Philadelphia Magazine Launches Successful True Crime Ebook
The cover story of the September issue of Philadelphia magazine will live long after its days on the newsstand. Following other magazines that are looking for new outlets for bread-and-butter long-form journalism, the Philly lifestyle publication took a gripping true crime narrative by veteran journalist Lisa DePaulo and published it as an ebook. The ebook will be available in Kindle, Nook, iBooks and other formats.
And so has begun Philadelphia's venture into the world of ebooks, an area of bubbling interest for editor in chief Tom McGrath. "We thought it was an interesting space, especially when you do as much long-form journalism as we do. It's been on our radar."
It helped that the draft for DePaulo's article came in around 13,000 words, was well written, and featured a strong narrative. Titled, "The Dead Girl in Chuck Peruto's Bathtub," the article tells the harrowing story of 26-year-old paralegal Julia Law, found dead inside the apartment of her boss and lover, a prominent Philadelphia defense attorney.
McGrath says the magazine will continue to publish ebooks, admitting the program is still in the experimental phase, to determine reader interest. So far, response has been strong. Published on August 27th, the ebook has quickly become a best seller in the Amazon Kindle True Crime category. As of today, it sits at number two.
"The advantage is that Amazon makes it so easy to do this through their Kindle Direct publishing program," says McGrath. "It's very much self serve."
As with many publishers going down this road, Philadelphia has a built-in audience, which has helped with sales. "We have a 1.5 million visitors to our website each month and we have marketed it there," says McGrath.
Also part of the experiment, Philadelphia also sent a special offer to newsletter subscribers, discounting the ebook from $2.99 to $0.99 for a limited time. Curious to see what impact lower pricing would have, McGrath was pleased. "What's heartening is that now that the price has gone up, we're continuing to see strong sales on a day-to-day basis.
Editorially speaking, Philadelphia took a slightly different approach with the ebook from the magazine article. The magazine features the cover-line, "The Lawyer and the Dead Girl" while the ebook is titled The Dead Girl in the Bathtub. The artwork also focuses more on the victim in the story.
It's an indication of the wider audience Philadelphia is building online and anticipates with its ebook program. "With ebooks I think we're talking to a more national audience. It's matter of packaging it for a different audience."
McGrath says that Philadelphia has also evolved quite dramatically over the past three years. Once simply a monthly magazine, now it publishes a website with seven daily blogs, pushes out content through social media and produces editorially-driven events. Ebooks are an extension of this shift.
One lesson learned from the project, say McGrath, is the importance of considering how the additional work will impact production staff and the writer. Handling a 12,000-word article-the longest McGrath has published in his ten-year tenure-is literally twice as much fact checking, twice as much copy-editing. "There's no doubt there's more work but so far I'm pleased."
Though McGrath doesn't expect monthly excursions into ebook publishing, he will publish an expanded version of October's cover story on abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. "Our senior writer, Steve Volk, is the only writer that has gotten access to Gosnell. It's an exclusive." McGrath expects this story will attract a hearty national audience, too.
If you're interested in learning more about the trend of magazines publishers entering the ebook market, consider attending our Publishing Business Conference & Expo, which will feature "Spies in the House of Books: Is the Book Market Ripe for Magazine Publishers?"
Spies in the House of Books: Is the Book Market Ripe for Magazine Publishers?Monday, September 23 • 4:05pm - 5:00pm
Denis Wilson is the content director for Target Marketing, Publishing Executive, and Book Business, as well as the FUSE Media and BRAND United summits. In this role, he analyzes and reports on the fundamental changes affecting the media and marketing industries and aims to serve content-driven businesses with practical and strategic insight. As a writer, Denis’ work has been published by Fast Company, Rolling Stone, Fortune, and The New York Times.