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

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.  The Good - the upside to Kindle Serials


The Bad: What Kindle Serials isn't.

1. Amazon is publishing serialized novels; they are not publishing true serial fiction: Serial fiction is published as it's written. Amazon serial's, according to author Neil Pollack's editor are:

"Each segment would be copy-edited, and edited for content if necessary. Then, when the whole thing was done, the book would get another complete edit, and would be issued in a full Kindle edition as well as a paperback one. The whole process would take about six months" (link)

That's not serial fiction. While Mr. Bezos says readers will be able to influence the nature of the stories through interaction with the author on Amazon forums( i.e, they will publish true serial fiction), Amazon is not doing it right now. (Confused about serial fiction vs. serialized fiction? Here's my take.)

2. They are experimenting with a type of publishing. Let's face it. If they had committed to the serial fiction genre, they would commit resources - editors, etc - to the process. When Amazon commits, they jump in with money, time, web resources and publicity. They aren't doing that with Kindle Serials. Right now, they are using serialization as a marketing and publishing tool for fairly new authors in their new mystery imprint. It's brand new to them. If it's successful to them as a company, they will continue to publish in this style.

If we look at the history of Amazon, they try a lot of different methods to sell books and other items. They commit to very few. So, there is no way to know if  Kindle Serials will exist even a year from now. This does not negate the huge boost they've given to the serial genre by making their announcement and serializing these few books. It simply means they haven't yet committed to our genre.

3. Despite what they say, they aren't Dickens.

a. They aren't taking any risks here. Dickens took tremendous risks with his fiction. He poked at the upper class and dragged the poor kicking and screaming into the middle class. Amazon is serializing their best selling genre.

b. Kindle Serials is not true serial fiction. Dickens wrote serial fiction - published as it was written, one chapter at a time. At the time of his death, he was only six segments ahead in the serial he was working on. He only wrote two books which were published as novels in their entirety. He did not write entire books, go through editing and worrying, and then serialized them. Frank Herbert did that for Dune. Charles Dickens never did it.

c. Dickens published a chapter a month. Dickens didn't publish in "episodes." He published in chapters. He only took contracts for serials that were usually 20 to 24 chapters long. He believed a story deserved at least twenty chapters. His only "shorter" serials were originally contracted at 20 chapters. They ended early due to when publications failed or Dickens argued with the publisher. (One of the reasons Dickens opened his own publishing company.)

d. Dickens owned his own publishing company. Due to issues with publishers and magazines (read: Dickens was a colossal pain in the rear), Dickens created his own publishing company, All the Year Round. In this way, he helped launch the careers of other serial fiction authors. He also wrote some of his best work, such as Tales of Two Cities and Great Expectations, under his own imprint. The company and the magazine continued years after his death.

4. They have the technology and it's unlikely that they will share. One of the big behind doors questions is whether or not they will make their "seamless and hassle-free" technology available to self publishers or other publishing houses. I could be wrong, but I doubt they will share. Why? They don't have a great history of sharing. For example, if you want to be a part of the Kindle Lending Program, you have to sign an exclusivity contract. I suppose they could create the same deal for their technology, but what publisher is going to reduce their distribution chain in order to use a technology. Plus, right now, there are publishers who deliver serial fiction via a phone app. Of course, this is simply my opinion. No one really knows what Amazon will or won't do. It simply seems unlikely that they will start sharing their edge with publishers now.

The Very Bad: Why Kindle Serials sucks for small publishers and independent authors.

On or around August 30th, Kindle removed Kindle Free from the bottom of the Kindle bookstore and replaced it with Kindle Serials. To be fair, the former location of Kindle Free also alternates between Kindle Serials, Children's Fiction and Comic Books.

Further, the best 100 free books section on the Kindle Fire is gone. (There's reports on the Amazon site of it being removed from Kindle as early as June, 2012.)

If you're an independent publisher or a self publisher, your heart just sank. Most small publishers and self publishers introduce readers to their work through Kindle Free. While free books are still available, it won't be as easy for readers to find free your free books. Any marketer will tell you that the harder it is for someone to find you, the less likely they will. Or, the more a reader has to work to find your free book, the less likely they will find it.

As my source said: "(Amazon) still has free books but takes many clicks and narrowing down options and scrolling past lots of very old copyright free books." Yikes!

Say good-bye to using Amazon and Kindle to help you find new readers through giving your book away for free. Amazon chose to promote Kindle Serials over it's own free program (KDP Select) and over your free book.

Kindle Serials has effectively taken over the web property that was once used to promote thousands of small entrepreneurs in the form of self publishers and small publishers.

And that's very bad.

What do you think? Let me know in the comment section.

Join us Friday as we explore the Ugly of Kindle Serials...