Giving Readers What They Want

by August Wainwright on February 7, 2013

Recently, Amazon launched their ‘Serials’ section. The opinions were numerous; many writers were negative of the idea that Amazon was forcing authors to price their entire series at $1.99, regardless of whether it would eventually contain 4 or 14 “episodes”.

But as the number of reviews for these serials keep rising and Amazon continues to hammer the advertising for serials down readers’ throats, it’s obvious that serials are here to stay – at least for the foreseeable future.

Now, why would Amazon put so much into these serials? Many authors have commented that it’s to drive prices down for the consumer; more to read for a lower guaranteed price. But here’s something to consider: Amazon knows what the hell it’s doing. And at least part of the equation comes down to the fact that Amazon gives readers what they want.

I have no problem admitting that I’m not above riding the coat-tails of others and Amazon’s coat-tails are massive. But why would I give Amazon control over the process when I can do it myself? In planning out the Remy Moreau series, I’ve scheduled a way to release each subsequent title that is entirely reader-centric.

The first book in the series, A Study in Sin, will be a novel, somewhere in the neighborhood of 150-200 pages. What almost every other author would do is publish the first book and then work to get the second one out before readers lose interest in the series and move on to something else. How long do you have to keep that interest? 3 months? 4 months? Maybe 6 at the very most? But why play that guessing game?

Instead of following along with this, I’m taking a page out of Amazon’s book and releasing the next books in the series in episodes. After the first novel, the second release will be a short (a Single in KDP talk), around 10,000 – 15,000 words, and will be released 3-4 weeks after the first. Numbers three and four in the series will also be shorts and come out every 3-4 weeks after the last.

So in the course of 3 months, I will release 4 titles in the series; 1 novel and 3 shorts. The 5th installment will be a novel, to be followed by 3 additional shorts.

I call it the anti-George R.R. Martin technique; I have absolutely no idea whether it will work, but the entire intention is to give the readers what they want… more material to read and a quicker turnaround time between installments.

Joe Konrath and Summer Daniels discuss the idea a little in an article on Joe’s site where he gives Summer some advice:

Summer needs to write faster. She should be putting out a new volume every two weeks, at least. I understand that real life intrudes, and that she’s doing a lot with her Facebook page, but I think her series has potential, and she should prioritize her writing.

Writers end up spending way too much time on Facebook and Twitter, building up the fans and the followers in hopes that those connections convert to sales. But there’s no guarantees. Social media is what it is – but there’s a time and place. I’ll choose to spend that effort on delivering a better product to my customers, as often as possible.

Tell me what you think – are you interested in reading a series in episodes? Leave a comment below.

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I don’t know if a series in episodes is a good idea or not, but I would like to offer a tip:

If readers read your first book and they like it, then they’ll want to read your second book in the series. However, they might feel cheated if they discover that the second book is shorter after they buy it. So in the product description, you might want to put the ‘number of pages’ of your second book (I don’t think readers understand ‘word counts’), so that they know the book is short before they buy it.

by John Caliburn on April 25, 2013 at 4:16 pm. Reply #

Hey John,

Quite frankly, I don’t know if it’s a good idea or not either. But I THINK it might be, so I’m going to go for it. Everything points to the fact that people are reading in airports, waiting for a doctor’s appointment… every little chance they have to steal a few hundred words. I saw somewhere that the mobile phone market is actually the fastest growing ereader market now.

That being said, I completely agree with your tip. I fully intend to make it 100% obvious that some stories are shorter. I’m not trying to pull the rug over anyone’s eyes. They will be well identified and the shorter ones will cost less as well.

I’ll be sure to keep everybody up-to-date on whether it works or completely nosedives.

Thanks for stopping by, hope to hear from you again soon.

by August Wainwright on April 25, 2013 at 6:27 pm. Reply #

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