My Memories of a Future Life – the secret weapon

Everyone’s talking about how publishing has broken all its rules this year. We’ve had agents publishing their authors’ backlists as ebooks, or arguing about why they shouldn’t. We’ve had agents lobbying for authors to get a much higher percentage of ebook rights. We’ve had authors tearing up their contracts and going indie – and some of them have become the infamous Kindle millionaires.

One idea I’ve heard whispered in these discussions is whether longform fiction should be serialised. Usually it’s quickly dismissed. Oh no one’s doing that.

Yes they are. I’m going to.

A short while ago I revealed in this post that I had a secret weapon for launching My Memories of a Future Life.

And this is it. I’m going to publish it in four hefty parts.

The entire novel is a scale-breaking 100,000 words, so each episode is roughly 25,000 – a good novella’s worth of reading each time.

Yes, this is an experiment. It could be argued that it’s a 150-year-old experiment as it’s the same model used by another famous self-publisher – Charles Dickens.

It’s either a great idea or monumentally dumb. But I’m already breaking rules by self-publishing a literary novel when most indie releases are genre, so why not stomp on another?

My agent tells me he’s watching with great interest. Not just out of curiosity, but to see if this is a viable model for the agency’s own ventures into new publishing models. So it’s not just a small step for me…

How much will it be? The magic 99c per episode. If you’re late getting to an episode, don’t worry – once they’re up in the Kindle store, they will be up for two months. Although you might have to block your ears to the chat on Twitter about it…

So that’s my secret weapon. My Memories of a Future Life is a literary novel written to be released episodically, week by week, the way Dickens wrote his serialised novels. Starting Tuesday August 30th, then Mondays thereafter – September 5, September 12, and the final episode on September 19th.

Wish me luck. And just so I feel more emboldened, tell me what rules – writing or otherwise – you’ve broken this week.

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  1. #1 by Sally on August 17, 2011 - 8:20 pm

    Hi Roz,

    Good luck with the experiment! It’s a good idea.

    Hmm … Have I broken any writing (or other) rules this week? Not yet, but it’s only Wednesday!

    • #2 by rozmorris on August 17, 2011 - 11:19 pm

      Only Wednesday and no rules broken? Get your hammer out, Sally!

  2. #3 by Patti Larsen on August 17, 2011 - 8:22 pm

    Awesome, Roz–why not? I say make your own rules, do what feels right for your career and forget what everyone else is doing. That’s the fabulous part of being in charge of our own destinies–best of luck!

    • #4 by rozmorris on August 17, 2011 - 11:20 pm

      In charge of our own destinies – absolutely! Thanks for the vote of ‘awesome’!

  3. #5 by Tara Benwell on August 17, 2011 - 8:53 pm

    Interesting! I was wondering what you had up your sleeve.

    • #6 by rozmorris on August 17, 2011 - 11:21 pm

      Ho ho, Tara – thanks for listening so attentively!

  4. #7 by Dom Camus on August 17, 2011 - 9:49 pm

    That’s a very interesting experiment. Could work really well, since effectively you’re allowing readers to try your novel for 99c and only pay more if they like it (at which point they’re unlikely to object).

    Make sure it’s really, really clear that the first episode isn’t the whole thing, though. Otherwise you’ll get one star reviews from lots of irritated people who didn’t read the description properly before buying!

    • #8 by rozmorris on August 17, 2011 - 11:23 pm

      Hi Dom! Yes – allows me to punt the novel at an acceptable trial price but not undersell it. Very good point about signposting the first episode properly. There will be signposts galore everywhere. I’m sure some will slip through the net, though. Thanks for the reminder.

  5. #9 by Gene Lempp on August 17, 2011 - 10:10 pm

    Clever idea, Roz. Like it. I’ll be very interested to see how this turns out. Thanks for sharing with us.

    • #10 by rozmorris on August 17, 2011 - 11:24 pm

      Hi Gene! So will I… but you’ve got to try.

  6. #11 by Kathleen on August 17, 2011 - 10:35 pm

    Roz, I LOVE it! I’ve heard of other authors serializing genre works with varying degrees of success, but if anyone can pull off serializing literary fiction, you can. I’m eager for your report about how the experiment worked!

    • #12 by rozmorris on August 17, 2011 - 11:25 pm

      Thank you, Kathleen – for such an enormous vote of confidence! I certainly will report on the goods, bads and uglies…

  7. #13 by Tahlia Newland on August 18, 2011 - 12:58 am

    I think it’s a great idea and perfect for the 99c novel. I’ve already read a series that’s 4 novellas and I think novella length is a good length for 99c. I’ve decided to write a novella prequel to Lethal Inheritance for ebook and publish it myself, while my agent is still trying to get a publisher for lethal Inheritance. She’s against self publishing, so I guess I’m breaking her rule. I’m not going to tell her until it’s ready to go though.

    • #14 by rozmorris on August 18, 2011 - 5:52 am

      Thanks, Tahlia! Yes, I think it does solve the 99c conundrum in a way that give good value to everyone. And exciting to be writing the prequel – good luck with that (you rule-breaker, you!)

  8. #15 by Jason Runnels on August 18, 2011 - 2:26 am

    It sounds to me like a smart financial marketing plan to me. Music studios have always released singles as a way to entice fans to buy the entire album. And as Apple has proven, the 99c song can be more lucrative when you add all those album songs together. Here, you have a clever way to sell a $4 (or pound) book for the perception of 99c. With a trial investment ‘out’ if the reader decided not to continue. Good luck. Very intrigued to hear how it goes.

    (It makes me wonder if King would have done this when he serialized The Green Mile if eBooks and Amazon had been an option at the time.)

    • #16 by rozmorris on August 18, 2011 - 5:53 am

      Interesting comparison with music, Jason – yes of course! As for King – you bet he’d have done it. Will keep people posted!

  9. #17 by KS "Kaz" Augustin on August 18, 2011 - 3:37 am

    Roz, I’m really curious as to how you’ll handle the self-editing phase. You know, the “two rounds of drafts, leave it in the drawer for a while” method. It works for me (mostly, I think, because I write such crappy first drafts!). It must not work for you…? The only way I would be comfortable with your model would be if I was a completely different writer! 🙂 Your thoughts?

    • #18 by rozmorris on August 18, 2011 - 5:55 am

      Hi Kaz – do you mean My Memories of a Future Life? It’s finished, but went through multiple drafts. Multiples of multiples. And I know very few writers who don’t produce crappy first drafts. Unfortunately the one who produces rather respectable first drafts is my own husband. Grrrrr

  10. #19 by My Life Chronicles on August 18, 2011 - 12:05 pm

    Wishing you the very best. Keenly looking forward to the idea execution!

    • #20 by rozmorris on August 18, 2011 - 6:16 pm

      Thank you very much, Chroniclers!

  11. #21 by Sally on August 18, 2011 - 2:34 pm

    Btw, a question for your Roz – have you found that your editorial experience reduced the time you spent on rewrites and post-editing (assuming you had another editor on board to read the next-to-last draft)? Just curious.

    • #22 by rozmorris on August 18, 2011 - 6:31 pm

      Hi Sally
      My editorial experience helps enormously. I’ve got a strong idea of what works, how to get the precise effect I want – and where to go to fill my gaps. When someone gives me feedback, I can get more quickly to the core of the problem. Also, I’m not afraid to change huge swathes of text – I have an outtakes file at least as long as the manuscript. I know that perfection comes from endless rewriting of details.
      As for other editors… when I was first submitting it I went through in-depth edits with two agents. Why two? Because the first one was about to take it, then decided to concentrate on the children’s market only so I started again with another who helped me finish the edit. Before putting it out now I looked at it one last time and decided there were a few places I could do better, mostly because of what I’d learned finishing my other novel Life Form 3. Chopping it into four happened quite naturally because of the way I’d paced it – fortunately. I solved most of the niggles myself and bounced my remaining questions off Husband Dave and a writer/editor friend.

      • #23 by Sally on August 18, 2011 - 7:42 pm

        Thanks Roz!

  12. #24 by jacquelincangro on August 18, 2011 - 7:08 pm

    I think this is a great idea, too. With the publishing world changing so rapidly, authors have to be able to think outside the box and try something new. These novella-size pieces are just right for busy people for whom the idea of tackling 100,000 words is daunting. Good luck! I think this will work out brilliantly.

    • #25 by rozmorris on August 18, 2011 - 7:32 pm

      Thanks, Jackie! I’m so excited. Thinking of episode titles was such fun, I can hardly wait to unleash it!

  13. #26 by Bob Collins on August 19, 2011 - 11:27 am

    Roz, way to go! I’m going to watch this experiment as closely as possible.

  14. #28 by Bill Greeves on August 19, 2011 - 12:23 pm

    Hey Roz…excellent idea. And I am all about doing things differently as well! My current (what seems like eternal draft) is also 100K words. I am curious – once you committed to doing four parts instead of releasing it as a whole, how did you determine the breaks? Did you just split it up into four equal parts according to page length or did you find obvious “breaks” in the story line? And did you have to do any editing or changes specifically because you changed the release format?

    • #29 by rozmorris on August 19, 2011 - 8:46 pm

      Thanks, Bill – and good question! I worried about splitting it up, but found when I looked over the manuscript that there were natural break points because of the way I’d structured the story. I did a bit of pulling and tweaking to make sure they deserved to be breaks – which only did the story good anyway. Although it’s a literary book it quite naturally adapted to being split because I believe in telling a thumping story as well!

  15. #30 by danholloway on August 19, 2011 - 4:06 pm

    Huzzah for you, Roz!! This is fabulous. It can’t be anything other than amazing!!

    We sort of broke rules this week at eight cuts gallery press – we got a book without an ISBN onto the shortlist for the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize

    • #31 by rozmorris on August 19, 2011 - 8:46 pm

      Terrific, Dan – all power to you rulebreakers. That is awesome news.

  16. #32 by Jonathan Moore on August 22, 2011 - 4:26 pm

    Hey up Roz,

    Sounds like a good plan. Where does one drawer the line though? My WIP doesn’t break up into nice quarters, so maybe I’d have to charger per chapter. 48 chapters at 99c each… Back to the drawing board for me. Maybe there are natural splits after all. There should be – I’ve spent a lot of time working on structure, so there should be a 1/4 pinch point, 1/2 way twist and 3/4 pinch. Dunno though – it’s complicated.

    Have I broken any writing rules? I’m afraid I have. Rather than murder my darlings as instructed, I couldn’t bring myself to do it, and left them in the woods to be raised by wolves. I smeared my hands with ink to make it look like I’d been ruthless. Perhaps one day they’ll return and take their vengence.

    • #33 by rozmorris on August 22, 2011 - 6:00 pm

      Hi Jon! Well maybe your WIP does split, actually… so many people have asked about this aspect of my experiment that I think I’d better write a proper post about it.

      I don’t murder darlings either. They’re all shrieking their heads off in various sheds, and writing their memoirs.

  17. #34 by Martin Lake on August 23, 2011 - 11:14 am

    I’m gooing to do something similar with my children’s novel Our Eric. I’m going to split it into three novellas, each one relating to the school term/semester. Then, at the end of the year, I’ll bundle the novellas together for those who might want to buy the series.

    I seem to recall that Alexander McCall Smith wrote his 44 Scotland Street novels as extracts in a Scottish paper. I think he wrote weekly – amazing.

  18. #35 by Mark Errett on August 23, 2011 - 11:33 am

    I’ve been thinking that this would be a good way for people to publish eBooks. A quick injection of fiction and then there’s a new installment the week after.

    As you say it’s a tried-and-tested method from Dickens, as well as TV. If the reader doesn’t like the first part then they can stop, but at least they haven’t invested in all 4 parts which may put them off usually.

    • #36 by rozmorris on August 24, 2011 - 8:52 am

      Absolutely, Mark – even if prose fiction hasn’t been doing it, TV has.

  19. #37 by Laura Pauling on August 23, 2011 - 2:37 pm

    Hope you experiment works! We’ll be watching.

    I’d think most stories would break up quite naturally after Act I, at the midpoint, at the end of Act II, and then Act 3. But I guess it depends on the story.

    • #38 by rozmorris on August 24, 2011 - 8:52 am

      Thanks, Laura! Yes the split does come quite naturally – and is rather a useful test for the overall structure.

  20. #39 by David Wright on August 24, 2011 - 2:09 am

    Good luck! Sean Platt and I launched our own serialized post-apocalyptic series Yesterday’s Gone in early August. I think eBooks are the perfect platform for serialization (obviously!). And now that we no longer need publishers to reach and build our readerships, I predict even bolder experiments in publishing – things we haven’t even thought of yet.

    It’s an awesome time to be a writer!

    • #40 by rozmorris on August 24, 2011 - 8:16 am

      Hi David – these are exciting times, aren’t they? I can’t believe how much has happened in one year.

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