Launched in 2010 as a business effort aimed at reviving interest in the short story, Storyville is an iPhone/iPad app that delivers a weekly short story for $4.99 for a six month subscription. A year after its launch, Storyville has debuted on the Kindle e-ink reader, upgraded its iOS app and website and launched The Sidney Prize, a short story prize offering a $1000 cash award and publication through the Storyville app.
Cofounded by Paul Vidich, a former Time Warner executive credited with negotiating with Steve Jobs and Apple to establish the iTunes store and its 99 cents price point, Storyville offers a selection from forthcoming (and some backlist) short story collections each week. Storyville licences its stories from publishers and has deals with about 22 houses, Vidich said. While Vidich has said he hoped to have 2,000 subscribers by the end of 2011, he told PW the service has about 1,000 subscribers now and is “bordering on profitability.” Vidich said they have managed to increase their subscribers, “without any marketing except viral stuff on Facebook and Twitter. We’re pleased with our subscribers.”
In the past year Storyville has published “52 remarkable authors,” Vidich said, from new writers like Patricia Engle (“Desaliento” from Vida, Grove/Atlantic, 2011) to established writers like Jennifer Egan (“The Stylist” from Emerald City, Knopf, 1993) to an unpublished posthumous work by Kurt Vonnegut (“Guardian of the Person” from While Mortals Sleep, Random House, 2011).
“We’ve published a range of writers with diversity across ethnic backgrounds, gender and more. No one other than the New Yorker publishes as many high quality authors as we do,” Vidich said, “it’s a wonderful way to sample the best new writing.” In addition Storyville has enlisted the aid of editors, booksellers and agents as well as writers, to add content and commentary to its site and offers lists of their “top ten” favorite short stories. Vidich cited contributors like, Grove/Atlantic senior editor Coranna Barsan and author/bookseller Emma Straub from the Bookcourt store in Brooklyn. “We keep the literary community up on the short story,” said Vidich.
Now Storyville is available on Kindle e-ink devices for a monthly subscription of $1.49 for four stories (the same that appear weekly on the iPhone/iPad); an Android version of the Storyville app is in the works and the app will soon be on the Kindle Fire tablet. The Storyville app has added book jacket art and author photos as well as the “favorites” lists of authors, booksellers and agents.
And this year the venture is launching The Sidney Prize, named after Sidney Story, the New Orleans legislator that proposed the famed Storyville Red Light District for which the app is named. Anyone can enter and there’s no admission fee but writers must be a Storyville subscriber. Entries will be judged by Red Lemonade publisher and all-purpose literary maverick Richard Nash. Deadline is February 15. The winner will be announced in March and will receive a $1000 cash prize and publication in Storyville. The Sidney Prize winner will be Storyville’s first uncollected story.
Vidich is optimistic about the coming year for Storyville. “The tablet market has exploded and reading has really gone mobile and we’ve got a high rating--lots of 5 star reviews--in the App store. The next year is about driving subscribers and moving into the Kindle market and getting on the Android OS will help that.” And Vidich said that Storyville is looking to add nonfiction works as well as Young Adult and mystery fiction, “all these genres and markets are reaching out to us and want to work with us.”