Even the Wall Street Journal supports serial novels. Readers love their bite-sized content.
April 15, 2013
Stephen Woodfin and I grew up in an era when the highlight of our week was to settle down in the darkness of the air-conditioned Crim Theater in downtown Kilgore on a Saturday morning and watch the next episode of a new serial.
Maybe Flash Gordon.
Maybe Don Winslow, United States Navy.
Maybe Captain Marvel.
It didn’t matter.
We were just a couple of barefoot country boys hooked on those cliffhangers, which would leave our imagination hanging in limbo for a whole week.
Neither Stephen nor I ever quite got over them.
Last year, we decided that serialized novels – featured as regular short fiction – might be a grand way for authors to show off their talent in an effort to build their names, their brands, and their books.
We thought it was a great idea.
It has really taken off.
With the advent of the serials, our monthly readership has quadrupled, which means that a lot more people are reading a lot more serials and learning about a lot more authors who have a lot more great books under their belts.
But don’t pay any attention to us.
I’ve already told you.
We’re still just a couple of barefoot country boys.
But now, a legendary bastion of journalism – The Wall Street Journal, no less – has come along, caught the boat late, and admitted that publishing serials just might be the hottest idea around.
In an article written by Alexandra Alter, the Journal pointed out: Serialized fiction, an all-but-lost art form that was practiced by such literary giants as Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, and Joseph Conrad, is rebounding in the digital era. The growing use of tablets, smartphones, and e-ink devices has created a vibrant new market for short fiction as readers flock to stories they can digest in one sitting.
She didn’t mention it, but Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne began as a serial as well.
So what’s going on out there?
St. Martins Press published five serial novels in the past year, and three more are in the wings.
Penguin’s digital romance imprint has begun testing serialized romance and erotica. Three titles have been released thus far, and several more are scheduled.
Tor, which specializes in science fiction and fantasy, has released an epic by John Scalzi in thirteen weekly episodes.
And Amazon, which is to be expected, has led the way with thirty novels making up its heralded Kindle Serials program.
And somewhere out there, flying far beneath The Wall Street Journal radar, is Caleb and Linda Pirtle, which has completed publication or is in the midst of publishing twenty-four serials. Chapters are released once a week or every day, depending on the whims of the authors.
Apparently serials produced by barefoot country boys did not make the cut at The Wall Street Journal, which is fine. The Wall Street Journal’s not big in Arp, Overton, Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo, and Blair either.
Sean Platt, who has co-authored six digital serial novels, explained: “The Charles Dickens model actually fits better now than ever because people want bite-size content.”
So here we are.
Day after day.
Week after week.
Producing bite-sized content.
Our goal is for bite-sized content to ultimate translate into big-time sales for some of the country’s best authors, who all happen to be Indie in nature.
And we’ve come to realize that Sean Platt was right.
Short fiction works.
So do cliffhangers.
Even if you’re wearing shoes on your bare feet.