To serialise or not to serialise

So to serialise or not to serialise that is the question.  Whether it is a  truly new trend or just something I’m only now cottoning on to, it does seem that serialisation is becoming more commonplace in indie publishing.

Now the concept itself is nothing new.  It was a favourite of Dickens and Dumas to name but two, and it has been done numerous times since, with the writers only later binding up their bits to make the wholes we now all know so well.  Indeed the advent of portable, personal devices and time poor readers arguably makes it all the more an attractive format – short enjoyable parts of larger tales neatly encapsulated in bite-size chunks.  Plus, let’s be honest, it is a useful marketing tool, and it can also give breathing space for the author whilst maintaining profile. Financially it works too, often times the initial parts are offered for free, or at a really low price to hook the masses, but then subsequent parts are priced more traditionally.

Now I’ve seen complaints about this process.  Rip off some shout.  Too short others cry.  The naysayers take the view it is all a cynical ploy to extract cash. Now of course in some cases this will be true, but the kicker is that whatever the financial model the story is still king.  If a story grabs you and you want to see what happens next then that is just great story telling.  So-what if you then have to pay for the follow ups; what is the difference between a free first morsel of a serial and a free sample of a novel? Time and sweat has still been expended creating those words, and if people are willing to pay for follow up then that’s great.  Surely the best form of attack is not to make a lot of noise but rather simply not to buy.  If appropriate the approach will then wither of its own accord.

Bottom line is good stories are good stories. Even the oral tradition saw its espousers rewarded in some way. Perhaps with a warm place to sleep or good food – barter is barter. It works both ways, there is after all no such thing as a free lunch.

Now I take the point that mathematically you may end up paying a bit more for a serialisation overall as opposed to a single ebook of the same length, but authors are not daft and neither are readers – once complete we do see some binding up their collections and pricing them competitively. There is therefore a choice, and this retains the ability of others to dip into the series via the serial releases or to take a punt on the whole lot in one go.

Either way I see no reason to think serialisation in any form is at risk from the boo hiss brigade. They are now too long in the tooth for that.  Ironically the only ones that can do it harm are those of us who consider it as an appropriate release medium for our work. The cardinal rule is unchanged - as authors we need to ensure we always produce a quality product, something to make the people come back for more, otherwise we’ll just spoil it for everyone. But then this is not just a feature of serialisation, it’s a risk that runs through all indie publishing …

About Tom S.

A London lawyer who escapes at weekends to the suburbs with his wife and daughters. A lifelong science fiction fan he is looking forward to sharing his writing with whomsoever should like to try it.
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