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Kindle Serials : the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly or What does it mean to serial fiction authors & readers? (part one - The Good)

Last week, my friends at Tuesday Serial asked if I would write my reaction to the recent Kindle Serials announcement. Of course, I had so much to say, we split it up into 3 posts. Here's the first post. Enjoy!


By now, you've heard about Kindle Serials. If not, here's a quick recap of the facts:

Jeff Bezos announced that Amazon is going to serialize eight of the books published by their mystery imprint, Thomas and Mercer. Each book is serialized in five to six "episodes" of undisclosed length. The reader will pay only $1.99 for the first "episode" and get the remaining book. You can get Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens for free to try it out. The delivery is said to be "seamless and hassle-free" (but it's new technology. Is it always seamless? hassle-free?). Amazon is taking submissions right now from "previously unpublished, well-written stories by authors interested in engaging with readers through the unique nature of serialized publishing." (link)

(PJ Kaiser did a fabulous follow up of the chatter right after the announcement. If you haven't read it yet, go there. I'll wait.)

Back? Welcome! To celebrate your return, here's a little gossipy non-fact: There's been a lot of grumbly offline, private industry chatter about this announcement. If you feel grumbly, skip to the ugly section where I recap most of the grumbles I've heard.

I found out about Kindle Serials because the guy who takes care of all of my tech-stuff, Super Steve, IMed me. We watched the live cast together and then scratched our heads. What does this mean to us? He went about checking to see if we could start using their "seamless" technology. (No.) I went around reading the articles and leaving comments about my disgust of the cast back to Dickens while avoiding the greats like Armstead Maupin, Candace Bushnell, Stephen King, and well, us, the serial fiction community!

Back to facts:

We are the serial fiction community. I believe it's in our best interest to see Kindle Serials in the brightest most positive light.

So what does it mean? Good question.

The Good: What Kindle Serials will do for serial fiction authors.

1. More people know about serial fiction. When Amazon speaks, people listen. Prior to Mr. Bezos's announcement, most readers had never heard of serial fiction. While we know about Dickens and Poe and Maupin and, well, us, most readers have never given even a thought to the concept of serial fiction. As Kindle Serials continues to serialize books, more and more people will become interested in reading serial fiction. In marketing terms, with a blink of the eye, Mr. Bezos gave us millions of new customers.

2. Amazon brought real money into the genre. As Amazon goes, so goes the industry. For larger, battered-by-Wall-Street publishers, the idea of drawing readers in a new format will catch on. At this moment, September 2012, no US magazine is running a serial fiction. By simply reintroducing the genre, magazine producers will be reminded that serial and serialized fiction were, at one time, their bread and butter. Of course, some publishers like Kate at Candlemark and Gleam already know about serialized fiction:

"We think the serial is perfect for modern tastes and reading habits - you get a chunk of story, with a great hook perfect to read on the go, instead of having to squeeze in a whole book. It's convenient, and engaging, and encourages you to keep up w/the story, keep engaged." (private conversation, shared with permission)

3. If you write serialized fiction, they are accepting submissions. What's not to like about that? They are looking for authors who are willing to work with them in a serialized form. According to Neil Pollack, his process of publishing was fairly painless and fast.(He details his process here.)

4. At some point, they will come a-knocking. True serial fiction is a lot of work. You know that. I know that. Even Plympton's Yael Golstein Love knows that:

"We have really come across a lot of what we’re calling the third episode problem,” she told me. “It’s a lot easier to write a brilliant first episode of something. In your second episode, you’re continuing that. In the third episode, you realize you have no idea where this is going. It’s a real danger with writing serially. We won’t sign anyone on fully until we see how the first three [episodes] go.” (link)

At some point, the publishers will come knocking on our doors. Writing serial fiction is a skill which requires years of practice. Serialized fiction requires a special eye for splitting the story in just the right places. Not everyone is up to the task. We have these skills. They will come.

Personally, I'm practicing my Queen of the Rose Bowl Parade wave. (In case you wondered: with a cupped vertical hand, draw figure 8s in the sky with your finger tips.) Joking aside, I'd have to take a careful look at their offer.

What about you?

What will you do when they knock on your door?

Are you going to submit a proposal to Kindle Serials?

Let me know in the comments.

Join us on Wednesday as we explore the Bad of Kindle Serials...