To Serialize or Not To Serialize?

About a month ago, my friend, Lana Voynich, shared a link with me from the KBoards where an author shared his KDP sales graph, showing that he had spiked to over 1000 sales in one day. He'd been averaging 400-600 sales a day, across multiple genres and serials as he calls them.

I went to his blog but really wasn't find much information on actually creating a series, but a helpful article on writing serials was posted on the same forum, which I believe was more helpful than the answers I was getting from the author of said 1000+ sales in one day.

There are many benefits to serializing your stories and just as many downfalls. If you would like an overview of serializing (this is geared specifically to romance, but there are other genres that you can serialize), check out the posting here.

The debate is whether or not serializing is right for you.  If you are a writer and love writing the shorter stories, then serializing your stories may be the better way for you to go. If you really enjoy the longer novels and you do well with what is published, then maybe serializing isn't for you.

If you are serializing your books, the best way to think of them is as 30-minute to 1-hour TV shows. Each episode follows a complete storyline; your characters recur from episode to episode and sometimes you introduce new characters and sometimes you don't use all the characters; you leave your reader hanging, wanting more and they can't wait for the next episode to come out.

The genres that seem to work best as serials are romance, sci-fi, horror, to name a few.  There are probably more genres that would work as a serial but I'm at a loss right now to come up with them.

The one thing I did notice from several postings is the difference between a "series" and a "serial".  A serial is like the 30-minute TV show; a series is novel length books (over 50 or 60,000 words) where you carry your characters forward.  Most series won't leave you hanging, in the case of mysteries, and most serials will rely on reading in order of being written/published.  Serials are short; series are longer and probably involve fewer stories.  You can have a 3-book series; and however long you want to make the serial stories.  Serials have a minimum of three stories and usually expand out a lot longer than a series does. 

If you are considering writing a serial or several serials, be prepared to put a new story out at least once a month.  This seems to be the average timeframe from all sources with information on writing serials.  Research and follow other authors' examples. 

Good luck, if this is the route you are deciding to take. See you all in the postings.

Elysabeth Eldering, Author
FINALLY HOME, a Kelly Watson, YA, paranormal mystery
Elysabeth's Blog


Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

I've never even considered serializing my fiction, though Magdalena Ball and I did something similar with our Celebration Series chapbooks of poetry. Though they don't lead one to another, they all celebrate a holiday or season--one for Valentine's (love poetry), Christmas, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Women's Day, and Earth Day. Does that count, Elysabeth? It does help with promotion, that's for sure!
Carolyn Howard-Johnson
PS: Magdalena's and my Facebook Fan Page for this series is at

elysabeth said...

Carolyn, I don't think the chapbooks of poetry count as serials since they aren't fiction - lol. But if you want to promote them as serials, it can't hurt. Good luck with it. - E :)

Magdalena Ball said...

I think you could serialise any type of fiction - Dickens is the classic example and I think we can probably classify his work as literary fiction (these days anyway - though maybe A Christmas Carol would be speculative). If you were to pitch to a magazine or online venue so much the better - it gives you a deadline and keeps readers engaged.

Karen Cioffi said...

Elysabeth, interesting look at writing books for serials and series. I have a children's fiction series in contract. I always thought of serials as more of an evolving storyline. One story builds upon another.

elysabeth said...

Karen, you have a contract for x number of books - thus a series. A serial is continuous until you end it - like a soap opera type of thing. (At least that's how I understand from all the research I've done because I was considering doing a serial but don't have that much in me to write and publish a story every month.) - E :)

elysabeth said...

Maggie, the guy on the Kboards I quoted isn't submitting to magazines. He is publishing under several pen names in different genres - each story is 15-20,000 words and he publishes a new one every month. Apparently some serials are going to end up being 40 or 50 stories long but he's only publishing as ebooks right now. He says he doesn't do any promoting and yet his sales are reflecting that he has 400-600 sales on average every day, then to have that spike to 1000 sales in a day. Remember those 400-600 sales/day are across the board - of his 80-100 stories published. - E :)

elysabeth said...

I'd be happy to see 50-100 sales across the board a month but he is seeing sales every day of 400-600. I need to start making some money from my books and I've been promoting, doing all the things I should do but it's not enough. I just recently published Finally Home on draft2digital which is basically a distributor site like smashwords but faster and better - they do all the formatting for you and distribute your ebooks to all the sales channels you check off. In the week and couple of days, I've had no extra sales from kindle, kobo or ibooks (Apple's ebooks). It's frustrating because I don't know what else to do. E :)

Unknown said...

Great post. I've been considering doing a serial myself. For me the hardest part is knowing when to stop each section or snippet or episode or whatever. I've been reading one lately called Just One Night by Elle Casey and I love it. Great idea and it definitely keeps your reader coming back for more. I never forget when the next serial is coming out. Each month keeps it fresh in your mind. Definitely something to consider. Thanks for the post.

elysabeth said...

T C - if you've been thinking about it, do it. Get the first part written and published and work on the second one while you are waiting to see results from that first one. According to research, you really need to publish at least 3 episodes before you see any benefit. The deciding where to end each part is kind of leaving the reader wanting more. Decide on a cliffhanger point that the reader needs to know what happens next. That's the best I can decipher from the material I've read. Let us know when you do your serial. E :)

Shirley Corder said...

I have just (two days ago) finished a 70,000 word book covering 30 lesser-known women in the Bible. I am initially planning to try and find a publisher / agent so I can publish mainline. But I did think of building up a series of other characters as a series of e-Books. I thought if they sold, they could be a sort of promotion towards my book if and when I find a buyer. And of course if I don't, then I could continue the series with the characters from the book. What do you think?

elysabeth said...

Shirley, sounds like the perfect idea as a serialization of books. Taking that one book and dividing it into smaller editions. You could actually put all the series together in a print book and then ebook sell the individual stories of the different women. From the information I've gathered about writing serials, the authors are all publishing them as ebooks (obviously a 10 or 15,000 word story would probably not be worth it to do a print version but as ebooks, they are selling well like that.

Since you are already planning ebooks of other characters - it will work as a great promotional tool for your one big book. There is a new distributor for ebooks - called draft2digital - not sure if you have to live in the United States to use them or not, but it's a bit better than smashwords. They will distribute your ebooks to Kobo, iTunes, nook, and now scribd (which is a book subscription service). You would still have to self pub to amazon/kindle if you are wanting to get the books put on kindle. The best thing about d2d is that you don't have to worry about knowing how to format your books for all of the different systems (epub, mobi, or whatever else is being used) as they will do all that for you. You submit your files and they do all the work. Of course, they do take a small fee from the books sold (comes out to about 10% of royalties) but nothing is paid upfront.

I think this would be more a series than a serial in that you are doing a series on Bible women or other persons and they are basically all unique, individual stories (the series being that you have a common theme; serials are recurring characters in a variety of situations - again, think of the 30-minute sit-com - you have the same people you follow every week on a new episode). I think; that's my understanding of serials and series. Good luck with it and hopefully you will find the right agent/publisher for you. E :)

Melinda Brasher said...

Fantasy is another genre that works well with serials. I've been thinking of doing one.

elysabeth said...

If you've been thinking of it, must mean you want to do the serial and try your hand at something different. I say go for it if you have idea ready to be serialized - :)

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