Back in the early days of the novel, one of the most popular forms of publication was the serial. Charles Dickens, who was famously paid by the word, was only one of many authors in the Victorian era to publish what we now consider classics in installments, beginning with The Pickwick Papers published in 1836. Other works published in installments include Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Madame Bovary.
But as the cost of printing novels went down, the serialization of novels began to fall out of favor. Only recently have prominent authors began experimenting with the form again, notably Michael Chabon’s serialization of his novel Gentlemen of the Road in 2007. Some have even taken to micro-serialization, in the case of Jennifer Egan, who, earlier this year, published an entire short story through Twitter.
With the rise of electronic readers, and the ceaseless refreshing of one’s eBook library (along with renewed interest in short fiction) it seems only natural that serials would make a return. Renowned self-published author Neal Pollack has begun selling a serialized novel, Downward-Facing Death with installments that automatically downloaded to eReaders as they are released. The reader only needs to purchase the first installment to receive the following ones. The Huffington Post has also started publishing serialized novels, much like other news outlets would back in the day.
The idea of serializing a novel is an incredible opportunity for authors looking to take advantage of multi-platform publishing. Not only does it allow them to gradually build a fan base throughout the publication of a novel, but it gives the author time to gauge the reaction to certain characters or techniques, and change accordingly to his audience’s reaction (Dickens did this as well).
Serialization also lets readers weave in and out of a particular story, which readers are apt to do anyway with eReaders. It lets readers take a break, and then delve back into the book whenever their next installment arrives. For writers of the suspense or detective genres, the cliffhanger aspect of serials will keep readers on edge, constantly refreshing their libraries to see if the next installment has arrived. For writers, it will give them time to breathe and continue to write, even after parts of it are published.
Check out our follow-up blog post: How To: Serialize with Lulu
Would you ever write a serialized novel?