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Jun 21 / King Kaufman

Byliner launch: Encouraging development for aspiring writers

Byliner launched its full site this morning. It’s been in beta for a few months. It’s something that should interest aspiring — and any other — writers.

Byliner is devoted to longform nonfiction. As the Nieman Journalism Lab notes, you can think of it as a “Pandora for narrative nonfiction. It offers users a recommendation service that suggests new authors they might like, as well as automatic Facebook updates whenever a favorite writer publishes a new story.”

That’s all great for readers, but the intriguing part for writers is Byliner Originals.

Similar to and even overlapping with Kindle Singles, these are ebooks that live in the awkward zone of being too long for most magazines, too short to be a full-scale book, for which purchasers want a certain minimum number of pages to feel like they’re getting their money’s worth.

Byliner’s top featured original, Jon Krakauer’s Three Cups of Deceit, is No. 4 on the Kindle Singles bestseller list. It sells for $2.99. Most Byliner Originals and Kindle Singles are under $5.

Byliner commissions its Originals, but it also accepts submissions, with the caveat that unsolicited manuscripts aren’t guaranteed a reply.

Still, this is an intriguing area for writers because these sites are part of an interesting phenomenon of the last few years, a series of positive developments for longform writing. Instapaper, Read It Later, and its sister sports site SportsFeat are among those that have made it easier for readers to find, share and read long-form writing.

Thanks to tablets, smartphones and services like these, we may be entering into a new golden age of longform writing. That’s great news for writers who want to branch out beyond the basic web or print article without necessarily devoting a few years to a book-length project.

As Wired’s Charlie Sorrel wrote in January when Kindle Singles launched, “It seems ironic that the web, along with cellphones and other portable computers, has saved the very thing we thought it would kill.”

Remember that, aspiring and established writer friends, the next time you hear despairing talk about how there’s no future in journalism or writing. This business moves so fast now that the word to remember is the one the colorful Dominican pitcher Joaquin Andujar said was his favorite one in English: Youneverknow.

  • Matt

    Pretty amazing. I’ll have to check this out.