In the days before web publishing, upstart sports stars, even those with searing 10-game streaks like Jeremy Lin's, were viewed largely in hindsight, their legacies captured in book form only after the immediate excitement had passed. But the rapid ascent of Lin has inspired e-book authors trying top climb the Amazon ranks just as quickly.
While big publishers court the New York Knicks' 23-year-old point guard to write his memoir (industry sources say his advance could be in the neighborhood of $500,000), at least seven Lin Kindle books (Lindles?) have already been released. Several of the e-books repurpose publicly available biographical information on Lin or interviews conducted before he hit the big time. Lin didn't sit for For Linsanity: The Improbable Rise of Jeremy Lin by ESPN: The Magazine contributor Alan Goldsher. But that didn't stop Goldsher from writing a 15,000-word manuscript in 72 hours. In an email interview with Fast Company, Goldsher explained the frenzied process of putting together Linsanity while weighing in on the future of the instant e-book.
FAST COMPANY: How long did the entire process take, between the time you came up with the idea to when the e-book was published?
ALAN GOLDSHER: Hold onto your hats, kids: 72 hours to write a 15,000-plus-word manuscript, 36 hours for the fine folks at Vook to build the e-book, and then another 24 hours for them to arrange the distribution. So from conception to availability, we're talking just under a week. And Team Alan had full control of every aspect of the project, from content to design. It blows me away that we were able to bring it to life that quickly. And it blows me away even more that my brain didn't explode after I turned in the completed draft.
Why choose to write an e-book instead of, say, a longform web article? And how do the forms differ in your mind?
As a novelist and avid fiction reader, I have a healthy appreciation for a good story, and by story, I mean something with a beginning, middle, and end, and character development, and conflict, and obstacles to be overcome. Jeremy's path to the NBA has all that, and then some. Even though he's only been on the world stage for a month, his is a tale that deserves to be told in more than a blog posting, a magazine article, or a Wikipedia page, and I don't think anybody can argue with that. And while there's been some wonderful magazine and web stuff written about Jeremy to this point—that Sports Illustrated cover story is great, for instance—nobody's taken a cinematic view. To accomplish that, I interwove Jeremy's past and present, elaborated on some of the high and low points of his life, gave the whole thing a heap of color and context, and came up with a snapshot of a magical period that I hope casual and hardcore basketball fans alike will be happy to have on their e-readers for years.
Do you plan to alter or add to the e-book in any way if, for example, Lin agrees to an interview with you, or if there's a huge development in Lin's story?
There are discussions in the works to enhance the book with illustrations, videos, and the like, so if that all comes to fruition, I'll update the content, and we'll have it up soon thereafter. It'll be tough to pin down Jeremy for an interview—he just turned down a GQ cover story—but if people dig my book, he might hear about it, and if he hears about it, well, you never know....
What makes Lin's story well-suited to the fast-paced turnaround of e-book publishing?
It's playing out on an international stage, and there are new developments every day, but the old developments are gripping in and of themselves, which is why Team Alan felt this was a book-worthy, speed-demon project.
Were you inspired by any existing e-books that were released in a similar fashion?
I'm sure there are other e-books about developing news and/or pop culture stories that have had insanely fast turnaround times, but I don't know of anything that went down like this. (Speed-wise, it was a record for Vook.) Jeremy's practically a one-of-a-kind, which is why this kind of project doesn't happen on a regular basis.
Can you think of any other public figures who you would've loved to cover in this quick turn-around format had e-book technology been available earlier in your career?
What with her struggle to overcome almost losing her voice, Adele's story would've been ideal, and if I'd have had it ready to coincide with her amazing night at the Grammys, that would've been flat-out awesome. Also, Ryan Gosling has had an amazing 2011—we're talking three arguably good-to-great flicks—and if I could've gotten something ready when The Ides of March hit theaters in October, that would've been stellar. And even though Tim Tebow's memoir is still a best-seller, I think I could've put a novelistic spin on his season.
Do you expect to see more writers embrace this new model of instant e-book publishing, and why or why not?
I'll give you a big maybe on that one. I'm a freak in that I can put together a readable, hopefully enjoyable (and hopefully non-sucky) product in a relatively short time, and I don't know how many other Alans there are out there. But those who are so inclined would have a great time with it. It's exhausting as all hell, but at the same time, it's exhilarating and fulfilling. In terms of a writer's mental health, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it...but I wouldn't necessarily not recommend it, either.
What's next for you?
Over the next six months, I have three projects hitting the streets: an e-book-only sequel to my novel Paul Is Undead called Give Death a Chance, as well as a couple of parody novels that will be published by St. Martin's Press. And if folks enjoy Linsanity, I could be convinced to try something this nutty again. But I need at least a day or two to recover before I dive in.
[Image: Getty Images]