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Let's talk about Web Serials

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Old 12-19-2013, 07:24 PM
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Default Let's talk about Web Serials


Web serials: In simplest terms, stories or books published serially on the web.

Wikipedia sez:
Since 2008, web fiction has proliferated in popularity. Possibly as a result of this, more fans of webserials have decided to create their own, propagating the form further, leading to the number of serious, original works growing quickly. Some serials utilize the formats of the media to include things not possible in ordinary books, such as clickable maps, pop-up character bios, sorting posts by tag, illustrations, and video. Supplementary information is often available on the serial's website, sometimes in the form of wikis that fans of the work help maintain.
In its basic form, a web serial is just an ordinary story that's published sequentially by chapters or parts. I'm currently publishing a story that falls into this category; it was originally written for a local ezine, so the format made sense. This is what led me to the idea of the web serial in the first place. Web serials can also be more complex, as detailed above.

I'd like to get a discussion going on the idea of the web serial in general. Interesting? Gimmick? Flash in the pan or a future major medium? I think there's a lot of room to explore in the form of storytelling that could only happen in the realm of web fiction, but that does add the idea that the story can never be published traditionally upon completion, something many current web serials do or strive to do.

I think the format is great for stories that are more episodic or comic-like in nature- stories that, even without special gimmicks, might not fit well into a traditional book form. For new authors, a web serial might be a good to snag readers- you're more likely to take a chance on a (usually free) 2000-word episode then you are on a full-length novel.

A disadvantage of the serial is that you're locked in once you publish episodes. In a traditional novel you could go back and change something in editing if you needed to make something later on work. In serial publishing this isn't an option- you'd have to resort to unwieldy retcons like comic book authors.

Currently the market for serials is dominated by scifi and fantasy, much of aimed at YA readership. I think this is likely to change as the format gains traction. Sites like Jukepop are giving web serials a slick and modern format, and in the age of short attention spans I think fiction designed to be read in ten-minute chunks has a lot of room to grow.

Links:
The Return of the Serial Novel (WSJ)
Web Fiction Guide, one of the biggest listings of web serials.
Jukepop, which pays for web serials and offers community voting
Worm, a popular and well-read web serial.

Let's discuss!

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Old 12-20-2013, 01:22 PM
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I think it could work under the right conditions. I don't think you need to be locked into anything in terms of format. But you will be locked in in terms of plot, at least for the duration of the serial.

I did that with one of my novellas. I published it by chapters on my blog. When it was done, I went back, put it all together, smoothed out rough edges, and self-published in its entirety on Smashwords.

If we're talking free chapters/parts/books, it can be a good way to gain a readership. If you wanted to charge for each part, though, that might get tricky. I've seen a lot of people complain online--very loudly--about having purchased what they thought was a complete eBook only to find out it's part of a serial. Also, depending on how many parts/chapters there are, the cost for the reader might really add up if you decide to charge, which could hurt an author.
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Old 12-20-2013, 09:26 PM
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Whisper, I think you are right about charging for serial parts- it's a terrible idea. Monetized serials should follow the example of webcomics, and make money off of advertising and compilations. My current serial is and will remain free, but when it's finished I plan to offer a complete version for purchase.
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