Posts Tagged episodic novel

Serialising my novel… what to do when the show is over

More indie authors than ever are interested in serialising their fiction on Kindle and it’s one of the topics I’m most frequently emailed about. (And with Amazon’s announcement of Kindle Serials, I guess the trend is going to continue! More on that below…)

At the time I serialised  my novel I wrote about it on Jane Friedman’s blog and Tuesday Serial. But these questions from Michael Stutz, who serialised his literary novel Circuits of the Wind: A Legend of the Net Age, highlight points I haven’t covered before – what to do once you’ve released the final episode.

Michael: Like you, I’m a longtime legacy author who is now experimenting with indie, publishing a 700 -page literary novel in episodes. A lot of what you wrote in your guest post at Jane Friedman’s blog is things that I’m either going through now or discovered the hard way.

Have you found your complete version sells more than the individual episodes?

Yes, definitely. Get your complete edition out as soon as you can. For many reasons –

  • it’s easier to link to just that one, so that’s the link you want to spread around
  • it’s more convenient on the Kindle – four episodes clog up the screen and look confusing (which I was blissfully unaware of when I hatched my serialisation plan)
  • you want to start gathering reviews and it’s best if they go on the full version

Although serialisation was exciting as a launch pad, I’m not sure that readers appreciated being interrupted mid-stream. Some told me they wouldn’t buy until the final episode was up. Others told me they’d knocked stars off their reviews for the inconvenience of waiting (this seems irrelevant when a review will be read in several months’ time, but it just goes to show you don’t want to annoy a reader). I released my complete edition as quickly as I could to grab the interested readers before they decided I was making life too difficult for them.

Michael: Should I retire the individual episodes?

I wondered about this. But I decided to keep them because:

  • People are still finding them. I don’t know how, as I long ago stopped giving out those links, but they must be simmering on distant posts far away. Episode 1 sells the most copies – which possibly demonstrates how much the links were shared because serialising was a story in itself. But I also get surprise sales for the other episodes, so some people might be completing the novel extremely slowly!
  • The episodes give me more visibility in the Amazon store – 5 entries for the Kindle book instead of just 1 makes it look more substantial (or annoying, see left… no idea what that camera is doing in a search for My Memories of a Future Life…)
  • Episodes are a good way to use KDP Select lending. When KDP Select launched, I wasn’t keen on enrolling the whole novel or my writing book for lending or free promotion. But offering just the first episode is a terrific calling card – both in the lending library and sometimes also free. So because episode 1 is on KDP Select, I have to keep the other parts available for sale.

Michael: What about the Amazon customer reviews – did you have to start with zero again for the complete version, and wait for new reviews?
Amazon understood that the complete book had the same content as the episodes, but regards them as different publications and won’t transfer the reviews. That seems entirely fair to me – but it does mean that you launch the full book with a worryingly naked star rating. The sooner you do it, the sooner those early adopters will review where it helps you most. (And I found they didn’t mind being nudged in the right direction…)

So while it’s frustrating to have reviews that don’t count on the book’s most visible page, browsers still see that when the book was serialised it had good feedback – which all helps to demonstrate a buzz about the series.

STOP PRESS – just as I put this post to bed, Amazon announced the Kindle Serials Programme. If you are chosen for it, it looks as though this takes a lot of the faff out of it. A community gathers around the book, allowing discussion with other readers – and I guess this might collate reviews together too. You don’t have to organise separate launches (as I did, which was time-consuming) and it seems much easier for readers to keep track of the episodes on the Kindle because they’re updated automatically. This means there probably wouldn’t be any need to release a separate complete Kindle version as readers who found it afterwards would get all the episodes in one go. (Perhaps we early serialisers paved the way for them….) You do have to pitch your idea though – which means you can’t just opt in like KDP Select – and we don’t know what their gatekeeping criteria are.

If you’re thinking about serialising, whether it’s the old way or this brand new one, make sure your novel is in good shape for it. Chopping it into parts is a rigorous workout for your novel’s structure – especially if you didn’t originally write it with serialising in mind. This post might help:

Can You Split Your Novel Into Four Equal Parts?

Thanks for the main pic Ralph and Jenny

This weekend is my novel’s first anniversary (give or take an episode or two). So my blogging schedule is being turned upside down (which is why you’ve got a post today) to make room for something a little unusual and creative. I hope you’ll like it. There will also be a competition with a special prize (top secret at the moment). To make sure you don’t miss it, subscribe to my blog (somewhere in the sidebar) or sign up to my newsletter (somewhere in the sidebar and also here). See you at the party

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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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