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Friday, July 12, 2013

Which is Easier to Sell: Novels or Serials?

Novels.

Thoughts and counter-thoughts welcome in the comments.


16 comments:

  1. p.s. My thoughts on why novels - they're easier to place ads for (many places won't take serials) and readers may hesitate to start a serial because of the form.

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  2. I've only ever sold novels, and I was playing with the idea of a serial...but now I think I know my answer. ;) THANK YOU!

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    1. It was easier to do this way, than field all the questions I was getting! However... I think writing serials may be more fun. ;) And just because they're not as easy to market doesn't mean they won't sell.

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  3. I agree. I think marketing serials take a lot more money spent on marketing and promotion like using Free Partay and using Select and making prices really low. And it seems like once the serial is done, sales drop dramatically for the individual stories. But, I think they can be like sleepers and boom when you least expect it. :)

    Or I could be wrong and it could really just be about the market. We just never know. How's that for an answer. :)

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    1. LOL! There are so many facets, that's why I just skipped to the answer. :)

      You could be right about the sleeper part too - because serials are less able to leverage standard marketing techniques, they're more reliant on word-of-mouth marketing. Which means it may take longer, but the result could be more dramatic. Plus serials have the advantage of ongoing seasons to sell the first one, just like a series of books.

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  4. This is definitely an interesting question. Serials have worked extremely well for some authors like H.M. Ward, RaShelle Workman, Sara Fawkes, etc. I think part of the key is consistent fast releases, but there seems to be some secret ingredient to it, too. Some stories just seem to lend better to it than others. Something that's very high concept with a lot of twists and turns maybe? I'm not sure! I think it might be a good marketing strategy to have a serial running in between full-length novels because it keeps your name in front of readers on a consistent basis. On the flip side, though, if you aren't charging as much for the serials, you might not be getting as much money for your time as you would for writing a novel.

    I've had two serial ideas I've been playing around with and just haven't decided whether to commit to it or not. I've loved The Debt Collector, though, and hope there are many seasons to come!

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    1. Thanks Sarra! Definitely more Debt Collector to some, no worries there - I love it too much to stop writing it. :)

      I think the question of why some serials sell better than others is really the same question as why some novels sell better than others - there's genre (a huge component), premise, storytelling/craft prowess, and magic pixie dust of the moment. Some authors do great while others flounder and we're all trying to figure out the magic key. I'm convinced there's 10 magic keys, and you never know if you have them all. You just have to keep striving, keep writing, and see if the market loves it (or not).

      Part of why I posted this was because I think authors look at serials (especially ones with big success) and think, "Oh that's an EASY way to sell books! I'll just chop up my novel and sell it in bits!" And that's not the right way to look at it. It's not EASIER to succeed this way; it's just a different path to (possible) success.

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  5. Oh, interesting conversation, since I am now committed to serial production. I am HOPING that the ability to always have the first free helps, and banking on the 'shelf' idea. I have two novels out--a third comes in March. But this serial will kick of my self-publishing shelf and I think having several books available is one of the things that helps there. I plan to also bundle, like you have, and create the 10 book series as THREE hardcopy books by the end.

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    1. Having other works out always helps everything. And having a free work is a proven method, whether it's the first book in a series or the first free episode. Although I will say that it's also easier to give away free books, just as it's easier to sell books (vs. serials). A lot of the free sites won't take a short fiction piece (it has to be novel length) even if it's free, so again, you're inhibited in advertising.

      Print is another interesting thing with serials - at first I wasn't planning print at all, then readers requested it. I considered doing print for each of the bundles, but the cost seemed high (for me in terms of covers, for the reader in terms of sale price; POD is just expensive for the reader) - however all 10 episodes together makes for a VERY big book. That's the way I ended up going, and I wanted to keep price reasonable, so I end up not making much money on print copies. *shrugs* Which is fine, because print is for FANS and I'm really just doing it for them in the first place.

      Making MONEY off serials is a whole different topic (separate from whether they sell well or not). I also think it's easier to make money off novels.

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    2. I actually thought serials would sell better, because people get hooked into the series. (This is true with novels too but those series generally have 3 or 4--7 is a long series for novels).

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    3. You can think about a serial like a long novel. Yes, they have to get hooked into the serial to keep reading. But even if they're hooked, they may get distracted. When you buy a novel, you may stop reading in the middle, but you've already purchased the entire book. When you buy an episode of a serial, you've only "invested" in that one episode - you can stop reading (any buying) at any point. So, for writers, they have to keep readers hooked so they'll keep coming back. But asking someone to make 9 purchase decisions is a lot - so there's some loss of readership there.

      Really, though, the biggest hurdle is getting readers to start in the first place. A lot of people won't even try because they're unsure about the format - or they'll wait until the serial is complete, so they can read it all at one go.

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  6. "Novels." Well, yeah. If serials were easy to sell, all the big names would be doing them. But I know magazines seem to buy serials, and look what you've done! So it's possible. :-)

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    1. It's DEFINTITELY possible; just not EASY. Which is what I was trying to dispel with this post - because I think some people DO think it's easier. Mostly, I think, because it appears easier to get people to buy something small to "start with" - and there is some of that. Having my first episode free makes that a frictionless transaction. Plus there have been some HUGE successes with serials, which really just proves it's POSSIBLE but sometimes people equate that with EASY. I'm preaching to the choir here, because you obviously already know! :)

      p.s. that trad-pub authors like John Scalzi are starting to experiment with serials show that serials aren't just for magazines or indies either. Which is cool!

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  7. I think that every writer chooses its own way.Sales are mysterious, and difficult to know how to get?I congratulate you on your way, and I think you will open the door to many of the authors.

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    1. Thanks Aref! I like writing both novels and serials and plan on doing more of both in the future. The possibilities are endless and awesome.

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  8. LOL.

    Sounds like I had pretty much the same experience as you--the serial was fun, but it was much easier to sell it as a complete book.

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Erudite comments from thoughtful readers