How to market Serial Web Fiction

As a writer, I’ve been learning the importance of marketing over the last year or so. Every writer needs to market their work if they want to pick up readers. I’m also learning that as a writer you need to put as much effort (possibly even more) into marketing as you do into the writing itself.

Publishing serial fiction on the web can be a fun way to market yourself as a writer and build a plaform – but your serial fiction itself needs to be marketed. Nobody is going to come looking for you, you have to take the initiative.

I’m certainly no marketing expert, but I’ve seen my science fiction serial The Colonists grow slowly and steadily. I have a way to go yet, but I’m getting there, so I thought I’d share some of the things that have worked for me.

I’ve written this article as a “What I wish I’d known when I started”. I’ll share a few basic concepts, and then get into some practical ways that you can market your serial fiction on the web.

Do your best work

It should go without saying, but you should take the same pride in your online fiction as you would anything written for print. Don’t think “she’ll be right, it’s ‘good-enough’ for the web”. Good enough means “I don’t really care”. Proof read your work. Sometimes I’ll admit that errors still make it to my site, but we should work hard to avoid this.

Hone your craft

Writing serial fiction is a great way to hone your craft. I am using it as a practice ground to apply what I am learning, but you need the theoretical grounding to build on. Read books on writing. The best I’ve come accross is Story Engineering by Larry Brooks.

Twitter

Again, it’s almost a given that you’re using twitter. Tweet about each new chapter or episode that you post. Consider coming up with an official hashtag for your story to stimulate discussion about it. I use #TheColonists. Also, don’t just promote your writing. Get involved in discussions. Participate in community. I’ve met a lot of sci-fi fans (potential readers) by participating in live tweets of Stargate Universe and Star Trek The Next Generation.

Post Length

This one comes down to personal preference a little, but think hard on the length and regularity of your posts. I find that a chapter approx 1000 words posted weekly is good because it is short enough that busy people can jump on and read it, but it still “keeps them hungry” so they will come back for more. People generally don’t like to read large amounts of text on a computer screen, so don’t give them a novella for every post.

Tuesday Serial

Of all the places that I’ve shared my serial fiction,Tuesday Serial has probably given me the most return. It’s a great little community. Each week they post a list of story updates. If you get involved with Tueday Serial you’re almost sure to get readers. tuesdayserial.com

Web Fiction Guide

The Web Fiction guide hosts a vast library of online fiction – including serial fiction. Members of this community review each other’s work. Be sure to join. webfictionguide.com

Muse’s Success

Muse’s Success is a WIKI of web fiction. It is highly structured and easy to join. You don’t want to miss out on having an entry here. muses-success.info

EpiGuide

EpiGuide is a fairly recent discovery of mine. This is a community devoted to episodic web series of many kinds. They don’t just talk about the written word here, but video series, audio dramas and much more. EpiGuide offer several different ways to promote your work, and you’ll probably find some great work by other people at the same time. They are also responsible for runing WeSeWriMo (Web Series Writing Month). www.epiguide.com/forums/

Statcounter

This one is not strictly about marketing, but if you want to track how many readers you’re getting to your site, this is an invaluable tool. statcounter.com

Don’t give up too quickly

It takes time to build a platform online. When I first started, I thought that if I didn’t get some readers hooked in the first week the whole endeavour would be a failure. Nobody would want to go back to read all the early chapters in order to catch up. Fortunately, I persevered. I kept working at it. Now I regularly see people read my story all the way through from the start. If you keep going you will probably start seeing results, it just won’t happen overnight.

What else?

I’m sure there are other options that I just haven’t found yet. Feel free to drop me a comment and suggest other ways to market your serial fiction.

Advertisements

About Adam David Collings

Adam Collings is a writer of speculative fiction who works as a software engineer during the day. He lives in Tasmania, Australia with his wife and two children. Adam is currently working on a science fiction novel.
This entry was posted in Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to How to market Serial Web Fiction

  1. There’s some great ideas here! I don’t do the short story format, but I think some of these tips will apply to novels as well. Thanks!

    • Yeah, building a platform and online following seems to be pretty much universal for writing. I’m in the interesting situation where I’m using the serialised stuff to build up a bit of a following while I work on trying to get a novel published. I’m not actively working on a novel right now (have one in the hands of a competition), but when I do, I’ll probably not be able to keep up with serial writing at the same time.

  2. Cindy Borgne says:

    Interesting post. I haven’t come across this marketing tip. The only problem for me would be getting the time to do it. 🙂

  3. Reece says:

    Hi Adam! I appreciated your comment on my blog, so I thought I’d come check yours out. This was a great post—something I’ve been mulling over for a few months but haven’t really done anything about. I’ve also kicked around the idea of doing an online serial, but I need some experience before I can do a decent job (I’m still working out my writing process—trial and error). Is yours posted on this site?

    I’m also a first-time campaigner, and I’m pretty excited about it.

  4. Pingback: #TuesdaySerial Report – Vol 2, Week 18 – Aug 30, 2011 | Tuesday Serial

  5. Hi, Adam! Thanks for stopping by my blog. I’m beginning to think that my favorite part of the writers’ campaign is meeting writers from all over the world. Now I can say I know someone in Tasmania 🙂
    As far as marketing web content, I can tell that Twitter is most powerful tool available. I’ve only been on it for a couple of days, but the open nature makes it almost unlimited in potential. You combine that with community activities like the writers’ campaign, and you’ve got a formula for success. Case in point, I’ll be reading your work as soon as the blogging responsibilities of the campaign relent just a bit.
    See you on the campaign trail.

    • Hey Scott. I would pretty much agree with you there. The more I look into Twitter the more potential I see in it. Also, most of the other valuable activities (such as TuesdaySerial) have a strong Twitter component to them anyway.
      This campaign has already been so valuable.
      See you….out there.

  6. Kwee Lewis says:

    This as a great article. Thank you. I will check out those links. I would have liked to do the Campaign one, but, story of my life, I’m too late now :-/ Oh well, hopefully a next time will come 🙂

  7. Tarkan Rosenberg says:

    Hi, great advice and you may have also found a new reader for your web series. I am in the planning stages of starting my own and I have a question for you:

    How do you deal with protecting your material? Do you copyright the text or the website? I live in the US, so it may work differently in your neck of the woods, but I wonder if you might have some pointers on this? Thanks

    Tarkan

    • How’s it going Tarkan.
      Personally, I license my story under Creative Commons. Have a look here: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/
      I put a notice at the bottom of every page on the site, as well as in a footer on my RSS feed (you can use feedburner.com for this).

      Beyond that, there’s not much you can do. Any work you put on the internet is inherently insecure anyway so I just accept that fact. My serial fiction is to be shared publicly and freely with the community. It’s a different story with my novel, which I intend to get published – I am much more cautious with that.

      Wishing you all the best with your own serial. Have fun!

  8. Mark says:

    I’m finding that most of my hits come from Facebook. I also frequent various relevant forums, participate in the discussions and advertise occasionally (when it’s appropriate and in the correct forum).

    Of course I also like to do google searches for blogs that might have relevant information, read the articles and drop the author a line at the end. 😉

    On that ever-so-subtle note, if you want to check my serial out, http://brassbolts.blogspot.ca/2012/09/orphans-of-celestial-sea-chapter-1.html

    The adventures of Tom Cain and his misfit crew, as they seek to unravel the mysteries surrounding their airship Hecate and the plague of psychosis-inducing Mist which is slowly destroying human civilization.

  9. Very helpful and excellent post, thank you. I was wondering, on utilizing Webfiction Guide, would you recommend waiting until you have a more substantial amount of material available on your web serial before posting, or doing so right away?

    I’m trying to figure out when the best times to strike out for readership are.

    Thanks again!

    • Hi. Glad you found this article helpful. When I was writing serial fiction I found it very useful having a little backlog of a few episodes so that if I got busy one week I didn’t have to stress so I’d certainly advise that. I think though, once you have an episode up you can start promoting it. It can be easier for people to get into your story if they don’t feel that they have to do a big push just to catch up.

  10. d.lamb says:

    Nice article. I just (sort of) started a web serial and I couldn’t find anything on this topic :0. I’m a bit surprised web serials aren’t more popular since I like to read online. If you’re still around to answer questions, do you think updating twice weekly (~1000 words) is too often? I have a few dedicated readers I think, but wouldn’t want there to be too much to catch up on in case I gain some more.

    • Hi. I think one of the reasons web serials aren’t more popular is that many people don’t like to read on a computer, and I think the eBook revolution has taken a lot of that market.

      Since writing this article, my thinking has progressed in a bit of a different direction. Episodic story-telling is becoming increasingly popular but it seems the way to do it now is through self-publishing eBooks. I’ve written recently about my latest thinking here: http://www.adamdavidcollings.com/episodicstorytellingfromtvtobooks/

      If you are wanting to go down the web-fiction route though I would highly recommend WattPad. There is a huge community quite active in it. This seems much better than hosting the story on your own blog. A lot of people read WattPad stories on their phones. It gives a nice customised view for them which feels like reading an eBook. Amazon now have a similar product of their own called WriteOn.

      As for your twice-weekly update, that’s a hard one because it really comes down to your readers. Sounds like you already have a bit of a pre-prepared fan-base so I’d be inclined to ask for their feedback, “am I posting too quickly or just right?”. You may even want to ask them beforehand.

      You will certainly gain more readers gradually over time, but if your story is compelling they’ll likely be happy to go back and catch-up read.

      Best of luck with it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s