American self-published fantasy novelist Samantha Warren draws our attention to the growing market and potential success of serial fiction, drawing on her own experience as the author of a best-selling ten-part sequence of novellas about vampires.
The Penny Dreadful Gets a New Skin
Ce-re-al [seer-ee-uh l]: any plant of the gra…
Se-ri-al [seer-ee-uh l]: anything published, broadcast, etc., in short installments at regular intervals, as a novel appearing in successive issues of a magazine
When we think of serials, we often think of television. How many times have you waited impatiently for a week, a month, heck, even years, for your favorite show to finally return? How often have you chomped at the bit as you counted down the minutes to The Walking Dead or Sherlock?
The History of Serial Fiction
Serials have existed in fiction for a very long time. Books were expensive back in the 19th century, so they were printed in installments in order to keep the price low. Charles Dickens, often heralded as one of the greatest early self-publishers, was also one of the most successful writers of serialized fiction. Another big name, Alexandre Dumas, was a very prolific serial novelist, publishing both The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers in serial format. In fact, serialization worked so well, it was considered the way to go by popular authors during the time.
Penny Dreadfuls & Dime Novels
You’ve heard the terms “penny dreadful” and “dime novel”. These were generally serialized fiction, short installments of a larger series that could be purchased on the cheap. These quick, literary thrills encouraged reading and were treated much like baseball cards among the youth: traded, collected, and used as bargaining tools. You can read old dime novels on the Stanford website.
But as printing got cheaper, publishers realized it was more cost effective to print longer books. Page counts grew. Serialized fiction was dead.
Or was it?
Serial Writing in the 21st Century
With the invention of the internet, and specifically e-readers, things began to turn around for the serialized novel. People could write short bits and pieces of their novels and self-publish them:
- without having to reach a minimum word count
- without having to go through the gatekeepers of traditional publishing
- without being rejected because they couldn’t or wouldn’t produce massive tomes of literature
Sites popped up all over the web where people could post their stories and share them with the public. Then came the Kindle and it became even easier.
As self-publishing flourishes, so does the serial. As technology increases, attention spans decrease. Reading as it was is falling by the wayside. The younger generations don’t want to commit to a 400-page book that’s going to take them a week (or a month) to read. They want their entertainment and they want it now. They want short snippets that they can devour in an hour. They want fun, easy-to-read excitement that mimics their favorite television shows. They want serials.
Serials for E-readers
With the invention of the e-reader, serialized fiction is back on the market and gaining ground, albeit slowly. There is a whole subset of readers out there who love serials, who wait just as impatiently for the next episode of their favorite book as they do for their favorite television show. Just ask Sean Platt and Johnny B Truant, who made their names in the serial world.
My best-selling series consists of novellas, all under 20,000 words, that follow the story of a single vampire, Jane. My readers devour them faster than I can write them. And my new serial, Space Grease & Pixie Dust, hit #10 on Amazon’s Steampunk list in a just one day.
I’ve heard a lot of smack talk about serials, but I think they’re going to be very big in the near future. The penny dreadful is making a comeback. Will we now call it the Dollar Dreadful?
To make it easier to share this post via Twitter, here’s our suggested tweet:
“Why you should consider self-publishing serials in the age of the e-reader by @_SamanthaWarren via @IndieAuthorALLi http://selfpublishingadvice.org/writing-why-nows-a-good-time-to-self-publish-serial-fiction“