Longform journalism site Byliner has sold over 100,000 of its “Byliner Originals” since launching the program in April, says CEO John Tayman in the newest issue of Nieman Reports. The issue, which is focused entirely on writing and book publishing, also contains other interesting info about e-singles.
The full issue, “Writing the Book,” is available as a free PDF here. The entire thing is worth a read but the highlights for me were about the e-singles published as original works through The Atavist and Byliner. Many publishers are experimenting with e-singles, but we haven’t seen many statistics about how well they sell up to this point, so it’s great to see some early data and lessons emerging.
Byliner’s Tayman writes about the company’s initial efforts with John Krakauer’s “Three Cups of Deceit,” and success since then:
As our website’s initial offering, his e-book was made available free of charge during the first 72 hours when some 70,000 readers downloaded the PDF version. When his e-book went on sale in Amazon’s Kindle Singles store-neither Apple’s Quick Reads nor Barnes & Noble’s shorts digital storefront were open yet-it quickly became the top selling e-book; it has sold steadily ever since at $2.99. In subsequent months, Byliner has sold more 100,000 e-books, including those written by bestselling authors such as Ann Patchett, Mark Bittman, and William T. Vollmann.
*Note: Byliner has published 15 Byliner Originals and the sales are across those titles.
In another piece, journalist and Wired contributing editor David Wolman writes about publishing “The Instigators,” his 10,500-word piece on the Egyptian Revolution, through longform journalism publisher The Atavist. He’s excited about the future of longform storytelling, and also writes about some of this type of e-singles publishing:
What hasn’t been so sunny? For one thing, I don’t know what to call it. Among e-book enthusiasts “single” (or Kindle Single) is shorthand for a work that is generally too long to be a magazine feature but too short to be a book. For much of the world, though, the lingo of “singles,” “e-books” and “e-readers” still causes confusion, akin to talking about CDs in 1985. (A few months ago, I tried referring to “The Instigators” as a “mega-feature,” but that’s clunky and makes me sound like an appliance salesman.)
It has also been a bit of a challenge to make more people aware of the story’s existence-it’s not on any real-world bookshelves, and Atavist doesn’t have an army of publicists working on my behalf. Even people who want to read it sometimes need guidance on how to get it. Since publication, I’ve written the following far too many times: “You don’t need a tablet computer or Kindle to read it. Just download the (free) Kindle-for- Mac or Kindle-for-PC software, install it-it takes all of 80 seconds-and then you’re off!”
I’ve been happy with sales, which continue steadily, but make no mistake: There is no zippy sports car in my future. And it’s difficult to determine what marketing strategies helped, hurt or were just a waste of time. For example, we sold an excerpt to TheAtlantic.com. It’s impossible to know if that translated into a substantial number of sales or whether people who read the teaser found it to be a sufficient dose of inside information about Egypt’s revolution, and decided against coughing up the $2 or $3 for the whole piece. Still, the attention this new marketplace is getting keeps me optimistic. As of late November, ‘The Instigators’ was still a top rated Kindle Single, which should keep the sales coming. I hope.