- not that The Novel generically is. Although that's an interesting idea to investigate, maybe a good topic for a master's thesis -- that the novel is, by its nature, flexible enough to accommodate changing media.

But what struck me was this. This is not just a long book that the publisher decided, hey, let's go back to that whole serialization thing that worked so well in the 19th century. After all, it's working for the Paris Review to serialize Roberto Bolaño's "The Third Reich" into four parts -- that's garnered lots of attention (and did, in fact, motivate me to subscribe to the Paris review for the first time ever) -- not to mention the multi-book franchises of Harry Potter and other fantasy creations.

No, according to the author, he designed the books to a) be super-ass long, and b) "accommodate various platforms," like so:

Danielewski was paid a reported $1 million for the first 10 volumes; he's thinking of them as two 5-volume seasons, like a television series.

Uh huh. Now I know why it's the L.A. Times that is the one getting excited about it. Seriously, is this really anything that the awful teen-novel book-packaging industry (cf. "Sweet Valley High," etc. etc.) hasn't already pioneered?

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