Thursday, May 1, 2014

Serial Fiction -- Now Serving Hot Stories One Chapter at a Time

Great News!

My novel in progress, Drowning in the Delta, has been accepted for serialization by Jukepop, the online serial fiction site. The first chapters are live and free for download -- that's right ladies and gentlemen -- free, not one thin dime or penny farthing (at some point there will be a small per-chapter charge easily paid through the Amazon store).

I've got 18 chapters written so far and expect the story will run to 35-40 chapters before we say adieu -- one chapter a week delivered to you, maybe more frequently, depending on time and your encouragement. You get the chance to not only take a free look at work in progress, but also to comment on what you're reading, be part of the fiction if you like, or walk away.

Jukepop Link
Click on the cover image and go to the book chapters online. Sign up to be notified when a new chapter goes up. Vote if you like the chapter, offer encouragement, suggestions for what you want to read more about, maybe some things in the tale you'd like to see less.

Why not just finish the book already and present it as a whole? Well, truth is, I've been struggling to get the story down, move ahead, finish. As a long time journalist, I know deadlines are great motivators. If I promise to deliver, I can't let you down, I will do it -- and in the process I'll finish the novel and then gear up to write the next one.

Actually, the concept of serial fiction has a long history and comes from journalism. Honore de Balzac, one of the most popular novelists of his time, was approached in 1836 to contribute installments of his fiction to a Parisian newspaper to increase readership and get people into the habit of reading the news. People are wringing their hands today about the same problem. Everyone watches TV, studies smart phones screens for short communications or views movies and books on e-readers. How to engage and keep readers coming back continues to be a challenge for those who publish.

Since consumers are already getting their information in bites, bits, segments and installments on electronic devices, why not deliver novels that way too?

It worked for Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1851 when Uncle Tom's Cabin was serialized for 40 weeks, also Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary, Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.

And let's not overlook Charles Dickens. More recently, Armistead Maupin serialized Tales of the City in the the San Francisco Chronicle beginning in 1978 and continuing through the 1980s. Tales of the City was novelized, turned into a TV series and a few years ago was presented as a Broadway musical.

But now, while no one was paying much attention, technology has been turning what was once old into something new and interesting -- serial fiction on mobile devices. Jukepop, founded by Silicon Valley mobile systems engineer and serial narrative lover Jerry Fan, offers serialized stories in a variety of genres with a free introduction to the first chapters. Fan says the approach solves two major problems facing today's publishing industry: long lead times from creation to finished product for authors and risk reduction for publishers.

My friend Tom Foremski talks about the media disruption going on around us. Check out his news site Silicon Valley Watcher for high-tech insider information and thoughtful commentary on how technology is changing our lives. Tom says traditional publishing is in trouble, nothing surprising there, but he goes on to say all companies are now media companies -- publishers, broadcasters and performers. I suppose by extension the same is true for individual writers or in the more current lingo "content creators."

Since writers are having to become their own media companies, Jukepop helps them strut their stuff, attract readers, build a fan base, make a little money, while at the same time helping publishers find emerging talent with good stories to tell and decide if the story is worth investment costs given market risks. But, most of all, readers get to discover new writers, download stories they like and enjoy them at reasonable cost.

Welcome back serial fiction! Take a look at the first chapter of my novel in progress, download it to your smart phone, get notification when the next chapter goes up. Let's finish writing this book together!

P.S. The Drowning in the Delta cover image is used courtesy of supremely talented Sacramento photographer and artist Dianne Poinski. Visit her site, make an appointment to stop by her studio. Enjoy her portfolio of hand-painted photos from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the setting for Drowning in the Delta.

Courtesy: Dianne Poinski
P.S. 2 -- Want to try writing serial fiction? Here's a post from Writer Unboxed: GoodReads has a serial fiction "forum" and lots of writers are using Jukepop to launch their serials -- in every genre imaginable. Anyway you look at it, Free-99 is a bargain for enjoying a re-emerging art form.