Sun 6 Jun 2010
Many famous novels have appeared in serial form but, perhaps the most famous serial wasn’t a novel at all. In 1914 the motion picture serial, The Perils of Pauline, was shown in installments. The title character is the archetype for “damsels in distress” as each episode featured her getting embroiled in various life-threatening situations – like being tied to the railroad tracks. The heroine, of course, was inevitably rescued or escaped certain death – only to get herself into trouble again next time.
Pauline aside, a host of acclaimed books have been serialized. One of the first was One Thousand And One Nights which introduced famous characters like Sinbad the Sailor and Aladdin. One of the most famous serial authors was Charles Dickens who published each chapter as a serialized piece. That’s why most of his work is so long - more chapters equal more money. Dickens’ left off each piece with a cliffhanger. Famously, for his chase story The Old Curiosity Shop, American fans waiting at the docks to meet the ships bringing in the next installment shouted at the ships’ crew demanding to be told whether Little Nell was dead.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created his Sherlock Holmes tales as serial pieces for a magazine. Thomas Hardy created many pieces via serialization, including Tess Of The D’Urbervilles. More recent writers have also returned to the format. Stephen King has dabbled in the genre. King began offering “The Plant” in serial form on his website, charging $1.00 for each of the 6 chapters that he’d written. However, in late 2000 he abruptly halted the project, leaving readers without an ending. Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities was serialized by Rolling Stone magazine, and Douglas Clegg got a 5 figure advance for serialization of his novel, Nightmare House.
Some of the next entries to the long list of serial novels will be a couple of the new ones that I’m currently writing. I’m planning to serialize my new historical (tentatively titled either The Duke Regent’s Dilemma, The Duke Regent’s Eden, or Eden Without The Apple — Hey, it’s a work in progress, people). I’ll also be serializing my new contemporary – at the intersection of love and the law like E-mail Enticement and Griffin’s Law. The contemporary is titled The Office Ink Spells Murder.
Why serialize? Well, it’s an experiment but it seems to serve a whole bunch of useful purposes. First, let’s recognize the elephant in the room. Yes, Virginia, serializing the books will add to the family coffers and that is always a good thing. Hey, if Dickens didn’t sneeze at the money, I won’t either. And while making money is always an important goal, it’s not the only one.
Serializing the books will help in the writing/creative/editing process. Readers’ comments can hurt, but they’re the ultimate judges. Those comments are my Simon Cowell moments and, like the best of the American Idol contestants, I can use the comments to edit, revise and polish the book before it’s finished and published. In that way my readers can participate in the creative process and become an important part of the work. Heck, with the historical, I haven’t settled on the title yet and reader feedback would help with that as well. I’ll have to work on growing a thicker skin but readers’ opinions are always to be valued – even the bad ones – because a reader took the time to review a book. Like they say in Hollywood – any press beats no press.
Getting serialized versions out there also keeps something new being published fairly often. Writing a full book takes a while, so there is apt to be a long period when nothing new is added. I think keeping readers who like my work having something new fairly often will keep them checking back more often. Someone who’s read part 1 will hopefully stay on the look out for part 2 and 3 and 4….
Serializing a book and getting each piece out for 99 cents should also stir interest in the other work that’s out there. So it will be a good marketing tool. Maybe those buyers will come back and invest the $2.99 (a dirt cheap price IMHO) to buy one of the other books. So getting my WIPs in the hands of readers for a price beyond dirt cheap should be a good investment in the health and well-being of all my books.
I’m going to serialize them on Kindle first. I’m not sure about Smashwords. SW distributes to all the other channels – Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Sony, Apple, etc. And I’m not sure whether or not the big e-tailers would be interested in a serial work. It might work on the SW site, and I’ll probably put it up there come to think of it. As to putting it out for distribution, I guess I’ll email SW Guru and the indie author’s best friend, Mark Coker, get his opinion and then go with that. Going with Coker’s coaching has turned out to be a good thing all the way around. Coker regularly gives out pointers on his web site and I recommend the SW blog to all indie readers and for sure to all indie authors.
How often the pieces will appear may vary, along with the length. Dickens may have gone with one chapter at a time, but to give the readers a good value and a decent helping of the work at a time, I’m thinking of 2-3 chapters per piece. I’m already upwards of Chapter 6 in each MS, so I’m a little ahead of the game with material. I’ve had my lightbulb moment with each book, so I feel pretty certain I’ll finish both of them – not finishing would be unfair to readers and poor business on my part.
The first to appear will be The Duke Regent’s Eden. How soon it’ll appear depends largely on my graphics guru, Mr. Quack. Hubby’s “blessed” with projects at the moment – his father wants him to do a political piece, I want him to do a book trailer for E-mail Enticement, and I want him to do the cover for the new serial historical. However, because serials are time sensitive and because that project will add to the family coffers for the serial and for all the books, Mr. Quack will surely give the cover priority. After all, his interest is as vested as mine in the coffers.
Mr. Quack does face an interesting dilemma with the new cover, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the subject of his mid-week blog update. I’m asking hubby to boldly go where men prefer never to tread. As we speak, he’s looking for good stock photo material featuring…. MAN TITTIES. Why? Well, women like to look too and I’m interested in the marketing aspect of having a fine brawny speciman on the cover of the historical serial. The contemporary, love-and- law murder mystery won’t provide such fodder for experimentation.
So, keep a keen eye out on Kindle and (likely) the SW site for the first installment of the new serial. I’ll blog more about the plot when we get closer to publication. It’ll be interesting to see if the new serial format, AND THE MAN TITTIES, steer the good ship Quacking Alone to greener waters.