let’s talk serials

One of my goals for this year is to Try New Things. Not only does it mean writing out of the box, but it also means trying new ways of reaching readers with my stories.

Such as web serialization.

Now, I’m not a big reader of serialized fiction, which has a lot to do with not liking to read fiction on a computer screen. Last year, though, I got into Lisa Ahn’s wonderful flash-fiction-sized Wing-Feather Fables and Liana Mir’s short-shorts and her serial, City of Glass.

And then I came across M. C. A. Hogarth’s work, including her serialized fiction (and the Three Michas, cartoon jaguars that explain art business principles), and Wattpad–and had an epiphany.

Hey, not everyone is like me! Some people actually like reading stories online, in small doses spread over many months!

(I wonder if these are the same people who also like listening to audio books, something else that I haven’t been able to get into).

So, here’s want I want to do. I have this awesome (well, yes, I think it’s awesome) novel called Quartz. You may have heard me talk about it a million times, or two. It’s kind of steampunk, a bit of science fiction, a lot of fantasy–and all adventure.

Here’s the blurb (culled from 15 single-spaced pages of a document entitled Quartz Query):

Rafe Grenfeld, Oakhaven diplomat and spy, has problems: his embassy’s been arrested, he’s trapped in the hostile totalitarian state of Blackstone, and he’s just learned of the discovery of a massive pillar of quartz from an informer who died before revealing its location.

Once, quartz powered magical devices, but the mages who created them are long gone. Now, desperate states vie for rare veins of quartz that provide light and heat, and mean the difference between starvation and survival. Determined to return home with the news, Rafe forms an uneasy alliance with Isabella, a demon slayer with undisclosed loyalties.

Riven with internal strife and facing war with Blackstone, Oakhaven is not willing to pursue a rumor. It’s up to Rafe to find the quartz he believes is vital to his people, even if it means defying orders and collaborating with the mysterious and maddening Isabella. Unfortunately, they have competition: Karzov, chief of Blackstone’s secret police and architect of a plan to resurrect magical weaponry, is also hunting for the quartz—and he has help. But it’s not enough for Rafe to dodge mind-destroying demons and allies-turned-enemies. He must also overcome his quartz-induced disability—the one that leaves him writhing in agony—and tap into powers long thought lost, before his world is torn apart by famine and war.

And I’d like to serialize this, right here.

But, Rabia, you might be thinking–why not just self-publish Quartz, like you did Mourning Cloak and Rainbird and Shattered?

Good question. And in no particular order, here are my thoughts:

  • I’ve never serialized before (except for that one time, with Wired). No time like the present to try.
  • I haven’t self-published anything longer than Rainbird, which topped out at less than 32K words. Quartz is 101K words and I’m intimidated by the idea of self-publishing it. The line-editing and the proofreading passes are a lot of work. I’d rather spread them out over the many months of serialization than do it all in one go. It’s the whole how-to-eat-an-elephant thing: one bite at a time.
  • I want to bring readers to a place that is unquestionably mine–my website. Right now I’m selling through e-tailers, which means I don’t have direct access to my readers. I hear rumblings that Amazon might–bad move!–take away the 70% royalty rate unless you enroll in KDP Select. Therefore, I want to have lots of little baskets for my eggs, to make sure that all my readers–and income–aren’t coming through one channel.

So, how are you planning on this serial thing working out?

Well, so far the tentative plan is–I’m still working out the kinks of this–following a model similar to Hogarth’s (hey, I’m teachable).

  • I would post a scene (less than 2K words) once a week, probably on Tuesdays.
  • If I get enough donations ($5? $10?), they would pay for an extra episode per week, probably on a Saturday. What this means is that if you like the story, you can pay to read it faster. Without donations, the story will continue to run at its weekly pace.
  • The money I get for Quartz will go towards paying for cover art for the ebook. If I get more than that, I’ll hire a copyeditor/proofreader (oh, yes, please! My eyeballs are still bleeding from the 354 rounds with Mourning Cloak). And if I seriously overfund (along with getting my own pony, a castle made of candy, and rainbow kittens), I’ll pay myself.
  • Anyone who donates to the serial will get an ebook version for free, and their name–if they choose–in the Acknowledgements.

So, what do you think? Would you read serialized novels? Any tweaks you’d suggest to this system? Comment away!