Author: SgL

Guest post by Nick Bryan: Life after the Serial

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 DREAM

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. (more…)

The State of the Web Serial: Thoughts on infrastructure and crafting

As we begin the new year, I thought I would reflect a bit on the state of Webfiction and Web Serials.

This year, the most popular page of 2014 was “Where to Read/List Serials” followed by posts comparing places to post fiction.

I’ve now been knee-deep in the original webfiction world for four years.  Companies come , rebrand, and go. Many just never make it big.

Faces come and go in the webfiction world very quickly (as evidenced by how many folks who were past authors on this blog have gone back to writing a book in more traditional manner).

What amazes me is that in spite of failures on part of companies and authors to capitalize on “fiction on the web” that new authors continue to show up to the webfiction/online serial world in search of readers.

Life continues to putter along at several indie hubs for web fiction such as the forums at Webfiction Guide and at Starter Serials.   Wattpad continues to make waves with tens of millions of readers showing up at their door. And Amazon is quietly developing “WriteOn” as a potential rival to Wattpad and other smaller webfiction communities by keeping its Beta phase targeted towards authors who want feedback.

While Wattpad continues to try to find a way to push out their successful stories within their community into the larger digital reading world, I don’t think they’ve quite managed to find respectability yet. Anna Todd’s reworked One Direction meets BDSM fanfic seems to have created a lot of media noise , both good and bad. However, I think I’m still waiting for the last volume of  “Captive Prince” to hit the bookstands before we have another meaningful dialogue on webfiction as a potential source of a credible franchise.

* * *

It’s rare to find blog posts about web serialization from other authors. I do know there are conversations and fora posts in various communities, but sadly not enough!

However, it looks like Tuesdsayserial.com is ramping up again with more posts. A few weeks ago,  veteran web serial author Claudia Hall Christian , posted the first of a series of posts on crafting serial fiction.  This first column, “Surviving Serial Fiction,” presents the dilemma of someone trying to return to it after some time off.

I think what’s commendable about her approach is her sense of intention and purpose. She treats it as a serious undertaking that should happen with planning and discussion (some part of her already well-defined process, honed from experience I presume.)

But the process she describes comes from a full-time writer and is balanced on top of other writing commitments. It sounds daunting.

I don’t disagree that thought needs to be part of a serial. However, I would like to venture that starting a serial or webfiction is never that hard. Publication platforms are free. Audiences can be found.  It’s maintaining the serial that is much harder.

Some things I would like to clarify for the newcomers:

You are your own team.

Most indie serial authors have no “team” behind an author. None of the folks I interact with have a team. The author themselves is the entire team of content creator, editor, marketer, and publisher.  Do not feel like you need one to get started. In fact, don’t try to sink money into all of these roles until you can prove you can create interesting content on a consistent basis.

There is no minimum outlay of time to invest, no magic formula. 

While she mentions 16 hours a day being committed for a serial, some get by with 30 minutes or less a day or every other day.

In my fourth year of writing, I can commit (at most) 6 hours a week to each 1600-2400 word installment of The Queen of Swans . This often includes 2 hours or so of navel-gazing where I try to take a one sentence “goal” for an installment and flesh it out to a few paragraphs marking each scene. Then there’s henpecking at this hulk of messy text over stolen hours on a weekend before a massive painful rewrite the night of posting.

I know of some folks who are able to simply complete each installment in one sitting because they are capable of writing exactly what they want out the first time.   All this to say — in the realm of webfiction or serials, there is no right way/approach or time commitment to writing.

How many hours, people, installments, revisions, you have — it doesn’t matter as long as your output is interesting and compelling enough to get people to want to come back.At the end of the day, what needs to happen is to have a plan and stick to it.

Looking ahead for this blog. 

In 2015, I hope I’ll be able to spend more time studying the various communities.  In the immediate future, I also plan to come back and talk about Wattpad, three or so years in.

The majority of blogposts about Wattpad are from traditional authors who are invited to the Wattpad author program (and often cut up existing books more than write new exclusive content).  I have had a pretty good time with collecting my own analytics the past few years and am rifling through the new analytics information to draw new conclusions about who my readers are and all that jazz.

2014 in Wattpad ended on a pretty cool note– namely, finding one of my works on a curated list put together by someone in Wattpad HQ.  The impact on my readership is still hard to assess but it looks promising.

In any case, everyone, talk to you later. Happy 2015 and Happy Writing!

Amazon and Write-On: Take Two on Serials

I apologize for months of radio silence. Work decided to have its own crisis which I hope will subside in the next few weeks.

While Amazon seems to have been in publishing news this entire year irritating the traditional pub world, I think it’s worth noting their interest in “non-traditional” models like serials. I’m not sure what has become of Kindle Serials which I’ve discussed in previous posts.  I haven’t seem much sign that it is currently growing nor many post-mortems on the program. Its current submissions page  remains closed — closed for so long so you wonder if it’s considered retired .  As I don’t see much publicly stated from the participants or Amazon themselves online, I point you instead to Jane Friedman’s post from earlier in the year trying to dissect the serial landscape.

While in a work-induced delirium, I caught an article very late last month on TechCrunch   regarding Amazon WriteOn (beta). The headline implied it was a counterpoint to Wattpad which is everyone’s favorite Canadian startup (if one reads all the  venture capital hype).

Like any sufficiently curious and sometimes informal reporter, I signed up to poke around. To be honest, I’ve enjoyed moderate benefit from Wattpad in terms of finding new readers (but no sales, alas) although having a work that doesn’t hit the ideal Wattpad demographic squarely in its face. (I like to say that I am on the Wattpad demographic dartboard but my work is too long, language somewhat complex, and not strict romance so I tend to graze the dartboard and then fall off it!)

I signed up for the beta and within a few days was provided an access code to log in using my existing Amazon account (currently linked to my Kindle Publishing account). As promised, it did appear to be what was advertised and has mostly writers (not readers as of yet) onboard.  What is particularly nice is that the writing quality (as a baseline) is far higher than Wattpad . My guess is that part of this is because the beta is tied to existing Amazon accounts which, I suppose, need bank/credit card info attached so skews the age of participation higher. (That said, who knows?) And I guess that the earlier invitees were all authors or people who hung out in writing forums in Kindle perhaps… makes sense… and the pay off is that the baseline quality of work is much better than what’s currently out there on a lot of “serial sites.”

I found the previous requirements in the open submission phase for Kindle Serials to be too onerous. If you weren’t done with your book and able to produce on weekly/biweekly installments at a proscribed word count, it wasn’t for you.   This looks far less restrictive and, in the beta, ideal as a writing community goes.

However, as it is a beta and everyone is starving for feedback, I haven’t yet jumped in. Tossing in a book and not engaging likely would be seen as obnoxious based on some of the forum conversations I was reading. Also, I clearly would need to bring my A-game once I do start posting my current serializing piece of fiction. The covers I see are really great and Kindle-worthy.  What passes muster on Wattpad won’t work here. (And so I need to enter when I’m ready. Not now.)

Let’s hope this effort matures. I think we need more than one Wattpad out there to help shape the serial market . Who better than Amazon?

I hope to start in on reading works in a few weeks but do have an account. If you sign up and are wanting to connect, let me know! Would be great to have some other points of view from the writer community!

Online-novel News and Views, Stories from around the web

In China, you can actually do this and make a living

For the long-time readers of this blog, you know from time to time we get hints that digital fiction actual works somewhere.  Light-novels are a viable format for publishing in Japan.  Cell-phone and web novels thrive and even can be lucrative in China.  In this piece, online novelists in Hong Kong get a shoutout. One thing I find particularly intriguing is the mention of a publisher, Sun Effort, whose catalogue focuses specifically on online novels.  Also think this is a first as well for a web/online novel as “Red Minibus” was turned into a live-action film with a debut on the international circuit.   So there we go, Hong Kong has charted the way. Now if we could only get a small piece of their success in the English speaking world 😉

Sparkler Monthly Creator Contest

Sparkler Monthly is running a low-key but interesting creator-driven contest. This contest asks creators to share how you as a creator share what you do with your audience.  Entries can be in any format (drawn, sung, video’d) and will be accepted through the end of June.  Good luck!

Jukepop community overhaul

In this latest blog , Jukepop announces a new facet to their comment/review feature.  Jukepop (Serials) initially began as a vote-driven site. In more recent months, they’ve added a comment feature for various stories.  Now, comments have become front-page territory as the main JP page not only shows updates but comment activities of authors and readers. It’s an interesting move and certainly will reward activity by authors and readers for simply “being present” on the community.

I’m sure those who benefited from the previous layout (i.e., Top 30 stories being top  real estate) will not be too thrilled but this shift in the other direction might actually at least let us evaluate the level of activity on Jukepop and encourage people to “delurk.”  Hopefully at some point, however, they adjust the layout so that the feed is not the center of attention  vs. the actual stories or randomize the feed. The idea of a feed can be abused easily by authors seeking to constantly have front-page real estate and can take away from the books that the site features.

Wattpad Fanfiction Writer gets a Deal with Simon and Schuster

In one of the more interesting acquisition stories out there– the series “After” written as a “One Direction” fan fiction has gotten picked up for both a book deal and movie deal.  It’s not the first Wattpad work to go both book and movie but it certainly is the first time I’ve heard of a fan fiction being optioned without little scrubbing as those of us in the fanfic community term it.  Basically the statement in this Time article is that the story will go on with just the band member names being removed.  I wonder how One Direction fans feel about their fandom being used to leverage promotion for the book, particularly since the content is purportedly “Fifty Shades of Gray” inspired.

Other news stories:

Have a story? Want to write a story?  See the Submissions link!

News: Starter Serials Enters the Fray and other “serial player” changes

Hi guys – Back from a fan convention with a few stories to tell whenever I can recover from all this traveling and crazy convention prep!

The end of May marks the soft launch of StarterSerials.com by Drew Hayes and his posse.  (The man doesn’t sleep apparently). He had written me via email to solicit my thoughts about “what’s needed in the indie community” and where a new webfiction or web serial site might fit in.

To give you some background, Drew was part of the Digital Novelists network launched more than five years ago.  That site was essentially a webring/hub of site and a close-knit community of writers who posted works and helped one another out by sharing traffic. They had a community that gathered at weblit.us (defunct) and via social media.

He shared the below pitch in its protoform a few weeks back. This is the new version, hot off the presses.

StarterSerials.com is a site with a single purpose: to make it easy for authors to start their web-serial without having to choose between ease and appeal. There is no monetary cost, no lessons on hosting, no domain registration, none of it. Just submit, get approved, and begin.

On top of just simplicity, StarterSerials.com is about new web-serial authors learning about the process, making their early mistakes (because we all make a few) in a safe environment with a community for support. Established authors will be volunteering their time as Mentors: offering guidance, writing blogs, and answering questions as they arise. Problems and challenges are inherent to the task of running a web-serial, but the writers won’t be facing them alone.

So if you’re an author, head to the site and send us a submission; join the incredibly talented people already writing. If you’re a reader then make sure you bookmark it, because come July there will be an explosion of exceptional content.

 

In that email exchange, we discussed a few things including his motivations in establishing the site and discussed my thoughts about what was being done well on other writing communities and what wasn’t.   I gave him my feedback on where he could consider going with a new community. There are, after all, lots of places popping up trying to do the “publishing house on the web/social community” concept.  While there are several “free” places that combine reading with writer/reader interaction there aren’t any that want you to “graduate” from them and end up working on your own in the web publishing sphere, namely taking your stuff and going to your own site.

We also talked a bit about platforms, including Drupal and WordPress. As many of you know, I find WordPress a pretty nice content management system. Its ability to export/import entries to a lot of different blogsites gets it major points with me. (Anything with dummy-proof backup wins as I’m one of those dummies when it comes to accidentally deleting or messing up a website.)   I was pleasantly surprised when looking at the website to see that WP will be the choice platform for community members.

In the emails, I did ask him up front about monetization. Social sites can basically take your page views and monetize them and mine your data.  I have no illusion that some of the big guys I’ve talked about are much different from Facebook or Tumblr in that regard.  But the value they return (i.e., free reads/books for those who can’t afford them or have access to them) often diminishes any background concern I have about data mining or ad-revenue . At least for now there are no ads and Drew was up front that if any advertisements do appear on the site in the future, the intent is primarily to cover operational costs.

This, for now, is openly different from the other models out there (which are really about page views, ads, and social network data).

Of course, we all know that on the internet there are no guarantees of anything but if the site is able to help bridge the gap for some webfiction authors to get to their own site and writing in a healthy, sustained manner, I’m all for it.   The webfiction realm has lots of casualties in terms of stories that never complete and it’s not healthy in the long-run.

Based on what we discussed, I decided to sign-up and check it out myself as one of the volunteer helpers, time permitting.

Starterserials.com is open for interested writers to sign-up.

Writers have until July to generate a backlog between now and the official launch.   The forums are also open for casual hellos I guess as well :).  See ya there!

 

New Page (Old Post)

As a housekeeping note, the initial listing of  where to publish, read, or list serials has been moved from a post to a more permanent page at  https://theonlinenovel.wordpress.com/where-to-read-or-list-serials . This just makes it easier for all of us in later referencing. Also checked a few sites that were in my queue to evaluate. (Several now have made it very clear whether it’s free to post and/or read.)

Please update your bookmarks!

 

Open for advice

I have had a few emails come my way recently and that is perfectly cool to continue contacting me that way.  You can find my contact on the Submissions page.