Showing posts with label serials. Show all posts
Showing posts with label serials. Show all posts

Friday, January 31

Serialization: Pros And Cons

Serialization: Pros And Cons

Have you ever considered writing a serialized novel?

Over the past few days I've read two terrific articles on the subject of writing and publishing serials, the pros and cons. They are:

"How I sold The Plague of Days, PART I" by Robert Chazz Chute. (Parts II and III are excellent as well.)

As some of you may remember, I've played with the idea of writing a serial (I've put a collection of links at the end of this article) wondering if it might help a writer become discovered, especially if they took advantage of Amazon's Select publishing program.

Well. If you've ever wondered about the feasability--or profitability--of writing and publishing a serialized novel, I recommend Chute's articles. He gives a well thought out, well explained, list of pros and cons in addition to throwing in many helpful tips.

(The following list contains insights from both articles.)

Publishing Strategy For Serialized Novels

- Chute advises writers to publish the entire season of episodes and then release a new episode every week.

- Chute kept each episode to between 15,000 and 25,000 words.

- Chute sold each episode for 99 cents.

- Chute advises writers to make it cheaper to buy the entire season of episodes than to buy each episode for 99 cents. (Chute charges $3.99 for one season.)

- End each episode on a cliffhanger. This way not only will readers be motivated to buy the next installment, they will be motivated to save money by purchasing the season bundle for $3.99 (or whatever you decide to charge).

Benefits Of This Strategy

- Since you are releasing different episode each week your volumes will have a better than average chance of being featured on Amazon's the 'also-bought' lists.

Drawbacks Of The Strategy

- Some readers hate serials. And, yes, I do mean hate. Even if they read and enjoy a serial they won't feel it was a good value for their money and will rate the book accordingly.

- You make less selling every episode for 99 cents than you do off the bundle. For example, if a reader bought 5 episodes for 99 cents she would have spent $4.95 from which you would make 35% or $1.73. On the other hand, if she had spent $3.99 on the season bundle you would make 70% or $2.79. 

-Your Amazon Sales Page can looked cluttered after you've released a few season's worth of episodes.

The Bottom Line

Chute feels that serialization helped get his series--and him--discovered. Even though Chute lost some money on the 99 cent episodes, he feels that the exposure was worth it.

Tips And Tricks

- To help you get to know your readership and, possibly, increase reader involvement, have each season contain a secret. The first three people to guess the secret get a character named after them next season.

- An amazing cover sells books. Chute recommends his cover artist Kit Foster over at

- Think about using BookBub for marketing. You might also take a look at The Fussy Librarian. Here's an article that compares the merits of various marketing sites: BookBub vs BookGorilla vs The Fussy Librarian – Which is the best ebook marketing service?

- Enroll your books in Amazon's Select program.

- Chute advises authors not to bother with expensive book videos, they aren't worth the investment. That said, if you want to experiment, can be an inexpensive way to do so.

- Chute has found that video book reviews are very effective in selling books.

- Master the art of the cliff-hanger. Kathy Owen writes:

"Doyle was master of the cliff-hanger.  He knew how to break up the segments to keep the readers hooked.  The first magazine installment, for example, ends with Watson’s sleep being disturbed by: 'the sob of a woman, the muffled, strangling gasp of one who is torn by uncontrollable sorrow.'  Other cliff-hangers involve a dead body, a stealthy stranger, and mysterious noises in the night."

General Writing Tip:

In order to avoid using huge information dumps to get in needed backstory, ones that involve long flashbacks or narrative passages "Doyle used different narrative voices: those of the client, a 17th century manuscript, Watson, and Holmes, who later relays his own account of the time when he and Watson are working the case separately."

Here's a video--it's really more of a podcast--I've put together based on the information in this article. It's basically just this article in audio form.

Other articles I've written on serialization:

Monday, April 15

How To Write Episodic/Serialized Fiction

How To Write Episodic/Serialized Fiction
I wrote about the structure of short stories yesterday so I normally wouldn't do another post on story structure but today Janice Hardy published one of the best articles on episodic story structure I've ever read: What Downton Abbey Can Teach us About Tension.

By the way, I think the information contained in Janice's post is about much more than episodic structure. Whatever story you're writing, whether it's a novel, novella or even a short story, I'm confident that something in her article will apply.

I've broken this discussion into two posts; I'll publish the second one tomorrow.

Episode One: Introduce The Problem

Introduce the Core Conflict

Everything starts with a problem. The first episode will start by setting up the Core Conflict, but every episode should start by introducing a problem, either a new problem or a complication to an existing problem.

By the way, here's what I mean by a problem: something that needs to be solved that directly impacts the main character's life such that if she fails her life will be changed for the worse.

There should also be a solution to the problem, but one that conflicts with the main character's other goals/desires.

The story question then becomes: Will the problem be solved and the main character achieve her goal? Will the main character be rewarded for her sacrifice or will she fail and have her life--and the lives of those around her--changed for the worse?

What needs to be done:

a. State/show the problem clearly.

b. State/show the plan the hero has come up with to solve the problem.

c. State/show how the plan is going to be implemented.

d. State/show the stakes. What will happen if the plan fails? What will happen if the plan succeeds? The price of failure should be something that will change not only the main character's life for the worse, but the lives of everyone she cares about.

Showing the stakes--spelling them out for the audience--helps build tension because it lets the audience see how very bad failure would be for the main character, who (hopefully) we've come to care about.

Episode Two: Complications

The hero's solution to the problem fails.

In Episode One the main character hoped her plan would work and the problem would be solved but the plan doesn't work.

It could be that the main character's plan works in part, but a major complication is introduced, or it could be that the plan was a complete and total failure and not only does the thing she feared would happen, happen, something much worse than that occurs. Ideally this would be something completely unexpected that the main character couldn't have foreseen or prevented.

What needs to be done in this episode:

a. The problem becomes harder to solve.

The problem was tricky before, but now it seems unsolvable. People were nervous before, but now they're downright terrified.

b. The stakes get larger.

Part of the reason our characters are downright terrified is that the stakes have gone up. Way up. While the payoff remains the same (or possibly has been diminished) the consequences of failure have become much more stark.

For example, if the problem was that a single mother and her newborn baby were going to lose their rent controlled apartment in two months the problem becomes that they are going to lose the apartment tomorrow. And a blizzard is raging outside. Or something like that, you get the gist.

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I have two more points to go over but I'll leave those for tomorrow.

Happy writing!
Question: Have you ever written serialized fiction? If so, have you tried out Wattpad? I've been thinking of opening an account over there and was curious what you folks thought of it.

Other articles you might like:

- Larry Brooks On The Structure Of Short Stories
- How To Get Honest Book Reviews
- What Slush Pile Readers Look For In A Story

Photo credit: "spectacular view of sunset" by Kamoteus (A New Beginning) under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.