When I heard about the iOS app Seven Poets and the Assassin’s Secret, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. It is a unique, real-time serialized novel centered around a fictional terrorist attack on the Olympic Stadium in London during the closing ceremony. Content runs from August through October, when real-time serialization will end. Seven Poets tells the story of seven children who are able to escape the terrorists and their struggles to survive in a new and different world.
The app, which features in-app purchases for each new portion of the story, went live at the beginning of August and just released the first chapters last weekend in tandem with the real Olympic festivities. It is smooth even on my ancient iPad 1, and it is quite visually interesting. I love the illustrations, especially the gorgeous piece that you see when you open the app.
Being an avid reader and fiction writer, I love the idea of a serial–releasing a story piece by piece can heighten drama, add a sense of urgency, and create a rabid fan base always clamoring for the next part. What writer wouldn’t want people champing at the bit to read their newest work? But Seven Poets goes one step further than just serializing the novel itself. It includes a serial online newspaper called The Broadsheet that chronicles the events of the novel, lending credibility to the events that unfold in the narrative and giving a different (and sometimes deeper) perspective on certain details.
Another aspect of Seven Poets are the challenges at the end of each chapter that require you to interact with the app in new ways. For example, the first chapter challenge asked me to write a journal entry in an actual journal and then answer questions about what I wrote. The results of your challenges are viewable in the My Story portion of the app. The interactions seek to draw you even further into the story in a non-linear, non-traditional fashion. I wasn’t crazy about the first challenge, but hopefully they will get more fun and engaging as the chapters unfold. Completion of the challenges unlocks weekly bonus content, which I haven’t gotten to yet.
My favorite part about Seven Poets is the fact that it is the most unique self-publishing approach I’ve ever seen, hands down. How do I know this? Well, I am lucky enough to know the creative minds behind Seven Poets. I worked with the author, Matthew Brown, and his team at a previous job. Back then, their jobs were to tell client stories through writing and video, and they were pretty darn good at it–industry award-winning good. We eventually went our different ways, me to a new company and them to their very own creative agency, Edmund Pevensey, LLC. I had no idea what they were up to past the occasional Facebook post until I saw a mutual friend post something about their Seven Poets Kickstarter campaign. I chipped in some money because it sounded like a cool idea, and then I found myself having lunch with the guys a week later, grilling them for the inside scoop behind Seven Poets after trying out the app (courtesy of an early glimpse at the beta). I knew that my former coworkers were capable of great things, so I was excited to try out the app and hear about how they put it all together. Since then, their supplemental Kickstarter was fully funded, which will enable them to add additional content and features. My contribution to the campaign rewards me with all the upcoming contenders of content in the app.
We all know that the advent of the ebook has changed the game for authors. It is easier now than ever to self-publish your work and reach a large audience. But that wasn’t good enough for Matthew and his team. They pitched the idea of the interactive serial to a number of literary agents, but nobody was interested in picking it up. So the team at Edmund Pevensey partnered with Inkle, who designed and developed the app that houses Seven Poets, to create something different in the publishing world. Seven Poets is essentially a proof of concept for a new kind of novel, and I am really enjoying it. Who knows? Maybe my first book will look less like a traditional novel and more like this.
Seven Poets and the Assassin’s Secret is available for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch for free in the iTunes App Store. Content is free through August 18, and after that a week’s worth of content can be unlocked for 99¢. A browser-based version of the novel is also in the works.
What I Like: A unique storytelling approach; Engaging user interactivity; Nice interface and beautiful illustrations; A mix of content types to build a richer fictional world; Good story (so far)
What Needs Improvement: First challenge wasn’t as fun as I would like; The price could be a turn off to those who don’t want to pay 99¢ a week for content