How To: Serialize with Lulu

There was such great response from Lulu authors at our blog post about a resurgence of interest in novel serialization, that we thought it would be helpful to talk about…

What’s the best way to make a serial novel with Lulu?

EBooks are really the way to go with serialized material, and the most important reason is length. Sizing options for print books require 32-page minimums for the best results. Don’t get us wrong, Lulu print books are a great way to compile and release your whole, finished novel at the end of the serial novel process, but most of us can’t write 32-page chapters on a regular basis. The short length of a single chapter of a novel is much more suited to a Lulu eBook. In order to harken back to the golden age of serialization, when a reader could sit down with the newspaper and read the latest installment of a Dickens epic after current events, you’re going to need a Lulu eBook.

EBooks are also less of an initial investment for the author, of both time and money, and that matches the low initial investment that comes with serialized novels. Think of eBooks as a chance to test the waters with whatever project or concept you just haven’t been able to get out of your head but you’re not sure will work on a large scale. You can write one chapter, and see if readers are engaged and excited about it. If you release Chapter One and decide, based on reader feedback, that your hero needs a sidekick, guess who you’ll be able to introduce in Chapter Two? You guessed it, the pun-hurling partner in crime of your terse heroine.

Whether you decide to go with print or electronic publication (hey, if you crank out chapters Dickensian in length, more power to you!), there are some things you’ll want to consider for your personal writing process, and some of the decisions you make after you finish an installment.
First, have an outline. Figure out as many details as you can and write as much as you can before you start releasing chapters. If you go back and change early chapters that have already gone out, you might end up with angry readers, confused about why the main character’s name has suddenly changed, or why subsequent chapters reference a different origin story than the one mentioned in the prologue, for example. Many writers are fans of the index card method, in which you write major events, one per card, and arrange them in the order you want them to occur. Many of our authors have also told us that Scrivener is a great tool for this purpose. It makes it easier to not have to commit the whole plot to memory. Of course, you can revise a Lulu eBook whenever you want, but don’t forget the risk of losing readers.

Get a writing plan and stick to it. You’re going to be sustaining a prolific period. You don’t want to miss a deadline, so once you do have a detailed outline, put yourself on a schedule, with a word or page quota per day, or an amount of time each day you’ll commit to the project, something reasonable, based on what you know already about your own writing habits, with a healthy buffer in case things go off the rails.

Finally, serializing is great because it allows you to be flexible with the price of your work. You can charge different prices for different chapters, but the best strategy would be to offer the very first chapter at a reduced price, or for free. Get those readers hooked, and when they finish the first chapter and like what they read, they’ll be clamoring for the second.

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15 thoughts on “How To: Serialize with Lulu”

  1. Serialization is certainly a plausible idea as we discussed in “The Return of the Serial Novel.” The first installment free, and the rest following at a standard price (as I suggested in the comments), is likely the best route.
    Dedication and foresight are important assets to an author wishing to serialize their story. As noted, alterations to the story could be detrimental to sales and the author-reader relationship.
    I may develop a serialization in my spare time through Lulu, as I’m querying agents for my novel. My 600-word stories were fairly well-received, so why not a much longer serial? It seems a fair amount of consumers are willing to make the investment.

  2. Actually I’ve been toying with the idea of a serial for some time. Most of my ideas are usually the kernel of something longer and more involved than the initial “short story”. The only draw back is consistency. Writing in an episodic fashion can cause continuity issues and (as the article states) requires self regulation of deadlines and proof-reading. If you have promised to make chapters available weekly or monthly, missing a deadline could lead readers to loose interest.
    I’ll certainly be considering giving it a go in the new year, but probably best to get a reasonable chunk done first before uploading anything, just to give yourself breathing space with the deadlines.
    This could also work for anyone planning a magazine format. First part free and subsequent parts at normal price with annual or seasonal specials of increased length.

  3. I like the valuable info you provide in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and check again here regularly. I’m quite sure I’ll learn plenty of new stuff right here! Best of luck for the next!

  4. I’m really unfamiliar with this site, so this may be a stupid question, but…to be clear, each chapter would be it’s OWN ebook? Is there a way to group them together so it is apparent they are all in the same book?

  5. @Shelley: yes, each would be its own eBook. You can differentiate them by using the main title for the series’ name, and the subtitle for the specific serial’s name. Also, my experience has been that iBooks and Barnes and Noble often group similar titles.

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