The emergence of search engine optimization (SEO) significantly changed the way that web content is created. Will the digitization of e-books, and the offering of free sample chapters, change the way that books are plotted and written? This is the question asked by Alan Jacobs in an article on The Atlantic. And he finds that in some ways it already is.
Jacobs points out that a number of authors are trying to plot their books so that a major cliffhanger occurs at the end of the 10% that Amazon provides in its sample chapters. He also notes that the way the Kindle keeps track of where people are in the book and where they stop reading could provide feedback for authors interested in updating and tweaking their books to “fix” the problems that make people stop.
It’s an interesting idea, to be sure. We’ve already seen a number of examples of narrative structure being influenced by the form in which stories have been written. For example, the serialized works of the 19th century often ended each chapter in cliffhangers to draw people back in from month to month. And a lot of writers will be willing to try anything that might look like it could sell them more books.