Serial Fiction, A Killer Idea for Indie Authors?
One of the greatest things about being an indie author is having total control over your book. You can do things your way, and if others don’t like it, they can go fly a kite (I always found this a weird saying, since I myself do enjoy flying kites). When it comes to publishing your novel, you can publish it directly to stores such as Amazon, Smashwords, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Createspace, your blog, and in various formats like .epub, .mobi, hardcover, paperbacks, blood on a napkin, etc.
So we covered off the “where” to publish and the “what” format to publish. What about the “how?”
How will you publish your book? Will you publish it as a complete novel or would you consider publishing it in another manner, such as serialization?
Serialization is essentially taking your complete work and splitting it into smaller chunks, feeding your audience just enough of a taste at the right times so that they keep coming back for more. Does this entire process sound familiar? It should. That’s how most television shows (with plots) do it and it’s a format that comic books have adopted since its inception.
Even literary greats such as Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and Leo Tolstoy had their works serialized before they became full novels.
Recently, Amazon has created their own line of serial publications. You can check it out at Amazon Serials.
It looks like this format of publication may see a revival, which was fairly popular back in the day.
So here’s the question, should you publish your book in serial format? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons, starting with the positives first.
Serialization is as awesome as Batman’s pectorals because:
1) Having the book in a serialized form is a fantastic marketing device for the completed book itself. By writing a captivating first instalment and leaving it on a high note that’s filled with suspense and intrigue, it creates anticipation, speculation, and discussion amongst the readers which is a priceless form of promotion.
2) It’s often a gamble for readers to take a chance on unproven indie authors. One of the marketing tactics for a self published author is to set their work at a price point that won’t scare someone away. Of course, to have your full 120k word masterpiece at $0.99 is really a disservice to your brand (and makes your work look amateur as well). However paying $0.99 for a 8-10k word ebook is not unreasonable and as a customer, I’m more willing to part with $0.99 (the amount I spend for gas station coffee) than $2.99 (Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee) or $3.99 (Starbucks Pike Roast). I’ll sacrifice that dirt in a cup for a decent story any day.
3) For every book you have out there, it’s another doorway to discovery. If you only have one book, you’ve got only one entrance to the promised land (which is your brand). If you have five books out, that’s five ways to be discovered. There’s nothing more important for a new indie author than discoverability, and stocking your virtual shelf does just that.
Now onto the negative. Serialization sucks hairy goat beard because:
1) If you begin having your work out in serial form without a complete book written, you run the risk of pissing off your readers who have invested time and money into your book and your brand. If I invest $0.99 into you and place my trust in your story, you better have that damn book finished in a decent timeframe, otherwise I’ll feel cheated. It’s like being offered an Orea cookie with the creamy filling scraped out and no milk to go with it. The other problem with having your serial books written on the fly is the risk of shitty continuity errors.
2) Unless you’re a Photoshop pro, you’re going to have to pay for additional covers, which can run you for $300-400 bucks a shot. I personally like playing around with Photoshop and doing my own covers, so I have no problem from a budget standpoint. However if you’re artistically challenged then it could end up costing you some cash.
3) You run the risk of less than stellar reviews when you have your book split up. Most people create reviews for a complete body of work, so unless you can split your book in places where there’s a complete story within edit: (when I say complete story, this means a theme, conflict, climax, and some resolution), you’ll run the risk of people feeling gipped out of their $0.99. It also must be made absolutely clear on the Amazon page that your chunk of book IS NOT the COMPLETE BOOK. If you try to fool people into thinking it’s the whole body of work, prepare for so many one star reviews, that you’d think it was a Shuriken ninja attack. edit: (It’s also important to note that once you have the entire book published in serialized form that you also have the completed book for sale at a valued price point which gives the readers options to either pay for your book serialized or whole. That way, it doesn’t seem like the purpose of your serial is just a cash grab).
With that said, why did I decide to split up my book into five parts? Well the main reasons mentioned above were for discoverability, the opportunity to give the first part SHADOW OF WRATH BOOK ONE: CAGED away for FREE as a promo, as well as showcase five distinct covers that give the readers a sense of what they can expect from the story.
So with that in mind, should you serialize your story? My suggestion is yes, but only if you have a complete book finished, willing to pay for additional covers (or do it yourself), and develop a marketing strategy behind your serialized books to draw in readers.
Hugh Howey did it, and it worked for him!
Tell me your thoughts on serialization and do you have any favorites of your own?