Is this the death knell of the modern serial?
In 2012 Amazon changed the world of the serial novel after the breakthrough success of Hugh Howey’s Wool, by creating Kindle Serials. An opportunity for authors to submit to Amazon for publication. Amazon had all but officially made itself the ultimate publishing company because it handled everything from publishing to one of the largest distribution machines in the world. Itself. For a brief moment between 2012-2014 the serial novel looked to be at the top of it’s game for the first time since the 1960’s. Everyone everywhere was looking to get into the serial game, and why not?
The serial novel offers a straightforward and exciting premise, a story released over the course of several weeks much like a television show, that would end each ‘episode’ with a cliffhanger, and would consist of either one season or several. It was easy to see how many would come to be obsessed with such a premise. So what changed?
2013 and 2014 saw the start of both Netflix original programming and Amazon original programming, and the introduction of binge watching new content. The obsession was clear and for a moment there was a question of whether or not such binge programming would become the new standard for all television, much like how television was the likely cause of death for the original serial, it’s easy to see how Netflix original programming and binge watching new content would be the cause of death for the modern serial. As more shows entered the landscape of Netflix and Amazon’s original content so too did the decline of serials follow. It might be that the trend simply died out on the author end, with serials becoming replaced with short stories.
In 2016, finding any mention of the serial novel that isn’t at least two years old, is next to impossible. The closest thing we had this year was Julian Fellowes’ (creator of Downton Abbey) Belgravia app and novel, which if this is the first time you’re hearing about this, don’t worry, me too. Kindle Serials has even closed its doors to unsolicited submissions, which is common for publishers to do after a great rise in popularity, but it is worth noting that on the Kindle eBooks page of Amazon there’s absolutely no mention of Kindle Serials to be found.
This is not to say that a serial story could not still be successful, even in it’s more downtrodden times, stories like the Tales of the City series and Sex and the City both initially started off as serials and both went on to great success, with Sex and the City seeing six seasons and two films, and Tales of the City having a mini-series.