Serialized Fiction: Our eBook Experiment

Do you like to be left hanging?

Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved cliffhangers. My fascination began with a TV show called Cliffhangers, which ran for less than a season in the 70’s. The show featured three stories every week, one about a vampire, a mystery, and an Indiana Jones sorta adventure. Every segment left the hero hanging and questions lingering with a…

“to be continued…”

I hated having to wait a WHOOOOOOLE week. Yet, as each new episode drew closer, I grew more excited and eager to see what would happen next. And when it comes to serialized stories, it’s always about WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Years later, I loved and hated other shows in a similar way — LOST, X-Files, Carnivale, The Wire, Deadwood, The Walking Dead, Battlestar Gallactica, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, and too many more to name without coming off like a guy who never gets off the couch.

Though these shows span different genres, they have a few things in common.

They all have great stories, they all have storylines which stretch across seasons, and they all have flawed but memorable characters. And, of course, they always leave you wondering what happens next?

SERIALIZED BOOKS

While serialization has been around for ages, it wasn’t until Stephen King did it with The Green Mile in the 90’s, that I discovered it.

King managed to do what the best TV shows did – he kept me hanging from book to book, always wanting more.

It was the most awesome reading experience I ever had!

While I’d always dreamed of creating a serialized TV show, King showed me that I could do the same thing with books.

However, that seemed like a faraway dream as you have to be a pretty big name in order for a publisher to take a chance on a serial.

When I met Sean Platt, we decided to try serializing a story I’d been sitting on forever, Available Darkness. While it was a great experiment, our workload was too much at the time to give it its due. And though we had a nice response, most people asked the same question – when will it be available in book form?

Most people, I find, don’t enjoy reading on a website. Neither do I.

And to be honest, though we were serializing Available Darkness, it wasn’t a true serial. It was a book we were putting out in serialized format. A strong distinction, in my opinion.

You can serialize any book, I suppose. But I prefer a book which was meant to be serialized, designed from the outset as such, so it can be enjoyed as both a part and part of a whole. You know, like TV shows.

While we both wanted to do a serialized series, self-publishing print editions seemed too costly to deliver cheaply to readers. And delivering a cheap, but awesome read, is what we wanted to do, even if we weren’t yet sure how.

AND THEN KINDLE HAPPENED…

While Apple revolutionized the music industry, Amazon changed the way books will be sold. Forever.

Readers began adapting to the idea of eBooks, and were buying eBooks in record numbers, outpacing the sales of print books at Amazon.

Authors like John Locke, J.A. Konrath, Amanda Hocking, and a ton of names that will someday be household, found success on their own terms with eBooks. They didn’t have to go through publisher gateways to find readers. They didn’t have to worry about a publisher thinking their work was good enough to publish. They only had to worry whether readers would read their stuff.

And the readers have spoken with their wallets and purses.

Indie authors are celebrating the wall coming down because it gives them a much better chance of getting their books into the hands of readers. But there’s another advantage to this new age of eBooks. Publishers (including indie authors) can now experiment with different and more creative ways to deliver stories.

Two years ago, there weren’t too many publishers that would serialize a book if it wasn’t written by Stephen King or someone with a proven track record. It’s too risky an investment. But with eBooks, the risk is greatly minimized.

Sean and I saw our window to doing what we’ve wanted to do since we started writing together… create a serialized book series.

AND YESTERDAY’S GONE WAS BORN

Serialization is hardly a new idea, it’s been around for hundreds of years. But serialized eBooks is something I surprisingly don’t see too many writers doing.

We considered how some of our existing book ideas could work in the format, but decided against that. We didn’t just want to serialize an existing book, or even a book we are in the process of writing. If we were going to do it, we’d do it right.

Our series would be designed from the outset as a serialized book, paced just like TV episodes, with rising tension and killer cliffhanger endings.

We came up with the concept of Yesterday’s Gone, and then we each came up with our own characters independent of one another and said, “Okay, see what you can do with this premise and let’s see where it goes.”

Then we traded our chapters and began to flesh out the first “episode,” storylines, and then the full “season,” developing Yesterday’s Gone as writers would develop a running TV series. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had writing!

We released the first episode in August, and followed up with Episode 2 in September. Reaction has been great. Readers have emailed us to tell us they love the concept and the books, and also that they hate us for making them wait to find out what happens next.

But, just like me, they admit, they love having something to look forward to in the next episode.

I love email like that!

TWEAKING THE EXPERIMENT

While we originally planned to release new episodes every month, Sean convinced me that a month is too long. Voracious readers can get through our 100 page books in a day or two. Making them wait a full month is just too long.

For one, there’s many storylines to follow. Expecting readers to remember everything a month later is a bit much. And given that I, the co-author, can’t remember every little thing that happens from episode to episode a month after I wrote it, I can’t expect readers to.

So we decided to shake things up a bit — release all six episodes of Season One all at once – right now, along with the full season in one convenient and low-priced download.

Season One came out last week and we couldn’t be more excited to share the news with you.

We’ll be releasing Season Two in January, with episodes released on a weekly schedule, which seems a better fit for the serialized model. While there will still be a few months between seasons, I think the story flows a lot better in weekly installments.

If you like post-apocalyptic stories like The Stand, shows like LOST, or serialized fiction in general, I’d love for you to check out Yesterday’s Gone. You can buy Episode One right now for .99 and see if you like it, or just dive in and buy the full Season One for just $4.99.

We’re also posting the first episode online at SerializedFiction.com starting here, where we’re also posting some behind-the-scenes marketing stuff, our trailers, Yesterday’s Gone-related news, and more in-depth discussion about the story and our experiment.

You can click on the video to watch a larger, HD version at Youtube.

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