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Publishing is changing, books are changing, reading itself is changing – and it’s all changing so fast that authors can feel that they can’t keep up. What’s a writer to do?
First, we need to remember that changes in book publishing and the way readers access reading material is nothing new. Stone tablets gave way to inky scrolls which gave way to printing presses, and at every stop along the way Luddites cried.
Somehow writers evolved to meet the new technologies. Back in the Victorian Era, which wasn’t really that long ago, historically speaking, one of the new publishing tactics was publishing novels in serial form in magazines and newspapers. Charles Dickens is perhaps best known for using this form, starting with The Pickwick Papers in 1836, but Dickens was not alone – in 1893 Mark Twain first published Pudd’nhead Wilson as a serial in The Century Magazine, and Joseph Conrad and George Eliot published some of their works in serial form as well.
Maybe we can learn from these authors of the past. Today’s authors have a perfect venue for serializing our new works or even Works In Progress: blogs.
There are some good reasons for serializing. Perhaps the most obvious is that it can be a productive marketing tactic. Like many writers, I am not a big fan of marketing, especially the marketing of my own books. I do a better job of marketing my ghostwriting services, and thus surprise surprise, I've made more money on ghostwriting than at selling my books. Hmm, perhaps there is a connection.
But it doesn't feel like the dreaded “marketing” to write a blog. I already write regular blog posts about my writing life, so it’s like a no-brainer to also post my WIP in segments as I write it, in the hope that people will read it, like it, and come back for more of the same. And when the serial is finished, I hope that people will want to buy the book in one piece. It worked for Dickens, so why not me?
Another benefit of serialization is that it keeps the writer writing, spurred on by appreciation, helped by critiques, and motivated by the simple pressure to deliver on the promise – in writing – to finish the book. This sometimes leads to stress, but a little stress can be motivating. I have found that ideas and scribbles that may have stayed ideas and scribbles have actually become real projects – I have to finish them because my readers what to know what happened. (So do I.)
I’m still new at serializing, and do not pretend to be an expert. But in my next post I’ll discuss some of the things I've learned about writing blog serials and how they have worked (or not) for me. Meanwhile if you want to check out my current WIP serial, called Grandma’s Masks, it’s available on my blog www.primary-sources.com/blog/category/serial-fiction. (See? I’m getting better at marketing already!)
Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 6 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 40 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit http://www.primary-sources.com/.