Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Are You Serial?!

The idea of serial storytelling, that is, publishing a story in installments, is not a new idea.  Charles Dickens might be the most well-known author that has utilized the serial story idea, but the idea has never died out completely, but languished in niche areas.  That has been changing along with the publishing industry as a whole.

Why publish a story as a serial instead of all at once?  Well, for starters, it was a way for an up-and-coming author to make a name for him or herself.  It was much less expensive to offer the story in small parts in a weekly newspaper, and it had the added benefit for the newspaper that folks would continue to purchase their paper so they could continue to enjoy the story being told.  To publish a full book was very expensive, primarily because so much work went into laying out each page.  Mass production of books was not yet a part of the book publishing industry.

Then, as it became cheaper to produce books, and paperback versions came out, further reducing the costs, books were no longer relegated to only those who could command the largest reading audience.  Lesser known authors could see their works printed and bound in book form, and as such the serial form of writing, for the most part, went away.  It remained in various places and served it's purpose in those niche areas, but until recently had not come back to a place of prominence.

Today, thanks to the flexibility of ereaders like the Kindle and Nook, serial publishing has once again gained the favor of authors and readers alike.  It's very inexpensive to publish a serial story (very near to zero, if you know what you're doing) and you have the potential audience of millions around the world.  Dickens would be envious of such a lofty position!

So, what about you?  Have you thought about writing a story that is delivered in serial form?  Amazon actually has a special program dedicated just to serials.  You would pay one price, and you would then get all of the parts to the serial delivered to you as they get published.  And it doesn't matter when you purchase the serial - if you get it after the 3rd installment, you'd get all three installments right away and then all future installments after that.  You'll never miss an episode!

I think I'd like to try it, and it would be a great medium for ongoing detective-type characters and others.  It's worked great for TV shows, such as Lost, Mad Men, Fringe and others, why not for books?  What other sorts of story lines might work well for this serialization idea?  I'm excited to find out!


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