Hillary Kelly has a historically well-informed (rare!) and strategically insightful (rarer!) opinion piece on novel serialization at the Washington Post:
More than 150 years [after Dickens serialized “Dombey and Son”], the publishing industry is in the doldrums, yet the novel shows few signs of digging into its past and resurrecting the techniques that drove fans wild and juiced sales figures. The novel is now decidedly a single object, a mass entity packaged and moved as a whole. That’s not, of course, a bad thing, but it does create a barrier to entry that the publishing world can’t seem to overcome. Meanwhile, consumers gladly gobble up other media in segments — whether it’s a “Walking Dead” episode, a series of Karl Ove Knausgaard ’s travelogues or a public-radio show (it’s called “Serial” for a reason, people) — so there’s reason to believe they would do the same with fiction. What the novel needs again is tension. And the best source for that tension is serialization.
Perhaps I am a bit biased in my enthusiasm, since I just embarked on a Free Fiction Friday project to serialize my own novels. But, I’m doing it more to keep the pressure on myself to write, rather than to “juice sales figures.” (After all, it’s Free Fiction Friday.)
In any case, I agree with Kelly that serialization helps build tension, not only among readers but also for the writer for whom the imposed breaks in the narrative serve as reminders that the story must remain interesting.
What do you think?