Why You Should Not Serialize Your Novel

When I first started publishing, I decided that I was going to serialize my first project. In hindsight, not only was it not so great of an idea but I also went about it the wrong way.

What is serializing?

Serializing is taking a longer work and breaking it up into smaller pieces. It was more popular back in the days of literary magazines, periodicals and Penny Dreadfuls- back when printing was expensive and the literacy rate was low. Don’t get me wrong, it has been used in more modern times. Stephen King first published The Green Mile in serialized format through a magazine. However, it’s not making as big of a comeback as others may want you to think.

Is serialization making a comeback?

No. I wish it was.

The idea is appealing. In our busy world, shorter snippets are more agreeable than a 200,000-word book. But with the overflow of self-published authors (some are definitely worth their salt- Hocking and Howey to name a couple) there are a lot of budding, talented authors selling their grand novels for the same price as one would set for a serial. This opens a whole can of worms (and I’ve considered doing a series of blog posts dealing with the world of self-publishing. The pricing of e-books. Mistakes that self-published authors make. But I digress.)

Mistakes I Made During the Process

Serialization is a great way to get your name out there but it’s most likely not going to make you much money unless you’ve already got a platform and a fan base. If it’s your first publication- don’t do what I did. Don’t try and serialize when you’re virtually unknown. Why? It makes it look cheap- like you’re out for money. You’re putting three pieces out at .99 c at 15k words each…or you could put the whole project of 45k words out for the same price. In short, the competition is too high among unknown authors to release a bunch of short pieces for the same price as one long piece.

I also made the mistake of publishing the first of three pieces without having the other pieces finished. This is a big no-no. Not that there is a time limit on self-publishing but it’s like submitting your first three chapters to a literary agent and then not having the whole book written. It’s literary suicide. And I committed it…and I’m still here and publishing (so obviously it’s not the end of the world BUT-) Save yourself some grief and don’t put yourself under that kind of stress.

Thirdly, I made the mistake of making my own cover art for the two pieces I ended up publishing. Making your own cover art doesn’t have to be difficult especially when you consider yourself an artsy person and have knowledge of graphic design concepts (something I know now that I didn’t know then). The covers looked like shit. The blurbs were awful because they weren’t for the entire story as a whole.

I mean look at these:

My original self-made covers...
My original self-made covers…

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…I made a huge mistake.

Luckily, I was able to take them down and start fresh. I ended up publishing what became the novella Laszlo as one piece. I got an artist to design the cover art and studied how to write a proper book blurb. Within the first night of these simple changes, I had eight downloads. What a big difference! Yea, yea, eight downloads won’t buy me more than dinner for one day BUT for someone who was completely unknown, with nothing more than a Facebook author profile at the time, I considered that a huge success.

The professionally made cover. Much better.
The professionally made cover. Much better. (First Edition)

So should you serialize?

Ultimately, it’s your life and your decision. However, if you clicked on this blog then you must’ve been curious as to what could be said on the matter. I highly advise against serializing especially when you’re new. Could it be an option for the future? Sure. Why not? Could it be an option if your name is J.K. Rowling or James Patterson? Absolutely. And if you do decide to serialize, please don’t repeat my mistakes. I did the stupid stuff and learned the lesson. Now, I’m teaching you so that you don’t have to.

Happy writing!

Photo Art:

Cover © Teodororoianu | Dreamstime.com

Book 1 © Michele1984 | Dreamstime.com

Book 2 © Lio2012 | Dreamstime.com

Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.

2 thoughts on “Why You Should Not Serialize Your Novel”

  1. Thanks for this Regina. I feel your pain 🙂 Love your first cover – great for that blockbuster about crows…or winter…or something! (I shouldn’t laugh – you should see some of my own efforts).

    I have an already-written novel, picked up initially by a couple of agents based on my sample chapters, but never followed up on after I submitted the full ms. From this, I conclude that my writing is probably okay, and that the novel’s premise (and promise) is okay, but that the book doesn’t fulfill the promise set up in the first chapters (dammit).

    Now, after backing off and writing a few other things this year, I think I’ve identified the plot weaknesses and am preparing myself for a major re-write of the 110,000 word novel. It is a daunting task, as evidenced by the fact that here I am being daunted and not writing! So (as everyone says now, before making any comment), I was thinking that I could serialise the story on my blog. The first chapters are apparently not so bad, and positive and/or critical feedback would encourage me to get on with the rest of the book, but in little (less daunting) chunks. I was not planning on charging for anything – just to use the experience to better inform the way I write for interested readers. Later, assuming there is sufficient interest, I can always self-publish the whole book. If a publisher were to decide that they simply could not live without my work (LOL), then I could always pull the content (with the offer of free copies to those who followed and commented).

    What do you think? Is this a plan, or am I insane? I see your original plan was to serialise and earn from it, whereas I am not planning to earn until the very end (and perhaps not even then – perhaps just to have it as platform builder ready for that bestseller). How stressful was the experience in terms of the pressure you felt to produce the next instalment? How often were you publishing – weekly? monthly? 15k per piece you said? I was thinking of taking a lot longer (maybe 6 – 12 months). Would it have been easier for you like this? Was it really so bad? After all, as you say, you’re still here! (And congrats on that). Well, any response would be welcome while I dilly-dally. As they say, ‘I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not so sure…’

    1. Good evening! Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. Expect a long response!

      First and foremost, you mentioned, “From this, I conclude that my writing is probably okay.” All writers write “okay.” We’re also all magnificent and we also all suck. Writing is a craft that is never mastered. And we’re all a little insane for doing it. Outsiders look at us like non-World of Warcraft players look at World of Warcraft players. i.e. “But the game has no ending? How can you play something with no ending!?!” And then their head promptly explodes. As writers, we are constantly changing and growing. Embrace the imperfections- it means that there is always something more to learn. It also adds a uniqueness to your narrative voice.

      Being daunted and not writing? Story of my life. I’m working on another post right now about my fears and anxieties about being a writer…what if I don’t succeed and shoot…what if I do!?! The horror. Hey, if it were easy, everyone would do it. I get horribly daunted too. Sometimes I write a little every day, sometimes I write in bursts with weeks in between writing sessions. I can only say that the more you write, the easier it gets but only by a small margin. That haunting daunting will always be there. Try switching things up. I find that dictating a portion of my writing happens to get the ball rolling again.

      If you want to serialize your story on your blog, do it! More power to you. I’ve considered putting short stories on mine. I recently took down four publications from the Amazon site because I didn’t feel that those short stories were my best work, not did they stand strong enough on their own. And as you said before, you can always pull the content if need be. There are also websites out there like FictionPress which allow you to publish original content and get feedback chapter by chapter. Pretty neat if that’s what you’re looking for.

      That’s part of the beauty of self-publishing… you have options!

      Are you insane? Hey, you said it first! But we’re writers. We’re all a little insane. So to answer your question, yes.

      You asked about the frequency of publishing. It was suggested to me from writers friends on social media that a good serialization should have its updates published anywhere from once a week to once a month to keep readers interested and engaged. If you wait too long to update, your audience will forget that they read previously and are less likely to pick up the next installment. I know, I know. I was frustrated too when they told me this, mainly because I think they are correct. But I wanted to publish mine slower. Why? Because I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have it all written and I only had an idea of where the story was going at the time. BAD IDEA. But as you said, yours is already complete. Even if you want to revise and update, most of your work is done and you could easily publish a chapter, then spend two weeks polishing the next one. Publish that, spend two weeks polishing the next. Eventually feedback will trickle in and there you’ll have it. You would have built a platform in the process as well!

      I certainly hope all of this helps. Again, it’s only my opinion and suggestions. Ultimately, follow your gut. Best wishes to you!

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