ITW Prepares for a Serial Thrill

By Carmen Comment

In May 2006, the International Thriller Writers organization was gearing up to launch its first anthology, THRILLER; its first fan conference, ThrillerFest, and a whole host of related activities. The infrastructure was in place for what would prove to be a successful anthology and conference, but as always, a big question loomed: what to do next?

The same question was on the minds of the folks at Audible, the Newark-based audio book publisher. Sales of titles were growing and a partnership with iTunes continued to help land them new listeners. But what of something wholly original, built entirely from the ground up that would grab people’s attention in a major way? They couldn’t do it alone, though; a partner would have to be brought on board.

It would take a few months of coordination and logistical hurdles, but in the end, ITW and Audible found common ground in the form of what’s currently titled the Serial Thriller. Set to launch “sometime this fall,” according to Audible Director of Content Steve Feldberg, the project, edited by Jim Fusilli, is a book-length format written in series by some of the genre’s top names and emerging talents. Jeffery Deaver will author the opening and closing chapters; others announced as adding intervening 14-odd chapters include Lee Child, Lisa Scottoline, David Hewson and Joseph Finder. Once all the chapters are written (something that Fusilli says should happen by the beginning of July) Audible will recruit a single narrator to record the entire serial novel, which Feldberg adds is tentatively scheduled to be released`2 chapters at a time over the course of eight weeks.

When Audible and ITW started talking, the match was evident. “We really loved the idea [of a serial story],” said MJ Rose, ITW’s marketing chair. “A couple of different ones had been batted around but this had the most potential, the idea of doing something for the first time.” Because, as both Rose and Fusilli pointed out, the serial novel in audio format is brand new, even if the concept of a serial suspense tale has been done as recently as a few years ago with NAKED CAME THE PHOENIX (a mystery version of the 1960s spoof novel NAKED CAME THE STRANGER) as well as two anthologies edited by Marcia Talley.

Fusilli, author of four crime novels and several anthologized short stories, was picked as the project’s editor because he had the necessary qualifications, Rose explained. “We wanted someone who was equally creative enough to write a chapter as well as edit and handle the mechanics of the whole thing. But it was just as important to find someone who had had the stature to deal with the caliber of writers we would have. Jim fit the bill on all counts.” Fusilli has had more or less full creative control on the project, something he says “has been the most fun he’s had in a long time.”

Are there plans for a print edition? Eventually, Fusilli says, but the project won’t be submitted to publishers until the full manuscript is complete. And there are other surprises planned for the audio serial, including a contest for writers to submit their own closing chapters based off of Deaver’s story starter, author chats on and tie-ins with ITW’s newsletter for readers, The Big Thrill.