What exactly is a serialized book?
You wait patiently for your weekly dose of your favourite shows, right? You vowed to boycott the show when your favourite character was killed off (yes, we’re still ‘holding the door’ here)! But you still come back every week, don’t you?
The closest analogy for a serialized book is a TV series (Breaking Bad, Fargo, Game of Thrones) — you read a serialized book in instalments, or episodes if you like, over a period of time. Serialized novels aren’t a new thing at all; all the great 19th century writers — Charles Dickens, Alexander Dumas, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Gustave Flaubert — wrote their classics in serialized form: Oliver Twist, The Three Musketeers, The Brothers Karamazov, Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary were all serialized in magazines, and were highly successful. Authors would respond to audience reactions as the novels stretched out for a year, often more, and serialized literature was the norm rather than the exception.
In the 20th century, the serialized form declined because of the rise of other forms of entertainment such as radio and TV. But there were a few who tried the form: Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities appeared in 27 parts in Rolling Stone magazine, while Michael Chabon serialized Gentlemen of the Road in the New York Times Magazine in 2007.
Here in India, too, serialized writing was extremely popular. Chandrakanta, that great fantasy novel, was serialized in the 19th century, while in the 1960s, R.K. Narayan serialized The Man Eater of Malgudi in the Illustrated Weekly. Rabindranath Tagore’s Gora was serialized too, as was Yashpal’s Partition magnum opus, Jhutha Sach.
Why is it back in fashion?
Simple: because the digital age allows for experimentation with the form of the novel in a way that traditional physical publishing could not. ‘What the novel needs again is tension. And the best source for that tension is serialization.’ Another reason: because serialized novels allow the authors to connect with their readers on a more regular basis than a single book does. Then is the question of time: readers are always complaining they do not have time to read a 300-page book. But they can certainly give half an hour every day for a serial instalment. ‘It makes choosing your next read a less daunting task.’
So who’s bringing serialized novels back?
Apart from Juggernaut, Amazon has started a Kindle Serials programme, releasing stories in episodes. Then Waterstones, one of UK’s largest booksellers, announced its own digital serialized fiction platform, ‘Read Petite‘. An American publishing startup called Plympton is solely focusing on reviving ‘serialized fiction for the digital age’. More and more publishers are experimenting with the form now, because digital technologies allow for the form to be popular.
Why should you read a serialized book?
Oh, so many reasons! Most folks point out two reasons why they don’t read more: lack of time, and they don’t know what to read next. Serialized books solve this purpose: a few chapters, delivered to you every day on your device, of a book you’re so engrossed in that you can’t wait to read what happens next, over a period of a month, or a few months, or even a year (just as you would do with a TV series). Then there is the ‘cliffhanger’ moment: you’re left wondering what happens to a character, and that sense of excitement continues until you read the next chapter, then the next…and so on. Finally, that sense of attachment you have with an author as they deliver the next chapter to you (most authors are always seeking to learn what their audiences are like, and what they want).
Where do you start?
In India, start with us. We’re currently serializing two books: Thomas Jacob’s hilarious crime caper Anjuna Beats, and Pakistan queen of romance Umera Ahmed’s Till Death Do Us Part – . So far, we’ve serialized Hitesha’s fantasy epic Crucibles of Sin, Saurbh Katyal’s noir thriller The Invisible Woman, Abheek Barua’s spine-chilling serial killer novel The Beheading, and Toffee’s young romance, Finding Juliet. You’ll see more and more as we continue publishing.