The Resurgence of Serialised Fiction
By Alexandra Constable, Mary Karayel and Hayley Cadel
In this issue, we look at the resurgence of serialisation, the various online platforms using this format and a renewed interest from readers. Initially, serialisation became popular in the 18th and 19th Century, especially during the Victorian period due to a rise in literacy rates and advances in printing technology. With serialisation, book chapters are published in instalments, giving the reader smaller portions of a narrative, but also ensuring engagement and sales. While serialisation exists in printed magazines such as The People’s Friend, a magazine aimed at an older demographic, online platforms are opening this up to wider readers.
It is worth noting, many serialised texts have gone on to become classics within the English canon. Most famously, the novels of Charles Dickens, with The Pickwick Papers being widely considered the novel which established this method. What is interesting about the serialisation of Charles Dickens is their ability to create a channel of communication between reader and writer, for example, the ending of Great Expectations was altered in the published novel after readers voiced their dislike of the serialised ending. The antisemitic characterisation of Fagin in Oliver Twist was also toned down in the second half of the novel, due to a reader complaint while this was being written. Other examples of serialisation include Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, George Eliot’s Middlemarch and James Joyce’s Ulysses, showing how serialisation can be used to break larger novels down into manageable, less intimidating chunks for the reader. And finally, more recently, Stephen King’s The Green Mile was originally published in a serialised format which was popular with readers.
The ways to release serialised fiction are endless; it could be released on a blog, or a newsletter, or on platforms based around serialisation. These platforms allow readers to interact more intensely with the fiction they are reading which epitomises the work of Wattpad. First launched in 2006, Wattpad now boasts over 60 million readers with well over 300,000 published stories across various genres. Many authors who have released their serialised fiction onto the site have since become traditionally published authors, like Anna Todd with her After series. There is also Radish Fiction which promises readers “bite-sized fiction anytime, anywhere.” Unlike Wattpad, authors must apply to have their works published on the site which also boasts bestsellers from The New York Times and USA Today’s best-selling authors. They also have their own writing team who are Emmy-award winning creators, tasked with creating Radish Originals. The newest option for serialising fiction is Kindle Vella. Although this is currently exclusive to US authors, this will be a platform to watch as it is rolled out globally and we will hopefully see some UK writers find success on Amazon's new platform.
The line of communication offered between reader and author in serialised fiction is just one of the pros of this format. It is useful, for example, for readers who are unsure if they want to commit to the novel and are interested in getting to know the story beyond a brief synopsis or blurb. With serialised fiction, one can read small segments of the story and use this to decide whether the novel interests them or not. This format also has a number of benefits for the writers themselves. Not only is this a great way to experiment – particularly with modern writers with whom serialised fiction is less popular – it can be far easier to produce on a logistic level. Writing in small segments naturally provides a writer with an in-built schedule and can seem far less daunting than writing a one longer manuscript. It may also help new writers who are still practising techniques such as character development and forming narrative arcs; by separating the story into segments, a writer may more easily chart things such as character progression and plot development, allowing for a more cohesive final product.
For those looking to explore serialised books, we suggest roaming the chart sections of Wattpad, Kindle Vella and Radish Fiction. For example, The Viscount’s Convenient Bride on Kindle Vella has over 600 positive reviews. For a popular book series, look no further than Liz Isaacson’s cowboy stories on Kindle Vella. Isaacson is a Top 10 Bestselling Author in Kindle Unlimited and multiple number one books in the USA. The home page for Radish Fiction is currently publicising Vampire Prep, My K-Pop Secret and The Billionaire's Surrogate, to name a few diverse titles catering for very different readers. And Wattpad is so vast that it is difficult to narrow down some books to recommend so here are a few from the Editor’s bookshelf: Cut to the Bone, Patient Twelve and The Many Dates of Indigo. The opportunities to digest fiction are endless with serialised fiction and I am sure we will see commercial success of more of these books originating on such platforms in the near future.