Taking Chances Part 3 of 4
“To Serial or not to Serial”
Every new chance you take is an opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t. Some of those opportunities come from your publisher. Thomas & Mercer approached me with an idea to release my third book, OPTION TO KILL, as a serial novel. The book would be released in episodic format every two weeks, similar to the classic serials of yore.
It was a big leap of faith.
Serialized fiction surged in popularity during Britain’s Victorian era, but that happened a longtime ago. The question was: could modern-day readers embrace the concept? In the age of fast food, fast cars and fast Internet, could people slow down and enjoy a novel over time, like a good bottle of wine? Many people don’t have large blocks of time to read. They’re busy with work, recreation, and family. I asked myself if these serial installments would appeal to them.
The answer was overwhelmingly no. Very few readers liked the episodic format, in large part because they didn’t fully understand what they’d purchased. It wasn’t a money issue. APub didn’t charge per episode. The book was sold at a huge discount upfront and the episodes automatically downloaded every two weeks.
It seemed our fast-food society wasn’t willing to wait. But I’d taken the chance.
Negative reviews hammered OPTION’s rating. I felt like a punching bag. All of the early one-star reviews criticized the episodic format. I remember an email exchange I had with Jeff Belle, Vice President of Amazon Publishing, in which I said, “Well, I guess the pioneers take the arrows!” He agreed and told me not to worry too much. Still, it was difficult to see. Don’t get me wrong, people liked the book, they just didn’t like the serial format. I responded to every email I received. The best advice I could give them was to wait until all the episodes had downloaded to read it.
Although the serial novel project couldn’t be called a huge success, I really admire Amazon Publishing for giving it a try, and I’m glad I took part in it. It reflects APub’s forward and innovative thinking.
It was a challenging writing experience, to say the least. OPTION wasn’t a complete book that we broke into episodes. I wrote OPTION as a true serial novel—10,000-word episodes every two weeks. Needless to say, it took a toll on me. Overall, I’m glad I tried it.read more