By Letitia Coyne
Posted September 13, 2012
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Guess what: serialization is the next big thing in publishing. Amazon says so. They are marketing their new kindle with serial novels a plenty. It’s new! It’s brilliant! It has a proven track record harking back to Dickens, but authors and readers had completely forgotten this form of writing until Amazon came along!
I got a bit frustrated when I read the articles that blossomed around this idea of serialization making a comeback. You see, serialized fiction is not a forgotten art. Thousands of authors have been writing episodic stories, and millions of readers have been reading them. The only people who forgot they existed were the big publishers and the authors who continued to cast votive offerings before them, who spat on any form of writing that did not conform to the publishers’ guidelines.
Those same authors now hear that a publishing house is buying serials for kindle packages. Hoorah. Serials are the new black!
Yes, I’m sarcastic and venting a bit here. It beggars belief that so many people can wear such tightly focused blinkers that they do not look at the world they have chosen to colonize. And I risk offending you, dear reader, who might well be a reader or writer who had never heard of the world of serialized fiction. Sorry.
Serial fiction has been continuously written and read online since the advent of the PC. It began as soon as authors found there was an audience out there for what they wrote in blogs and zines. It began, as might be expected, as predominantly speculative fiction, but over the decades it has grown to encompass all genres. It began as free content. As digital publishing has exploded and DIY ebooks have become widely accepted, many web fiction authors have experimented with ways to sell their work, too.
Some provide a ‘tip jar’, an easy way for readers who enjoy the story to make a donation. Some authors offer a subscription, and readers can affect storylines and character development, or receive special, premium content extra to that which is provided free. Recently, some authors who have developed a wide following and who have made considerable gains in offering paid-for content have found remarkable success with kickstarter projects.
Where a particular serialized story has been plotted to arrive at a conclusion, other authors have chosen to remove their storyline from free view, edited and rewritten the text where needed, and released the once episodic piece as an ebook. Because this writing has been going on for many years, there are much loved serials which, when published in book form, can become eight or ten hefty volumes.
My introduction to web fiction came through the Web Fiction Guide.
As a community, the WFG has changed a little in the last few years. There is less emphasis on review and shared experience than there once was, but it remains one of the finest and easiest to navigate directories of serial fiction on the web. Most, if not all of the stories listed are available to read for free.
There is a vast list of titles. From there, readers can find ratings and reviews for most of the serials listed. Most individual serials with a regular readership have their own forums for discussion of the plots, characters, and themes, but for more general group discussion of trends in fiction, recommendations and support, the WFG provides its own active forum.
Also associated with the WFG is Top Web Fiction, a list of series which are voted on by readers to provide a constantly updated view of what is hot on any day.
The WFG is not alone. There are a number of directories which specialize in serialized fiction. One of the first to be developed was the EpiGuide. Home to a number of long running soaps and serials, the Epi also has a popular forum with an active and supportive community for both readers and writers of web serials, and perhaps most importantly, is the hub for the annual WeSeWriMo – web fiction’s answer to Novel Writing Month.
Muse’s Success is a web fiction wiki, where reader participation is encouraged in the sharing of reviews, thoughts and ideas, links and information. Anything web fiction.
Protagonize is a community for collaborative web fiction. Authors can extend a branch on any story, taking the original idea off on a tangent, or refreshing an idea that had lost momentum. The membership is huge and reader participation very active. Primary schools worldwide have used Protagonize as a base to encourage literacy in young people, allowing them to see their own work published online.
A group of authors, all veterans of the serial novel, contribute regularly to Digital Novelists. Most of the names here have made the successful transition from free content to the marketplace. Again, this is no new phenomenon. At weblit.us they were experimenting with direct to kindle subscription more than a year ago.
For young readers and writers, there is Fiction Press. Not to all tastes, I’ll admit, but popular and active, with stories across all genres, forums and RPGs.
Spreading both serialized and complete novels, Wattpad is an enormous library of fiction with a readership to match.
There are fan-fic sites too numerous to mention. There are graphic novels and web comics, published on a regular schedule, that have drawn in audiences as long as the screen has been lighting up. And authors of each type of web serial have found ways to bring their work direct to readers on their pc, or their laptop, or their phones or their tablets. This is not a new phenomenon.
And, of course, as a publisher dedicated to bringing the finest in web fiction to a wider audience, 1889 Labs has been publishing serialized stories as novels since 2006. This is not new.
What is new, and what are constantly changing, are the models for connecting readers and authors. That is always an exciting place to be, as technology moves and great minds move with it. At 1889 Labs we are working on the best ways to connect our readers with great fiction.
What does an author need, today, to capture your attention? What is the most convenient way for you to view the digital fiction you love?
What really will be the new wave of publishing?
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