Max Barry Jams In Public, Creates A New Publishing Model, Slices Your Legs Off

Illustration for article titled Max Barry Jams In Public, Creates A New Publishing Model, Slices Your Legs Off

Max Barry's Jennifer Government was one of the most original and entertaining dystopian novels of the past decade, and now Barry is helping to reinvent publishing. Or at least, his bold experiment, Machine Man, seems to have paid off.


Barry has been posting chunks of his novel Machine Man online since March, although he hasn't followed the same model that Tim Pratt and Catherynne M. Valente recently adopted. That is to say, he's not just posting daily or weekly updates and including a "tip jar" so you can donate. Rather, he's got a free feed that only covers the first 43 pages of his novel, and you have to pay $6.95 to get the rest. Either way, you get a page sent to you every day, either via email or RSS. (Until it runs out, in the case of the free feed.) There's also some stuff about a custom feed, which is a bit confusing.


Judging from the pages posted on Barry's site, Machine Man is a fast-paced, chaotic story about a guy who experiments with cybernetics — the book starts with the main character's leg being severed, and goes on from there. Here's a typically weird passage from page 38:

My legs stopped at a busy intersection somewhere south of downtown. I didn't know where, exactly. All I knew was they had been running for ten minutes and I had been hanging on, begging them not to kill me. Like all my legs, the Contours had been subjected to some pretty rigorous quality assurance in the lab, but some things you couldn't simulate. One of those things, apparently, was that mortal terror interfered with the legs' ability to interpret mental instructions. At least, I hope that's what it was. The alternative was that they were wilful.

Anyway, the experiment seems to have paid off, handsomely: Publisher's Marketplace says Barry sold Machine Man to Vintage Books. If the FAQ on Barry's site is anything to go by, the final book product will be a bit more polished than the updates he's been sending out every day — he talks about possibly having to backtrack and dig himself out of some literary hole he's gotten into, and says the process of writing a novel and posting it online in real time is much like a band jamming in public, versus hearing their polished studio recordings. Either way, we can't wait to read the finished manuscript. [Max Barry]

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how has he reinvented publishing, or a new publishing model?

I don't get it...he gave some stuff away for free (which regular book publishers do now all the time), asked people to pay for the rest (which is the same as just buying a book), and now he has a real publisher...and a chance to edit the manuscript...

how is this anything but a reasonably clever marketing technique?