There’s an app for short fiction, and it’s Great Jones Street. A little while ago I had a chance to ask the forces behind GJS some questions, and Kelly Abbott, one of the creative forces behind GJS, took the time to answer some questions.
What is Great Jones Street and why should people download this on their phone?
Kelly Abbott: We think of Great Jones Street as “the Netflix of short fiction.” It’s where you can discover great stories by world-class storytellers, curated by the community of writers themselves. It’s free. It’s got award winning fiction in every genre and many classics from the canon of short fiction.
Where did the idea for Great Jones Street come from?
Kelly Abbott: I’ve been building products for publishers and social networks for a while. My last startup did pretty well and it afforded me the chance to choose my next battle. Given that I’ve done so much work in publishing and social media in the past I looked to the family business to see how I could apply my skills there. My dad is the accomplished story writer, Lee K. Abbott. I had been plugging along on a couple of ideas for a while and was talking with him about his stories one day and then looked at my phone and had my a-ha moment.
As for ideas, they’re a dime a dozen. I’m old enough and practical enough to know that ideas aren’t worth crap alone. So I did my research and found that there just weren’t any publishers or technology companies out there pitching the short story, which I believed was a match made in heaven for the mobile phone.
My next step was to talk to writers. They loved it. Summarily.
After that, I talked with readers. I spent a few dollars on ads and discovered that people I didn’t know actually felt the way I do. Once I had proof, I started buying stories and began building my team and product soon after that.
The site has some truly incredible artwork.
Where is the artwork coming from?
Kelly Abbott: Thanks for noticing. Slight correction there. We are an app primarily. We do have a publication on Medium. But we like to think of ourselves as an app company.
That said, our artwork and branding in general are very important to us. We have an Art Director, Aaron Davis, who lives in LA and a Director of Design, Tricia Phelps who lives in Columbus. It should be noted that we also employ 6 readers who read all of our stories and create our documentation that explain what the story is about and how we can market it. All told we publish about 1,000 stories per year and our machine, as it were, allows us to get readers 3 fresh stories a day all with album art. The art is the finished product but there’s a lot of stuff happening behind the scenes to make it happen.
How did you acquire the stories for the launch?
Kelly Abbott: We are constantly acquiring stories. I bought 9 stories by 5 new writers tonight as a matter of fact. We ask our writers to recommend other writers and their stories all the time. We say our stories are curated by our writers themselves. It’s a pretty lax editorial policy but it hasn’t resulted in any shortage of quality at all. It’s simply the best way we could think of that would allow us to acquire such a large volume of stories so quickly without sacrificing quality. Poor writing is a huge turn-off for readers and we can’t afford that now or ever. We have a lot of pride in our work, our writers, and therefore we always point to Great Jones Street as a premium brand.
Is there a way for writers to submit new content to you? Must all stories be previously published, or are you open to unpublished works?
Kelly Abbott: We do take new, previously unpublished stories. We acquire them similarly. Writers make recommendations and we make offers accordingly.
GJS seems to have embraced technology to find a new way to reach readers. Do you see technology as an asset to storytelling? Could you ever imagine expanding beyond short stories to novellas?
Kelly Abbott: We think the best experience we can offer a reader is one that is different from their other reading options. You can buy novellas and novels in print or eBooks. And we don’t want to compete with that. However, I would be lying if I said I didn’t have three novels and two novellas in our catalog. We do. And we’re working with the writers to serialize them which makes sense for our readership and our product experience. Short “doses” of fiction to cure your addiction!
Kelly Abbott: We really want to work with publishers and agents to give
them an additional channel for their most promising writers. If they find us and say, “Hey, you know what? Let’s work with Great Jones Street to launch a career,” I’m happy!
Where is the GJS ap available?
Android and Apple, both. You can download the directly from our home page: https://www.
Things certainly seem to have gone well with the launch as far as I can tell. Really like the look and feel of the site.
Kelly Abbott: Thanks, Sandra. I’d like to encourage your readers to also join us on Slack. We use it to augment our own app with discussions. We have a very active #amreading thread where readers discuss our stories together and authors themselves are involved in many of these discussions. It’s pretty cool what we’re able to do when we work so closely with so many talented writers. Have you readers join us on Slack here:
For more information about Great Jones Street, visit their website. GJS will reopen to fiction submissions in June.