The Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota's largest newspaper, is taking a step into book publishing this summer by serializing a previously unpublished novel by a Twin Cities writer. On June 9, the Star Tribune will publish in its print edition and on its Web site the first installment of Giving Up the Ghost by Mary Logue. Logue has previously written about 30 books, including 11 adult mysteries and four poetry collections. She's also written children's picture books and YA novels.
Giving Up the Ghost, a mystery, will be released in its entirety in digital formats by the Star Tribune on the same day that the first installment is published in the newspaper. It will retail between $3.99-$4.99.
"Some people don't want to wait to read it," book editor Laurie Hertzel explained, "It's also summer, and we know some people will be out of town and not reading the newspaper every day."
Each of the 50 installments will run on the front page of the newspaper's Variety (arts and entertainment) section every day for approximately two months this summer, concluding on the last Sunday in July. The Star Tribune doesn't intend to expand its Variety section page count to accommodate the serials, but will instead, in Hertzel's words, "fit it in."
Giving Up the Ghost is, Hertzel explains, a "very Minnesota" novel with a "very strong sense of place." It's set both in the Twin Cities and at the protagonists' summer cabin on a lake in Minnesota's north woods, thus appealing to a broad audience beyond the newspaper's approximately half-million metro-area readership.
According to Kate Parry, a Star Tribune assistant managing editor, the paper had great success last August when it serialized for a week a nonfiction report about the 1862 U.S.-Dakota War, "In the Footsteps of Little Crow" by Curt Brown. The paper also simultaneously released Little Crow as an e-book, and sold "north of 6,000 copies," which resulted in it landing on the New York Times' e-book bestseller list.
"We were surprised how many people bought the e-book as soon as Little Crow started. That project really had legs," Parry said, explaining that the newspaper staff "learned a lot" about the logistics of book publishing during the process of producing Little Crow, as well as the two other e-books it has produced to date. The Star Tribune has paid Logue an advance, and will pay her royalties, as well. Rights to Giving up the Ghost will revert to Logue in 2018.
According to Parry, when the newspaper staff considered following up on the success of Little Crow in their ongoing efforts to build up readership and "make readers happy," they also decided to pay homage to the Twin Cities' vibrant literary scene by serializing fiction by an author living in the region.
"There are great writers here; there's a love of reading here," Parry said, "[Fiction] dovetails with the culture of the market we're in." The Star Tribune co-sponsors with the Loft literary center and Minnesota Public Radio the Talking Volumes regional book club series, which has brought an A-list of internationally-renowned authors – both fiction and nonfiction writers-- to the Twin Cities for the past 13 years.
"It's an interesting scramble in writing and publishing these days: we're all trying different venues," Logue told PW, when asked why she contracted to publish with the Star Tribune rather than with a more conventional publisher, "Newspapers are trying to get more readership; I'm trying to do the same."