HarperCollins Canada is publishing a multimedia serialized e-book that ventures into the Canadian rock music scene. Jay Malinowski, the frontman for the band Bedouin Soundclash, is the author and illustrator of Skull & Bones, which is being published in seven digital original chapters. He also wrote and performs the songs embedded in each chapter with his other band Jay Malinowski and The Deadcoast, with whom he is touring in support of the related album Martel.
Malinowski told PW that the inspiration for the album and his debut novel came from his family history, which goes back to Protestant Huguenots fleeing to Canada from France. The album came first, and Malinowski said his music publisher suggested he write down the stories behind the songs. While spending the following summer walking Spain’s Camino de Santiago, he said, “I thought it would be cool to try to recreate the feeling that I got going through my grandfather’s notes throughout the course of the album cycle, so that people could receive letters from Martel [one of the novel’s main characters] as he goes around the world sailing.”
Steve Osgoode, HarperCollins Canada’s v-p of digital product, said Malinowski originally contacted the company for some information and advice, but “I really liked the way he was talking about integrating all these elements of the story he was trying to tell in illustration and music and also writing this narrative that would sort of encompass it all,” so the conversation quickly shifted into talk of HarperCollin’s involvement in a publishing project.
Osgoode said that although HarperCollins does a lot of experimenting with different forms of storytelling globally, HarperCollins Canada has not done anything like this—a multimedia digital original, released serially—before. “But it really felt like the right project to do this,” he said. Malinowski is a “true triple-threat — he’s a visual artist, he’s a musician and he had written this great story, so it all came together very organically.”
Malinowski’s existing platform also helped, said Osgoode. “We knew Jay from being in Bedouin Soundclash, we knew he had a fan base. We knew that he had two great record label partners in Pirate’s Blend, which is part of Arts & Crafts, and with Sony Music, so for us it was a complete package.”
The first chapter was published in February, and the next one is coming out this month. Osgoode said the complete novel with all seven multimedia chapters will be released in the end, but Malinowski’s original concept was always a series and he is still writing some of the content. The serial release also allowed HarperCollins to have the e-book chapters in the market as Malinowski’s band tours with the tie-in album, he added.
The band just finished a tour in clubs in 12 cities across Canada. Malinowski said they will play at festivals during the summer and tour again across Canada in the fall. That tour will also include readings from Skull & Bones.
The multimedia chapters are only available on Apple’s iBook site, but text only versions are being sold by all the e-book retailers. “We’re always experimenting with price,” said Osgoode. “Right now the enhanced editions are $2.99 and the stand-alone chapters are 99 cents.”