Calls for long-form nonfiction
Is long-form nonfiction making a comeback? There's the Atavist, a digital publisher that builds long-form nonfiction stories with multimedia elements (it looks great on an iPad). There's Byliner, which made a splash with its debut, a story by Jon Krakauer that called into question the work and word of Greg Mortenson. There's also Grantland, the ESPN-owned online site that publishes long, nonfiction pieces that have more in common with the golden days of Esquire than the cable network's bombastic shows.
And some unlikely places are making pretty big investments in long-form nonfiction, too. Now, right now -- well, technically, starting Friday at noon -- the upstart Longshot magazine is offering a bonus of $2,000 to the story that it selects for its cover. Longshot is written, photographed, video'd, edited, produced and programmed for the Web in just 48 hours (that was its original name, but a certain TV show took notice). On Friday, its editors will announce the theme for their new issue, and while they've set aside money to pay contributors, thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, they're holding out a tempting $2,000 for one special piece. "We love long-form reporting. We love big, meaty stories that we can tear our teeth into and savor for hours or days afterwards. That’s why we’re offering a $2,000 bounty for our favorite feature in the next issue of Longshot," they said.
Last month, New York blog Gothamist got in on the long-form nonfiction action too. Gothamist offered a hefty $5,000 to the writer of a longform nonfiction piece of 5,000 to 15,000 words. "Since we're new to this game, we're going to dip our toes in the water slowly, by publishing a single feature next month," editor Jake Dobkin wrote. The site was looking for: "Something relevant to our audience of over one million 20-36 year-old readers in New York, timely but with a shelf-life longer than a week." Pitches were due to Gothamist on July 1.
Meanwhile, Grantland has novelist Colson Whitehead writing about playing in the World Series of Poker, Byliner has built a massive database of long-form nonfiction that's on the Web and the Atavist's back-end platform is so successful they're licensing it. The site and hashtag Longreads gathers favorite long-form stories every week through Twitter and circulates them to readers. It's starting to look like long-form nonfiction is finding a new place. It's certainly getting easier for fans to find something good to read.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: Dan Catt via Flickr