Showing posts with label Serial fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Serial fiction. Show all posts

Monday, November 12

Is Serial Fiction Profitable? Hugh Howey Says: Yes! Even With Absolutely No Promotion

Is Serial Fiction Profitable? Hugh Howey Says:Yes! Even With Absolutely No Promotion

Hugh Howey's Wool: An Overnight Success

Yesterday I wrote an article in which I asked the question: Is Serial Fiction Profitable? Just today Erica Jackson Curran published an article about Hugh Howey which added a few very interesting tidbits to the already fascinating story of his rise to glory and monetary solvency:
"It feels like it happened overnight," says Howey, a Florida resident who attended the College of Charleston in the early 2000s. Wool started out as a novella. He posted it online in July 2011 and forgot about it, deciding to focus instead on promoting his full-length novels.[1]

"I didn't promote this story, because it's a very dark story, and I didn't know that that's what was catching on " (Hugh Howey)

So the first novella of what would become Wool was a story he posted and forgot about. He did no promotion. No marketing. No advertising. In fact, he was intending to focus on full-length novels. Erica Curran continues:
Howey admits to being almost frustrated with how Wool took off, because he'd worked so hard to promote his previously published novels, and they got little attention. "You like to think you have some control over what succeeds and what doesn't, but for me it just highlighted that the reader is totally in charge of what succeeds and what fails," he says. "I didn't promote this story, because it's a very dark story, and I didn't know that that's what was catching on, but if you look at The Hunger Games and some of the stuff that even young adults are reading now, it's very dark themes, a lot of themes with class structure and class warfare with the downtrodden kind of rising up, and I guess it was just good timing that I happened to write that kind of story while that's what readers were after." [1]
It's a marvelous indie success story.
Hugh Howey has, of course, continued writing and this last August published I, Zombie, a full length novel. I find it interesting that he is going back to writing full length novels rather than novellas since it was a novella that sparked his rocket-ride to the top. But, then, Wool continues to sell fabulously well and I, Zombie is fairing very respectably.

It's no surprise, then, that Hugh Howey has decided to continue to independently publish.
"You do so well self-published, it's hard for publishers to compete with what you can do on your own," he [Hugh Howey] says. "I make 70 percent royalty rates on sales here in the U.S., and if I went with a publisher, that would be cut to almost one-sixth. And so, you know, we sat down with them, and they had some nice offers, but I'm handing them a bestseller with a film contract attached and all of these other things attached and what they're offering is just not as good as what I'm doing currently. I showed them what I'm earning now, and they kind of said, I don't know if we can compete with that." [1]
1) Hugh Howey doesn't need a publisher, thank you very much, by Erica Jackson Curran at Charleston City Paper.

Other articles you might like:

- The MacGuffin: A Plot Device From Screenwriting
- Serial Fiction: Is It Profitable?
- What's The Difference Between Paranormal Romance And Urban Fantasy?

Photo credit: "Edgy Pink" by Pink Sherbet Photography under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Sunday, November 11

Serial Fiction: Is It Profitable?

Serial Fiction: Is It Profitable?

For the past few months I've been thinking of experimenting with serial fiction. One thing I'm wondering is whether it's financially profitable.

You've heard, no doubt, that Charles Dickens was one of the first to serialize a story, The Pickwick Papers, in 1836 and that it was a great financial success, but the form seems to have fallen out of favor with readers ... although perhaps less so with listeners. (Serial, Wikipedia)

When I was a kid I spent summers at my parents' cabin, a ramshackle three bedroom tucked deep in the Dead Wood, listening to serializations over the radio. That was great fun. Years later a public broadcasting station re-broadcast episodes of The Shadow (The Shadow knows) along with the original commercials (Roma wine, that's R-O-M-A) from the 40s. The show broadcast every Saturday at 11:00 pm; I'd make popcorn and hunker down for an hour of campy goodness.

Serial Literature Today

Jane Friedman has written a fabulous article about serials for Publishing Perspectives called Experimenting With Serials for Fun and Profit. I would encourage anyone at all curious about the state of serial literature today to read her article.

Is Serial Fiction Profitable?

Here's what I think: It can be. I say that because for certain authors, authors like Hugh Howey and Sean Platt it has been. For other folks, not so much. As you can see from reading Jane's article, many people produce serial fiction simply for the love of it.

Since my question is whether serial fiction can be profitable and, if so, how to go about doing that, I'll concentrate on folks who seem like they've been able to make a nice go of it. Although please keep in mind that this is guess work on my part, I haven't seen their financials!

Hugh Howey - Wool

Jane wrote her article before the phenomenal success of Hugh Howey's Wool. Here's what Hugh Howey says about his ride to the top:
The first WOOL story came out in July of last year. At just over 12,000 words, it qualified as a novelette, and not much more. I forgot about the story until it began garnering a slew of positive reviews that could muster only a single complaint among them: Where was the rest? They wanted more.

So I began writing more. I released the rest of the story in installments, something I'd always wanted to try, and I enjoyed the quick turnaround and the immediate feedback from readers. The entries grew as the series went along, until the fifth and final WOOL story was the length of a short novel. Once the tale was complete, I collected the five books into an Omnibus, which was when it began to really take off.

The WOOL OMNIBUS is now roaring up the charts, and I like to think of the work as much as a collaboration as a singular effort. It was borne out of the call from reviewers for more and forged almost as it was being read. (How My Self-Published Book 'Wool' Became A Hot Movie Property)
Hugh Howey seems to have discontinued selling the first five serials and now just offers the omnibus version, but since that's currently at number 151 in the paid kindle store he's clearly made the right decision. Wow! That is very good, and the book was published in January 2012.

The question is: Would Wool have been such a great hit if Hugh Howey written it as a novel from the start? We'll never know, but clearly the serial form can be lucrative.

Roz Morris - Author, Editor and Ghostwriter

This is from Roz's site:
I’m a professional writer, editor and writing blogger living in London. You’ll have seen my books on the bestseller lists but not under my name because I ghostwrote them for other people. (Roz Morris)
Roz has come out into the daylight, as she puts it, with a 100,000 word literary novel she released in four parts. She published in September 2011 and appears to have done fairly well. One thing I find fascinating is that her first episode--the first serial--seems to be doing about as well as the completed book! Here, take a look for yourselves (keep in mind that I'm writing this on Nov 11th and things will likely change over time).

My Memories of a Future Life - Episode 1 of 4: The Red Season (Aug 23, 2011)
My Memories of a Future Life - Episode 2 of 4: Rachmaninov and Ruin (Sept 1, 2011)
My Memories of a Future Life - Episode 3 of 4: Like Ruby (Sept 9, 2011)
My Memories of a Future Life - Episode 4 of 4: The Storm (Sept 16, 2011)
My Memories of a Future Life - the complete novel (Sept 19, 2011)

Roz also has a great blog about writing: Nail Your Novel.

Sean Platt - The King of Serial Fiction

Together with co-author, David Wright, Sean has quickly become “King of the Serial,” as the father of the five series: Yesterday’s Gone, WhiteSpace, ForNevermore, Available Darkness, and Dark Crossings. Inspired as much by Stephen King’s serialized story, “The Green Mile,” as well as superbly scripted TV shows, such as LOST, Fringe, and The Walking Dead. Their first series, Yesterday’s Gone has received over 200 5-Star reviews, and has spent time on Amazon’s list of the Top 100 Best Reviewed Fiction Books of All Time. (Sean Platt)
Sean calls his omnibus works "seasons" and each contains six episodes. He models his serials after Lost and uses cliffhanger endings to keep his audience coming back for more. Jane wrote that the first episode was free and each after that each is $1.99 with the full season selling for $4.99. Apparently things have changed.

I just looked up Yesterday's Gone: Season One on Amazon and it's selling for $5.99 (#2038 in the Kindle store), the first episode is 99 cents and all other episodes are $2.99. Even though the first season is up on Amazon the first episode is still selling reasonably well (#29,490 in the Kindle store).

Keep in mind, too, that Yesterday's Gone is just one of the serials Sean and David are writing.  As I mention, above, they are also working on: WhiteSpace, ForNevermore, Available Darkness and Dark Crossings, all of which seem to be doing very well.

Don't Use Serial Fiction As A Gimmick

Jane warns against using serial fiction as a marketing gimmick. If it just so happens that each chapter of your novel stands on its own as a self-contained unit, then fine, but if it it doesn't you may find yourself with disgruntled readers--or, worse, board ones--rather than fans.

Serial Fiction: Try It!

It seems the most successful attempts at serial fiction have been when novel length works are serialized in 5 or 6 novelette sized chunks and released about a week, or a month, apart.

In the end, the only way you'll know if serial fiction would be right for you is to jump into the deep end and try it. Write some serial fiction, publish it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, WattPad, or what have you.

If you're a bit shy you can use a pen name so if no one buys it you don't have to worry about anyone knowing. I think that's unlikely though, especially if you give your first serial away for free. :)

Whatever you decide to do, best of luck!

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My NaNoWriMo update: Yesterday was a good day for me, I'm at 19,921 words, I'm hoping to reach 22,000 today. Coming up to the midpoint.

Other articles you might like:

- What's The Difference Between Paranormal Romance And Urban Fantasy?
- A NaNoWriMo Pep Talk From Neil Gaiman
- David Mamet On How To Write A Great Story

Photo credit: "My forest dream is still a dream..." by Vinoth Chandar under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.