One of the hot new forms of writing right now is serialization. This is breaking up a story into smaller digestible parts, much like episodes of your favorite TV series. While the trend is hot and fresh, the concept of serialization is not new. In the 19th Century, Charles Dickens wrote the Pickwick Papers. It was a story told in 19 episodes over 20 months. More recently, Stephen King wrote the Green Mile as a serialized novel. Many other famous authors such as Hunter S. Thompson, Margaret Atwood, and Harriet Beecher Stowe also serialized some of their stories.
In genre fiction, creating a series of books is often preferred over one-offs, but that can take years to produce. Consider if you could serialize each book into smaller episodes. You could release those episodes as you create and edit them. You wouldn't need to do any fancy layout or covers, as many serializations are read through apps or online.
There are several benefits of writing in a serialized form.
Building an Author Platform- I have used Bookfunnel.com to build a newsletter list. I want to create newsletters that provide content and don't feel spammy. I am sending new episodes of a side story to my book Max and the Spice Thieves. This keeps up the interest in the series while I finish the second book and introduces new readers to my characters. It keeps the subscribers' interest and gives them something of value for continuing to receive my newsletter.
Getting Stories Out Faster- It takes time to write a full-length book. In genre fiction, once your first book is published, your fans are wanting book two. You can create a serialization of the next book or create other shorter tales that exist in the world you have created. You can write 500-3000 words easier than 48K words. It will keep your fans engaged and your books top of mind until your next full-length book is released.
You Can Experiment- If you allow your fans to comment on your serialization, you can create new works and test the waters. If you find that people are enjoying it and are hungry for more, you can continue the series. If the response is not as positive, you can stop and move onto another project. You can find out early on what people like or do not like about a particular story, and their expectations can even influence and shape future installments.
Gives You Space to Make Changes. You can decide if the direction of your story is making sense or if you need to make changes to your plot. It provides you space and perspective in between episodes to read and reflect on previous episodes.
Keeps the Pace Moving. Each episode must create a complete scene or scenes and often leave a cliffhanger or unanswered questions to keep the reader wanting more. This cuts out the glut and slow-moving pace that can sometimes plague books and creates more complete and exciting chapters of a book should you decide to compile your serializations. The pace needs to move, or readers will become bored and disengaged.
It Keeps You Moving. Unlike a novel that can take any amount of time to complete, serialization has a built-in clock. People expect a new installment in whatever amount of time you decide upon. You have to keep writing and moving the story along. There is no time for procrastination.
Here are some sites to consider to begin your serialization journey:
In part 2, I will discuss serialization on Kindle and their new platform Vella and some rules for creating serialization episodes.
Have you considered serializing a story? What platforms have you used? How successful have your serializations been?
John Peragine has published 14 books and ghostwritten more than 100 others. He is a contributor for HuffPost, Reuters, and The Today Show. He covered the John Edwards trial exclusively for Bloomberg News and The New York Times. He has written for Wine Enthusiast, Grapevine Magazine, Realtor.com, WineMaker magazine, and Writer's Digest.
John began writing professionally in 2007, after working 13 years in social work and as the piccolo player for the Western Piedmont Symphony for over 25 years. Peragine is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. You can learn more about his books at JohnPeragineBooks.com.
His newest book, Max and the Spice Thieves, was released on April 20, 2021. Click here for a free first chapter.
Thank you! This is great. I think folks are eager to get on board the Vella train with Amazon. But I suspect there is much more to creating a serialized novel than simply posting a chapter a week. Like you said, an episode of Pickwick Papers was more like an episode of Friends. I would love to know if there are resources that might help novel writers develop true serialized novels.
I will definitely include them in part 2
This is exactly what I was looking for, thanks! Can't wait for the next part!
I'm so glad- more to come!
A great recap of this type of publishing platform. Thanks!
I will dive in deeper in part 2 next week.
Excellent- I'm working on it now.
I'm looking forward to your in depth look at Vella, John, as I'm tip-toeing into this venue with a teen apocalyptic sci-fi.
Thanks for your interesting post. I didn't know there were that many platforms available.
Thanks for this one, John. I like the idea of using it to do side stories featuring secondary characters. Serialization takes me back to the heyday of the pulp mags. It was a good way for authors to gain a foothold, make a name for them selves, and create an income stream while working on their full length novels. Some of those pulp writers could crank out 10,000+ words a day at their peak (I couldn't do that on my best day). I have a modern pulp character that's perfect for this market. Time to dive in!
Thanks, John. Serialization sounds like a fun option for publishing while I finish writing my lengthy historical.
I was reading an article today about Vella and would love more in-depth info about the possibility of serialized words. To me, this sounds like a great way to build a following while I'm working on my suspense novel.
I have a 800 page novel that was written with five or six seasons of Netflix in mind. I was going to publish it in three volumes, but serialization is looking like a better option. I'll be interested in more information.
Thanks so much for this post, John! I'm looking forward to hearing more about Vella. 🙂
I haven't tried it, but I do enjoy some authors using their newsletters to provide a book in a "serial" by releasing a different chapter in each new email. It can be such a treat.
[…] new service has been highly anticipated. I have spoken about Vella in two previous posts Serialization Storytelling Part 1 and Serialization Storytelling Part 2. Vella has launched this week, and I have to say, it […]