Short-form ebook publishers haven’t had it easy lately, but that isn’t stopping Vook from releasing its first new Byliner title after acquiring the start-up last month.
Atavist Books, another ebook publisher of short- as well as long-form content, launched jointly in 2012 by IAC and the movie producer Scott Rudin, confirmed a report yesterday by Publishers Lunch that it will close its doors by the end of the year.
Byliner, despite being widely perceived as one of the more innovative such publishers in a crowd that’s quickly grown crowded, had been struggling when it hinted in June that it was looking for a buyer.
Short-form ebooks aren’t alone in remaining something of a niche market, leaving some within the industry to doubt their potential for growth. That puts the format in similar company with enhanced ebooks, one area Atavist Books had also pursued. In its statement yesterday, Atavist Books conceded it was dogged by a range of related challenges: “We have identified that the market for highly innovative enhanced full length literary eBooks still heavily relies on a print component and has yet to emerge.”
Vook is betting otherwise. Acknowledging those difficulties, the company’s co-founder Matt Cavnar says, “When we acquired Byliner, many asked if we’d really continue to acquire and release great ebooks.” But he confirmed Vook’s plan to “aggressively publish more great Originals.” The first of those, Five Fires by Laura Lippman, is a Kindle Single as well as a short-form ebook available at other retailers.
According to Cavnar, the format is hardly a lost cause. “The market for all types of ebooks is real and strong,” he affirms. Indeed The Atavist, which has always published its digital long-form monthly magazine independently of Atavist Books, is still very much in business, having just closed a new round of funding last week.
While Atavist co-founder Evan Ratliff sees The Atavist as belonging “more in the magazine world than the book world,” he says that “we’ve always touched on both since we sell ebooks of our pieces.” The newest Byliner Originals could push Vook into closer competition with The Atavist in this content space.
Short-form, long-form, enhanced or otherwise, Cavnar adds that digital publishers “have to try lots of different projects, publish quickly, and be really focused on digital marketing–an important element of that includes using data to make better decisions.”
In that last area Vook is aided by Booklr, the ebook data and analytics start-up it acquired earlier this year. “We’re in the unique position of being able to provide [authors with] data no one else has,” Cavnar points out. “That’s what sets us apart from other companies and why we have more to offer authors over the long haul of their publishing effort.”
Whether that advantage will make all the difference remains to be seen. But Vook sees it as a critical element in the success of its forthcoming Byliner Originals, not to mention ebook publishing at large. “That’s why we’ve been so focused on building technology and data,” says Cavnar. “Without one of these pieces in place, you won’t even know if there’s a market or not.”
Update: This post has been modified to clarify how Atavist Books publicized word of its closing and to include additional information on The Atavist.
Vook Publishes First New Title in Byliner Imprint, an Original Ebook by Laura Lippman
Five Fires, a thriller story with a twist, debuts today on major ebook retailers
October 21, 2014, NEW YORK, NY — Today Vook published its first Byliner Original ebook, Five Fires, by New York Times best-selling author Laura Lippman (I’d Know You Anywhere; After I’m Gone). Specifically commissioned as a Byliner Original for the Byliner imprint, Five Fires is Vook’s first new title released under Byliner since it acquired the imprint in September 2014. Five Fires representes Vook’s commitment to aggressively growing the Byliner imprint by publishing high quality, original ebooks by best-selling authors.
“I’m thrilled that Five Fives is being published as a Byliner Original,” says Laura Lippman. “It’s my hope that this story, which is quite different for me, will excite my current readers — and help new ones discover my work.”
The book tells the story of a series of mysterious fires that disrupt the summer in the small town of Belleville. The authorities have dismissed the fires as the work of heat lightning, but in between her monotonous day job and dealing with her absent mother, a young woman named Beth discovers the blazes may not be an accident.
“Publishing our first Byliner Original with Laura Lippman is a clear signal that Vook is committed to publishing high quality, original ebooks by bestselling authors — continuing our vision of expanding Vook’s platform to authors,” says Matthew Cavnar, Vook Co-Founder and Publisher. “We are currently soliciting for new projects and are in some cases paying advances for Byliner Originals.”
Five Fires is currently available for purchase on all of the major digital book retail channels for $2.99 and is part of Amazon’s Kindle Singles program.
Vook accepts submissions for Byliner Originals from literary agents, who are encouraged to write Matthew Cavnar at Matthew@vook.com
About Laura Lippman
Laura Lippman was a reporter for twenty years, including twelve years at The (Baltimore) Sun. She began writing novels while working fulltime and published seven books about “accidental PI” Tess Monaghan. In 2001 she left daily journalism to focus on her career as a novelist. Now a New York Times bestselling author, her work has been awarded the Edgar, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe and Barry awards. She was the first-ever recipient of the Mayor’s Prize for Literary Excellence and the first genre writer recognized as Author of the Year by the Maryland Library Association. Her most recent novel, After I’m Gone, a thriller-mystery with an unusual love triangle, is now out in paperback. Laura’s next novel, Hush Hush, will be published in February 2015.
Founded in 2009, Vook is the leading digital publisher of over 5,000 original ebooks for companies such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, and Publishers Weekly, and major authors, empowering content holders by enabling creation, distribution, merchandizing and discovery of ebooks in the major retail channels with its unique technology platform and data driven marketing tools. For more information, please visit http://vook.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.