web fiction

On Becoming Part of the Collective

I should probably start by introducing myself. I’m Jim Zoetewey, and I’ve been writing a web serial called The Legion of Nothing for the past 7(!) years that I’m turning into a series of ebooks. About a month ago now I announced that I’d become part of a group of superhero prose fiction writers.

PenAndCapeSociety_logo_smallSo before I do anything else, I should make it clear that this wasn’t my idea. It was Drew’s. In fact, I wasn’t even in the initial group of people emailed about it because Drew couldn’t find contact information for me.

Nonetheless, I was invited, and joined. Why? Because it’s an incredibly good idea.

In fact, it’s an idea that I proposed a couple years ago, but didn’t actually put into practice. The moral to that? If you have a good idea, sometimes if you wait a while, someone else will put it into practice and save you the work.

That said, I suppose I should explain what the idea is, and why it matters.

The idea is that people who write prose superhero fiction should join up, create a group, and promote each other’s work. The Pen and Cape Society includes people who write web fiction, posting only on their website. It also includes people who are focused solely on writing ebooks as well as a number of us who are doing both.

In my mind, that’s where the strength of the idea lies. It could only become stronger in my opinion if we also managed to connect with similar groups who are cross promoting each other’s superhero web comics.

The web has a long history of groups getting together and doing this exact same thing–cross linking sites in a webring, listing the comics or blogs you like on your own blogroll.

We could theoretically have gone with an “only webserials” group or an “only ebooks” group, but going with an “all of the above” group connects more people.

It assumes what I think is a fairly basic insight: websites and ebooks are distribution methods, and only writers care about the distribution method. Readers just care about a good story.

Web fiction writers have often fallen into the trap of promoting themselves only to people who already read web fiction. This is done in various ways, ranging from only promoting one’s work on Web Fiction Guide to only contacting other web fiction writers about crosslinking.

What this group does is make people aware that they can find the same thing in different forms in more than one place–not only ebooks, but also for free online as a serial.

In short, forget the distribution method, we’ve got the same kind of product in two different places. This has the side effect of introducing people who read ebooks to the idea that web serials can be good. It also has the side effect of introducing people who read serials to the current small, but noticeable boom in the availability of superhero fiction.

It’s funny. When I was working as a freelance computer consultant, creating websites and small businesses computer networks, I became part of a business networking group. It connected me to clients I would never have met on my own. More than four years later, I still do work for some of these people.

Similarly, this has been the best month for The Legion of Nothing’s first ebook since its launch. Plus, when the Pen and Cape Society’s website went live I received at least one hundred new visitors to my web serial in the first week. Not all of them stayed, but some definitely did. My stats have been up since then.

I can’t speak to the effect of the organization’s existence on everybody. Drew Hayes (Superpowered), Vaal (The Descendants) and Jeffrey Allen (Portal) report that their websites received a noticeable number of new visitors. Drew, Ian Healy (Just Cause Universe), and R.J. Ross (Cape High series) all report that their ebook sales are up. That said, they’ve all got other reasons that their sales might be up (like releasing new books), so they’re not completely sure of the cause.

Cheyanne Young (Powered series) only has one superhero book out, and feels like she’s got nothing to compare it to.

Aside from the group website, we haven’t done much cross-promotion as yet, so getting some effect from what we have done is a good sign. Hopefully this will grow with the release of an anthology we’re working on, and other projects we’re talking about.

If nothing else, we’re all now in each other’s “people who bought this also bought…” section on Amazon, something that can only help us.

It’s said that word of mouth is the best form of advertising. Creating a group of people who mutually benefit from promoting each other’s work expands your word of mouth whether it’s for a computer business or selling ebooks. In the end, that’s why groups like this matter.


Catching up on the remaining 2013 News stories | Call for completed works

Site News

I apologize in advance for what will be some instability in the look of this site.  This blog is hosted on the wordpress.com backbone and makes use of free themes. Finding one that incorporates all the widgets and menus I’d like to build into the site can sometimes be a bit messy.  I may upgrade this blog in the next few weeks but please be patient if things seem to move left to right back to left over the next few weeks.

On to more interesting things, on January 1,  I will be hanging a page off the top menu for serials completed in 2013.

While there are ways to access/find complete serials on  Webfiction Guide or Tuesdayserial.com, I still think that the completed works aren’t highlighted enough within this community of writers and readers.  For this first attempt, I’ve made a call to the existing communities where authors who have contributed content /input into this blog participate.  So look forward to yet another post this week 🙂

Now on to the rest of the news! 

Forbes.com blogs cover Wattpad and other self-publishing efforts

Suw Charman-Anderson regularly covers the self-publishing world for the Forbes.com site and unfortunately I neglected to post this last month when she decided to talk about Wattpad. 

Make sure you watch her posts — she also covered the unveiling of the  new look at Smashwords  and their partnership with Scribd.  This should be of particular interest to to those of you looking for eventual outlets for your compiled serial.   Mark Coker’s blog  brings insight into the deal’s benefits for authors:

For Scribd’s subscription ebook service, authors will earn 60% of the list price on all qualifying reads, and here they’ve added a cool twist.  With subscription services, the author or publisher earns credit for a full read when the reader reaches a certain trigger point, measured by the percentage of the book that is read.  The first 10% of the book is a free sample, similar to a retailer.  Excluding the sample, once the reader reads an additional 20% of the book, a full sale is triggered and the Smashwords author earns 60% of the list price, up to a maximum of about $12.50 per read…

Harlequin makes good, signs deals with several Wattpad Authors

Wattpad’s partnerships with the traditional publishing world seem to prove the adage that perhaps publishing online isn’t a kiss of death, after all.  Harlequin is among the best known of romance publishers (although to be fair, they also have their fair share of critics for some of their deals they cut with authors.)    But this overall news is positive . Instead of four final selections,  six authors are signed for books . The winning book titles are listed at the Wattpad blog.

Huffington Post continues it’s ongoing love/hate with serialized formats

Huffington Post’s cadre of bloggers do occasionally pay attention to serialized fiction (see tag: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tag/serialized-fiction ).    I think, however, compared to other formats it hasn’t been as well covered . Still there are a few references from this past month worth looking through. You have the overall positive comment from Mark Siegel, “The New Serial Revolution” which really talks about fiction and comics, among other works.  And there’s the sort of impatient content consumer argument outlined in John Branch’s dissection of “serial television.”

Good Business Advice

In her post, Crowdfunded Anthologies: Concerns For Writers, Victoria Strauss translates a lot of the knowledge the crew at “Writer Beware” has acquired over the years about predatory /careless practices by publishers.   Anthologies are starting to become increasingly common as Kickstarter projects for several reasons — some altruistic and some perhaps not so much.   She poses several interesting ethical dilemmas/questions as do some of the commentators. Excellent read.  And the blog is an excellent resource if you as an indie or new writer isn’t quite sure if something is on the up and up.

Discoveries — Serial sites /Publishers

Publishing Your Own Serial | What WordPress.com has that Blogspot doesn’t

From time to time would-be serializers  bring up the topic (at places like the Webfiction Guide Forums ) of how exactly to publish the serial.  For the new readers of this blog, let me help you walk through some of your decision points you have to navigate first  before I get to the meat of this blog post.

When beginning your process of selecting “how to publish”

1) Consider whether you want to be paid or not paid. The paying options do exist (e.g., JukePopSerial, Amazon, Plympton) but have various submission requirements (and those submissions may only be accepted on a limited basis) . The unpaid options are numerous. (See earlier post, “Where to read free serials or list free serials.”)

2) If you elect to post your serial yourself at a neutral blog-type space (i.e., not a community or a paid site), you have a handful of free options to consider — including WordPress.com, Blogger.com, and Pandamian.com.   Pandamian is a unique entry in itself to this space (and is free) .  Of note — blogs can be moved from WordPress.com and Blogger.com to your own domains fairly easily. (The import tools seem to work reliably from *.com to your site or from Blogger.com to WordPress.com.)  Specifically, using WordPress or Blogger hosted blogs doesn’t preclude you from later moving all your content to your own host.

3) If you elect to host your serial at your own site, consider that many web host providers offer support for a self-hosted version WordPress, Blogger, and some other clients.

For those who fall in categories 1 and 3 above, the rest of this blogpost will be academic. For the remainder of this post,  I’m going to just focus on looking at Blogspot.com and WordPress.com as the primary host for a serial/online novel.

These are my thoughts based on a recent move of this blog from blogspot.com to wordpress.com in April.

I moved the blog to WordPress.com in April largely because I had a HTML meltdown.   Blogger’s interface looks “friendly” but it seemed to have acquired a  new habit of inserting a lot of font codes whenever I happened to click through the visual editor interface.  This often meant each post was getting manually reedited every time I reopened it within the editor.   As I was well-familiar with WordPress as it’s my own platform for publishing my self-hosted serial, I decided to just move the blog to WP.com and save myself the hassle of multiple code edits with each new post.

These few months have largely confirmed for me that there is a distinct advantage to having done so and, as such, I feel comfortable making a personal recommendation to would-be serializers debating between these two platforms to choose WordPress.com over Blogger.com.

While features are similar to some respect, there are some interesting differences with ramifications to a writer who is looking to grow and track their readership.

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.

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)?