Short fiction has certainly been revived by the advent of the e-book and e-reader. Short stories and novellas abound whereas fifteen years ago you found them only in anthologies. So I was not surprised to find that another form of short fiction had returned–the serialized novel. And the news came at a good time for me, because I found that I was actually publishing one.
A serialized novel is a long novel that is published, usually in a newspaper or magazine, in monthly or weekly installments. Today the increments can also be published as stand alone chapters or novellas rather than in a standard publication.
According to Alexandra Alter’s Wall Street Journal article, The Return of the Serial Novel, ”Serialized fiction, an all-but-lost art form that was practiced by such literary giants as Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy and Joseph Conrad, is rebounding in the digital era.”
Although the serial novel first appeared in the 17th century with the advent of movable type, the form became extremely fashionable during the Victorian era. An increase in literacy, advances in printing technology, and a stronger economy all brought about the
surge in serialized novels. The wild popularity of Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers, proved the viability of the form and set the standard for serialized fiction during the 19th century.
Today, the serialized novel is making a come-back. We are a society that wants things “on the go” or in “bite-sized bits.” Thus the appeal of a serial novel that one can read chapter by chapter on an e-reader.
Zach Bonelli, author of the serial novel Voyage, talks about the specific pros and cons of writing a serial novel in his article Monetizing Serialized Fiction. ”Choosing to go serialized is a mixed bag. There are some big advantages, but also some important disadvantages to consider.”
Perhaps the number one drawback to the serial format is reader dissatisfaction with the lack of an HEA in each installment. ”‘I am really sick of sitting down to read this book and just when you are enjoying it, it ends,’ one Amazon reviewer seethed. ‘Release the whole book, I would enjoy it more,’ another wrote.” (The Return of the Serial Novel)
This seems to be the biggest problem, according to reviewers, with my novella Betrothal. The first part or book of the longer work, Time Enough to Love, Betrothal is roughly 1/3 of the complete work. The end of the novella has been called “disappointing” and “rushed” by various reviewers. Though it does not have a cliffhanger ending exactly (I think of it as a “Happy For Now” type of closure), Betrothal still leaves the reader with the feeling that there is more to follow. So if the reader is not aware that this is Book 1 of 3, they aren’t as forgiving with the lack of a happy ending.
Another unfortunate thing in my case is that the release of Book 2, Betrayal, has been held up. I had hoped that it would be published by the end of July and that did not happen. I do understand the frustration of readers who may forgive the “cliffhanger” ending if the next work is released quickly. My apologies for this to all who have read Betrothal.
Betrayal is currently with my editor and I’m expecting the next round of edits at any time. To ease the misconception and appease the reader, as soon as Chapter 1 of Betrayal has been edited, I’ll re-release Betrothal with the addition of that chapter at the end of the novella. I’ll also publish it on my blog for those who have already purchased Betrothal. And when Betrayal is published, it will have the completed first chapter of Beleaguered, Book 3 of the novel, at the end of it. I will also work very hard to release Book 3 closer to Book 2.
To my readers, please be patient. The story of Alyse, Geoffrey and Thomas is far from over. There are events brewing that will change the course of their lives, for better and for worse. I hope you will keep following this love story through its twists and turns to its final, satisfying end.
Have you read other serialized novels? Do you like this format or do you prefer a complete novel no matter the size?