Canadian Writers Group launches ebook venture with Russell Smith’s Blindsided

In May last year, the Canadian Writers Group’s Derek Finkle was talking about the need for a long-form journalism platform in Canada similar to sites like Byliner and The Atavist operating in the U.S.

This week, CWG launched a series of non-fiction ebooks with novelist and Globe columnist Russell Smith’s Blindsided, a story of about 5,500 words that details the writer’s struggle with a severe eye condition that threatens both his lifestyle and his ability to work at an already tumultuous time in his life (see full synopsis below).

The $1.99 ebook, available in Kobo’s “Short Reads” section, is a slightly longer version of a story published in the April issue of Toronto Life. CWG negotiated with the magazine so Smith could keep digital rights to the piece.

In a release on the agency’s website, CWG announced a plan to publish five more works, all by authors it represents, and to sell them through Kobo, as well as in Kindle and iBook formats. CWG is commissioning some pieces itself, with the intention of selling the print rights to magazine or book publishers. “This will allow us to get time-sensitive stories out much more quickly than the production schedules of magazines that still carry long-form writing can allow,” he says in the release. Taking the project further, Finkle plans to launch a digital imprint this fall for stories running between 5,000 and 30,000 words.

Cover by Parcel Design.

Talking to Quill & Quire, he explained the strategy behind the plan. “One of the challenges for writers and their agents is trying to keep these stories from being free online,” he says. “The idea [is to get] writers away from the news space, which, for the most part, equals free, and into the books realm, where people are still paying for things.”

Sharing the writer’s perspective, Smith said he is happy to see his work sold in “any form available” and is optimistic about this particular format’s potential.

“I think the long article is perfect for the e-reader: it’s hard for a writer to place a long story that’s not quite book length,” he told us via email. “Magazines all have a definite limit for the word count of a single story. And it’s unpleasant to read a long text on a regular computer screen — online magazines all tend to run shorter stories. The cost of a single long story for your e-reader will still be less than that of a magazine. So I think this will be a very popular forum.”

Smith added that he sees this format as a great opportunity for fiction writers who produce novellas, which are often left in the no man’s land of publishing between magazine- and book-length pieces.

Synopsis for Blindsided from CWG:
Since the late 1980s, acclaimed novelist and Globe and Mail columnist Russell Smith had been a staple on the Toronto party circuit. Well into his forties, Smith was living like a man half his age, going out pretty much every night of the week, taking in the beautiful women, the latest fashions, the ever changing skyline of the growing city, as well as the glowing martini glasses and recreational drugs on offer to keep the good times rolling. From his first novel, How Insensitive, to his latest, Girl Crazy, chronicling underground life became his job. Then, in 2010, Smith began to lose his eyesight, first his left eye, and then next, cruelly, his right. Blindsided is a moving and brutally honest account of a writer not just dealing with the severe deterioration of a crucial tool — his ability to see — but also the sudden onslaught of some other very adult complications: the death of a father, an unexpected pregnancy, and a partner battling her own crippling demons.

Posted on March 27, 2012 at 7:04 pm by editor · · Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

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