Eat Your Serial (The Overdue Comeback of Serial Fiction)

Eat your serial, boy. Dickens Crunch.

So about a month ago, wherever I turned online, I kept running into the notion that serial fiction is making a comeback. For those of you unfamiliar, serial fiction is fiction that is published by episode or part, in a small enough dose that the reader can fit each one in during lunch break. At first, I thought this phenomenon was suited only for print magazines. After doing more research on Amazon I found that a lot of authors were writing serials and publishing them on the Kindle store. Amazon even has a Kindle Serials section on its website now. You buy the first episode for $1.99 and get each subsequent one for free. Recently, an indie fantasy author who has managed to write for a living, largely in part from the success of her Emperor’s Edge series of books, published a blog post about Kindle Serials. Being in the writing process with several books myself, I decided I wanted in on this phenomenon, for several reasons:

1. It allowed me to get my work out sooner.

2. It allowed a greater concentration of focus on editing, since I would be working with smaller chunks of text.

3. It could possibly lead to increased revenue for an indie author such as myself who averages, at the moment, maybe thirty dollars income a month from selling books.

So, my first course of action was to submit my, as I’m dubbing it, “lost in spacetime” thriller to Amazon Kindle Serials. If serial fiction does make a comeback, as Amazon wants, I would likely have a great deal of success having them as my publisher–god knows the advertising they can do within their own site. Once I sent in my book, along with their requirements (one page bio, one page summary of the entire book’s plot, a pitch, and the first two episodes of the story), I waited. For seven days. Then I grew impatient. I emailed several other published Kindle Serials authors. Their replies were not very encouraging. One of them replied: I have a friend who submitted in October (I submitted on January 7th) and they are published multiple times over and have an agent, and they still haven’t heard back. Thus my hope for a quick reply was gone. I decided–why wait? I’ve done everything else on my own, why not this too? So I published Black Hull on my own. Here’s the cover art I designed:

On Black Hull’s first day, it sold three copies. Not too shabby. I am hoping that momentum continues. Once I put the next two episodes out (all of which are already written), I will probably use some of my KDP free days to try and get some more people hooked. Who knows, I may even pay for advertising again somewhere. Not yet though.

So does the idea of serial fiction making a comeback make sense? I think it does in some ways:

1. People want to be able to read something quickly, just like they tune into their sitcom or drama on TV for a one half hour period each week. They get drawn in, and then get angry or upset when it’s over, just like what happens when reading serial fiction.

2. Shorter attention spans are rampant in today’s technocentric society. This kind of burst-reading fits in nicely to that model.

3. The entry cost is a lot cheaper than buying a full-length novel. Spend 0.99 cents for your first episode and see if you like it. If not, you don’t keep reading.

4. Fans can often influence the overall outcome of a book if it’s being written as it is serialized.

Of course, there are some downsides…

1. The author may never finish the book.

2. The book may lose quality or the interest of its readers halfway through.

3. Readers may feel cheated by the serial model, and angry that they bought something so short.

I know that as I perused the serials for sale on Amazon now, I saw a lot of mixed reviews, and most of the negative ones stemmed from the short length of the serial. This “rip your book on length” aspect of publishing serially comes with the territory I think, but it may get better as awareness of the model itself spreads and catches on. For example, Black Hull: Episode 1 is only 22 pages long. That may hurt me if people don’t realize it is the opener for a serial novel, or if they expected something different. But I wanted to ensure that readers finish the episode in one sitting, and that it leaves them on the edge of their seat. Will all my episodes be that short? No–most will be longer, some a lot longer. I’d love to hear your thoughts about the possibility of this format catching on.

5 Thoughts on “Eat Your Serial (The Overdue Comeback of Serial Fiction)

  1. Pingback: Joseph A. Turkot | Black Hull: Episode 1 (A Lost in Spacetime Thriller)

  2. Pingback: Joseph A. Turkot | Black Hull: Episode 1 (A Lost in Spacetime Thriller)

  3. Pingback: Joseph A. Turkot | Use To Sell Your eBooks

  4. Hi Joseph! I think I’ve seen you hanging out on Kboards. 🙂 I have a serial, too. Mine is ongoing, though, which has made it a little hard for me to gain traction.

    I’ve learned a lot while writing it, though. For one, my next serial will have longer episodes; the first two seasons were 1,000 words each, with the intention of allowing readers to only have to take short breaks from their days to read it. My readers wanted longer episodes, though, so I bumped them up to 3,000 words in Season Three. That still doesn’t feel long enough to me, haha, so Season Four will be 8,000-word episodes. That’s the beauty of writing “live.” We get our readers’ input and can make adjustments as we go!

    How far in advance do you plot your serial? I do one season at a time, with an idea of where the overall plot is going.

  5. josephturkot on November 7, 2013 at 8:26 pm said:

    I’m plotting the current serial, The Rain – A Post-Apocalyptic Story, one part in advance. I also bumped up the length of each episode, going with a 15k minimum per episode. Making the first episode permafree really helps.

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