Friday, December 16, 2011

Union County author writes an e-book cliffhanger

Serial novels made Charles Dickens a star. When his first one, “The Pickwick Papers,” was published over 20 months in 1836-37, readers clamored for each installment.

Now, Union County author S.L. Schmitz is hoping the serial novel might be her literary ticket to success, too.

Schmitz is among a growing number of authors publishing novels in installments as electronic books.

Her book, “Mina’s Daughter: The Harker Chronicles,” continues the Dracula story, as Katherine “Katie” Wilhelmina Harker searches for answers about her mysterious past.

It’s among more than 30 serial e-books published recently by Pennsylvania-based Trestle Press.

Sales of several of those, including “Amish Knitting Circle” by Karen Anna Vogel, are soaring. “Amish Knitting Circle” was one of six Trestle Press series that recently made Kindle’s Top 15 for fiction and short stories.

Serial novels aren’t as high-profile today as they were in Dickens’ time, but they’ve never died. Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City” was serialized in The San Francisco Chronicle in the 1970s. Tom Wolfe’s “Bonfire of the Vanities” ran in 27 parts in Rolling Stone in the 1980s.

Now, the rise of electronic books has created a convenient platform for the serial novel. Unlike traditional books, e-books can be written to any length, including just a few thousand words.

Through Trestle Press, Schmitz aims to publish an installment of two to three chapters of “Mina’s Daughter” each month. Each sells for 99 cents. She’s planning 10 to 13 parts in all.

Schmitz, a middle-school teacher who lives in Indian Trail, also publishes traditionally. Dark Continents Publishing is releasing her dark fantasy, “Let It Bleed,” in January.

She sees serial e-novels as “one way for authors to get control of pricing back.” A reader who buys every installment of “Mina’s Daughter,” for instance, will pay a total of $10 to $13, substantially more than the few dollars readers pay for most e-books by emerging authors.

Schmitz’s next installment of “Mina’s Daughter” is set to be published electronically any day now. It’s available through Amazon and

As it concludes, Katie realizes she is changing into a vampire. She’s boarding a train to Amsterdam, hoping to track down a professor who can help her halt the transformation.

What happens next? I’m afraid, dear reader, I can’t tell you. You’ll just have to wait for the next installment.


Ann Summerville said...

Interesting marketing idea. I didn't realize Pickwick Papers was published over a 20 month period. I can't see anyone waiting for that amount of time in this day of instant gratification.