Media consumers have always loved expansive stories. Think about your favorite television shows. Few of them tell a single story. Instead, they serialize episodes that follow the same group of characters through a variety of adventures, dramas, or mishaps.
Serialized content taps into consumer demand for more and the creator’s need for a sustainable, steady income. If you’re a content creator of any kind, you’re already looking for ways to serialize your content—if you create fiction, it’s almost a necessity.
Understanding the Appeal of Serial Fiction
For you, serial fiction is a way to stretch your content and ensure a regular series of new stories to share with your fans. That leads to regular sales (or subscriptions), helping make your content business sustainable. Serialized storytelling has never been easier thanks to digital platforms like Wattpad and Royal Road.
Readers love the episodic nature of serial fiction too. It creates an engagement loop—readers are primed for the next installment as soon as they finish the current one, bringing them back in search of more.
While we all might love a good book we can get lost in, the fact is that a lot of readers prefer bite-sized narratives. Unlike a full-length novel, serial fiction is easier to read in short sessions, giving fans more flexibility to enjoy your content on their schedule.
How To Market Serial Fiction
To effectively market your serial fiction to your existing fans and potential readers, you have to take advantage of the ‘snackable’ way readers engage with short-form writing. There is a good chance most of your readers will be on a smartphone. They’ll be busy, likely between tasks or just looking for a short distraction.
How you create and market your serialized fiction must be customized to reach these specific kinds of readers. That’s not just the stories! Yes, you need to make your content work as a running series of stories that hold to a central narrative or plot, but you’ll need to take a similar mobile-first approach to your marketing efforts too.
There are some book marketing tips that will be true no matter what kind of stories you publish. Of course, you’ll need to be on some kind of social media channel and you have to develop an audience interested in your content. Unlike other kinds of publishing, serialized writing also means your timeline is condensed. Publishing a novel might be months or years of work, but each new episode in your serial will likely take weeks from idea to publication.
That’s why having an author platform is key. You need a place where your fans can come regularly to find new content (and get on your email list for future marketing efforts)! Another crucial advantage serial fiction writers have is the opportunity to offer subscriptions.
Let’s explore these two aspects of successful publishing in more detail.
Building Your Author Platform
The core of your author business will be your stories—that’s the essential product you’re selling. But in reality, the key ‘product’ is actually you. A strong, well-defined author brand is what your fans will remember.
Developing a brand that stands out is nearly impossible without establishing an author website as your hub for all your content. Your site is a store for selling your stories, a publishing site for your content, and a way for fans to join your email list.
All three are proven methods to earn money from your content.
Modern readers want the easiest access to the content they love. Use your website to house and distribute your serial content—one place to sell your ebooks, print books, online-only stories, podcasts, and audiobooks
If you’ve got fans, you’ve got to make it simple to find everything you’re offering with a single website.
If you build a great platform, your fans will come to you to buy your books (instead of shopping on Amazon) and they’ll join your mailing list.
Harnessing the Power of Subscription Models
If you publish your content on a regular basis, it’s fair to ask your readers to pay you on a regular basis. Serial fiction is the perfect way for indie authors to guarantee a steady income.
As you build an audience, the thing that will keep them coming back is your regular installments of new content. Once you’ve got enough fans—less than 4,000 according to our research—asking for a small subscription fee to keep the content coming is enough to build a sustainable business.
All your marketing efforts should be directing fans to your website. From there, they find your content, can join your mailing list, and maybe subscribe for something extra.
That could be unique swag to compliment your stories, early access to your next episodes, or access to any kind of unique content. Fans are often willing to pay a small fee for that exclusive content. Those fees can add up, creating income that will support your creative business.
Utilizing Modern Digital Marketing Strategies
Having a website with subscription options and options to sell your serial fiction to your fans is great. Now you need to tell people about it.
That’s where the most important aspect of modern marketing strategies comes in—building a community.
You’ll need social media to build your audience, but as you grow your community, you’ll likely move off those massive platforms and build a dedicated group through email.
Finding Your Audience On Social Media
Social media platforms are pervasive. Using them to find your audience is the easiest way to build your author business.
The key is to find the right platform. Go where your fans are and engage with them there. It’s crucial that you focus on just a few platforms and really do it well. Spreading yourself thin will lead to fatigue and you’ll miss opportunities to really connect with fans.
Instead, find the best platforms—the ones your potential readers are already on—and focus your efforts on getting noticed there. That includes posting interesting or helpful content and responding to comments.
Don’t rush into advertising your own books immediately. Social media is a community-first marketing effort. You’ve got to build relationships to create long-term customers.
Fostering a Community of Engaged Readers
That’s what it’s all about. The more interested and engaged your fans, the more loyal they’ll be. These are the kind of fans who insist their friends try your books.
You might need to rely on a platform to build this community. Places like Facebook (for Groups) or Discord are great for dedicated groups of fans. Engage with these readers in real-time. As you nurture your social network, you can ask them to join your mailing list without feeling like a salesperson.
Engage with your target audience as a fellow fan and they’ll be more enthusiastic for your published books. As you write and publish more books, those fans will keep buying and talking up your brand for you.
It’s never been more important to foster a dedicated audience of fans who love the content you create.
Exploring Alternative Publishing Platforms
Okay, so you’ve got a robust presence on a couple of social media platforms and you’ve got a few people on your mailing list. How do you continue to grow your audience and please these new followers?
Turning your serialized content into other forms is usually your best option. That could take a variety of forms:
- Blog – You might keep a log of your writing and publishing process that you share with your fans.
- Podcast – Turn your stories into a radio show for fans who prefer to listen to their stories.
- Audiobook – Compile a series of serials into an audiobook to sell.
- Print & Ebook – And of course, you can compile your stories into a full-length novel to sell.
As you build your author business around your serialized content, think about opportunities to offer exclusives. You might craft a novel using your main character that isn’t available on your serial fiction platform. Or maybe you do an original podcast that brings a unique perspective to your stories.
Evolving Your Serial into a Full-Length Novel
When we polled creators, one in three said they use a book to drive revenue for their business. And aside from courses and coaching, books are the number one way creators make money.
As authors, that’s a good lesson to learn—books are a profitable product.
Readers will eagerly buy up special editions or limited printings of their favorite books. Repackaging a serialized story as a full novel is a great way to delight your fans while creating revenue for your business.
Measuring the Impact of Your Marketing Efforts
As you build your audience, tracking their activity is critical. A data-driven approach will allow you to evaluate your marketing strategies. For serial authors more than most, you need to keep a careful watch on what your fans like and don’t like. If a story arc isn’t resonating with your fans, you can change it!
Modern serial fiction is all about the ability to control your stories and your characters. Measuring data—like the number of downloads, reads, or purchases—is the only way to understand at a high level what works.
You’ll also want to directly ask your fans what they think. Use your email list and social following to ask for reviews of new episodes or books. End your blog posts with a question your fans can answer in the comments.
Pairing real feedback with data about how readers interact with your content will give you the insights you need to refine your serial writing process and ensure your fans get the stories they love!
Your Serial Fiction Marketing Plan
There’s no one right way to market your serial fiction. You need to focus on new readers and building an audience. Then once you have their attention, you need to convince those readers to purchase your books or subscribe for serialized content.
Whether you find those readers on LinkedIn or TikTok will depend on the kind of content you create and the audience you’re trying to attract. The key to effectively marketing your serial fiction is to perfectly align the stories you offer with the audience you’ve built. Keep giving your best fans what they want and they’ll keep you in business.
Paul is the Content Marketing Manager at Lulu. When he's not entrenched in the publishing and print-on-demand world, he likes to hike the scenic North Carolina landscape, read, sample the fanciest micro-brewed beer, and collect fountain pens. Paul is a dog person but considers himself cat tolerant.