Hi, I’m Nick Bryan. I write Hobson & Choi, a London crime story with a dark-comedy twist. It started off on Jukepop Serials, before expanding into book editions collecting the webserial, the second of which has just come out. Now, with the Jukepop version at an end, the books continue into new and uncharted territory.
I guest-wrote about the H&C webseries here a couple of years back. Now I’m moving into this post-serial phase, Shirley generously invited me back to talk about how this latest step came about, why I made the decisions I made and the practicalities involved.
The plan to produce collected editions of Hobson & Choi story arcs was with me from the beginning, thanks to my enjoyment of binge-reading monthly comics and DVD boxsets. I knew the individual episodes should eventually be brought together, ideally without me printing them out and using a stapler.
Each major arc came to thirty-ish episodes, making that an obvious length for the collections. I quickly decided on adding a bonus story to each book, for two reasons: firstly, it might encourage people who read the serial to pick them books up; second, the arcs by themselves were quite short by book standards.
The toughest obstacle turned out to be format perfectionism. A bunch of webserial chapters, it turns out, do not automatically become a novel when pasted together. They repeat themselves, contain pointless cliffhangers and jarring changes in storyline. Thus, the main factor in discontinuing the webserial: reducing the rewrites required for the novels.
I could publish the thing as a collection of webserial chapters and assume people understood that, but I wanted them to seem standalone. Of course, the novel editions are very serialised by book standards, so in essence, all I’ve done is increase the length of my segments by thirty times.
THE OUTSIDE WORLD
Since I went from webserial to books, I’ve noted a few other JukePop authors following the same route – some independently, such as the excellent C.A. Sanders with his Watchmage of New York series, and others via the new Investments feature, started up by JukePop themselves in order to help other authors follow in my footsteps. (My egomania is under control, thanks for asking.)
That last development was particularly interesting – I still like the idea of serials as an end in themselves, not just a stepping stone to novels. Yes, I know, an odd statement from a man promoting his serial-turned-novel-series.
One argument for the turn-it-into-a-book move (certainly to me) is people being more inclined to pay for books – monthly financial rewards were a big reason I published via JukePop in the first place. If only I could set up a regular serial with readers backing via Patreon or similar, which I collect into books with minimal editing on the understanding that it is what it is.
European publisher The Pigeonhole are trying an interesting experiment too – taking submissions for so-far-unpublished novels, serialising accepted works over a set period (such as ten weeks) for a cost per instalment, then making the complete book available at the end for the combined total. This involves no up-front author fundraising, the publisher covers everything in traditional fashion, but is so far restricted to single-novel-length works rather than never-ending sagas like Hobson & Choi.
WHO TO WORK WITH
In terms of the practicalities of self-publishing, a lot of it was self-explanatory. Almost every seminar, talk and blog post strongly advocated hiring an external editor to look at the book, and if I did fail, I didn’t want it to be because I ignored the obvious advice. I read a few blog posts on possible editors and ended up going for Bubblecow as they were recommended by Joanna Penn and others. They provided both an overall report on the story and line-by-line edits which I largely implemented – this resulted in not just sentence-level changes but a few larger ones such as new chapters and scenes. H&C webserial fans, take note – there is entirely new material outside the bonus stories, especially in the second volume.
Similarly, I know I can’t do graphic design, and although I’m fond of the homemade H&C cover I used for the webserial, I didn’t think it was good enough for bookshelves. The specific designer fell into my lap somewhat – my friend and fellow indie author Chele Cooke used Design For Writers for her sci-fi series and I loved their work, so dropped them a line.
The decision to do a print edition was made at a late stage, after a few people at talks recommended it (though not as firmly as using an editor) and friends kept asking about one. I might stop at some stage if they’re not selling, but for now, I enjoy having the object enough to keep going. However, since it’s not the primary product and the profit margins are tiny, I’ve done my own print formatting in Word and created the book via Createspace print-on-demand. As they’re the main player in this field right now, Design For Writers cover templates helpfully upload directly onto Createspace.
Having a physical book also enabled me to get it stocked by local indie The Big Green Bookshop. I haven’t made huge inroads into taking the bookshop route further, but I had an existing relationship with the BGB via attending their regular writing group, and they recently started up an organised programme for stocking small press books, so the timing worked out well.
Thus far, I’ve been ordering the books in fairly small batches (5-10 copies) from Createspace and dribbling them through to the shop on request, but they’ve been moving relatively briskly. In fact, H&C Case One was one of the first books to be moved from the small press programme to regular stock, which has to count as a success. However, this victory may also necessitate ordering larger or more regular loads of books, especially now I’m expanding to two titles.
GOING TO MARKET
Marketing is one thing I didn’t devote any funds to last time, partly to focus on getting the book itself right, but mostly because the received wisdom seemed to say: first-book-in-series in isolation not easy to market. So I mostly pushed The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf to existing followers/fans and people I met at parties. It was slow but steady, I sold more than expected.
Now we’re on the second volume, I have the option of lowering the digital price of book one as a gateway (which I have – it’s now dirt-cheap!) and pushing harder. So, since they seem popular in book circles, we’re giving a blog tour a try. I took advantage of some good introductory prices from Faye Rogers, the PR who did the tour for Kim Curran’s self-published book Glaze too. Hopefully people hearing about H&C for the first time will be reassured by the fact I’ve made it to the second book (and already have a decent draft of the third!).
I’m also going to try a few of the cheaper ebook marketing services, such as bknights on Fiverr, E-Reader News Today and whatever else people are positive about on kboards, just to see what’s there for me. I did a free promo for Book One on eBookSoda and sold a handful.
So if any other serial writers are out there and considering the book route, I hope this gave you some ideas about how to proceed/whether to bother at all. Personally, considering the popularity of collected editions of serialised stories, and the wider variety of formats offered by ebooks, I think it’s worth considering for any reasonably popular serial, even if you don’t break your back editing your story for it like I did.
For me, if I do a serial in future, I think I’d probably keep these future moves in mind up front, have a plan and carry it through without many mid-stream changes. But then again, I think that’s my optimistic strategy for everything.
Nick Bryan is a London-based writer of genre fiction, usually with some blackly comic twist. As well as the detective saga Hobson & Choi, he is also working on a novel about the real implications of deals with the devil and has stories in several anthologies. More details on his other work and news on future Hobson & Choi releases can be found on his blog at NickBryan.com or on Twitter as @NickMB. Both are updated with perfect and reasonable regularity.
To participate in his blog tour give away for copies of his works, visit Rafflecopter.