Last month I began writing about serialized novels. Earlier this year I wrote Hidden Falls, which released in 13 weekly episodes from Barbour’s new Shiloh Run Studios imprint. Releasing directly to digital formats without a concurrent print edition was a grand experiment for all of us.
I addressed pros and cons for the publisher who launches into digital first publishing, particularly serializations. This month I want to look at the same question from the perspective of the author. Here are some ways that direct-to-digital can benefit an author working with a traditional publisher.
1. It can fuel the buzz ahead of a print release that may duplicate or expand on the digital project.
2. It opens new possibilities for structure and story models that might not work in conventional formats.
3. It’s a fresh way to engage readers, who may be reading only a couple of episodes behind what the writer is churning out and might contribute feedback that makes for a stronger story.
4. Interaction with editorial, marketing, and salesmay happen simultaneously, in a group-think format that includes the writer at every stage.
5. There’s potential to expand the story world beyond a print book, whether before or after a print release.
6. An author with a strong backlist may be able to build on the brand and entice people to pay for digital first books that release in parts.
7. Direct-to-digital quickly gives readers more of what they like.
All of these opportunities can pump a writer’s adrenaline, but there are some challenges.
1. Serializations are largely untested in the CBA market.
2. Writing systems may have to be reinvented. Plotting, writing and revising are likely to happen in a compressed period of time.
3. If a serialization is released in weekly episodes, there is less wiggle room in the schedule.
4. The writer is “stuck” with what already released. There is no going back to revise something at the start of the story that is already in the hands of readers.
5. Readers expect e-books to be cheap. What if they’re not? Or not cheap enough? They may not stick with the story because of the price.
6. What’s possible with technology and interactivity is unknown, and in partnership with a publisher, it’s also unknown what the writer’s role is in maximize the possibilities.
Some of these pros and cons relate to all forms of digital publishing. Some are specific to serializations—giving readers only part of the story at a time with enough satisfaction in each episode, but also enough reason to hit the “Buy Now” button for the next piece.
Serializations are not for every publisher and not for every writer, but given the climate of digital entertainment and the growing e-book market, unquestionably it’s worth exploring.
Next month we’ll look at the reader’s experience of serializations, and then you can put together all three pieces—publisher, writer, reader—and form your own opinion about the future of serializations in the Christian book market.
Olivia Newport forthcoming release is Wonderful Lonesome, an historical Amish novel due out September 1.