As mentioned last time, serializing has its challenges and potential successes, JUST LIKE ANY WORTHWHILE BATTLE!
Different Attack Plans:
- POWER RANGERS MORPHING TIME: You can serialize a novel in several chunks, which can then be put together into one giant destructo-omnibus, like I did with Nigh.
- D&D MIGHTY PARTY: You can serialize a universe in several stand-alone projects that are all linked to one another.
- FRANKENSTEINING: You can also serialize a book one chapter at a time, with or without a subscription service or a social media platform such as Wattpad.
My first serialization was done à la Frankenstein with an existing book, Destiny’s Blood, on Wattpad. There are two other books in the series, so the hope was that readers would either get impatient and buy Destiny’s Blood before I was done posting it, or they’d at least buy the other two novels. Linda Poitevin, author of the Grigori Legacy series, had lots of success on Wattpad. Check out her details on the subject.
Nigh was serialized differently, à la Power Rangers Morphing Time, with the whole novel published in five parts (you don’t *need* five parts to morph together, but if it worked for the Power Rangers and Voltron, you obviously can’t go wrong).
Publishing generally costs money. You could get away with selling a few of your neighbor’s stolen fat sheep to fund e-books. But serializing costs extra money, and you can only steal so many sheep before you’re caught (jail time is unproductive).
A few publishers were interested in helping with Nigh, but I had such a strong vision for the final product that I decided to go it alone. I compensated for my weaknesses (everything not related to writing, basically. Sigh) by hiring help. I paid for five covers, and a sixth for the omnibus edition. I paid for both an artist and a designer, and I regret nothing. I’ve no doubt the covers themselves have sold most of the books. (This is, by the way, another good reason for mighty barbarian conquerors to consider keeping bikini-clad women in your camp. Good for recruitment campaigns.) I also paid for editing services, both substantive and copyediting.
Then, I decided I’d do special edition hard cover editions of each book, with art inside. So, I paid for that art, the wraparound cover and the upload fees on Ingram Sparks. I did the layout myself because I HAVE THE POWER! (Also known as Adobe InDesign and over a decade working as a communications professional.)
Overall, each individual book took about $400 to produce. But I cut back on the amount through exchange of services (I bake a mean chocolate chip cookie infused with the blood of my enemies). The books have paid for themselves, so we’re now in profit territory, I’m pleased to report. Most of those sales are from the e-books.
The second book of Nigh hasn’t even been released as a hard cover yet. The omnibus edition will be released in the fall, so we’ll see how the morphed robotic hero will boost sales and destroy kaiju. (I assume the kaiju aren’t the readers, but only time will tell.)
The Monies Demanded
Like I’ve said before, I enjoy food. I enjoy not spending the night in jail for laying siege to my neighbors, too (although that’s also a great place to recruit for your army.)
The first book of Nigh is free. It’s like leaving out a sheep to draw out thieves. (Wait, except you’d kill the thief and bake him/her into cookies). But a free book is still a hook – if they like it, they’ll buy the rest. If they don’t, I’ve saved myself a nasty review and/or beheaded horse in my bed.
Also, it’s logical. Amazon typically puts up the first 20% of a book up as a reading preview. Well, guess what the first installment of five books comes up to? (It’s 20%, right? Math isn’t my forte. Am more Red Ranger than Blue Ranger.) About 25% of people who pick up book 1 proceed to buy book 2.
The second book is priced at $0.99, in case people are still hesitating. Because who wouldn’t try morphing time for a buck? The other three books are priced at 1.99.
On Amazon, you get 35% on those price points (you only get as high as 70% starting at 2.99). There’s a trend with Nigh – usually people will buy books 2 through 5 in a single day. I’m assuming they’re the same people, because 80% of the time all four go at once from the same sales channel. So, the prices aren’t deterring people. (Also, I assume they do so in the hopes of merging into a Giant Robot.)
So, now, you can get the whole Giant Robot for less than $7. But it’s in pieces, and some people don’t like robot bits. They want the whole kaiju-crushing experience. That’s why I’m taking out the omnibus, with a projected price of $3.99. Those who followed along from the get-go still got to read the story first, and my newsletter subscribers got extra love with free excerpts and getting updates before anyone else.
A lot of people also enjoyed getting a new book bit every month. Is it worth $3 more? I think so, but the readers will decide, in the end. (I’ll make about the same amount of money from people buying them separately or as the omnibus, since I’ll clear 70% on Amazon with the omnibus price point.)
Marketing the End Times
I had an audience when I released this, built over years and two trilogies, so I wasn’t throwing this out into the wind. Things shifted with Nigh. Whereas I used to have a mostly Canadian readership, American readers are now my biggest market (which is good, as there are many more Americans than Canadians. I still love you, Canada). I’ve also gained an international readership, since e-books are pleasantly easy to acquire around the globe.
So, my main marketing channels were through existing channels, mostly social media. For the omnibus edition, I’ll be working with Beverly Bambury to boost the signal as much as possible. A last kick at the can, so to speak.
But Beverly is a known quantity to me — she had a proven track record and she’s helped me slay my enemies before (she does it so gently that they thank her). If you intend to buy marketing help, make sure to check their successes. Marketing can be like screaming into the roaring wind at times. Make sure not to add your money to any Gale of Failures.
Why Break Up a Giant Robot (Aside From Getting To Say “It’s Morphing Time”)
Let us pause a moment to discuss the reason behind serialization. I received a lot of great feedback on the last post and I can’t thank you all enough for that. It’s exciting to see so many people are looking forward to bringing back this really fun literary form. I’ve had a few people ask me how to serialize an already existing novel. I’m no a guru, but here are my thoughts. Take them or leave them.
If your work is already available, complete, for purchase, do like Linda Poitevin did on Wattpad and put it up for free, one chapter at a time, to incite people to go buy it because they can’t wait. But post it all regardless. To do less is to be a douche and breaks most terms of sites like Wattpad. Readers won’t like it. And readers are smart. (Plus, they can ignore your giant robot and you can be the saddest Ranger ever.)
If you’re breaking your novel to sell into small chunks, in the hope of giving it new life, well, I think you’re doing yourself a disservice. The best marketing for existing works are new works. You’ll find a new audience this way, and you won’t Frankenstein your book trying to sell it in a format it wasn’t created for. And again, you won’t be a douche by obviously trying to just get more money from readers.
Spend your energies on the next battle plan / awesome novel / project. Make it even more awesome than your last. That’s your best marketing strategy. Don’t feel like writing anymore, having put all of your eggs into that one book that failed to make you a fortune? You might want to consider a different career. Writing, much like warring, is awesome. But it’s a lot of work, and a hell of a lot of dedication (and lots of people die along the way during both). If you hate it, it’s gonna hurt your feels a lot, my friends. Don’t do that to yourself or to your readers. I advocate conquering your enemies with enthusiasm.
So, write the next thing. If you do want to try a serial, which I hope you will, then stay tuned in two weeks, for lots of tricks I learned. It’s a fun journey, so I hope you’ll consider it!
Marie Bilodeau loves making references to giant robots and kaiju to make writing sound even cooler than it is. Find out more about her at www.mariebilodeau.com.