You want to write and sell Kindle fiction, but you know yourself well enough to understand that you don’t have the patience to spend months writing a novel. And then more months waiting for a possible return on your investment of time and energy.
I’m mentoring a couple of my personal coaching students through the process of writing a serial novel, so here are some of my favorite tips which I shared with them. But firstly, WHAT is a “serial novel?”
What is a serial novel?
Basically, a serial novel is a novel which is published in installments. Let’s say you’ve decided to write a fantasy novel of 100,000 words. Rather than writing the complete novel, and publishing it when you’re done, you decide to publish your novel in installments of ten 10,000 word ebooks — and then to also publish the complete 100k novel when you’re done. All your installments, and the complete novel, remain for sale.
The big benefit of serial publication is visibility. Instead of having one novel for sale, you suddenly have eleven.
Sound simple? It is, but of course there are pitfalls too.
1. Choose a Genre With Voracious Readers
Ideally, choose a genre like New Adult which has voracious readers. Don’t worry if you can’t do it — choose ANY genre you enjoy. The big benefit of self-publishing is that you can write what you like. With millions upon millions of readers, the people who like to read what you write will find you.
One of my students is writing a science fiction serial, the other’s writing a mystery.
Next, decide how long your novel will be, and how many episodes. Any division will do, it’s your choice. Maybe you decide that you’ll write a novel of 60,000 words, and divide it into four, or six episodes. It’s up to you.
2. Be Sure You Can Finish: Write a Few Episodes, and a Detailed Outline of the Rest
Vital: realize that once you start publishing, the train has left the station. When you tell readers that the next episode of your serial will appear in a week, you need to make it happen.
My suggestion: write THREE episodes before you publish the first. Episodes two and three can be in draft form. The rest can be in outline form, but please, know your ending.
Publish #1, then hurry and get the next two lined up. And of course, keep writing the rest of the episodes, until you’re done.
3. Take Advantage of Kindle Unlimited: Enter Your Serial’s Episodes Into KDP Select
According to Lindsay Buroker, books not enrolled in Select (and thereby Kindle Unlimited too) are at a disadvantage:
…it appears that ebooks that are in KU have a big advantage over the ones that aren’t, because as we all know, a better sales ranking means more visibility in Amazon (once a book gets to the point where it appears in Top 100 lists). Books that aren’t in KU, that may have previously only needed 5 or 8 sales a day to appear in a category chart might now need 10 or 15 sales, because they’re competing with all of those borrows.
It’s your decision, but I’ve advised my students to enroll in KDP Select. Yes, it means that Amazon gets an exclusive. However, the benefits of Kindle Unlimited outweigh that.
4. Covers: Use a Primary Cover Design, With Variations
We hope that your readers are hooked by your serial’s first episode, and are waiting for the others. Create one cover design, and vary it slightly for each episode. Recognition counts above all: you want your readers to identify the next episode at a glance.
If you’re lucky enough to have a mailing list of readers; use it. Alert readers as each episode is published.
5. Publish Swiftly: Once a Week, or Twice a Month
Decide on a publication schedule, and stick to it. You’re training your readers to trust you.
Bonus Tip: Bundle Your Episodes, and Sell the Full-Length Novel
Once you’ve published the final episode of your novel, bundle the episodes, and publish the novel as a standalone. A student said: “And then I take all the serial’s episodes down.”
No. Leave them where they are. It builds your visibility on Amazon — the more ebooks you have which are selling, the better.
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