Serialization's a Smart Move—If Done Correctly

Serialization Already Exists.

The recent release of Ghost 3.0, a major update to the Ghost blogging CMS, got me thinking about serialization and those serialization opportunities writers have available to them today. The new Ghost 3.0 CMS allows writers to monetize their writing efforts, using the Stripe payment system — the same system used by Medium, oddly enough. Will Ghost reinvigorate serialization efforts among indie fiction writers? Probably not by itself, but it could help. It’s best to remember that serialization requires knowledge of craft and using the right technologies to get the job done, among other things.

Serialization has a deep (and often romanticized) history within the publishing industry. Dickens did it. King even did it. However, serials have seen spotty success in recent years, especially among indie authors. For every successful serial, there are thousands of unsuccessful ones.

To paraphrase a fellow indie author, there’s a lot of white noise out there. Consumers don’t have the first clue as to what’s good, what’s worth the time, and what’s just garbage. If you don’t believe me, consider delving into the depths of Amazon’s Kindle market. You’ll find a lot of stinkers there, but you will find a few gems, if you keep looking and looking hard to boot.

Serialization can be a smart move, if done correctly. However, as Amazon and so many other markets suggest, writers aren’t doing serials correctly. They are turning out content, under the whole publish or perish mantra, which becomes a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy concerning the nature of indie publishing.

Serialization Can Do Better — This Is the Twenty-First Century, We Have the Technology (and the Know-How).

Serialization requires a number of great tools, including, I know I’m going to get hate mail for this one, outlines. Outlines are a technology, a force multiplier for writers, who want to be taken seriously. Add in software technology like Novlr, Scrivener, or even Ulysses, you’ve got a recipe for success, or at least a partial recipe for success.

Serializations that dominate the market all have something in common. They push quality over quantity, while keeping readers interested in what happens next. They do this by using the technology at their disposal. Some of the successful serials I read or visit on a regular basis use scheduling in their Websites’ CMS, in order to parcel out reading installments. Others use Patreon and Ko-Fi to entice readers into supporting their favorite serialized stories. Still others use already built platforms and solid Web-based marketing to snag more readers with each new installment.

Those that fail to succeed are usually failing to use the tools that are available to the writers. Writers who fail often forget that legwork needs to be done well in advance of an installment. Before publishing, writers should be aware that they need to build an audience. They need to know they will have far smaller audiences than they originally envisioned. Moreover, they need to realize that this is a lonely business, and, sometimes, writing for one’s self brings readers to the table more than just simply hitting “publish.”

With that said, serialization efforts are likely to end in a whimper than a bang if writers simply ignore the lessons from those who came before. In other words, writers should realize that serialization, while romantic, is hard work and equally taxing when it comes to resources and/or technologies required.

Serialization Takeaways.

  • Remember that this is a lonely business, but that doesn’t mean it’s pointless or self-serving to write for one’s self first. Audiences will smell out those serializations that are angling for an audience.
  • Audiences will likely come from serious legwork on the part of the author. Avoid reinventing the wheel, use those platforms/technologies that already exist to build, engage, and maintain an audience for your serial.
  • Technology serves as a sort of force multiplier for authors, allowing writers to build audiences, monetize their efforts, and parcel out installments for their serials.
  • Learn from past mistakes. Don’t forget that there’s a lot of white noise out there, and that white noise should be studied before you decide to send your serial out into the wilderness.

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Gregory M. Rapp

Gregory M. Rapp

A writer of fiction and nonfiction, a blogger, an avid reader and writer, and gamer.
New Mexico