One of the hot deals that happened late this summer was a reported seven figure deal for three books by the creator of CSI. Dutton won the fierce auction, beating out six other houses.
Par for the course, right?
Well, this one is different. The “author” of the project is not really going to be the author. Anthony Zuiker is going to be more like a producer/director, and he’ll hire a novelist to write the books. At the end of every five chapters there will be a code in the book that, when you go to your computer, will take you to a two minute filmed vignette that will provide a “cinematic bridge” to the next five chapters. Zuiker will outline the series and direct the vignettes, hoping eventually to turn the project into a feature film.
This isn’t the first interactive novel, but it’s a pretty big investment, and the fact that such big names are involved gives it buzz.
So… what do you think??
Furious D says
Still can’t top the “Choose Your Own Adventure” novels we had when I was a kid.
Awesome. If you had a device that you could use to read the book AND watch the online videos, a very cool experience could be had.
Yay for technology and new ways to experience stories.
In all seriousness, if I’m reading a paper book (which I usually do either in bed or in the bathroom [cough]) I really don’t want to have to run over to the computer periodically to watch a video before I can move on in the story. I’d find it annoying.
And mind you, I’m a major CSI fan — I watch all three shows, and have since the first episode of the original series — and do spend a boatload of time in front of the computer. But I’m not sitting here when I read paper books.
I think this is something that sold just because it was new and different, and had a big name attached to it, and a popular franchise. But no one stopped to consider if the “new” and different added up to good. :/
As ever, you’re a hot tipster for news, but I’m struggling to register my disinterest on this one.
Call me a purist, but I either want to have someone tell me a story or to “choose my own adventure” by wandering, blindfolded, into the street and strangling hapless passers-by.
Random comment here, but I’d love for you to do a post on chapters in books. Maybe write about thoughts and preferences on chapter lengths, and length consistencies. In my current manuscript (which I feel is well-polished) I have some chapters that are 5500 words and some that are 3000. Is that bad? Does it matter?
I’m not a CSI fan, but even if this were for a show I like (Dexter, frex), I wouldn’t bother with it. I’m a technophile, but I like my reading to be uninterrupted. Whoever mentioned the e-reader with automatically playing clips is onto something though. That I’d read.
A Paperback Writer says
Hey, I’d check this out. It sounds gimicky but worth a look.
Sam Hranac says
Reminds me of RPG video games from 1997. They bridged together “chapters” with animated video. The construction is called String of Pearls, where you need to accomplish X much before the possibility opens up to move on to the next pearl, only this is more of a web of pearls. It might be a lark to run through it.
Maris Bosquet says
The venture strikes me as a huge exercise in the effect and profitability of hype. Sorry, but my heart has never followed the hype.
Elissa M says
I am obviously not the target audience.
I won’t dismiss this out of hand until I get a chance to see it in action. My biggest concern is what a trend of this kind might do to the quality of the writing. If the book is simply a means to yet another technological shortcut to our imaginations, then I think maybe it’s best for kids and new readers.
If the book is done well, and the link video inspired, why not? For some of us prose writers who also dream of seeing our visions on the screen – big or small – we might jump at the chance to have a portion of our ideas produced.
I say let’s see it first. I’ve read great books and seen great “shorts”. I see no reason why the two can’t be combined if the idea is right and the integrity is there.
I would agree with ulysses. Why would I want to walk away from a perfectly good book to go watch a little clip online??? I’d probably skip over that and try to use context to figure out what I missed.
melissa c says
I personally don’t like online books. I spend too much time as it is on the computer.
I would much rather lay back in a hot bath tub and soak in a great book.
That’s just my personal opinion.
By the way, I am almost finished with a book I am writing. How many authors do you represent and do you have room for one more?
My book is going to be great and I have been researching query letters and all that but I just thought I would ask.
Let me know. Thanks.
I’m not sure something similiar hasn’t been done before, actually. It seems like a cross between Selznick’s Invention of Hugo Cabret, where certain action scenes were done in pictures instead of words, and a magazine gimmick from maybe ten years ago.
Does anybody remember when pre-teen magazines had a barcode, and when you bought this device that you hooked up to your computer, it would scan the bar code and direct you to a website? I remember they were trying to do books, magazines, etc. with these barcodes, but because the web content was usually just an advertisement, nobody bothered buying the devices.
Anybody remember this?
Melissa C, 7:05 —
I’m not Nathan, but let me take a stab at answering your question, because I think it’s a good one.
Most literary agents have room for a client that interests them, when they think they can sell their work. It’s not really a matter of being “full” or not. In order for an agent to take you on as a client you have to not only write the type of book that an agent represents, but it also has to be saleable, there has to be a market for it. There are so many factors involved in this, and each agent is different in their own needs anad wants that there is no one pert answer. Asking if an agent is “full of clients” will only alert them that you haven’t done your homework, and they’ll be wary of your query.
Research how to write query letters first. Get to know about Agentquery.com. It’s a great resource. Use Agentquery.com to search around for all the different agencies and agents that handle the type of book you’ve written. Don’t query them all at once. Take your time. Personalize their query letter. Know who they are and what you might gain from working with them. Every agent is different.
Your queries need to be professional, tight, and describe your novel in a compelling way. This takes lots of practice. Don’t be afraid to write many different versions and think about them for a long time, it’s harder than it looks.
IT is a definite move forward in revolutionizing the publishing industry but I think they are wasting their money on only partially introducing the concept of an e-book with interactive style. They would be further ahead to set the whole project up as an e-book offering with the interactive vignettes all in the same package to address the issues of frustration if one does not have a computer at hand to continue reading the books. It would seem logical to consider that major flaw in its saleability big names or not. Why is the industry dragging it’s heels over the e-book generation? The environment would dictate this as the best policy to adopt if there is any kind of conscience at work to protect the environment while accepting that technology does have its place in environmentally friendly products.
I pity the poor author who gets to be “overseen.”
Sounds pretty stupid to me. If you want to read a book, read a book. If you want to watch a movie, watch a movie.
This is one reason there’s no money for aspiring debut authors. All of the companies are throwing big bucks at nitwit ideas like this.
So where exactly is the vaunted “interactive” part? You get to interact with a book and then every five chapters you get to interact with your computer to watch a movie? Then you get to talk online about it? Truly interactive fiction would let the reader have a hand in determining the outcome of the story, and every reader’s story might be different, depending on the choices he makes. The person who noted the “Choose your own adventure” childhood books was right on target. Or, for a more grown-up example of interactive fiction, you might check out The Museum, a project by Adam Kenney.
Vancouver Dame says
This will appeal to those without the attention span to read a book. As Zuiker himself says, ‘I personally don’t have the attention economy to read a 250-page crime novel from start to finish.’ This type of reading doesn’t appeal to me. I love books, and reading is a pleasure. Seems like a trendy gimmick, but I’m sure some technos will love it. I wonder if it will spawn some self-made crime solvers – sniffing around crime scenes? I would say either the book or the computer, but this going back and forth every few chapters would annoy me.
I’ll leave the interactive book discussion to others but I will share what I think is the ideal role of the publishing industry in filmmaking which is its extaordinary position to be able to ferret out manuscripts that will eventually make thier way to the big screen, either through literary adaptations or works written expressly for film.
Of course, the Hollywood system has professional script readers who plow through the slush pile the same as the publishing industry, but what f*** do they know?! Apologies to the filmmaking industry, but come on, let’s be realistic, guys.
Witness the brilliant success of the filmmaking team of Producer Ismael Merchant, Director James Ivory and screenwriter Ruth Prawler Jhabvala who turned out three of the best book to film adaptations ever made: “Howard’s End” and “A Room with a View,” both novels by EM Forster, and “The Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro, to name but a very select few of their triumphs.
Ismael Merchant died in 2005. Who will take up the mantle, I wonder?
Nice talk i’m new here ….
That’s one expensive gimmick that a lot of people will make good money on, up front.
The one thing I really hate most about a really good book/read is putting it down, or walking away. Besides, I find reading exercises my mind and my imagination, TV not so much. I also don’t want to have put in the effort to imagine my surroundings, the people, and their situation only to have someone come along part way and go, “No, this is how you should be picturing it. Picture it my way, not yours.”
It’s a big enough leap of faith to submit to Hollywood’s interpretations when they translate what were otherwise fine books wholesale for the screen. Just the idea of them deliberately making that leap intermittently throughout my experience destroys the premise of the book for me already.
I sure won’t pay to try this. And if it comes “free” and they slam me with ads to “bridge” my story completion, I’ll be “shredding” the book every chance I get.
I love books. I don’t mind paying for books, because I get what I see. I pay for what I want, and no ads. It’s one of the few mediums left that treats you like you have some intelligence. Hollywood, judging by their product, treats everyone like stupid ad gobblers. And within a certain age bracket, they’re more than justified.
If the “author” here needs this big a gimmick this early on, either the writing’s bad or there’s not enough meat there for a TV show, not that they ever need much to begin with. Hollywood must be downright desperate for ideas these days to stave off the internet juggernaut.
This one’s got a real odor about it.
What do I think? Bleh. Not going to fly, at least with me. I want to read the story, not watch it. I like reading far better than movies, and it would destroy the ‘flow’ for me to have to go to the computer.
If I bought such a book and discovered it was interactive, I’d return it with the complaint it wasn’t a book at all but something different, something new but NOT improved.
Lee Wind says
We used to call it “The Bleeding Edge of Technology.” That future-is-now spot where stuff is so wacky, and different, and we know HOW to do things before we’re quite sure WHY we’d want to…
Ultimately, I think a book, and a TV show, and a video game are all about STORY, and if it’s good – people will want to hear it/see it/interact with it.
I agree with Margaret that the whole “snuff film” thing is really distasteful, and I’m thinking this platform idea sounds more appropriate for reluctant readers, giving them rewards for reading chapters…
For me, the reward for reading a chapter in a good book is getting to the next chapter, to find out what happens.
Perhaps if I’m reading the book on my laptop and can click over and view the “cinematic bridge” I wouldn’t be too annoyed, but I would HATE to have my view of the world ruined by someone else’s choices (the director, art director, casting director, etc…)
Maybe you’d have to have it show a different sub-world of your story – like if it’s a novel about a cartoonist whose animations are somehow really important to the plot, you would have a fun reason to go to the computer to view the animations – and it wouldn’t destroy your own world view of the book.
It’s fascinating to see where books will go with technology and Kindle and all – but as a writer, I’m not freaking out about it, because ultimately, it’s all about “tell me a good story.” And that’s what good writers do, no matter the delivery system.
K.S. Clay says
Why does someone who doesn’t like to read novels even want to be part of writing one? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. If you don’t like reading or writing but do like producing television/movies then stick with the producing and leave the writing to those who actually do enjoy it. As for the idea itself, it sounds annoying to me. Put the entire finished thing on a CD or DVD-ROM and maybe you can sell it, but make readers have to go to their computers every five chapters to watch a video? That shows a complete lack of understanding of readers who will often engage in reading in circumstances were a computer is not handy (on a bus, waiting for an appointment, etc).
Ok., very good.
It’s a good idea. I think the shared space between book and computer becomes quite natural to us by the time we’ve finished a year or two of college.
But I think that one of the advantages of books is that it places the story into the imagination of the reader. I remember the first Tolkien-based film I ever saw was The Hobbit. The animated goblins, wargs and, of course Gollum, didn’t match the images I had created in my own mind from reading the book; Further – as good as the movies were – Peter Jackson played fast and loose with Tolkien’s description of the Uruk-Hai and their level of involvement in the books, as well. I’m not saying I wouldn’t read it, but the interactive thing only works if it extends or improves our understanding of the characters, the story, or both.
Eric – I hate to break it to you, but your “groundbreaking concept of theatrical movies interspersed with chapter reading breaks” has already been done, by Mr. George Lucas, with this little “Star Wars” collection of flicks
There is a slew of books that fill in the gaps between the movies; not necessary reading, to follow the story, but they do add to it.
I don’t see this as a way to bring the bookreader to the Internet, it’s a way to bring the non-reader (today’s youth) to books. This is not going to replace traditional paper books in any way. shape, or form; this is simply a new medium for storytelling.
I agree with anarchyjack: “I think the shared space between book and computer becomes quite natural to us by the time we’ve finished a year or two of college.” For most of today’s youth, they don’t have to “walk away” from anything to veiw the clip – and there is no “booting up the computer.” The vide clips come to them right on their iPhone/iPod/fancy cell phone of choice. When you reach the end of the five chapters, you grab your phone and watch the clip – right there on the train, grocery store, bathroom, etc. There is an audiene out there for this, it will be interesting to see how it fares.
(I don’t watch CSI so I have no opinion on the guy or the subject matter, but I think the concept is intriguing.)
The Writer says
Great blog and very informative! I’m going to keep an eye on it. As to your querry about the interactive book, I think its an insult to readers. There’s an entire element to reading in which the reader visualizes the characters and story. What a disappointment to read five chapters and then have your favorite character’s images, that you and the writer have created together, erased by a montage vingette with background music. There are much better uses for the technology with creative writing.
Anyway, keep up the great work!
The Writer…and her dog, Bear
This is a great blog! I work in the publishing industry myself and am also a writer.
I truly enjoyed reading your entries.