Guest post by David Wright – Serialization: A Timely Return for the Digital Age?

One of the most exciting aspects of the indie revolution is seeing writers moving beyond straitjacketed definitions of what a story or book should be.

We have seen a resurgence in short stories, a rebirth of the novella, and, as you will see below, some fascinating experiments with serialized fiction.

All of these forms were held back by the economics of print and the risk-averse nature of publishers and agents.

Self-publishers, of course, are free to publish whatever they like.

Today, I have an excellent guest post from one half of a writing duo that is doing just that – with great results. Here’s David Wright:

“To be continued…”

I first discovered these three magical words in the pages of comic books as a child, and I instantly I fell in love with the concept of serialized fiction. 

Whether the hero was in peril, a mystery was a second from being solved, or some shadowy figure was about to reveal itself, the cliffhanger is the coolest thing in fiction.

It’s surprising how few authors use cliffhangers, though.

I think that’s about to change, thanks to Amazon.

If you’re reading David Gaughran’s blog, I don’t need to list all the awesome things Amazon has done for indie authors. And yes, I am singling out Amazon, because to date, they’ve had more of an effect on self-publishing than any other company in history.

Instead I want to talk about one particular freedom that Amazon allows — serialization.

Serials have been around forever, even if they’ve fallen out of fashion in recent years. When Stephen King released The Green Mile in six serialized books in the 90s, I fully expected to see a flood of serialized titles from other authors.

Unfortunately, that flood never came. There were a few attempts, but no real efforts by proven authors. Part of it, I’m sure was that serials are a risky sale. Publishers generally don’t like risk. And by don’t like, I mean avoid it like my cats avoid the bathtub! Which means unless your name is Stephen King, you’re probably not gonna sell a serialized book to a publisher.

With eBooks, however, that risk is nearly vapor. Especially for self-published authors.

Partnering up for adventure

When I first met my writing partner Sean Platt in 2008, I had no idea we’d someday be writing together. But once we started, I knew instantly that I’d found the writing equivalent of a soulmate — someone who got what writing is all about. Someone brimming with stories they’d been waiting for the right moment to tell. A true partner.

And when we talked about writing, talk frequently led to serials, both episodic TV we enjoyed like The Wire, LOST, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and stories we’d love to tell.

At the time, acceptance of eBooks as a new platform still seemed years off and neither of us knew much about how to get a book to print. So we dipped our toes in the water with the online serialization of a vampire-ish story I’d been holding onto forever called Available Darkness. While we drew a few readers, most people didn’t seem to enjoy reading fiction on a website. Neither do I.

This, coupled with the fact that we were trying to force a huge, complex Big Book Idea into a serialized format, prompted us to put the story on hold until we could release it properly as the book it needed to be. Our experimentation with serialized fiction would be continued…

And in the season premiere of 2011, the Kindle exploded in popularity. January’s downloads were staggering, eclipsing paperback sales for the first time. Writers were actually starting to find readers and sell books without publishers!

The sea change we’d been waiting for in publishing had come sooner than we’d hoped. So we decided to take advantage and write a serialized series specifically aimed at eBook readers.

The idea

We began with a blank slate, a big concept — what if everyone in the world, save for a few people, vanished at the exact same moment? Yeah, I know someone already wrote Left Behind. It’s not that book, trust me.

Sean and I would each be responsible for three main characters, and all minor supporting characters which surround the three mains.

We’d treat the book series like a TV series, with 100 page eBooks which left the reader hanging from “episode” to “episode.” The 100 page length was dictated by our love for King’s The Green Mile, which hits that sweet spot for serialization — short enough to be an impulse read, but long enough to deliver a satisfying experience.

Sean and I wrote the first draft of “episode one” without a clue what the other would be writing. A bit risky, but we wanted to see what we’d come up with independent of one another. Then we swapped pages and edited each other’s work, and knew we had something magical. We then brainstormed how to take what we were building and make it all flow together and where the story would go.

Our story sessions are exciting, as I imagine they’d be in the writer’s room on a show like LOST. “What if we do this?” “Oh no, we can’t  do that… Can we?”

One cool thing we had going for the first season was a contest between us. Whoever wrote the most WTF ending got the last page of that episode. I think the record stands Sean 4 and me 2, though I did get the season ending cliffhanger, which should count as at least two or three points, right?

In less than a month, we had the first “episode” of Yesterday’s Gone complete, and were at work on the next five books.

The advantages of serialization

While the form hasn’t gained a foothold yet in eBooks, it’s too attractive for writers and readers not to do well.

If you look at some of the most popular authors on Amazon right now, most of them have one thing in common — they have one or more ongoing series. When readers love a book, they often want to return to the world and spend more time with the characters.

Serialization allows your readers to fall in love with your story and characters and allows you to bring them back again and again in less time.

Serialization also handles a problem most writers would love to have — early success.

One of the things which mega-successful indie author John Locke said in his book, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in Five Months, is that the worst thing a writer can do is to put out a book, have it do well, and then have nothing more for readers to buy. Full length books take time to write. They can take anywhere from a month to several years! If someone loves your first book and has nothing more to buy, they might move on and forget about you by the time you finally come out with something new.

When you put out a serial, you get some of the benefit of having multiple titles for your readers to enjoy, without making them wait forever.

However, if your readers tear through your books as quickly as they would one full-length book, you’d probably still face the issue Locke mentioned if you don’t have anything else ready to go. This is why we never stop writing and are also releasing short story collections.

Some precautions

Not everyone loves serials.

If you write them, you will feel some resistance from readers who think the format is awful.

I want the full story right now!

I don’t want to be made to wait.

It’s a gimmick.

Those are just some of the complaints I’ve seen about the format in general. And who am I to say people are wrong? They like what they like, when they like it. While we feel there are enough people out there who will dig this exciting format to make it worth our while, it doesn’t hurt to make your work as accessible as you can in this age of content on demand.

As writers, we’re lucky to have people enjoy the stuff we create. It’s the ultimate honor, so we should cater to our audience in any way we can. So we are also releasing the series in full season books, which actually works better financially for us.

While we would love for readers to experience the episodes as we release them, once a month at 99c ($1.99 per episode after the full season comes out), we only make 35% of that through Amazon. Not a whole lot, especially when splitting profits with a partner.

Another downside to serialized eBooks, is figuring out the best way to sell them. Because Amazon controls how inventory is searched and delivered to your browser, you can easily confuse your potential buyers when delivering a serialized book.

You must have covers (often seen in thumbnail size) which are similar enough to convey that these books are part of a series without being similar enough to confuse readers into thinking they might just be different editions of the same book.

We achieved distinction with just enough similarity by creating a uniform title, a band beneath the title which indicates the episode number, and a striking image which fits with each episode.


Then, the biggest issue we had to figure out was how we’d offer a full season download (all the episodes in one book). Again, there’s lots of room for confusion for readers.

Is this episode one? Did I already buy this?

Is this a continuation after Episode Six?

How is this different from the other books in the series?

Which book should I buy?

We certainly didn’t want people who already bought the individual episodes to accidentally purchase the full season thinking it was a new title.

So I had to create a cover which was similar in theme, yet clearly indicated that this was a full season collecting the first six books. I think we did a great job here and haven’t had any complaints or confusion yet.

I also specified on the Amazon sales page that this is a full season collecting the already released first six episodes. You never want to mislead your reader, unlike some record companies that re-release the same CD 10 different ways with 15 different covers in attempt to bleed fans dry of every buck they have.

Watch, listen, tweak

So far, our experiment has been a lot of fun. We’re paying attention to reader response and seeing how the books perform so we can adjust how we continue in January with Season Two.

Here are two lessons we’ve learned so far.

People don’t like waiting a full month. While we love that people can’t wait to see what happens next, a month is a pretty long time to wait between 100 page books, especially when you’re juggling so many storylines and complex characters. So we’re changing the model to one episode per week for Season Two. A bit ambitious, maybe, but there are two of us, and we’ll have the full season done before we release them (which will make our November insane).

Don’t hold back. One of the characters in the book, Boricio Wolfe, is a serial killer. And not a nice one (because you know, there are so many nice ones). He’s over-the-top, and downright evil.

Surprisingly, Sean, the happier, more well-adjusted of the two of us (seriously, the dude farts sunshine!) created Boricio. When I first read what Sean wrote, I almost edited it down, to make the guy more palatable. If this were a straight-up horror novel, I’d have no qualms, but Yesterday’s Gone is more about characterization and building real fear than writing gory. Something told me to just leave Boricio alone, let him do what he does best, and readers have been amazingly supportive. We’ve had several responses along the lines of: Usually, I don’t like characters like that, but there’s something about Boricio that I love! He’s like a guilty pleasure. Is it wrong that I find him so damned funny?

What next?

So far, our serialization experimentation has been nothing short of awesome!

The full season purchases for October (the first month the full season has been available) exceeded the first episode purchases, meaning people enjoy the format and want to join us on this journey.

Amazon reviews and emails have been supportive, and we’ve even heard from some writers who are contemplating or at work on their own serials.

As authors and publishers begin to see digital publishing for the opportunities it presents, I believe we’re going to see a lot more experimentation, books that push the boundaries of the “book experience.” We’ll also see old formats that had been rendered nearly obsolete in print form (such as serialization) by Big Publishing, claw their way back onto the scene.

Can serialization become as big as it once was? Could a new age of publishing make it bigger than it’s ever been?

To be continued…

David W. Wright is an indie author who loves serialized fiction and is the co-author of the post-apocalyptic serialized series Yesterday’s Gone. You can pick up the pilot episode here or get the full season for just $4.99 here.

Sign up and Be A Goner to keep up with the latest in Yesterday’s Gone news and to get exclusive chapters from Season Two and short stories long before anyone else. Follow David on Twitter @thedavidwwright.

Here’s the book trailer:

About David Gaughran

David Gaughran is Irish, living in Prague, and the author of Mercenary, A Storm Hits Valparaiso, Let's Get Digital, Let's Get Visible, and this here blog.
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58 Responses to Guest post by David Wright – Serialization: A Timely Return for the Digital Age?

  1. This guest post was already quite long, which didn’t leave me room to comment at the end, so I’ll do that here.

    I think this is a fantastic idea. In the modern era, we see more and more writers taking cue from movies. But TV is a bigger business, with a greater cultural reach, and I don’t see many writers trying to emulate the episodic format which has proved so popular.

    While serialized fiction isn’t new, it’s a long time since it has been popularized. I think these guys stand a great chance. The whole package is ultra-professional. The branding across all the titles is superb. And the whole way it is pitched is very smart, borrowing TV terminology: “seasons”, “episodes” etc.

    I love to see writers trying something new, especially when it is executed with such aplomb.

    I’d like to thank David Wright for an excellent guest post, and wish him and Sean Platt all the best with both Yesterday’s Gone, and their future projects.

    Oh, and you can see three alternative book trailers here:

    Like

    • Thank you for having us, David. And thank you for the kind words. The TV terminology was all Sean’s idea. I was a bit resistant at first, thinking it might confuse buyers on Amazon who might think we were selling DVDs or something. But I went with Sean’s guts on this, and so far nobody has emailed saying, “I thought this was a TV show! I hate reading.”

      Like

  2. JJ Toner says:

    As you said, David, this is a brilliant idea. I gather the whole book (or “season”) of 6 episodes is 600 pages long. That’s huge. I wonder how many words per episode. 100 pages could be anything from 25,000 – 40,000 words.

    Even at 25,000 words, 6 episodes = 150,000 words.
    At 35,000 per espisode, the whole book would be 210,000 words, and
    at 40,000 words per episode, the book would clock in at a whopping 240,000 words.

    It is a fantastic idea, no question, and I have been toying with breaking up one of my books, 106,000 words into 3 x 38,000. Trouble is, the book wasn’t written with serialization in mind. I also love the idea of 2 people working together the way David and Sean have.

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    • Hey JJ,

      I don’t know but I presume it’s at the lower end of the scale you quoted. I think most people go by 250 words per page when quoting “book pages” in their Amazon description.

      If I remember correctly, I think the “Dead Man” series by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin (just signed by Amazon’s new imprint) is about that length per book (25k-30k). They have a different writer for each book, but I don’t know how it all works in practical terms and how closely the stories are linked and whether they follow on from each other.

      Dave

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    • Hi JJ,

      The books are about 25,000 words each. We went into it with a goal of 12,500 words each, before the editing phases. Sometimes the book was just short of 25,000 and other times, we went a few thousand words over. In short, whatever the episode dictated, so long as it was close to the goal.

      We tried serializing a book prior to this which wasn’t really suited to it and the results weren’t what we wanted in serial format. However, I’ve seen other writers break their books up with varying results.

      Like

      • JJ Toner says:

        Hi David W. I checked out episode 1 in Smashwords (they provide a word count). It’s 27,730 words. Assuming 1,730 words for About the Authors and stuff, that makes about 26,000 words. I also checked out all the espisodes on Amazon. Some (4, 5 and 6, I think)seem to have been released in October. I clicked on the whole book and read the sample. (deep pockets, short arms) I got to read about 7 chapters. It looks interesting, although a bit disjointed at the early stage. I suppose that’s unavoidable. I will buy it and read it, but not immediately, as I’m busy just now working towards releasing my own thriller via createSpace.

        Can I ask: do you and Sean live close to one another or is your collaboration an Internet thing? (Now I think I recall you said you were in business together)

        Like

    • JJ – Sean and I have always lived rather far away, which might be a good thing, or we’d probably get a lot less work done!

      As for the release schedule, we started in August with plans to release one episode per month. However, two things changed that. 1) We wanted to get all our books out before the holiday season to get a bigger push beforehand and not get lost in the shuffle of whatever Amazon is doing then. 2) While we love that readers send us angry letters about being left hanging, we think waiting a month between stories is probably a bit long when you have so many storylines to follow and keep track of. When we come back in January, we’re releasing one episode per week, which I think is perfect since feedback from readers shows that most people are finishing episodes in a day or two at most.

      Like

  3. We’ve been serializing fiction in audio over at Podiobooks.com for years now.

    It was only a matter of time before somebody brought back the serialized fiction in text.

    Great concept and I wish Sean and David all the best!

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    • Thanks, Nathan!

      We definitely love what podiobooks is doing and have been talking about doing a podio version. The biggest obstacle for audio recording is how long it takes (for me, anyway) and weighing that against getting more writing out there (we’re already at work on Season Two, which we want completed before launch in January).

      I wish I could go without sleep to do all I want to do!

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  4. Hey, guys! I serialised my literary novel on Kindle, starting at the end of August. Through September I released it in episodes every week (borrowing, as you say, David, from the terminology of our favourite TV series). It got a great head of steam going – and what’s more, proved by the reviews that my ‘literary’ novel was as page-turning and compelling as an episode of Lost!
    I went through all those questions of how to make it clear to the reader, and was at pains to make sure nobody was confused and misled. I did this by being very clear with my product descriptions and also the cover design – as Sean and David have also done. Some people were, as David says, a little annoyed to have to wait – but I took that as a compliment and an indication of how much they were enjoying it!
    Best of all, we can do these experiments with the Kindle and push the boundaries of what fiction can do these days. Good luck, guys!

    Like

    • Thanks, Roz.

      Gotta love it when the biggest complaint readers have (so far, knock on wood) is that they want more sooner! It’s still early in the game, but I have a feeling that there’s enough people out there who enjoy serialized fiction to make this venture worthwhile.

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  5. This is really interesting. I think another format that would work great with this system is the collection of interconnected short stories – stories that are not part of the same plot, but all feature the same central character or characters and develop them a little further with each story. And then, of course, collect them in one book when you have enough. As a matter of fact, I’ve been planning something like that myself. I had the same idea about covers using variations on the same basic design – it’s nice to see I’m on the right track!

    Like

    • Elizabeth,

      Definitely! Sean did something like this with a collection of stories he did on his own called Four Seasons. It began as short stories he sent out to his blog subscribers about various people in a California town and how their lived intertwined. Once finished, he released them as a full book earlier this year.

      I think serialization is the perfect vehicle for these types of stories. Best of luck to you!

      Like

  6. Sweet. I’m doing the same thing with an adventure series called “The Serialized Adventures of Marlo & Norway”. They’re pretty short at 5000-7500 words per episode. Released every two weeks. Geared toward YA readers who would be interested in a commuter read. No buyers yet but I’ve only released two episodes, and I’m a new name so I’m sure it will take time. Also trying to get the first episode listed as free on Amazon.

    But I really dig this idea as a huge comic and manga reader. Also tv fan. I think this has a lot of potential. And is really nice way for writers to try different writing techniques.

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  7. Phil,

    Awesome! Keep at it. The more books you have out there, the better the odds that people will find you. Best of luck!

    Like

    • Thanks. I was wondering if you thought about publishing a serialized story in a blog through Amazon. I think the normal prices for those blogs are 99 cents a month. I have no idea what kind of price settings they have…

      But I’ve been toying with the idea as a way for people to be more interested in reading serials. I think the big hesitation for readers is finding the new episode each release date. So a subscription would be great since it dumps a new post in your e-reader automatically. I just don’t know of other options outside of Amazon’s blog subscription.

      Like

      • Another option is to lock those readers in with other methods. It sounds like David & Sean have done the hard part – writing something compelling enough that readers are clamoring for more. There might be a worry that you lose some readers who are waiting for the next episode, then forget about it. I don’t know if they are doing any of the following, but it’s something to consider for anyone doing serials:

        (a) Have a direct link to a mailing list sign-up (in the back matter), using the enticement that newsletter members will get to buy the new release before it’s officially launched (i.e. the day you tell everyone it’s on Amazon, not the day it appears). I think every writer should be doing this anyway whatever kind of work they write.

        (b) Sell a “subscription” to the rest of the series through PayPal or a shopping cart on your site. You sell direct, keep most of the money, and don’t lose any readers who don’t know when the next is released. This also allows a lot of flexibility. Maybe the reader has bought episode one, is now hooked, and wants the rest in a bundle. You can do that, offer a little discount, and keep them happy. Lots of options here. And also another way to collect readers’ contact details for future marketing purposes.

        Like

    • Dave – We have a newsletter, The Goners Newsletter, and I’m pretty sure we have the call to action to sign up for that in the back of each book. We’ve also done something kinda cool with the mailing list which caters to our readers — we’re offering up the first chapter of Season Two, a sneak peek, in serialized format, no less, which offers value to the reader and keeps them hooked to opening the emails, assuming they’re enjoying the story.

      We haven’t explored selling the book on-site, however. It’s a great idea!

      We’re exploring a third option, also, which is a bit unconventional, but could be awesome if it works. I don’t want to say what it is just yet, until it’s confirmed, though.

      Like

      • Yeah. If I can figure out how to sell a sub through paypal or something I think that would be the best route. But I need to make it easy for me as I am most of the company and have my hands full with writing and editing most days. And work. And grad school at the moment. I’ll have to do some more research…

        And I would be interested to see what your third option is. I love seeing new media ideas.

        Like

  8. stunoss says:

    Really great approach guys and a great blog post to read. Fascinating stuff. Like you the digital age has opened new doors to building readership and connecting with an audience. The question is, I suppose, how best to generate an income out of it. You seem to have hit on a good formula and it makes for an intriguing read. Good luck with it

    Stu
    http://lifeonthesuburbanfringe.wordpress.com/
    http://www.solqushorts.com
    http://jardinsoli.wordpress.com/

    Like

    • Stu – Thank you. As for how do we make money from it, it’s no different than any other type of fiction book selling and marketing. Sure, there’s some differences and different obstacles to account for, but getting and keeping readers is more or less the same.

      Like

  9. I really like the TV season approach. I’ve been serializing my work online since 2008 and it helped me build my fanbase in a way I wouldn’t have been able to do just putting my books out there. I may steal that idea for my ongoing serial, since the first one became a novel series.🙂 Thanks for a great post!

    Like

    • MeiLin – Thank you. And congrats on making web serialization work. I was far too impatient (and too busy at the time) to make a proper run at it. We’re actually running the bonus content as serials on the website for Newsletter members. Will be interesting to see if that gets as good a response as the eBooks have so far.

      Like

  10. This is very exciting! What a great idea! I definitely agree that eBook publishing, and especially Amazon with their innovative approach to eBooks, is allowing more and more experimental and creative books to be written and sold. I hadn’t really connected the dots to realize that readers might love serial publications. Three of my Kindle publications are parts of a trilogy and, after a few months of sales for the first book, the other two books are finally beginning to sell. Good luck with your experiment! Your trailer for YESTERDAY’S GONE was intriguing. I enjoy reading post-apocalyptic science fiction, so right after I read your blog post here, I purchased the first episode.🙂

    Like

    • Marilyn – Awesome, thank you!
      It takes some time for the followup books to catch up in sales. You have to figure some people buy but wait to read, so they might not be back right away to make the second book purchase until after they’ve read the first.

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      • David, I think you’re right. It took months until the second and third books in my trilogy started selling, and now they sell regularly. Amazon Kindle is so awesome with all the opportunities it’s made available to writers and readers. I went ahead and purchased all of Season One for YESTERDAY’S GONE. I can’t wait to read it – looks intriguing!

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  11. Tony Slater says:

    Sounds fascinating! I think there are a lot of new formats which will be discovered commercially (or rediscovered) as the Kindle boom continues. I mean, when the product and delivery is virtually free, the lack of overheads makes almost anything profitable. How low can you go? If Amazon alter their pricing rules at some point in the future there could be people selling individual jokes or chat up lines for a few cents! If Amazon will sell it, and people will buy it, then anything goes really. Personally I love the idea of the serial novel as it allows a universe to be explored in great depth – think how any great TV series would have been constrained if it had to be made instead as a movie. I’ve bought episode 1 straight away off the back of this and am looking forward to reading it – I’m thinking ’24’… I’m also wondering if this serialization would work with non-fiction…
    Hm.

    Like

    • Tony – Thanks for the nice words and buying the first book! I think serialization can definitely be done with non-fiction, so long as you’re telling a story. I don’t think the format would go nearly as well with informational-type books, thought. When you buy a book for info, you do NOT want to be kept waiting.

      24! In all my mentions of TV shows which inspired me, I forgot one of the best serialized ones!

      Like

  12. Anke Wehner says:

    My favourite book series are of the “you get more out of it if you read them all, but each book stands on its own”, and I’ve dropped a series partly because the late-introduced blatant sequel hooks (ot even cliffhangers) annoyed me, so this doesn’t seem to be my thing

    So that said, I think the way you designed your serial works very well. The big “Episode x” label strongly suggests that buyers should not expect a self-contained story.

    Like

  13. Anke – Thank you. I’m not sure if single episodes of our books can be considered full experiences without reading more. I believe the first season can be. Even though we leave things hanging, the book delivers a lot and there is some closure in some of the storylines.

    I’m with you on cheap endings, though. The cliffhangers we use aren’t out of the blue, or gimmicks, but well-planned and sometimes even hinted at in advance through character development and other ways. I’ve seen bad serials do a bait and switch, introduce some scare at the end, like a shadow lurking, then in the next episode, it’s just a cat or something lame. I hate those. Our cliffhangers advance the story each and every time, I believe.

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  14. mlheath says:

    I find this very interesting and am considering a couple of variations on the “serial novel” for a couple of my own projects. What’s great is that we now have the opportunity to explore these options. Imagine what the reaction would be if you sent a 100 page book to a traditional publisher with the comment “This is episode one of six. I’ll send you episode two next month.”

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  15. patricefitz says:

    Just catching up late here with this great and intriguing post. I’m about to launch a serialized novel in a very different genre… probably it would be called chick lit, or hen lit. One of my eFitzgerald authors, writing under the pseudonym Frisky Dimplebuns, has written a kind of comic memoir cum advice book, which we plan to sell in short episodes which each include a vignette and a Q & A section.

    The pub date is scheduled for 11/11/11. Another fascinating experiment made possible by the brave new eBook world!

    Like

    • Patricefitz – Awesome! I think serialization can be used in many forms, provided you find the right hook to draw readers back. I think the best hooks are those which help people care about either your characters, your subjects, or you enough that they want to return to the experience again. And again.

      Best of luck!

      Like

  16. As a big fan of The Green Mile paperback experiment myself, I always hoped there would be a time when less well-known authors could give this a try. Good luck with your project. The cover design is VERY smart and good looking. I think you’ve made it really clear to readers what you’re trying to do, even if they’ve never heard of a serial before.

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  17. Just noticed today that Episode One is free on Amazon. Nice! The sales on the other books look like they’re going through the roof, and the collected series book is almost top 2000 books!

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    • Kevin – Yes, the first episode went free on November 1. I was hoping it would go free in time for Halloween, but Nov. 1 worked, too. We got up to number one in horror for a few days for the free edition, but we’re not hovering around 4, last time I looked. Free has been amazing for sales of the other books, though!

      I thought we did okay during our first month, but the first week of Episode One being free has eclipsed all of October’s numbers! I’d say anyone planning a series should do whatever it takes to get that first book free. I’m not sure how long the effect lasts, but it provided a nice boost, if even for the short term.

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  18. The Yesterday’s Gone series has me intrigued.
    What I’d like to ask is wether there is anything noteworthy about sales in Germany. Over here, weekly serialized novels (“Groschenromane” – roughly translates to “penny novels”) are quite popular with some series reaching four digit numbers (that’s episode numbers, not sales; sales are far better; also, ep numbers do not take into account various spin-offs some of those series have) and going strong for 50 years and more. So I’d expect the German market to be quite different in this respect. Any experiences worth sharing?

    Like

    • Thomas – I’ve sold roughly six whole books this month out of the U.S. and those were in the UK store. So, not sure if I should be doing something else to break into the international market, or simply wait to see if sales in the states translate to people elsewhere finding our books.

      Pretty cool that serialized novels are so popular in Germany. Are these eBooks? Can you send me some names, links? Would love to see what’s going on over there, if there are English editions, of course. I’ve heard from (and of) a few people since we started Yesterday’s Gone — people who have been doing this and people who plan to. I think serialization’s time has come … again.

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  19. SgL says:

    Sorry for coming into this sort of after the fact. I’m also writing a webserial (available for free while I put updates out on a weekly basis on a website as well as Wattpad) but have done so while thinking my end goal is to compile whatever contents I think fit into “Book One” and possibly put together as an edited ebook (with some bonus content) to help me broaden my readership to the ebook audience (as well as give loyal folks something a bit easier to manage than the web version I have available.)

    I think what you’ve illustrated with this post is that perhaps I don’t have to wait until the end of this journey (which may be another year off) but break off and offer the book up in several pieces. One of the questions I have for you is how do you balance the rewards between early adopters (who will buy your six episodes/books one at time) and the latecomers (who will buy the final book. What sort of incentives do you throw in to keep people happy no matter which method they choose?

    Is there, for example, a way for you track/manage the people who might have bought all six eps and want to trade/discount on the final ebook? (Not sure that someone has asked, but curious.)

    Or do you offer super bonus content or access to special materials for the serial purchasers that might not be available in the compiled version? (Sort of like the reissued DVD box sets lack the bonus materials…)

    And definitely have faced the “I want more” complaint with serial work, but I have made it pretty clear that unlike a lot of the established publishing authorship, I literally am writing this stuff weekly for everyone. It’s nervewracking pressure, but it’s also the only way I can write at the moment🙂

    Looking forward to the next part , whenever it’s posted!

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  20. SgL – Good questions. We’ve considered the bonus stuff and I’m kind of torn. On the one hand, it’s a great way to get people to purchase the full season. On the other hand, it’s kind of exclusionary to those who bought the episodes asking them to now fork over more for the full book. We may do something with future seasons, but Season One, at the moment, has no other bonus content.

    As for tracking sales and offering discounts – no way to do that through Amazon that I know of. The best we can do at the moment is to build a newsletter list which offers weekly-ish updates and bonus content before anyone else sees it. So far, response has been great with newsletter readers. We’ve gotten a core group of people who we’re now talking with on a regular basis, which is a cool way to bond with your readers.

    As someone who did the write-it-as-you-go method with our prior book, Available Darkness, I’d say that method is a lot more hectic and easier to write yourself into a corner. I prefer getting it all done and then releasing it. It takes a bit longer to get it out to begin with, but you’re more likely to be consistent and happy with the end result.

    We informed our readers that Available Darkness was a work-in-progress and there would be some changes from what we posted online to the final product. So, it worked out in the end. In fact, one suggestion from a reader actually helped us with a problem we’d not considered, that the three leads all had names starting with J. While it was unintentional, some readers were confused during a rather big reveal, so we changed it up a bit, and it worked out for the better in the end.

    Good luck! Sorry I took so long to post a response.

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    • Yeah, adding bonuses to the “complete season” is definitely how a big company might handle it to get people to have to buy the material again, but it’s probably not the way someone who is doing things on their own might want to handle it. Like you said, doing so doesn’t seem very friendly to your regular readers. 🙂

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  21. Brian – Yeah, I definitely wouldn’t offer anything that is essential to the story as an exclusive to the full season book and exclude episode buyers. Those episode buyers are the first loyal readers, the people who took a chance on the book before they even knew there would be a full season available as one book. So, wouldn’t want to do that.

    Still trying to figure out the best pricing strategy, one that gives incentive to buy the full season but doesn’t penalize episode buyers. We’re likely doing the same thing with Season Two, putting the books on sale for the six weeks as they release, until the full season comes out, then raising single episode prices once the cheaper full season is available. That way regular readers can buy the books as they come out for the sale price (probably .99 again), or wait until the full season comes out and buy that for $4.99.

    If Amazon allowed 70 percent to both .99 titles AND higher, then we’d probably price the singles at .99 and the season at $4.99, and leave it at that, but 35% isn’t much unless you’re moving a lot of books. And when we returned books to normal price in November, full season sales skyrocketed. So pricing incentives have worked for us.

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    • One thing that could work, depending on the content, is to include the bonus features in the full season e-book, then make them available on your website. They could act as teasers for those who haven’t purchased yet. If you didn’t want to make them publicly available, you could just put them on a “private” page, i.e. one that is not “linked” to the rest of the site and is only accessible by knowing the direct link. You could then either (a) put the direct links in each e-book or (b) use that as an enticement to drive sign-ups to the newsletter where you share the links – which could be the best way.

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  22. David – Thank you, that’s a good idea. We’re already using the newsletter to give sneak peeks at Season Two and offering a free short story from our upcoming collection, so I don’t know why I couldn’t offer any Season-related bonus content from a there, too.

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  23. Author Mark Z Danielewski is releasing a 27 volume serialized novel, and has send a deal for $1 million for the first ten parts with DoubleDay http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/mark-z-danielewski-lands-1-million-book-deal-for-serialized-novel_b42710

    Interestingly, his debut was published on iUniverse in 1999, which was also a serialized novel: http://markzdanielewski.info/hol/content1482.html

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  24. Pingback: Serialized fiction « Nila E. White

  25. Rachel Henke says:

    Love this. So inspiring and brave. Must be incredible fun to have a writing partner and be able to create something together like that.
    Must be a sign cause I’m just reading Stephen King’s Memoir of writing book which is awesome and has taken my by surprise as I don’t read his genre at all.

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  26. valianne says:

    One aspect of serialized material that always appealed to me as a reader was the feeling that the author was scribbling away from week to week, trying to keep up with the story, and that I was seeing fresh material each week. This is not a common practice today, but it produces material with a different flavor, like the newspaper serials of Armistead Maupin and, currently, Alexander McCall Smith. If this idea appeals to you but your material is pre-written, you can slip a few sentences about current events into episodes when they fit.

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  27. Pingback: Using Story Beats To Increase Writing Speed | David Gaughran

  28. Pingback: Getting Serious With Serialization - BookWorks | BookWorks

  29. Pingback: Link dump | fritz freiheit.com blog

  30. tgotsis13 says:

    Reblogged this on Words and other such dilemmas and commented:
    I’m serialy (ha) thinking about this. It’s an exciting possibility.

    Like

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