Sunday, July 13, 2014

Reading matters

Lorenzo McLeod has rescued me. After a most disquieting Kindle reading experience... of which more later... I have found the series of books by the Scots author Peter May and all is once again in order. I have six more of his books to look forward to. The first, Extraordinary People, is tightly plotted and populated with supporting characters whose destinies one comes to care about as much as one is fascinated by Enzo himself. Okay, I must admit that a fellow countryman, a successful author and who calls France his home calls to mind the expression 'jammy bugger', mais tant pis! I look forward to a few weeks with this anthology.

Now what disaster pre-dated this welcome discovery? One which demanded that I return to the subject of seriality. I love nothing more than wallowing in a series of stories and thought I had found one in German, from the pen of an author I shall not name. The first of his Kindle titles was priced cannily... downloadable at no charge. Given my circumstances an offer I could not refuse.

I was not immediately enthusiastic although the narrative fit well in my preferred thriller genre. Each chapter, I felt, was on its own well crafted and indeed entertaining. But there was not the arc of a narrative scenario, not the dramaturgical paradigm I demand of myself as a writer and expect as a reader. Instead of 'moving the story along' I felt that the chapters were like circus acts, not those of a play or movie. If each was on ist own a respectable effort… sometimes even a tour de force… each resembled most of all a circus number. One was captivated by the girl on the high wire, then awed by the lion tamer. Yes, the acrobats were splendid, the elephants amazing. No, clowns were conspicuous by their absence (but then this was a German text) and above all I missed any continuity that an accomplished ring-master might have provided.

Hence I was already less than satisfied when the progress bar on the Kindle announced about ninely percent completion of the file I had downloaded. And then came the shock... the next page invited me to preview the next section of the story which was 'to be continued'!

WIth some misgivings I hit the one-click purchase button. More bravura under the Big Top. Now let me cut to the chase. I also paid for a third installment before deciding that all five would add up to an inordinate amount, even given that German e-books tend to be much more costly than those published in English.

But it is the business model I find perverse. Even had I not had reservations about the writer's style I would have baulked at the recurring requirement (analogy maintained) to leave my seat in the circus tent,  return to the box office four times to buy another ticket!

Back in 2007 when I was looking for ways of monetizing Sex & Drugs & Profiteroles I considered many alternatives. 39 chapters... my template was the scope of a television drama season... each released as a weekly podcast audio file... the first 13 available at no cost and then a single modest payment if the customer really wanted to find out how the story developed. That approach I still find viable, not so different from the free previews currently used to promote titles.

Alors, I like to think that Enzo McLeod would also scorn the German's approach to seriality. And a good novel must be more than a succession of círcus acts!


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