Digital innovation in practice – the chucking structure of Hide and Seek
My third novel for carina uk is being sold using the relatively new digital practice of ‘chunking’. That is, it will be sold in the three parts. The first part will be free, the second 99p, the third £1.89. They will each be released a week apart.
In a sense, there is nothing new about chunking. It is a digital way of approaching the serialisation method that has been used ever since Dickens published instalments of his novels in newspapers. But there is one critical difference: the graduated pricing, starting from free. If you want to read part of a serialised book in a newspaper, you have to buy the newspaper. With the current digital pricing, you don’t even have to do that. The first part is completely free. All you need is your existing smartphone, e-reader, tablet or computer. This is incredibly empowering of readers – you don’t need to make any financial outlay and get a third of a book for free. This goes beyond the one chapter sample that is often available. You can then decide if you wish to invest in the next third, and then the next third. The computer games industry, and now app-developers, have been doing this for years – start with a free or ‘light’ version, let the player enjoy it, then allow them to have the full experience for a nominal fee. The digital revolution has now progressed to allow book lovers to take advantage of this model too.
As a writer, I admit it is slightly nerve-wracking – there is that fear that people won’t move onto the next thirds of the book. However, it is also an opportunity. You know that if you can rise to the challenge of making the first third of your book as compelling as possible and get readers hooked, chances are they will download the next chunk, and then the next.
Chunking may not be suited to all genres. But for my genre, psychological suspense, it has the potential to work well. Hide and Seek is about a lifetime of secrets that Will’s family have hidden from him, and his obsessional drive to uncover the truth. The chunking structure certainly focused my mind when I was editing successive drafts of book – I knew I needed to highlight the twists and have some real cliff-hangers. And in this genre, that leads to a stronger novel. It’s also exciting when the chunks reflect the novel’s (novel) structure. A piano concerto and the mysteries it conceals are at the heart of the novel, and so I wrote the novel mapped to the three-part concerto structure. Each part of the novel reflects a concerto movement. Readers, then, should have their experience of the book’s structure enhanced by focussing on the three parts.
For me, then, in Hide and Seek ‘chunking’ is an exciting modem approach that empowers readers, but also a literary tool that supports the work itself. Here’s hoping readers will be just as gripped as Dickens’ were.
Having moved all over the UK as a child, she now lives in North London with her husband, dividing her time between working part-time as a lawyer and writing.