serial publication

There was a very interesting blog post this week at Audry Taylor's blog, called "Open Letter re: Serials to Editors, Agents, and Publishers." Here's a quote:

[T]he majority of published stories used to be serials. Newspapers put out many of the great 'novels' in regular installments for on-going serializations until a story had either exhausted itself or wrapped up as the author originally planned for it to. Dumas, Dickens…many of the writers whose words we worship had to write on the spur of the moment, turn in chapters on a weekly or monthly basis, and work to intense, year-long schedules that we ourselves are mostly unfamiliar with. Both great art and entertainment for the masses have been produced this way."

For example, the current disdain for serial publication is shown in the way that "graphic novels" are often considered to be more legitimate than good old comic books, despite the fact that a lot of the most revered "graphic novels" (Maus, Watchmen, the Sandman series) are actually regular monthly comic books repackaged in book form.

I've always liked serials, both to read and to write, as I talked about here.

What I'm not sure about is Audry's assertion that the Internet is the best vehicle for serial fiction. It is for me, since I'm not trying to get paid, but Audry is definitely approaching this as a professional, so for that I have another idea.

The New York Times arrives on my Kindle every morning (it is actually the best way to read the daily Times). I don't even have to think about it, it just pops up. So, here's my idea:

The first chapter of a serial novel is posted online for everybody to read. Those who want to read the rest of the story can subscribe, and subsequent chapters will appear on their particular device every month (or whatever interval) until the story is over.

I think the main point is that there could be an audience, not the technology. For example, the Internet is the ideal vehicle for hypertext fiction, but there has never been any indication that there is an audience, as I talked about last time. But serial fiction? There is a lot of evidence that people like that. As I said in my comment on Audry's post:

People have loved serial fiction in many forms: magazine serialization of novels, radio shows like I Love a Mystery, TV shows like The Sopranos (and regular soaps, of course), plus movie serials back in the early days.

I sent a link to Audry's post to Astoria (the cover artist for my books), and she responded, "I totally subscribe to Audry's serialization plea; as a reader I can't think of anything that would give me more pleasure than having, say, a monthly treat of a story chapter on the computer. Tell her to keep pushing. You too."

Later: Audry posted a follow-up, called, "The Return of the Serial – To Big Publishing."

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