Thursday, February 24, 2011

Growing up, there was one man that meant Superman for me. It wasn't Christopher Reeves, though I watched his movies and Tom Wellings or Brandon Routh hadn't come around yet. For me, it was a man from before my time. In my opinion, it was a man from a better time - Kirk Alyn. My buddy Rob and I used to spend hours watching crusty VHS copies of old movie serials. It was our thing in high school especially. We'd get out of school, borrow some cash for junk food and ice cream from his brother (Because we could, not because we needed it) and go to any video store we could find that carried them. Any serials at all, we loved every one. We relished their little sum-ups, their outlandish cliffhangers and even more ridiculously great escapes.

I desperately wish I lived in an era that still did movie serials. For a long time, I thought that could be the solution to getting folks to visit the theater again. Who wouldn't go once a week to see a show if, before the feature, there was a twenty minute installment of a production? Especially if it was well done and starred real actors and actresses. I loved the idea of it.

Right now, there's a chance to try something similar in the writing world. For decades, magazines published serialized stories and Stephen King did something similar with The Green Mile a few years ago but now, with the advent of electronic publishing, someone could release a chapter a week, set their price and string happy readers along for months. Who wouldn't plop down a quarter once a week to read the next chapter in a book by their favorite author?

Lawrence Watt-Evans, one of my fave fantasy authors, has been doing something vaguely similar for years. After interest in his fantasy series waned slightly, his publisher stopped printing them, so he started releasing them himself on his website, in serialized form. After he's received a set amount in donations from readers, he puts up the next chapter and announces it on Facebook, Twitter and his site. You can read the entire book for free, provided other fans pony up the dough. And as an added bonus, anyone that donates over $25 over the course of the novel, they get a copy of the eventual printed book gratis.

I think Watt-Evans has the right idea, and he's been doing it for years before the e-reader came about. I wonder what the chances of an unpublished, largely unknown author like myself would have trying something similar with one of my books. I have a zombie novel that just needs its last few chapters finished that would be perfect for this. Wide range of characters, lots of cliffhangers and if I timed it right, it could be out in time for Halloween. What do you readers think? Could something like this gain enough of a following? Would you pay a quarter for a fifteenth of a book every three weeks or so?

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