Gimme Fiction

New modes of fiction publishing engage modern readers

While some believe the current state of smartphone use to be indicative of a cultural apocalypse that’s stunting the intellectual curiosity of youth, younger generations actually are reading more than just their social feeds. Fifty-eight percent of 14- to 34-year-olds read books at least once a week, and 52% consider books to be vital to their lives (see POP Entertain). New venues for fiction seek to reach these readers in inventive ways.


Author Jonathan Franzen has, over the years, received as much attention for his ruffling of feathers as for his critically acclaimed works of fiction. Being that he’s somewhat of a notorious curmudgeon, it’s quite surprising that he’s collaborated on a marketing effort with a fast food brand. Nevertheless, he’s the latest star of Chipotle’s Cultivating Thought, an initiative that sees the taco-slinger printing paper bags and cups with two-minute fiction reads. While not a brand new campaign, this time the restaurant is asking customers to tweet-review Franzen’s piece for the chance to win year-long burrito passes and Kindle Paperwhite readers.


While an e-book cannot replicate the soothing tactile and olfactory experiences of curling up with a good novel, consumers have embraced the digital literary experience for its convenience. After all, not many Great American Novels fit in a pocket in print format. New fiction app Hooked seeks to build on readers’ comfort with digital consumption by publishing works in a context especially intimate to them. Specializing in works of short fiction, the mobile-first company serves up original stories as text message conversations. Stories, which are free and delivered weekly, are formatted entirely as dialogue, and take approximately five minutes to read.


Last week saw the official launch of Lenny Letter, a highly anticipated feminist arts email newsletter from Girls creator and star Lena Dunham and her writing partner, Jenni Konner. Content ranged from an interview Dunham conducted with Hillary Clinton to an essay on denim’s current market saturation. Prior to that edition, however, a Summer Fiction Issue containing Dunham’s first published work of fiction, as well as pieces by two other authors, gave subscribers a preview of the new digital title. Critics are already heralding Lenny’s potential to bridge the gap between consumers’ attachment to devices and their straying from traditional longform content, like print magazines.