literature

Semiweekly News Roundup, Ending 4/14/2013

From royalty to fugitive

In this showbiz article from Asia comes news of a live action adaptation of a successful online novel from China.  Again, no surprise here. As has been discussed on Pandamian and in other blogs, the serial prose/online novel format works quite well overseas.

Paywalls are Scary Growth Killers

In these two pieces, the authors reflect on paywalls. In general, there’s a great deal of uneasiness about paywalls and whether anyone truly is going to be able to monetize off a largely closed content system.

More data and observations from Kindle Serials

In another interesting piece from PaidContent, author Laura Hazard Owen summarizes several pieces of information related to webcontent. Of note is her link to the WSJ which then links to another piece from April 11 on serial novels.  Catch this one before it goes behind the firewall. To summarize

* Their Kindle serial update frequency worked best for them on weekly basis
* Their best selling entry came in at 80,000 copies. Wow.

I think the comment on the bad reaction to the one story that sold episodes at 1.99 e ach was pretty insightful. I think the tolerance for the format largely is underwritten by the low price. The Kindle Serials model works more like a subscription and I think that while there may be room to experiment upwards with pricing… not by too much.  Serials are still very much a gamble for readers unless they know the author well and asking someone to invest beyond the common currency of the internet (which hovers around 0.99-2.99) is a lot to ask.

Waterstones founder to launch Spotify-like service for books in 2013

If you recall from a previous news post, Waterstones was experimenting with adding “in store/book only” copy to their in-store books.  This sounded like a measure to try to drive people back to their stores to buy books.  Now it appears they’re jumping into serials as well. 

All well and good, I wish them well. I’m fairly sure that Amazon’s success along with a lot of media profiling of serials end of 2012 and in early 2013 is going to mean more folks entering into the marketplace this year.   Hopefully this is good news for the rest of us independently serializers 🙂

Self Publishing Podcast talks Free Serials

Several of the podcast’s hosts are serializers on Kindle. They have done it both ways — releasing “episodes” of a season as different books as well as participating in the formal Kindle Serials program.  I mentioned their experiment in a previous post. In this podcast, they reflect on their free episodes experiment.

It sounds like the experiment has had some mixed results, including a disappointing lack of reviews.  This spurs a conversation about their readers and some pondering about what direction they should take for future episodes. I think this is a great podcast, but if you can’t spend the hour to listen or watch on Youtubetake a look at the show notes at the youtube channel.  Warning for moderate language :p.

I still wonder had this run as a donation model off their website if this might have resulted in folks simply providing money out of their good will as opposed to it becoming about reads for reviews or motivating other sales.

Admin notes / online-novel.com

So folks, the Blogger UI is kind of irritating me with its tendency to code clunky html.  So I will be experimenting with a WordPress version of this site.   I apologize for the confusion and encourage those of you using RSS feed trackers to use https://theonlinenovel.wordpress.com.

Two – as I said in the last post with Najela Cobb – if you are a serial writer with webfiction cred doing something new and are interested in being interviewed, please contact me with your name, URL (of your past or current work), and briefly describe what you think you have to share with other readers (current and future) of this blog.

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Guest Discussion – Najela Cobb reflects on serializing prose vs. webcomics

Najela Cobb (Twitter, Facebook) and I started chatting via comments on an earlier post about webfiction/serial novels . In that conversation we started drawing comparisons between the two niches, particularly since webcomics are, to a degree, more successful than webfiction /serials in reaching an online audience.

This former prose serializer or “webfiction” writer recently ventured into a new story, but this time in the webcomics market. She just Kickstarted her webcomic, “Beyond Beauty” this past week.

This sounded like a good time to formalize our previous chat into a quasi-interview. Hopefully Najela’s responses offer some food for thought. And if you, also, are a serial writer with webfiction cred doing something new and are interested in being interviewed, please contact me with your name, URL (of your past or current work), and briefly describe what you think you have to share with other readers (current and future) of this blog.

And with that business stuff out of the way, off we go.

Please tell us about your former serial.

I worked on a serial called It’s All Relative (IAR).

Here’s a description: “The magical world of Atheria is unraveling at the seams as powerful hybrid creatures disrupt the essential balance. Amidst the chaos, a young revolutionary promises change and freedom at a cost. Three college students and their friends find themselves on different sides of a war where the line between good and evil is not so clearly defined.”

The story hasn’t really changed too much, but its execution has seen various incarnations. Its most recent form was posted at http://iarstory.blogspot.com. I believe it started in late 2007/early 2008 on freewebs and ended in 2009 on Blogspot. Extras, parodies, and collaborative stories are still available to read.

What sort of promotion (e.g., advertising, link exchanges, social media, mirror fiction directories or sites) did you do when you first started to put the story online?

I did promotion through Livejournal groups, Project Wonderful, Pages Unbound, Web Fiction Guide, and was active on forums. I also did review exchanges and collaborative fiction with other web fiction authors.

What successes did you think you accomplished in posting your serial?

My biggest success in posting IAR was watching the webfiction community take shape and grow over time. Posting online helped me develop a thick skin. I’ve learned to put some emotional distance between myself and my stories, which I think is a good skill for any writer to have.

What issues did you feel you could not overcome with the serial (e.g., lack of reader interaction)?

(more…)

quasiWeekly Update through April 6, 2013 – Serials in the news

Yes, my news posts are rather erratic… at times I have to wait until there’s really enough material of interest.  In any case, happy April to you all… and happy writing! 

Eat Your Serial moves away from just publishing prose

EYS, like Plympton, had a successfully funded Kickstarter to help launch their presence but not Plympton’s connections or incredible timing.  I honestly thought EYS had disappeared when their twitter account had recently gone quiet for several months.  It looks like someone is back at the helm tweeting and blogging.  While Plympton seems to be making movements towards prose (and delivery via email), it looks like EYS will move towards publishing other types of non-prose webserials. 

Could You Write a Kindle Serial?

Roberto Calas, Kindle serial alum, is interviewed by his Amazon editor Marcus Trower.   Really interesting insight into the program itself and while you’re at it, add Marcus Trower to your RSS feedwatcher. 

Hooking Up Versus Going It Alone: What’s a Lonely Serial To Do?

A serial writer asks other writers what they think about platforms like Jukepop and Wattpad while he ruminates about where to post his serial.


Sometimes, I Like To Wait

Anthony Ha is someone who actually enjoys reading serially. He touches on Plympton, Coliloquoy, and Amazon as publishers of serial content… mentions John Scalzi as well.  And sad to see all the other entities he fails to mention like Figment, Wattpad, and Jukepopserials.  Meh.  Seems like all of these entities operate as if they are unaware of each other.

March 17 Weekly Roundup

Happy St. Patrick’s Day all!  I’m finally done with three weeks of work/convention/work life and hoping to get back into the quieter activities of life here.  Hopefully I haven’t missed any huge stories, but if I have … tell me about it!

For some reason, an author goes to Huffington Post to put down the idea that blog tours are all that useful 

This seems to make people mad.  This might be bad form too, because the owners of the blogs who reviewed the work get mad.   Writers who use blog tours also get mad!  The irony in this is that the author’s provocative and complaining blog gets him more notice than all of the blog tours combined.  (As a cynical netizen, this is really what I think the author was after to begin with. That said, I still predict that few sales will result from the blog post at HuffPo, despite its high profile given the author’s original hypothesis that blog tours don’t do squat.)   But at least there’s a reasonable comment from someone who sounds like they understand the internet!

Blog tours are, for some reason, part of a lot of ‘Marketing’ strategies that book writers seems to take. I’m not particularly sure why given that a lot of blogs haven’t proven that they have a) an audience b) the audience you want and c) an audience that can be motivated to purchase product.

Authors should spend less time talking to authors IMHO at blogs.  They should look at marketing magazines and sites.  They should go to where the readers are.

Generation M or Generation Mobile

This might be repackaging of information already well-understood by many webfiction/ online novel/ serial writers, but the basic premise is that consumption of media is shifting to mobile platforms.  Webfiction writers need to understand this in terms of how they publish their content.   See this article which reports/repackages data from the Pew Report in ways we might understand: 

Waterstones offers extra content to lure readers away from Amazon

An interesting strategy that webfiction authors might consider to compel readers to buy a compiled, edited version of their serial fiction. We’ll have to see how this works for Waterstones… 

The crude realities of money and fiction

This piece in Salon.com illustrates why neither rank or sales necessarily translates into the ability of writers to actually make a living off their craft. While the success stories of millionaires in the self-publishing world are great, they are the outliers.  Most of the success stories that are touted heavily involve authors with not just one book, but a deeper backlist who are able to mobilize to take advantage of lucky situations like the one that happened to the author. 
I’m not sure why there’s a pervasive belief that writers are going to publish a book and become instantly rich.  Maybe there’s a misunderstanding that in a creative field you can manufacture your success.  That is something artists all know is far from the truth. Much of it is in the hands of lady luck and the audience on the other side.  
And the comments section is pretty interesting as readers attempt to really dissect the numbers.  I’m not sure it matters to me what 4000 copies this guy sold or not. Really the point is the economics of writing is sad.

Captive Prince builds steam, Wattpad ruminations, and the story of paper books

This post is mostly a reaction to three separate things that are rattling around my brain at the moment. Other than they are rattling in there together, the topics are disparate and unrelated. (Or maybe not!)

ONE

First, for those that watch my tweets you would have noticed a few pointers to “The Captive Prince” earlier in the year. For the uninitiated, it is a serial fiction that has been running on Livejournal for years.  Finally, finally, the ebook/paperbacks came out this year.   and it has been gathering quite a bit of attention overseas but not here.

Until now perhaps.

Dear Author – one of my favorite review blogs to read (because the reviews are personal and funny in tone) – took on Captive Prince and voila, endorsed the opinions of many thousands of readers (perhaps tens of thousands?) who have followed the serial for years with a rare RECOMMEND.

I think this is really one of the true success stories in serial fiction. It’s not a serialized novel (released in novellas) like Hugh Howey’s Wool (which is FANTASTIC and comes out in hardback TODAY and should be another inspiration to self-publishers everywhere) but a true text based novel.  It’s not a Kindle Serial that is designed solely to live in the ebook realm.  Rather this was a free work that built up a fandom that pushed the author to seek out publication.  As of this writing, the Livejournal site is still up there at Sucat’s livejournal  living simultaneously as a free read while her paper and ebook versions become available as a paid entity.

This is a demonstration, a true one, of how social communities can make fiction viable.

So my hat’s off to Freece/Sucat and her fans.  I hope they realize they’re breaking ground. I hope the publishing world realizes it too.

TWO

It’s been a month since I completed my story on Wattpad.  I figured I should ask for a feature and was politely declined by the tech /social media people/help desk for a feature within 24 hours of submission. I wasn’t surprised as much by the polite ‘no,’ as much as the last sentence in the response.

“Due to the high volume of submissions we receive daily, we are not able to feature every story we receive. Our aim is to create a list that represents a variety of genres and showcases some of the best writing the community has to offer. We did a quick review of your story and unfortunately, we are not able to give it Featured Story placement on the site at the present time as we are giving preference to stories that have not yet received the kind of attention your story has already gotten.

I honestly do not consider the story to be successful. (ETA: Stats link) But when examining the response, one wonders then if the average Wattpad experience is pretty dismal in comparison.  Yikes.

Wattpad is a bit odd in its current evolution. Its featured section is becoming much more populated with published authors seeking to get more readers at the existing Wattpad base.  While I think that can be good for the visiting authors and readers (who get free books to read), there really are two Wattpads still operating… one that is user created/curated and the other that is corporate curated.

While some of the featured stories do go on to huge success, it’s the efforts of those who rise to the top in the “other pool” that interest me more.  In particular, as of late I’m enjoying the success of  82 year old retired writer, Gwen Madoc, whose story (as of this posting) ranks #2 in the historical romance and #9 in the non-teen romance genre.  I am gathering she must be too, for she has been personally responding to every comment on her work thus far!

It’s an amazing thing sometimes how in spite of the designs of the curators, the social network discovers what they like and, even more amazing, how generations can come together in such an unusual place.  My hats off to this classy dame and the readers of Wattpad for their hand in a second season of writing for Ms. Madoc :).

As for me, my natural experiment on Wattpad continues without interference.  I had worried over length of my serial and entertained some concern about earlier comments from community members that “stories shouldn’t be longer than X parts.” Well, I broke that rule, but at least am glad to report that readers did not fall off a cliff, never to return. In the last month I’ve had 300 more readers cross the finish line.  I will hope there will be more.

THREE

This weekend I was back in the Artist Alley at Momocon, doing my crazy art thing.  I’ve been giving away bookmarks for my serial since last June, but this year I was able to stick them next to copies of the first proof I ran for the compiled print version of the serial.  There was nothing fancy about this display – as you can see  here  for reference). Truly, the book is lost in a table of generally shiny artwork.

To my surprise, I had a few people beeline for the book. In spite of my telling them that the book was online for free and the proof itself had an extra blank page, they purchased the copies anyways.

This surprised me honestly. The convention I was at largely caters to those who are careful about spending and I honestly thought the idea that a book was already online for free would deter them.  But while I didn’t get to chat extensively with these customers about their thoughts on why they still wanted the copy, they still quickly confirmed that they preferred print to “everything else” and/or wanted something to read at that very moment.

It’s given me much to ponder as I wrestle with the issue of putting out a paper copy.  In spite of all the flaws that exist in this work, I still think that the paper book in itself is a marketing tool on its own. I shall have to talk shop with selfpublishers who sell at conventions a bit more in the future.