OkLetsRead! was one of the contestants in the Publishing Hackathon a few weeks ago. It was knocked out of the contest in the very first stage, and in fact the website does not appear to have gotten any further than a nonfunctional demo, but I still like the idea.
Here's how OKLetsRead was described in the contest pitch:
OkLetsRead is helping to bring back the serialized novel through crowdfunding and community-driven book clubs. In the age of Twitter, when singles are selling better than albums, and instant gratification is everything, books can seem intimidatingly large to the casual reader.
OkLetsRead lets authors write a single standalone short for our community - 30 to 50 pages that doesn't take a year to write allowing authors to try out different plots or styles, or just opening up the field to part time writers.
Readers get great stories that aren't daunting to test out a new author, series or genre. Stories can be read in an hour or less, even for slower readers. If they get hooked, they can help fund the writing of more shorts with the rest of the community and bringing them closer to the author.
Publishers can access data and analytics on future purchase intents of readers, opening up a new information stream to help them inform their own portfolio decisions before committing to a large advance and marketing budget.
This isn't a completely new idea; I have heard of a couple websites that were trying to turn slushpiles into a crowdsourcing project. There have even been a number of KickStarter projects for individual titles, and in fact Stephen King was the first to use this very idea with his early digital novel, The Plant.
But this is the first I know of that is trying to build a crowdfunding platform for serial fiction.
I am not a fan of serial fiction for its own sake, but that's mainly because I know that this type of literature was invented for monetary reasons. When Amazon revived the idea I didn't see what the serial payment business model added to the content that was being sold. But now that OKLetsRead has come up with a good reason to use this business model again, things have changed.
I think this could be a useful way for an author to fund an ongoing series of short stories. An author could propose a story and let their fans express their enthusiasm financially. As each story is released, fans could pay incrementally.
This is potentially a good idea, but OKLetsRead appears to be defunct. If someone would care to copy the idea and launch a new site I would be interested.
P.S. If this idea is already being used somewhere, please let me know.