Byliner and Atavist want your longish short works

I stopped going to most publishing and technology events here in the Bay Area because everyone is still so focused on the woes of publishers who refuse to get with the 21st century and change their business model to fit technology-driven changes in the industry. Earlier this month I was dragged along to a literary event by my friend and writing partner Lisa Alpine, to what turned out to be a grossly inappropriately titled “Does narrative journalism have a future online?” The session was led by UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism’s Michael Pollan hosted a panel discussion on delivery of long-form fiction with The Atavist’s Evan Ratliff and Byliner’s Mark Bryant, moderated by Gerald Marzorati (formerly editor of The New York Times Magazine, and author of A Painter of Darkness), who has had a long romance with long-form journalism.

I would not have gone but for Lisa, who just wanted to get back into going to writerly events. Upon arrival we recognized a particular cast of characters from our Wild Writing Women days, gobbling up the crackers, wine, and cheese at the alarming speeds we witnessed at our events.

With a sigh, I settled down into a chair for the main event, where Pollan soon described what the evening was actually about, which was not as advertised (thankfully) as being around whether narrative journalism have future online but about the content these two companies want to publish, and how it will delivered to readers. Whew! Now I was interested.

BylinerThe answer to the first question — “what is being delivered to readers” — is journalism, memoir, and other creative non-fiction, and fiction. And to the second — “how is it being delivered to readers” — is via their own delivery systems/websites, and distribution via Kindle Singles and B&N Snaps.

These companies are both working with journalists and authors they know, but are reading proposals, and have even had a few successes by unknowns. The editors both work very closely with the writers to create 8,000 to 30,000 thousand-word pieces. This is writing designed to be consumed by the reader in one sitting. Development of these stories can average five drafts in several months.

The AtavistWhile Byliner concentrates on words alone, The Atavist is busily creating multimedia stories. Their goal for multimedia is not to interrupt the story but to make the story better. However, when they deliver for distribution to Kindle Singles, they have to provide a text version of the multimedia element as the Kindle can’t handle more than words.

The Atavist is also working on a multi-device tracking system so that readers can continue reading across platforms, even from audio to ebook, and even a software platform that competes with Apples eBook Creator. The Atavist’s product, available in a couple of months (in software time?) at a yet-to-be-decided price, however, will allow self-publishing authors to create interactive, multimedia ebooks that work on all devices.

Update: Byliner announced its new Byliner Serials Imprint Sept 6 2012 with Bestselling Authors Margaret Atwood and Joe McGinniss in the lineup of serialized books.