Books On Sale

Free Short Story: Serial by Jack Kilborn and Blake Crouch

Want a free horror/thriller short story by Jack Kilborn and Blake Crouch? Sure, right? If it’s an ACTUAL short story, right?  Not just a chapter or a random bit of teasing, or some crap like that? (St. Martin’s and Lora Leigh, are your digital ears burning?)

You can has short story – and prepare to be wowed with the bonus awesomeness of your choice of PDF OR ePub format – courtesy of the brilliant minds at Hachette. They also provided the following description:

Remember the twin golden rules of hitchhiking?

# 1: Don’t go hitchhiking, because the driver who picks you up could be certifiably crazy.

# 2: Don’t pick up hitchhikers, because the traveler you pick up could be raving nutcase.

So what if, on some dark, isolated road, Crazy #1 offered a ride to Nutcase #2?

When two of the most twisted minds in the world of horror fiction face off, the result is SERIAL, a terrifying tale of hitchhiking gone terribly wrong.  Like a deeply twisted version of an “After School Special,” SERIAL is the single most persuasive public service announcement on the hazards of free car rides.

Beyond a thrilling piece of horrifying suspense, SERIAL is also a groundbreaking experiment in literary collaboration. Jack Kilborn wrote the first part. Blake Crouch wrote the second. And they wrote the third together over email in 100-word exchanges, not aware of each other’s opening section. All bets were off, and may the best psycho win.

The SERIAL eBook contains the novella, SERIAL, a Q&A with Kilborn and Crouch, author bibliographies, and excerpts from their most recent and forthcoming works: Kilborn’s Afraid and Crouch’s Abandon.

Holy crap, can we count the ways in which this is a neat and savvy marketing idea? Two authors collaborate on a short story to be distributed virally in advance of their new book releases. They base the narrative on a scary familiar trope and use a twist in the writing process itself to create curiosity. Then the marketing wizard sends the original files for me to offer for download to my readers, with a choice of two formats.

That’s so awesome, I may have to hitchhike to Hachette and proclaim them awesome in person.

Download your choice of the Serial PDF or Serial ePub here, and let me know what you think.


Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    tracykitn says:

    oh oh oh oh oh my. thank goodness it’s still sorta early in the morning, and I have all day to work that to the back of my mind where it won’t give me nightmares.

    God I hope!

  2. 2
    theo says:

    Brilliant indeed! Awesome marketing idea, promo, whatever you want to call it, it’s too bad other pubs don’t do this too.

    And if you proclaim them awesome in person, pictures! ;-)

  3. 3
    Mary Stella says:

    Oh, thank you, thank you!  I recently read Jack Kilborn’s Afraid.  What a freaking scary book, but I was captured by the excellent storytelling.  (Did I mention it was freaking scary?)  I wrote a review of it on my blog, too.  Great book!

  4. 4
    Jessica G. says:

    I saw this in the “free” section on Sony. Still deciding (I don’t even like scary movies, what’s going to happen if I read a scary book?).

    Still, mad props to Hachette.

  5. 5
    KeriM says:

    Oh I cannot wait to read this!!! Kilborn aka JA Konrath has such a twisted sense of humor I know it is going to be good.

  6. 6
    kristen says:

    Great review.  You actually had me curious enough to come out of lurkdom to thank you for mentioning it.

    PDF’d it for later today. 


  7. 7

    Oh wow, loved it! Brutal but fascinating, especially when considering their account of how they wrote it. The authors not knowing what the other was doing gave it such a layer of surprise and tension!

    Very very cool.

  8. 8
    Kim says:

    Interesting! I can’t wait to read it, even if it’s not my normal kind of book.

    Just FYI, though—the ePub link comes up gibberish for me, rather than a file. Might just be me, though. PDF worked fine!

  9. 9
    Babs says:

    Ohhhh, yeah! I am telecommuting today and this is going to be hard to resist.

  10. 10
    darlynne says:

    What a great idea for a book and look how effective this marketing tool is. Too scared to read it, too intrigued not to try. Curse you, Smart Bitches!

  11. 11
    darlynne says:

    Duplicate. Sorry.

  12. 12
    Jessa Slade says:

    Took my lunch break early to read it.  Eew.  Great story.

  13. 13
    Elise Logan says:

    Well. I downloaded it. It’s staring at me. I’m not reading it tonight. No way. Uh-uh. Not gonna do it. No. I’m really not.


    How am I supposed to sleep now?

  14. 14
    Meggrs says:

    Definitely a great marketing effort, but I confess to being underwhelmed by the short story. The setup of both major characters is great (gross, ew) but the climax was rushed—there was so much MORE they could have done, and it seemed like they started to set up a great cat-and-mouse one-uppsmanship game that abruptly ended. I really think it could have been better—it wasn’t bad, it just left me very, very unsatisfied. When I read a short, I want to finish it feeling like I need to glom the author’s books now now now to get more. Didn’t happen here, but that’s just my take on the story itself—not enough of the good stuff once the MCs met and interacted.

    Also? Two glaring typos in a 42 page story. I know that typos happen in printed books, too, but in electronic format, and with little material, those errors feel bad to me; like the value of the story was such that no one felt the need to proof it with love (this is an exaggeration, I know errors happen, but it doesn’t inspire me with confidence ever). I don’t generally read e-books, so this may not be representative AT ALL of the general quality levels.

    I don’t WANT electronic content to feel “cheap” to me—I want to value it as much as a printed and bound book, but I do end up feeling like the combination of rushed resolution and obvious typos represents the idea that the story was not treated with the respect and attention to detail that I would want from two published authors with a major publisher.

    I know, I know—it’s free and I’m bitching. Some people can never be satisfied…


  15. 15
    anonymous says:

    Meggrs: This. Maybe the rushed resolution was because they collaborated on it and the pacing didn’t turn out like they had hoped.

    Frankly, I was hoping for the two of them to pat each other on the back, exchange techniques, and go their separate ways in the serial killer version of live-and-let-live—or even team up.

    (Would have made a good horror movie?)

  16. 16
    Meggrs says:

    That’s always possible, anonymous! I did read their story of how they wrote the piece, which was cute and very creative in terms of letting the story evolve, but honestly I’d have to rank it unsuccessful. Again, just my opinion—it might have been a perfect byte of character work and action for someone else.

  17. 17
    Mrs. Blunt says:

    I’m anal and stopped reading at the typo (breads – when referring to a breed of dog). I might go back to it another time.

  18. 18

    I liked it, typos and all.

    Having hitch-hiked myself in the pre-cellphone-and-I-owned-crummy-vehicles-that-broke-down-frequently era, this story gave me shivers.

  19. 19
    Jack Kilborn says:

    Arrgghhh! I hate it when typos get through!

    Eighteen people read this before it went out, and we all missed “breads.” Please let me know if there are others, and I’ll get them fixed. :(

    That said, thanks all for the input.

    @Meggrs – I can’t speak for Blake, but I didn’t feel we rushed the resolution because, frankly, I didn’t want to spend any more time with either of these horrible characters. This piece was experimental, both in concept and in structure, and it lacked a fundamental storytelling element: a hero.

    Neither the hitcher or the hitchee were in any way heroes. Because of that, there wasn’t really anyone to root for. Sustaining a narrative without a hero for more than a few dozen pages didn’t interest me.

    Thanks everyone who took the time to download, read, and comment.

    @Sarah – I’m not sure we were introduced at RT, but my buddy Barry Eisler was quite impressed by you, and he isn’t easily impressed. Thanks so much for hosting SERIAL, and let me know if I can return the favor somehow.

  20. 20
    Mrs. Blunt says:

    I’ll read the rest now and list any other typos if I spot any.

  21. 21
    Jack Kilborn says:

    @ Mrs. Blunt – Thanks!

    Email me your address and I’ll send you a free book. If SERIAL isn’t to your liking, I also write funny mysteries under the name JA Konrath.

  22. 22
    Meggrs says:

    Thanks for your comments, Jack! As I said, I can only say why I found it unsatisfying personally, and I would never presume your (or Blake’s) intent. You did what you set out to do, and you’re happy with the result, which is the only thing that can be asked or expected.

    It’s entirely possible that the fact that I found myself wanting to see MORE of the interaction between two hideous people simply says unflattering things about me. :)

  23. 23
    Jack Kilborn says:

    @ Meggrs – On the contrary, I think your opinion is spot-on. If something doesn’t work for a reader, it’s the writer’s fault. I humbly thank you for your thoughts.

    That said, you’re also welcome to email me your address, and I’ll pop a signed copy of AFRAID in the mail for you. :)

  24. 24
    KeriM says:

    Jack, I loved this short story and I thought that ya’ll did a great job. I thought it worked out beautfully for the two of you. I love all your short stories. Yes, yes I admit to being a fangirl so sue me. :-) I even put the link up on the F. Paul Wilson board for all those crazies over there. Afraid is on the top of my TBR pile as well speak.

  25. 25
    Jack Kilborn says:

    @KeriM – Thanks for the kind words (and thanks to everyone else who has replied here.) I don’t want to hijack this thread since I’m a guest here, but anyone else who wants to say kind things about me can email me directly, or post on my blog or message board, and I’ll send you some swag.

    The whole point of releasing SERIAL as a free ebook is to expand name-recognition and brand, and make people aware of what types of books Jack Kilborn writes. Marketing isn’t about selling something to someone who doesn’t want it. Marketing is about finding people who are looking for what you have to offer (and I say “offer” not “sell” because when you’re first introduced to a brand, it’s all about what the brand can give you, not the money the brand can take from you.)

    SERIAL seems to have been an effective way to brand, because Kilborn’s Amazon numbers are up, and a lot of people seem to be downloading it.

    I give my publisher a lot of credit for the work they’ve done promoting a freebie (and a twisted one at that) and I feel lucky to be working with such a smart group of women. I firmly believe that fiction, like drugs and kung-pow chicken samples at the mall foodcourt, should be given away for free, because those who dig it will come back for more.

  26. 26
    Mrs. Blunt says:

    I love SERIAL, actually. It’s the main genre I write in. I’ll email you when I’m finished. I don’t want to list what I’ve found so far on here. It would look like I’m being more anal than usual and just being mean.


  27. 27
    Meggrs says:

    I absolutely agree about the spot-on Marketing efforts. It’s unlikely that I’d have been exposed to titles by either author, but a free short story is a great way to whet a potential reader’s appetite and introduce the author to a new audience. Kudos to Hachette, for sure.

    Thanks for being such a gracious guest, Jack. I’d actually very much like to delve into your longer work, so I’ll take you up on your generous offer and email you.

  28. 28
    Blake Crouch says:

    Just wanted to say thanks Sarah for hosting our SERIAL! (love your site), and to everyone who’s indulged Jack and I and read this little tale and been kind enough to comment.  In reply to some of the questions raised, I have to second what Jack said….first, on the typos—-DAMN!!!!—we hate it when that happens, and we’ll get it corrected.  On the second point about the end being rushed, these are awful, awful, awful people we wrote about. The story’s 7500 words and my brain needed a good scrubbing after we finished writing it.  I’m not sure writing a story starring two villains could have successfully carried much further.  In retrospect, I do wish Joe and I had subtitled it: SERIAL: A love story.  Donaldson and Lucy are perfect for each other. Probably the closest thing to soul mates they ever had a hope of finding.
    Thanks to all!

  29. 29
    Mrs. Blunt says:

    I’ve sent the things I found to Jack.

    Apart from those, SERIAL was indeed my cup of tea. I think the ending being disappointing is literally because I like reading and writing about these kinds of people, so I wanted more info on them. Therefore, the marketing worked for this reader, because I’m going to buy AFRAID at the end of the month and look at Blake’s books too. If they’re sick, I’ll buy them.

    That makes me sound a tad deranged. Hmmm.

  30. 30
    Heather says:

    I read the story yesterday. I am still thinking about it today. I am going to the bookstore today to see what books I can find by these authors.  Thanks for posting the freebie!

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