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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.

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Barometer post – Proposed Twitter Chat for Webfiction and Online serial authors

After a few tweet-exchanges with @ubersoft and @shutsumon last week, we thought there would be merit in organizing a tweet-chat later in the month to focus on online serials/ webfiction.

The first proposed chat would be a “Get to know each other” chat focusing on

  • Who You Are
  • Your free-to-read serial
  • Why you’re doing it
  • What you have learned so far.

Invitees are welcome from multiple platforms — including authors who host their own work (via their own blog/website) and those that post at free-to-read communities such as Jukepop Serials and  Wattpad.

Of course anyone else will be free to join in, including those who are curious about starting their own serial.

The reason for this call is that we have three major timezones to attempt to coordinate (North America, UK, and the NZ/AU) .   I’m looking to maximize participation and so want to poll those of you who are serious about participating about several proposed dates and times. (For reference, we are looking at two weekend blocks of times.)

I suspect many of you are on twitter (and we haven’t yet connected) so would you please comment/contact me via this post (or twitter @whirlyshirly or plumopera at gmail dot com) if you are serious about participating with your email.

Look for a more formal call on this blog once/if we can get things together.

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)?

(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.