Writing and publishing books is time-consuming and challenging work. To make it your business, you need to publish consistently and you need to always be marketing to your existing and new fans. One tried and tested way to actively publish content and make it easier to connect that content to your audience is through serialized fiction.
What Is Serial Publishing?
Serial fiction is content and stories you create and share in smaller portions, either as digital stories on a serial publishing platform or as short print or ebooks. Think about television shows and the way new episodes would air weekly. That is serialized content.
Historically, serial writers like Dickens shared stories through regular publications like a magazine. The short stories or story segments would appear alongside other content, allowing the reader to enjoy a variety of works in one book.
Today, serial fiction most often appears online, using dedicated platforms like Wattpad or Radish. Using a specific platform is a great way to reach new readers and grow your audience, but only a mediocre way to grow your book sales. As a serial writer, you’ll likely need to branch into other products—like full books—to truly monetize your serial novel.
Serial Writing Is Audience Building
Writing and publishing web serials offers a number of benefits:
- You can write a short story—meaning less to edit and polish before you publish.
- Serial fiction allows you to experiment and try new formats.
- The serial publication you share your work on will have its own audience (which you can make your audience).
- Serial fiction scales indefinitely—meaning you can keep a story going for as long as readers are interested.
- Readers who enjoy the serial form are voracious readers—meaning no shortage of interest once you’ve found an audience.
Serial writers can reach a huge audience (thanks to platforms like Wattpad) and the nature of serial fiction (short, episodic content like a television series) creates the perfect combination for growing your author brand.
Growing Book Sales
Once you develop an audience around your serialized work, you can look for ways to transfer those serial readers into customers. This is a crucial step in developing a creator business around your writing. Even a small number of dedicated, true fans can generate the profits you need for a sustainable income.
The easiest way to sell your serial fiction as a regular book is to bring a number of parts you’ve already published as online serials and join them into a single book (or multi-volume series of books). Another option is to take a serialized story or main character you’ve been developing on digital platforms and extend it with an original, full-length novel. Creating longer works by compiling your episodes allows you to sell full story arcs as a print book. That’s a great way to find new readers (the kind who might not read online) and offer something your serial fans will buy, even if just to display on their bookcases.
Whether you publish compilations or stand-alone books, you can use a print book to earn more from your work and give your fans something they’ll love.
How To Write Serial Fiction For Book Sales
If you want to transition your serially published work into books you can sell to your readers, you want to plan ahead. Knowing that you plan to publish and sell your serial fiction as a book gives you a headstart when you’re creating that serial content. Serial publishing is a creative process, so don’t be afraid to experiment with your digitally published stories to figure out what might work best as a complete novel.
Whether you’re just getting started or already have an audience for your serial writing, focus on the following to ensure your content can easily transition from serial to book form.
Develop Strong Characters
Your fans want a main character they can root for. They want villains who are complex. And they need secondary characters who drive the story forward. Not all stories need to be character-driven, but serial fiction lends itself to character work.
When you put your energy and creative efforts into building up a cast of characters your fans love, you’re in a great place to use those same characters for your books.
Tell Stories That Leave Them Wanting More
Might seem obvious, but you can look for novel ways to spark continued interest. That might mean stories that only reveal part of a bigger story or tie together other storylines. Maybe, at the end of the episode, you drop a hint or teaser for the next episode.
A great example of serialized fiction in modern media is the Marvel film franchise. Their individual movies tell singular stories (and do a lot to develop characters). But those individual stories tie together and, as we all know now, come together to tell a larger story involving all those characters we’ve grown to love.
I’m not saying your serial fiction needs to be as grand or complex as Marvel, but you can take a lesson in creating stories that leave your audience wanting more. If you have an overall plot that can span multiple stories or characters, that’s precisely the kind of story you should turn into a book and sell to your readers on your own site.
Pay Attention To Your Audience
When you start writing, you might have an ‘ideal reader’ in mind, but you won’t really know who connects with your work until you start publishing it. You may need to shift into an adjacent or completely different genre to tell your stories to an engaged audience. Learn what works for you and your readers and lean into it.
Once you do have followers on social media and some readers on your mailing list, you’ll start to get a sense of what they want from your stories. Keep an eye on which stories get more engagement and which ones your readers aren’t as interested in. You can learn a lot about what they want based on what they don’t seem to like.
Then, as much as you can while staying true to your creative goals, create new stories and characters to meet your readers’ interests. Let’s say you write serial romance. Some of your stories are set in the modern world, some are historical, and others are fantastical. If you’re getting a lot more reads for fantasy stories, you might stick with that genre for your printed books.
Serial Fiction Is Audience Building
Just selling books is a tough way to earn a living as a writer. Unless you already have a huge audience, you’re likely going to need some additional ways to supplement your income.
Serialized fiction is shorter, meaning you can produce more of it and sell those installments as micro-transactions. Some authors will just sell their serialized fiction with existing platforms, but more and more creators of all kinds realize how important it is to own your audience.
Once you’ve got an audience for your serial fiction, you can introduce them to more profitable products like print books (either new content or compilations of your serialized work), special edition prints, and other unique products that will resonate with your readers.
Your serial fiction can be the perfect way to build your audience. An audience you can then market your printed books too; giving you an alternate revenue stream that can realize much higher returns per sale.
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.