Stephen King has long wanted to break free of traditional publishing, and CBS would love to show there’s some synergy between its oldest and newest media.
So rather than just release another scary story in book form only, publisher Scribner — a unit of Simon & Schuster — and CBS are trying a new approach: Convert an unpublished novel “N.” into a series of 25 video episodes distributed by CBS on the Web and mobile devices.
The series is, essentially, a promo for King’s upcoming collection of short stories, “Just After Sunset,” which will be published by Scribner in November, and a comic book miniseries to be published by Marvel in 2009. CBS will distribute the series on the Web starting Monday via its’ “audience network,” including sites like AOL, MSN, Yahoo and Veoh, as well as via mobile devices. A preview is available at NisHere.com and SimonSays.com. Scribner will release the book in November and Marvel will launch a comic book miniseries on 2009.
It’s not the first time a publisher has commissioned a Web series to promote a book. Bertelsmann’s Penguin tapped Michael Eisner’s Vuguru studio to produce a 52-episode serial “Foreign Body” as a prequel to the Robin Cook novel. The Web series was a flop, but the jury is still out on the book, which will be released Aug. 5.
And its not the first time King has tried an alternative delivery method. Seven years ago he bypassed his own publisher, Simon & Schuster, and sold a novella on the Web for $1 a chapter. “My friends, we have a chance to become Big Publishing’s worst nightmare,” he said then.
It was a nice gimmick that got a lot of press, but seven years on, e-books are still in their infancy and King is still writing his scary books for a big publisher. Will a web series help sell them? Possibly. It will also provide some exclusive new content for CBS on the Web and mobile, which can’t hurt. The series itself does not appear to be a money-maker on the Web; it’s free (unless you buy a $0.99 download at iTunes). But CBS and Simon & Schuster have a chance to recoup, again with old media. A DVD of the video series will be packaged with the book.