Kindle Startup Focuses On Interactive Fiction For Adults

Coliloquy, a Palo Alto-based publisher focusing on interactive fiction for adults, launches its first four serial titles today on Kindle. The books are active content apps, rather than static e-book files–allowing for multiple story lines, personalized content, in-book reader/author engagement and the delivery of prompts and extras.

The company’s founders are Waynn Lue, a former Google (NSDQ: GOOG) engineer, and Lisa Rutherford, the former president of virtual currency platform Twofish, which Live Gamer bought in 2009.

Coliloquy is the first networked app in the Kindle Store: It passes information back and forth between the device and the platform. The company is a beta developer in the Kindle Developer Program for Active Content, an Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) program that lets developers apply to create apps and other active content for e-ink Kindles. Coliloquy stands out because the program so far has focused primarily on non-reading apps, mostly games and puzzles (though there are a few interactive books for sale too).

Coliloquy’s first four series are aimed at women and young adults. “Most startups are focused on male readers,” Lisa Rutherford told me. “[But] female readers buy more books, buy more frequently and are very loyal.” The initial series tested “amazingly well” with this group, she said.

Witch’s Brew, by Heidi Kling, is a YA series about a modern-day witch. Liz Maverick’s Arcania is a YA fantasy series “about an underachieving teen thrust into an MMO-like world of magical combat.” Kira Synder’s Dead Letter Office is a contemporary southern gothic mystery series. And Tawna Fenske’s Getting Dumped is a serial romance. Titles are priced according to length and genre; the initial installments of these first four series are priced between $3.99 and $7.14.

Each book contains “choice points,” places in the story where the reader has the chance to choose a scenario or make a decision about how the story will go. It’s kind of like “Choose Your Own Adventure,” but because Coliloquy titles are networked, their authors can see the decisions readers make and use those decisions in aggregate to help guide future “episodes” of the books. Readers have to sign in the first time they read an installment of a book, which saves their preferences and the decisions they make as they read.

The books are available on Kindle, Kindle Touch and Kindle Keyboard. The company is also testing the iOS and Android (Kindle Fire, Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) Nook) platforms and plans to expand soon.

Coliloquy is actively signing new authors, who write in three-month segments, through literary agents like Michelle Wolfson at Wolfson Literary Agency and Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger. “Agents understand our business proposition,” Rutherford said. “They love the idea of serials and subscriptions.” Authors receive advances and split top-line revenues evenly with Coliloquy. Amazon pays Coliloquy within a month and then the company pays its authors.

In 2012, Coliloquy will release books from three new authors each quarter and will continue to publish new installments of existing series, including thrillers, experimental and contemporary fiction and books for middle-grade readers. “In many ways, our editorial decisions are driven by the authors we meet,” Rutherford said. “We have an amazing toolbox, but those tools are worthless without artists willing to play and innovate. In gaming, there’s been a shift from how many units are sold to how many people engage with a game. The same thing should happen with books.”