01/21/13

Serial – Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

Hey everyone. I did a guest post on Lindsay Buroker’s blog and I received lots of questions about it, so I figured I would talk a little bit more about writing for Kindle Serials, here at my home blog.

First of all, I’d like to define exactly what is involved in serials, so we are all on the same page (screen, for you Kindlers).

I wrote a Kindle-Serial novel for 47North, called The Scourge. A Kindle Serial is a new type of novel that begins life as a series of episodes that are automatically (and periodically) downloaded onto Kindles (or other devices that have the Kindle app installed). A reader pays $1.99 for the novel, and one episode downloads to his or her device every two weeks until the novel is finished. The reader never has to pay for any other episodes. $1.99 covers the entire novel. You just get it a little bit at a time.

But you get the story as it’s written, so if you buy it now, you will get all episodes that have been released thus far, (we’re on episode 5 at the moment), and then you will get episode six on Tuesday, and episode 7 in two weeks, and episode 8 (the final episode) two weeks after that. Confused yet?

Here’s a good example: Let’s say you love The Walking Dead television series (guilty). So you decide you are going to buy the whole season 1. But let’s pretend season 1 is still airing. They are still showing episodes every week and the season isn’t finished. If it were a Kindle Serial, you would get every episode that has already aired, then you would start receiving each new episode at the same time as everyone else. Until the season is over. But you never have to pay for any other episode in Season 1 again. Make sense?

Once all the serial episodes are delivered (the novel is finished) it is no longer a Kindle Serial. 47North turns it into a standard property, which means The Scourge gets an ebook version, a print version, and an audiobook version, and the price goes up. So, in our analogy above, the entire season 1 of The Walking Dead ┬áis over (all episodes have been aired), so it gets turned into a box set and you can watch it as often as you like. But unlike a box set of a tv show, if you paid for the serial as it was being written, you end up with all the episodes as an ebook and you don’t have to pay for the “box set”. Lucky you. Unless you want a print version or audiobook version of the “box set” in which case you would end this metaphor immediately.

So, that’s how the Kindle Serials work. Now, to answer a few other questions I’ve gotten concerning serials:

1. Yes, I have a standard publishing contract with 47North. They created the cover for me, provide copy editing, proofreading and some editorial direction. I received an advance for the book and will get royalties when the advance earns out. (Which it pretty much has already. Yay me.)

2. Yes, The price of the book as a Kindle Serial is fairly low. But the exposure I receive from Amazon is priceless. I am selling far more books with this title than I ever have with my independent title, and I get far more exposure. And, when it becomes a standard property of 47North, the price goes up. Win.

3. Yes, writing this way is difficult. There are many, many challenges, but there are also many, many rewards. I will post on those pros and cons in a couple of days.

4. Yes, working with 47North and Amazon Publishing is a joy. They allow me input into a lot of areas that other publishers never would. What sort of areas? Well, massive input into the what the cover will look like. Input into the marketing blurbs (including bio, synopsis, back cover blurb, and to whom it should be marketed). Their royalties are better than standard publisher royalties, and they pay on a quarterly basis (with ‘standard’ publishers you are lucky if you get paid every six months). And they know how to get things done quickly and efficiently without sacrificing quality.

5. Yes, you receive email notification from Amazon when a new episode is available. And no, you don’t have a ton of little episodes cluttering up your Kindle. It is always just one book, it just grows bigger with each episode. Your place is still marked in the book, but you just have more to read. And your percentage read goes down.

Got questions on Kindle Serials or writing serials? Please let me know in the comments. This is a fascinating way to write and I enjoy talking about it.

That’s it for now. I’ll have an Episode 6 post a little later this week (Episode 6 comes out on Tuesday, by the way), then will post more about serials after that. Thanks for reading!