Publishers Cultivate Binge Reading Trend
【聯合報／By JULIE BOSMAN／王麗娟譯】
“Annihilation,” the chilling first novel of a trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer , tells the story of a scientific expedition to a mysterious place called Area X that has been cut off from the rest of the world.
Fans who want to know what happens in the second book won’t be on tenterhooks for long.
That book, “Authority,” will come out in May, only months after the first installment. On its heels is the third novel, “Acceptance,” to be published in early September.
While the television industry has begun catering to impatient audiences by releasing entire series at once, the book business is upending its traditional timetable by encouraging a kind of binge reading, releasing new works by a single author at an accelerated pace.
The practice of spacing an author’s books at least one year apart is gradually being discarded as publishers appeal to the same “must-know-now” impulse that drives binge viewing of shows like “House of Cards” and “Breaking Bad.”
“Consumers want to be able to bingeread or binge-watch,” said Christine Ball, associate publisher of Dutton . “We wanted to give the consumers what they wanted in this case.”
Sean McDonald, the editor at Farrar, Straus & Giroux who acquired the trilogy by Mr. VanderMeer, said that when he read the first manuscript, he realized it presented a narrative filled with unanswered questions. He quickly came up with an idea that was believed to be a first at Farrar, Straus: publishing all three books on what he called a “rapid fire” schedule, partly to avoid antagonizing readers.
“You can end up with angry and perplexed fans,” he said. “I think people are more aware of series storytelling, and there is this sense of impatience, or maybe a fear of frustration. We wanted to make sure people knew that there were answers to these questions.”
The blockbuster “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the erotica trilogy by E L James, showed the merits of publishing all the books quickly, before readers can catch their breath. The series was first printed by a small press in Australia. Vintage Books, part of Random House, acquired it in March 2012, and released the books in paperback in the space of less than a month. They have sold more than 90 million copies to date worldwide — Random House’s fastest- selling series ever.
“I think the bottom line is that people are impatient,” said Susan Wasson, a longtime bookseller at an independent shop, Bookworks, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “With the speed that life is going these days, people don’t want to wait longer for a sequel. I know I feel that way. When I like a book, I don’t want to wait a year for the sequel.”
Publishers are responding to that sentiment. This month, Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Random House, released a hardcover debut novel, “Archetype,” a futuristic action thriller. Its sequel, “Prototype,” is scheduled for release in only five months.
“Letting Go,” the first book in an erotic trilogy by Maya Banks, a best-selling romance author, was also released by Berkley Books this month; the last installment will be published in August, with three months between titles.
At St. Martin’s Press, editors took what they called “a TV approach” with the publishing schedule of a coming series by Megan Hart, a writer of erotic fiction. Ms. Hart’s series is scheduled in five installments, published in e-book every two weeks.
St. Martin’s hasn’t even scheduled print versions of the series yet.
Some publishers who have embraced a faster publishing schedule acknowledge that it can be risky. Cindy Hwang, the executive editor at Berkley, said that while the approach has worked for some authors, like Nora Roberts, the best-selling romance writer, “There’s always the fear that you’re saturating the market, that the reader demand isn’t as great as what you’ve foreseen.”