Saturday, July 11, 2015

News Organizations, Writers Could Benefit from Rebirth of Serialized Novels

Before I start this post, give me a minute to put on my sarcasm hat.

Okay. Ready?

I don't get it. 

I thought the increased ease of self-publishing would help a newbie writer like myself avoid the frustrating wait to become famous that traditionally published authors face.

Ugh. Do I have to do EVERYTHING? 

*removes sarcasm hat*

I really didn't expect my book to hit the NYT bestseller list the moment I clicked Amazon's "PUBLISH" button.

It was a hope. A dream. But certainly not an expectation.

Unless they are completely clueless (or delusional, your choice), self-published authors choose such a route knowing they will face an entirely new type of slush pile, one that theoretically allows average readers to determine what rises to the top.

Unfortunately, even a great story that is told really well will stay at the bottom of the self-pub slush if the author can't muster the appropriate support through word of mouth or can't stomach the idea of whoring themselves out through shameless self-promotion.

So what's a self-pubber to do?

There could be a wealth of untapped potential in building name recognition out there waiting to be utilized. And it's so ridiculously obvious, it's no wonder it's been overlooked by so many.


Yes, newspapers, that archaic medium your college professor told you was dying 20 years ago.

Before I explain, first let me say your college professor was wrong.

Newspapers aren't dying. They're evolving into hybrid news publications that offer both print and online products.

In most cases, the revenue newspapers receive through their online products continues to grow year after year, and newspapers that are aggressive in building their online product often are looking for new and unique ways to draw more traffic to their sites.

That's where self-published authors come in.

Earlier this year, I was approached by my hometown newspaper about whether or not I'd have interest in publishing my novel as a serial on its website.

It was a unique opportunity, but certainly not a new concept by any means.

In the 19th century, serialized novels in newspapers were all the rage. Over the years, some of the most famous authors in history - Dickens, Hardy, Stowe, Twain, Hemingway, Wharton and Fitzgerald (to name a few) - were known to have their novels serialized in printed newspaper.

But they became a rarity after the mid-1900s, as space in print publications became a prime commodity. (It also should be noted that Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities" was serialized in Rolling Stone Magazine before it was published book form.)

It could be time for a comeback.

With online products, newspapers no longer face the space crunch they once did when they were limited to print. Publishing a serialized novel, especially one written by an author with ties to the coverage area served by the publication, has the potential to drive a significant amount of traffic to the publication's website on a regular basis, especially if it is cross-promoted in the print edition.

Such an offering also benefits the author. While they may or may not receive direct financial compensation from the media outlet publishing the serial, they will receive the benefits that come from exposure to a potential fanbase in the publication's pre-established readership. After all, news sites that serve a niche market or area have the potential to reach thousands of readers on a regular basis.

As self-published authors, we're foolish not to tap into that potential.

Right now, the biggest obstacle for writers interested in pursuing this venue is talking editors and publishers of such products into taking a chance on such a venture.

Talk to your local news editors/publishers about the benefits their news organization could see from offering a serialized novel on their publication's website. (It builds readership, community interaction, creates a buzz and has the potential to reach a regular audience beyond the publication's normal coverage area.) They might be more receptive than you think.

My novel is the second serialized story being published in the Norfolk Daily News. While I'm unable to disclose the exact numbers of unique pageviews each chapter receives on a weekly basis, I can say I have not been displeased with the amount of exposure I've received.

It should be noted that writers who seek this platform might have to compromise portions of their stories. Like Hardy, whose "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" was censored by The Graphic in the 1890s, "The Long Road to Heaven" was deemed a tad too edgy in some scenes for the polite readership of a Northeast Nebraska news organization. (There are a few F-bombs.)

The beauty of the modern state of publishing is authors can simultaneously make the unabridged version of their works available through other platforms. Mine, for instance, is available through Amazon.

It's well worth the shot.

Thanks for visiting and, as always, keep reading.

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