Building a Home for Fiction
On Great Jones Street
We’ve noticed that there is no real home for fiction on the Web. What do I mean by that? I mean that there there isn’t a place that fuels pop culture for fiction the same way that Spotify and Netflix do. What exists is very programmatic. Where you go for discovery, the algorithms outnumber the curators, they don’t inform them.
Isn’t there a place you can just dive into and read and discover?
At Great Jones Street, our mission is simple. We want to introduce you to great stories and great writers. We want to be as indispensable a place for fiction as Spotify is for music, and to usher in a Golden Age of Reading the same way Netflix has done for episodic television.
Here’s my post about how we’re doing exactly that. How we’re golden. How we’re different. How we’re having fun in fiction and want you to join us. At the end, you may want to download the app. It’s free and no sign-up is required.
What makes Great Jones Street different?
For Great Jones Street to be successful, answering this question is our greatest obstacle. What makes us different? Everything. So let’s break this down one by one.
Great Jones Street is different because it’s purpose-built for the mobile lifestyle.
I don’t mean just the app. I also mean the stories, the art, the feel of it. The mobile lifestyle doesn’t put up with wasted time or wasted effort. Today’s consumer doesn’t tolerate bullshit. Get in. Get out. Get good or go home. If we earned a spot on your home screen, it’s not by accident.
Great Jones Street is different because we are polyamorous, just like readers.
Novels are relationships. Stories are one-night stands.
Short fiction is not an alternative to reading novels, it’s an addition to your regular fiction burn. Invoke. Indulge. Inhale. Spoil your vices. Learn to trust us and we’ll keep sending you great, short reads for your literary trysts.
Great Jones Street is on fire.
We have built the largest single stockpile of high quality fiction online period. We acquire stories faster than anyone else and we do it without relying on user-generated content or sacrificing quality.
If we publish it, it’s a great story. Guaranteed.
Great Jones Street is different because it packs an enormous value in a low cost.
If you bought fiction last year (and 150M Americans did just that in 2015), then you already spent more than you would for Great Jones Street. For 1,000 award-winning stories per year what should we charge? $1,000? $100? $10? You can guess where we landed.
We’re free for now and in the long run so cheap you can’t say no.
Great Jones Street is different because it’s smart and sexy both.
Is reading sexy? Yep. 100%
We celebrate this fact in both the kinds of stories we buy and in the way we present it to you. Everything from our album covers to the writers bios speaks to how much love we have for fiction, not how much your English Professor does. Not to bag on Professors. But, hey, sexy ain’t dressed in tweed.
Great Jones Street is different because it treats writers well.
Writers love us. Why? We treat them like the rock stars they are. We have created a platform where they can connect directly with their readers.
We also talk to them like their adults. I share my internal notes with them, that way writers know how they can help. They love being treated like an integral part of our success.
Bottom line: we all work hard and we’re all in this together.
Great Jones Street is different because it’s curated.
We acquire stories via referrals from our writers. There’s no slush pile. We trust great writers to make great recommendations.
We also create our catalogs that way. If we see a gap in our collection, we find someone who can help us. We had a gap in diversity and I reached out to our writers to send us more stories from and about people of color, LGBTQ and non-white-male-Americans. They did that and you’ll notice immediately that the effort paid off in a big way.
Geet Kothari, Carmen Machado and Mary Anne Mohanraj have helped curate a Women of Color section. John Joseph Adams helped us start our collections in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. Nick Mamatas helped us flesh out our Crime and Mystery Category. Susie Bright is helping us with Erotica.
Great Jones Street is different because it surprises.
We have great features and great stories both.
I love Science Fiction. I also love Southern Literary Fiction (Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Georgia, FTW). What I didn’t know I also loved was Erotica. I always knew I liked short Horror as novels but I had never read much short fiction since my Edgar Allen Poe days. Next up: crime and mystery. Now I can’t get enough.
For the app features, I love that I can start a virtual book club on Facebook or Slack using Great Jones Street. I love hearing authors read their stories (coming soon) which is honestly the best audiobook you can imagine. It’s so honest and real. Feels like I’m right there with them. Which they are of course. In the app and on social media. I love shouting out to writers on Twitter and having them shout back.
Great Jones Street is different because we’re lean, not a machine.
We are operating lean. Friends and family have invested. These are the who people bought into our vision, our team, our progress, and our business model.
Our model is simple: build a large audience of passionate readers of fiction. Impress them with quantity and quality. Convert them to subscribers.
It only takes a small fraction of the 150M buyers of fiction in the US to make us a wild success. Subscriptions should be $10/year. With a large enough audience it needn’t cost more.
The point is to make some money and pass it through to great writers from as many great readers as possible.
Great Jones Street is different because we value design and experience.
One of the things everyone tells us when we show them the app is how beautiful it is. It feels right. It feels familiar without being boring. It’s doesn’t feel like a stuffy literary journal. Nor does it feel like a retail-chain bookstore experience.
The app features a curated feed of great fiction which you can read straight away — no purchase or download necessary, just start reading. It’s a reliable pathway to an entertaining few minutes of reading. Open it again tomorrow, new stories, new voices, new worlds await.
The app and each story’s art work provide a great frame for great fiction. Every story gets an “album cover.” We read every story and classify it the same way that Pandora does songs. We write synopses. We tell you about the author. And we give you more targeted recommendations based on all of the above.
Experience doesn’t just come from design and content. It comes from community. Come chat with us on Slack or Facebook Messenger. We meet you where you already are. When you get there, we can chat #amreading #amwriting all you want. We feed your hunger for great fiction by linking you to great writers who are right there with you.
Great Jones Street respects your time.
You can read all of our fiction in a single sitting. Why? We’re big on vices.
Quality beer. Quality music. Quality love. Quality reading.
I get it. Your beach reading is already spoken for. Yet, those in-between moments when you want something fresh, we want you to experience it in its entirety.
We are deploying massive amounts of stories in a great package with just the right amount of tech just to make sure you a) never get bored, b) try new styles/genres/writers, and c) always come back for more.
Great Jones Street is different because it has a soul.
That is all.
I want to give a special thanks to Eliot Peper who sent me an email this morning saying these words, which inspired this post.
“I’m excited about what you’re building at GJS. We need a home for fiction on the internet.”
If you value fiction, download Great Jones Street here. 1,000’s of award winning stories in your pocket. Free (no signup required).
Then click “recommend” to tell me you love what we’re doing.
Here are some more screengrabs from the app.