Serial Fiction: The Hits and the Misses
Over the past fifteen years, serial fiction has experienced a resurgence, particularly with the evolution of blogging platforms. There was a time, back when I was writing Children of the Halo, where I had been posting unedited, rough chapters two to three times a week, which no doubt led to the initial success of the book once it was all completed.
But with anything else, there are drawbacks. In this article, we’re going to go through the hits and misses of serial fiction.
Serial fiction is more easily accessible.
Writing for an online audience means you’ve got a wealth of options for audience-building. Offering it to free for readers is definitely a huge selling point. All readers really need to get started is a link, and there are a number of platforms that make disseminating your serialized story exceedingly easy.
Blogging platforms such as Tumblr or Blogger offer massive user bases to glean your audience from, although there are more specialized platforms such as Inkspired that are specifically designed for serialized fiction.
Additionally, the news blogging platform Medium has a robust fiction section that many can make use of.
Alternatively, you could always start your own web site and publish directly through your WordPress blog. This option of course requires much more in the way of technical ability and a familiarity with CSS and PHP, but your ability to customize your site is nearly unlimited.
Serial fiction comes with numerous options for monetization.
While many of these options could be used by any old author, the online platform often means that many of these options will be front-and-center in terms of making a few bucks off of your labors of love.
First off is the ability to place ads on your chapters. Certainly each ad viewed by a reader might net you a fraction of a cent, and a click might net you a few cents, as your audience grows, you’ll start noticing an increase in income.
Having your work online also means that your readers will be regularly shown a link to a Patreon profile, where readers donate monthly in exchange for some perks. Some authors make enough to consider writing a full-time job just off of Patreon alone.
And then there are the one-off crowdfunding campaigns offered by platforms like IndieGogo and Kickstarter, for when you’re ready to publish but need a little help to get it going.
Serial fiction is easy to experiment with.
Sick of the beginning-middle-end construction of the three-act structure? The way serial fiction works actually allows you to forego it almost entirely. Do you want to challenge the notion of the Hero’s Journey? Then serial fiction might just be the way to go.
Some serialized fiction, such as Alexandra Erin’s Tale of MU have been running for over a decade. As daunting as that is, it means there there may not have to be a definitive end to the story.
Serial fiction is cheap to produce.
The only investment you need to make is your time by making use of a free platform. Of course, if you run your own site, there are hosting fees, marketing and domain registrar costs to be concerned with.
Serial Fiction creates vibrant communities.
Once you’ve got a community, so long as you keep writing, it’s incredibly easy to grow to be strong and vibrant, with engaged readers submitting discussions, fan art and other creations inspired by your work.
But there are also drawbacks.
Serial fiction is hard to market.
There are thousands, if not millions of eager readers online who are only too happy to read free fiction. But the problem is that you’re also competing for your readers time with every other serial fiction author over the internet. Sometimes, it can be exceedingly difficult to draw people in without spending a pretty penny in online marketing. It can be done to varying degrees of success, but it really depends on the amount of time you’re willing to spend.
As with anything else, the best form of marketing is word-of-mouth.
Serial fiction is a massive time investment.
Many seem to think that if you write it, they will come. This is… sort of true, but comes with many caveats. Namely, you have to be good at crafting stories, and while it’s a great option for novice storytellers to build their craft, veterans often find it far less rewarding as time moves on.
Not only are you spending countless hours writing, editing and building your online presence, but you’re also spending much more time trying to draw readers in, communicating with potential readers on forums or social media, and other such concerns. I’ve seen many a young author give up on writing serials despite having incredibly engaging stories simply due to burnout.
Time that could be better spent doing more productive things might be bogged down in dealing with things other authors don’t generally have to deal with.
Serial fiction rarely has the reach of traditional publishing.
Not everyone can be EL James, who turned a serialized Twilight fanfiction into a massively profitable (and somewhat controversial) book and film series with Fifty Shades of Grey. Truth told, EL James is at the higher end of the author’s Pareto distribution, finding herself at the high end of the success scale for authors.
Don’t go into serial fiction (or writing in general) expecting to be the next household name. James, King and Rowling are rare examples of success. That’s not just advice for serial writers, but for writers in general. It’s a rare individual that can afford to live off of their writing, let alone own a mansion.