USA Today on Skeleton Creek 2009

Anthony Zuiker, creator of the hit TV series CSI and its two spinoffs, says his new multimedia “digi-novel” will launch a “revolution in publishing for the YouTube generation.”Level 26: Dark Origins, to be published by Dutton Sept. 8, is the first in a series in which each book will be supplemented with 20 videos, or “cyber-bridges,” featuring actors playing characters from the novel.The series, written with Duane Swierczynski, features a rogue investigator who hunts serial killers.The title refers to 25 levels used by law enforcement to classify serial killers. Zuiker vows to introduce readers – and viewers – to level 26.After every 20 pages or so, readers will be able to go online to watch a three-minute video. The videos are designed, Zuiker says, “to embellish the novel and drive readers to the next book.”Dutton’s Brian Tart, who signed Zuiker to a seven-figure, three-book deal, calls the idea “unprecedented mainly because of the quality” of the videos Zuiker is directing, which star Daniel Buran (CSI) and Bill Duke (Cold Case).Two of the videos, recently previewed for the media, were as slickly produced as any network TV episode.Publishers are using websites and low-budget videos, but mostly to promote books, not as part of the book itself.Zuiker coined the term “digi-novel” (for digital) but isn’t the first to combine text and video.Scholastic, the children’s publisher, uses a website to add to clues in its best-selling series The 39 Clues and has a multimedia ghost-story series.Patrick Carman’s Skeleton Creek, released in February, is split into two parts told by two characters: one through the text and the other via videos on a website.Zuiker, 40, brings TV experience to what he calls “a triple platform”: books, videos and an interactive fan website, designed by the creators of lonelygirl15, the popular teenage blogger who turned out to be fiction.He says that he lacks patience to read a 400-page book, but that his 384-page debut, “in the style of James Patterson,” will be more than “just a book on the shelf. You can watch the story on film and log in to unlock deeper levels of the experience.”Tart says Zuiker’s novels “have to stand on their own as books, and they do. But publishers need to experiment with new ways of engaging readers. Books were a primary form of entertainment when there were only a couple of TV channels and no Internet.”

Patrick Carman