This summer, things at the longform journalism startup Byliner fell apart: The company’s executives left, authors received ominous emails and what once seemed like a promising model for online storytelling turned into a failure. On Thursday, though, it seemed as if Byliner found a somewhat happy ending: Vook (see disclosure), a New York-based company that offers digital publishing services to authors and organizations, announced it had acquired Byliner.
The deal may be good news for Byliner authors who wondered how they were going to get paid: Vook said Thursday that it would be paying them 85 percent royalties on works that were already for sale at digital retailers like [company]Amazon[/company] and [company]Apple[/company]. That is a different financial model than the one used by Byliner, which paid authors a flat fee and then split royalties with them 50-50.
It’s unclear what will happen to authors who were under contract with Byliner but whose works weren’t yet published by the time things at the company fell apart. Those authors were presumably promised upfront payments that they may or may not receive from Vook. Matthew Cavnar, Vook co-founder, told me he’s in discussion with such authors and their agents and said, “I will say we are committed to publishing more titles under the Byliner imprint.”
In a letter to authors Thursday, Vook said:
“Byliner has established a boutique literary brand that stands out in an increasingly crowded marketplace. As Vook’s first in-house imprint, Byliner will continue to acquire and publish short-fiction and non-fiction by award-winning authors. Byliner authors will soon get access to Vook’s new set of tools and services, expanding distribution and marketing opportunities for their titles.”
Terms of the acquisition weren’t disclosed. Vook won’t continue Byliner’s subscription program. Most of Byliner’s executives, including CEO John Tayman and president Deanna Brown, are long gone, but Cavnar said, “Byliner had a small team in place who we are continuing to work with.”
Disclosure: Vook was used to create the ebooks in a Gigaom publishing project that is no longer active.