Originally posted on my Contingency Writer’s Blog
Charles Dickens (Public Domain)
In 2014, I conducted a poll inquiring what readers thought of “book serializations.” Out of a varied group of 41
respondents, 31.7% indicated that they did not know the meaning of ‘book serialization.’ 26.9% indicated a relatively neutral attitude,19.5% had a negative outlook, and 14.7% were positive towards book serializations. The opinion of the remainder was dependent upon factors such as the genre of book serializations, and the format (e.g. comics, manga) .
Being only a group of 41 respondents, it isn’t a representative sample of the general readership. However, it did provide a measure of insight – these reactions were mixed or unestablished.
The meaning of ‘book serialization’ varies. Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote serials, although they varied in length. In general, a book serialization entails a story begin broken up into parts, and then published in a periodical or in eBook form, rather than the entirety of the story begin published in a novel.
The question to ask may be, ‘why serialize in the first place?’ Unless the traditional format is such (e.g. comic books), why serialize mainstream genres?
The answer for me was a multi-faceted one. Firstly, why not? The fact that it’s a relatively unseen medium in novel-dominated genres does not indicate that it is unsuccessful. Could it not open up an untapped market? I thought of myself. I used to be an avid reader of novels. From my elementary into early high school years (primary to secondary), I was frequently looking for new books. As my schoolwork increased, and I was given assigned readings, however, I found that my desire and ability to recreationally read decreased. I began to shy away from 300+ page books. Yet, if a story was short enough, I would be more likely to read it. For I still loved to read. Now, there are readers who make time no matter the workload. They’re ravenous readers year round. There are also readers like myself who enjoy reading, but find it more challenging to make time, and for which serials could be a fantastic prospect.
The Trials & Tribulations of Writing
Secondly, serials are great when there’s little time to spare on the writing. I had written about three novellas before I became interested in serializations. These novellas generally took a couple of years or more to develop, and I saw my writing style mature over the course of each project. However, I did not believe these novellas to be worthy of publication. I saw need for improvement. I then wrote two short stories (“War at Our Doorstep” and “400 Years of Silence”), which would become my first published eBooks. I felt fairly confident in my writing style, and the reviews I received were generally favorable if not exceeding my expectations. Shortly after, I had the idea for my current Detective Games series. The setting would vary across the world, and the character roster would be expansive. It would be a hefty project, and certainly take me beyond 300+ pages. But I wasn’t ready to write another novella, much less a novel. I was (am) in college and the coursework didn’t allow for as much free time or mental energy as I would require. So I wrote my first serial, and often found greater motivation than I had for my longer projects.
Thirdly, serials can be great for testing the market and trying out new ideas without fully committing to a novel. The idea of the Detective Games wasn’t an ordinary one. Detectives across the world linked by a common villain? Exploring the journeys of each detective, in each region (thus far the United States, France, England, and Ireland have been utilized. My vision is to include South American, Eastern European, Middle Eastern, African, and Asian countries with detective adventures as well) and then uniting them all in a finale? I wanted to get more feedback than could be offered by beta readers. Publishing serials could provide the feedback I needed (as indicated with the feedback I received with short stories), without requiring me to travel the globe and finish the novel first. Likewise, it could be beneficial to the readers who, as aforementioned, wanted shorter stories to read.
The upcoming second installment in The Detective Games series.
Finally, it could gradually provide resources and exposure. Over time, readers could discover the series as it was being released, as opposed to releasing a single colossal book or trilogy. It could generate more exposure through the additional releases, revenues to continue supporting the series (rather than potentially waiting for years, or even never earning enough to cover the costs of time spent), and allow for the series to be cancelled if the reaction was overly negative. The alternative being years upon years spent on a dismal book. Readers couldalso contribute to the series as it progressed by providing feedback and speculation – establishing a collaborative environment – rather than an author or editor calling all the shots. And it could be fun!
As it stands, the Detective Games has one installment. I’m receiving a great deal of feedback, and have finished the next installment and am having it beta read. Although the revenues are very small at this point, that’s not the point. I’m engaging readers and learning along the way. Revenues can come as the series progresses and gains greater exposure. In my experience, serializations are a worthwhile endeavor. In addition to benefits separate to author and reader, they may also serve to bring both groups closer together. That’s ideal in establishing a lasting impact.
- I’ve been utilizing Write On by Kindle, Goodreads, and WattPad to gather more feedback prior to publishing serials, and I’ve received a great deal of constructive feedback!