Today I'm very pleased to have K. Piet on my blog. In this post she's got her publisher hat on and is going to talk about the different ways that Storm Moon Press is going to approach the hot new thing: serialised fiction.
When it comes to serial fiction, there is always a lot of debate going on. Does it awkwardly break up a perfectly good story into pieces that can't stand on their own? Is it worth the investment to the readers? Do readers get the raw end of the deal and pay three times what they would have for the same word count in a single release? Will the serial deliver what the reader is expecting, or leave them unsatisfied as they wait for the next installment? Is there any benefit to one method of serialization over another? There are always people on both sides of the proverbial fence, some for and some against, but I think the one thing most can agree upon is that serialized fiction has to be handled carefully to be a viable format for readers to consume.
At Storm Moon Press, we're venturing out into the world of serial fiction with a slightly different approach that we hope is equally beneficial to the authors, the publishers, and the readers. There are many different methods to take when tackling serial fiction, and I'm here at Well Read today to share a little about each approach and the pros and cons. No one method is necessarily better than the others, but knowing the audience you're appealing to can mean everything in this business, so read on and see which method you prefer!
Serial fiction can be approached several ways. First, there's what I call the 'chop shop' method. That's when you take a story that you originally intended to simply release as a whole, and then break it up into pieces to take the serial approach instead. Think of a chop shop where cars are broken down so they can be sold for their parts. Same idea! The pro to this method of serialization is that you typically have a piece of fiction that is a little longer than what you would want in a single release (or a lot longer... like 200K words, for example). Breaking it up makes the longer piece easier for readers to enjoy. The con, however, is that when you take a story that was once meant to be a single release, you either have to rework the story to make each section work for serialization or you simply cut the story off into sections. The latter option leads to serial fiction that stutters and might be jarring to readers.
The Scrapbook Method
In the 'scrapbook' method, each story in the serial is like a picture put into a scrapbook. The stories are kind of related, not necessarily presented chronologically, and not necessarily involving the same characters. They all at least share a central theme or are set in the same world, but they don't have an overreaching plot that is presented in part one and eventually concludes in the final part down the road. The pro here is truly the flexibility. You can write a lot of stories with a central theme and release them as a serial in this fashion. The con is that, without an overarching plot, readers aren't always going to be as invested. They aren't left looking forward to what might happen in the next part of the serial because each story is self-contained.
The 'trading card' method involves just a little more interwoven storytelling when compared to the 'scrapbook' method. The idea is to create a collection of stories that are set in the same world, but with different characters that might overlap a little. A main character from one might have a cameo in another story of the serial fiction, so there is enough familiar to appeal to readers without telling the same story over separate parts. Think about having a collection of stories where you need to collect them all in order to get the larger picture. The pro here is that the format allows for a reader to skip one or several parts of the serial and never be lost. They can also see a bit of character overlap, so they might not feel so estranged from the plots of the different parts to the serial. The con is the restriction of freedoms for the author, who has to be a little more strict with the common theme of the work. This might not be a con for the readers, however. ^_-
The Lilypad Method
The 'lilypad' method to serial fiction moves more toward a single plotline sprinkled with copious amounts of sub-plots. The main character has a goal for the series of serial fiction, and then the stories of the serial are told around the exploration of that goal. Each story is self-contained, but each story is interlinked and typically told chronologically. Think of it like lilypads. You're trying to cross a lake, but you have to hop like a frog from one lilypad to another to reach that eventual goal of getting to the far shore. The pro here is definitely the episodic nature of the serial, which gives you the small plots wrapped up in each story framed by a larger plot that is ongoing for the main character(s). The con for readers is that if you miss a step along the journey, you're much more likely to get lost or not understand the stories later in the series. You skipped a lilypad, so you have to go back and do things in order to get the full effect the author is going for.
Last, but not least, the 'radio drama' method is a shout out to the old radio dramas that used to air for audiences to enjoy back in the day. In this method, the sections of the serial fiction are completely dependent upon one another. The serial follows the same characters along a journey from start to finish, and each part of the serial typically ends in a cliff-hanger. Like the 'lilypad' method, you can't miss a step without fear of losing critical information, as the serial plays out something like a soap opera, with the twists and turns integrated into the parts for an overarching plot. While the sub-plots might work themselves out in each separate part, they don't always have to. The pro here is that readers who love their cliff-hangers will definitely be satisfied. That also plays out as a con for some readers, though, as the emphasis on the overreaching plotline might turn them off. Some readers love being left asking questions (with the promise that they will, indeed, be answered by the end of the series), but others will hate being left waiting for the next installment.
So, there you have it. Five different ways to approach serial fiction! At Storm Moon Press, we're open to getting pitches for any of those five types. The ones that I personally have in the works are in the 'radio drama' style (Immortal Symphony) and the 'trading card' method. My stories surrounding Le Carnaval du Diable are in that latter style (e.g. "Blood and Absinthe" in the Love & Agony collection), and the newest addition to the collection is included in our Devil's Night anthology, which releases this Friday, October 19th. If you like demons, you'll love this anthology. I'm super excited about releasing it!
Storm Moon Press' website. We'd love to hear what you have in mind and see if it's a good fit for our press!
K. Piet is the marketing director for Storm Moon Press and the co-author of Catalyst and Other Side of Night: Bastian & Riley. Her upcoming illustrated novel, Making Ends Meet releases October 26th, 2012. She can be found on her blog or on Twitter @k_piet.