Even the Wall Street Journal supports serial novels. Readers love their bite-sized content.

Featured as a serial on Caleb and Linda Pirtle.
Featured as a serial on Caleb and Linda Pirtle.


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.

Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne began as a serial.
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne began as a serial.

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.

Featured as a serial on Caleb and Linda Pirtle.
Featured as a serial on Caleb and Linda Pirtle.

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.

Secrets of the Dead Amazon coverSecrets of the Dead began as a serial novel on Caleb and Linda Pirtle. Please click the book cover to learn more about the novel.


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  • Roger Summers

    Venture Galleries obviously is way out front on this.

    • I’m just delighted that the big boys like the idea, too. We may not have been out front, but we were running with them.

  • Leslie Moon

    yeah for the bare foot country boys
    Glad to hear Venture is going so well

    • It always goes better when you’re a part of it.

  • Cindy Amrhein

    And who can forget Arthur Conan Doyle’s tales? Granted when I read Sherlock Holmes when they were in book form, but that is what got me hooked on mysteries. Can you imagine waiting a whole month for the next piece of The Hound of the Baskervilles?

    • Cindy: With Sherlock Holmes, it would be worth the way. Right now, the debate is whether to separate serial chapters by a week in order to copy episodic television, or present new chapters every day, which keeps the flow of the story intact and readers in place. In an impatient society, most readers don’t want to waste a week. Some of the more popular serials we publish run three times a week, and that may be about right.

      • Caleb and Cindy, it is an interesting question. On Kindle serials I know they parcel them out over time and readers have said they find it hard to wait for the next installment. Which is strange because the wait is what makes a serial a serial. However, the frequency of the posts is a big issue. I tend to agree with Caleb that maybe three times per week is a good answer. The problem with that approach is that it means most writers will have to have the book already written in order to keep up with that schedule which also defeats part of the purpose because it turns a serial into a serialization and doesn’t require the author to work without a net. Except for Caleb, of course, who always works without a net.

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