To Serial or Not to Serial

Writing Serials

This topic has been discussed with me countless times in the last three months.  Today, I declared to my editor, “I refuse to publish serials.” There. I made a declaration.

Never say never…right?

Series v. Serial?

To make this easy, for those not well versed in literary lingo, I’ll drop this down to television viewing. I’ll even use my favorite show, The Blacklist.

Each week we get approximately 40 minute snippets of Elizabeth Keen and Raymond Reddington’s story. Each episode has a plot, an arc, and conflict resolution. However, there is a larger plot and arc, as well as a major conflict that we wait, not so patiently, to get the answer.

This is equivalent to a series. Now, let’s focus on a serial.

Imagine, you sit down to watch John Wick. You think you’re going to discover John Wick, what drives him, his conflict, and his resolution. You have your giant bowl of popcorn, your big guzzler 42 ounce fountain soda and a box of candy. You press play and for ten minutes, you discover John and what happened to his wife. Some Russians pull up at a gas station and admire his car. He speaks Russian to them.

That’s it. Movie’s over. You have to wait X weeks/months for the next ten minutes of the movie. Meanwhile your popcorn has grown mold and your soda looks like a lab experiment. Mice have chewed a hole in the corner of your theater box candy.

It could take a year, two, three or even the possibility of NEVER to discover what happens to John. Does he get his revenge? What happens with the Russians? How does John know to speak Russian? And I say NEVER because I’ve been around for a decade and a LOT of writers fizzle out when they discover how hard this business can be.

So why do I say never?

I’m not just an author. I buy books…a LOT of books. I love to read. I bought installments 1-3 of a serial and never saw installment 4 released. I’m still pissed off. Can you imagine getting emotionally invested in a story someone didn’t BOTHER to finish…and you SPENT YOUR MONEY on this bullshit?

Next…here’s my moral issue with it as an author. I know…I know… it’s not easy to make money with so many people flooding the market. I know, we’re trying to earn a living here but serials don’t make financial sense for me as a writer or an author and here’s why:

Most of my novels are around 50-60k words. If I broke that up into, say…15k word chunks, how do I price it?

Let’s do some self-publishing math. Most of my books are around $3.99. Self-publishing would pay me around $2.79 for said novel.

Those $0.99 books? Well, the author only receives 30% royalty on those books. We’ll round up to 30 cents.

So if I break my novel up into four pieces, and charged a buck each, I now make $1.20 for the whole book, but my costs have now quadrupled. No matter what, I have to pay for cover art, editing, ISBN assignment, and formatting. Now I have to pay for that four times.

If I just publish the whole novel for $3.99, I have those expenses once and I make $2.79 per book.  (And the reader receives an entire book, not “an episode.”)

But some authors are charging 1.99-3.99 for those partials. This means you could end up paying $15.96 instead of buying the whole book once for 4-5 bucks. The reader is getting screwed and so is the author. Either way you slice it.

I can’t do that. I just can’t. I’m not going to take the hit and I sure as HELL don’t want to do that to my readers.

That’s not all!

This isn’t the only problem. Part of the reason we authors go through SO MANY rounds of edits, is that during content edits, plot holes are found. They need to be fixed.

And…I’m sorry to say that most of the serial writers are new authors. They’re not writing these and editing them in advance, many of them (I know, because I read author blogs) publish the serials while they’re still writing.

So the holes can’t be plugged. The reader is getting screwed because if the author took their time and wrote the whole novel at once, this could be fixed.

I just can’t take part in this. Plotting out a seven book series has been a big enough challenge. I can’t won’t switch to writing serials.

I’m not taking a swipe at authors who are publishing serials. Some are making it work for them. Some have a very devout following. GOOD FOR THEM. Truly, I mean that. Grab that success and ride that train as long as you can.

But I can’t.

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3 thoughts on “To Serial or Not to Serial

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