The State of The Web Serial Fiction Industry

2 years ago | SnowyMystic (Member)

There isn't one.

Not exactly anyway. We have platforms like Jukepop and so on and so forth, Amazon is making motions toward the market.
As has been said again and again, we are the fringe, the new birth of the old.

If we do not construct the industry, others will. So rather than groups like Amazon taking the throne, why don't we?
An Industry created by writers, for writers, to offer readers a consistent and clean(edited) product.

This seems like a big undertaking, but we have people from many walks of life among us, and in particular we have serailists who despite the issues have achieved great success, so much that their writing is their job now. I've seen the passion that so many of you have, a number of you are deeply concerned about our growing medium. I've seen the snakes in the grass, the people who would take us for all we are worth, we've all seen the masses of spam.

A number of you are trying to advance the medium, get it recognized, legitimized or at least present in the public eye. We should all unite.

I'm not talking just about a host.

I'm not talking just about a listing site.

I've seen people talk about getting the medium recognized as an artform, no offense, but it already is. Even what is traditionally art is considered dross by many. What we need is not to be recognized as art, but as material to be consumed. Some people read books because they are great works of art, but the majority read for entertainment, be it humour they seek, sadness, a journey or whatever else.

We need to make the Industry before it is made for us. The more middlemen we can cut out, the better and if we are to have middlemen, and we cannot completely avoid it, then let them be of our own making.

So, all fine and flowery words, but what do I actually mean by it?

What I mean, is an entity that'll advertize, edit, support and generally help serials to be thrust into the public eye in a fine form. A beast that we feed with our profits to gain more readers, more serials, and more profits to continue the cycle. A thing of rules, regulations and standards.

We can make this body with difficulty but if anyone tried to do it on their own? I do not see how they could do it.
We come from many walks of life, each of us having different things to offer, some of us even have connections, friends with skills that could aid us in this working. This is a rare chance, one unlikely to come about in our lifetimes again. We can shape the fate of the professional webserial community, we can look at what other serial industries have done well, where they have gone wrong.

This is a call to arms. It may not be the clearest call, or a call that offers many solutions. But the call is there. Let's get together and talk about this. More than talking. Let us do this.

If we don't. Someone else will, and it is far harder to change an industry from the inside than it is to make one.

The large serialists, the small serialists, those who want to do this professionally, come together, please. Even those who just want to do this as a hobby, this will if we do it well enough, even enable you to more freely do it.

Read responses...

Page: 124

Responses

  1. Tempest (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    To be honest Snow, that sounds great. But that is closer to branding, on the side of the readers. For the writers, us, I can't see how it would make that much difference. It is a pooling of audience, with ads, maybe bringing in more slowly.

    A serial edit would be a tidying of grammar and punctuations, maybe of character consistency. But the story as a whole is unwritten, it can't be tightened much. When complete it is a different situation.

    We are not an industry as such. We are not easily monetized. Donations are fluctuating beasts.

  2. SnowyMystic (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    @Tempest

    I suppose it is branding, silly me. A strong brand to sell to the public would be great. I think you underestimate the effects of drawing together the community of readers more, and the ads, at the simplest level could be on the actual web serial sites, but further than that, it'd be a single brand you could advertize anywhere. Also it'd be easy shorthand for readers to present to others. Having trouble explaining serials? They can just present the cool and slick brand.

    Also, I know we are not an industry as such, that is part of my point. There will be an industry, are we just going to sit back and let others make it? Half of the reason some of us are serialists is because we'd not work with the regular publishing industry!

  3. Kess (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    I'm a little confused. How would this brand/site/portal be any different to the other portals already available? Like Wattpad, Jukepop, Inkspired, etc. As a hub, how would it be different to WFG for linking readers to serials?

    Is it the inclusion of editing? I agree with Tempest: the level of editing you'll get is maybe a copy-edit, probably just proofing, nothing deeper. And the quality of the editing assumes you can get people with the skills and time to do it.

    Advertising online is a terrible way to make money. It takes a certain momentum and readership before it comes anywhere near viable in a monetary sense, and most savvy internet users either have ads blocked, or avoid sites with them on.

    What makes you think that others will make this industry for us? You mention Kindle Serials/Amazon, which is currently not accepting submissions and, from what I can tell, is failing (or at least flying well under the radar). Serialising through KDP is unpopular with readers, so I wouldn't view that as a legitimate serial service.

    Are you looking to build a paid serial publishing model? A standard way to monetise and serialise?

    Are you looking to legitimise serial fiction and improve its reputation, by building a service that carries quality products that are always completed?

    I get that you might not have the answers (yet), but I'm really not sure what the questions are. What problem is it that you're trying to solve here?

  4. ubersoft (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    When you say "industry" what do you mean?

    If you mean "successful commercial venture," well, there isn't going to be a single standardized way for that to happen. There isn't in any kind of publishing, right now.

    Wildbow's work appears, from my perspective, to be a successful commercial venture. My work on Curveball is a commercial venture (among other things), but at present not a successful one. So you might say "well, do what Wildbow does," but I'd suggest that his ability to generate output at the level of quality he consistently hits is a strong outlier. At least that's what I tell myself every day, after rocking back and forth for hours in a darkened room, cursing his name. ;-)

    Curveball (Updating)
    A Rake by Starlight (Updating)
  5. SnowyMystic (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    @Kess

    "Are you looking to legitimise serial fiction and improve its reputation, by building a service that carries quality products that are always completed?"

    This is in part what I'm on about. It is the important part. However, the service part is something I've realized could come later. More immediately, a brand, not so much a portal or a host, but a brand could be a handy badge of quality and something people could point to when talking about serials. It'd be a strong and clear front. A good first impression.

    As for what makes me think others will make it if we don't? Well people have talked about how there is problems getting money, but ultimately there is money in it, and at the least ebooks can be made from serials. If there is money, there will be people who want to profit from that, who want to make that more consistent.

    On advertizing, the manner I'm thinking is more about awareness than money, honestly most of what I am talking about is image and mechanics rather than cold hard cash. The cash is something you get more of when there is more people in the audience, the simple numbers game, and people are happier supporting a consistent product of a certain quality.

    Amazon may not be doing well, but that isn't to say they won't try something else, or that someone else won't.

    I also agree on the issue of editing. Note, this isn't me comming in from on high asking you all to swallow my pill, choke on it. I'm not even one of the big serialists, I'm a fringe of the fringe currently.

    This idea, it is what the community makes of it. You don't need to commit much to something to get the concept down.

    The problem is not just image, but awareness. We don't need to make it look like art, it just needs to be as normal as reading a book.

    I'm not talking about another jukepop, wattpad or whatever. If someone was part of this thing, they could host where-ever they want, so long as the hosting was of good quality. Perhaps in the future there would be in-brand hosting maybe even a portal for people wanting to become part of the brand proper (If it became the symbol it could be).

    @Ubersoft

    Now, for what I mean by industry, this is... more of a behind the scenes thing, and the greater body of it would be way more work and resources to lay down. Basically a structure and structures that have a process that nurture serials and allow them to be brought to completion. Something that'll lessen the burden on writers and allow the majority of them to just write. In the more pipedream sense, a system by writers for writer and for the readers that cuts out any middlemen we might normally need and replaces them with middlemen of our own making.

    What I also mean by industry is just a metaphorical machine that pumps out content. Some of us would be part of that machine, and rather than being eaten up by it, we'd serve and be served by it.

    As for monetization, that is something that needs discussed! Does everyone put in and then the money is divided out? Some other harebrained and ill-thought out manner? Look I see that this thing, even in the simplest form of just a brand would require a good bit of payout for dubious if not non-existent returns, but that is usually the case with infrastructure. How often is it that helping everyone along with helping yourself is without risk or sacrifice. There will be sacrifice, there will be risk, regardless of what way it is done.

    In return though? We'll not be bowing to masters other than those we've made ourselves, and we'll have a clear shining example of webfiction we can point people to, a mass of different genres. There is even people who don't know that there is web serials that aren't superhero stuff, I mean come on!

    Even Wildbow, as well as he is doing, Ubersoft, is worried about the image of web serial fiction.

    I'm sorry if I don't make much sense. I have a number of bad habits when it comes to explaining things.

    All this is my own thoughts. What about yours? I mean whatever this thing is, It doesn't have to kowtow to my understanding. If you have misgivings, don't just look to me, look to yourself and others. It'll already be a failure if it is "SnowyMystic's idea, or SnowMystic's plan".

    If nothing else I'm just not that good at something like that.

    So, talk. Discuss. This isn't my baby. It is the potential child of all of us. Regardless of personal feelings, we have to live in the same world as each other, this is true of anything, not just our community. I may not be a complete idiot, but I'm not some genius or visionary.

    I do know that if we work together, whatever we make will be far easier to do than had any of us tried to on our own.

    I believe the costs and risks are worth taking on. It isn't just security, it isn't just money. I love the medium.

    I know a lot of you love it too. If we love it, then shouldn't we better it? Show it's 'best' side to the world and shout out, "Look at her! Isn't she beautiful?". Right now, Webfictionguide is pretty good, and it is going to get better. Why should we be any different? We can be better.

    Nobody needs to be scared of failure. If we fail, the smaller guys won't have lost much of anything. The big guys and medium guys will still have their audiences, they might lose a bit of upfront cash, but it'll be spread out most of us.

    So, talk. Discuss.

    I'm no king, I'm just a little fish who heard what people were saying and cried out.

  6. Kess (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    Snowy, I can see you've got good intentions and a lot of questions and ideas. It's really hard to see what sort of solution you might be driving towards, and honestly, I think you're trying to solve a lot of problems in one go. So much that it's in danger of losing the good stuff in the noise.

    My suggestion is: pick one or two big issues, and focus on those. See what we might be able to do about them, then move on to the next issue, and the next. Line 'em up, knock 'em down. It may well be that one solution doesn't fit all, and being more agile about how we tackle these things might give us the best outcome in the end.

    For example, the legitimacy and reputation of serial fiction seems to be something you care about. It has come up in conversations here a couple of times recently (most notably in the Sad Face thread). Seeing as it's a hot topic, let's start there?

    The chatter over on the other thread included a suggestion that serials could have a 'reliability rating' attached to their WFG profile. What if we took this further?

    What if we created a 'badge' that serialisers (serialists?) could add to their serial sites, something like a badge of quality? (100% beef! ...maybe for erotica stories)

    To give it any kind of meaning, it would have to be something earned through a third party, preferably an established one (I'm thinking WFG, but that's up to Chris, obviously!), and the criteria would have to be driven by what the readers consider to be quality and of value in a serial. Reliability of updates is one obvious criteria. Editing quality? Maybe. What else?

    It could have a ranking system (newbie, bronze, silver, gold, unobtanium) if we wanted it to. Badges could be awarded to writers instead of serials, so that writers could be rewarded for completing serials and take that kudos to new projects.

    WFG listings could reflect the badge / ranking, and if it becomes useful, we could contact the serial services like Jukepop and Wattpad and see if they would add them as well. (I have no idea if they would be receptive to this! Inkspired would, but others? Not sure.)

    We'd need some kind of reader input/feedback to see if it was getting any buy-in. I have no idea how easy that would be, or what data could be mined to give us some clues.

    I'm just spitballing here. What do you guys think?

  7. SnowyMystic (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    I think that is some high quality spit there! A 'Badge' or Mark is one of the simpler things to get going, not that there isn't work to be done.

    You are also right about taking things a bit at a time, I'm a bit too fond of all in one solutions, but you have to eat an elephant a small bit at a time.

    Having reliability and editing ratings could be good and rewarding writers for actually keeping on with a story and finishing it would also be good. I'm not sure myself what else would be good.

    Though I suppose it is a bit of a problem if this is just us writers talking about things. If we could manage to get talking to the readers more, that'd be great. I guess one way of that is for writers who regularly get comments to start asking their readers how they would feel about the whole thing.

  8. Fiona Gregory (Moderator)

    Posted 2 years ago

    Sounds like Snowy is talking about a professional association, a guild.

    Guild membership limited to serial writers taking a professional approach, new members accepted through a vote or consensus of existing members, abandoning your serial outside of a pre-announced, time-limited hiatus loses your guild membership.

    Hard to say if this would gain recognition with readers as they are a even more fragmented bunch than webfic writers, but it would be something to point to when people bring up the "serial writers never finish" complaint in forums.

  9. Chrysalis (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    A somewhat related thought: Wattpad promotes only completed stories, and there are quite a number of them. Sure, they have countless unfinished projects listed, but only a select few truly get discovered and recognized.

    Anathema, a web serial about the effect superpowers would have on our world. http://anathemaserial.wordpress.com/
  10. Alexander.Hollins (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    So, like the united dairyman, or californa avacado growers, or any other industry lobby group? You join, get a seal of membership, maybe a badge of approval, and pay dues towards a group that spends money advertising members and serial novels in general? MAAAYBE.

    Back in the early days of Dream Fantastic, I had an idea that fell flat because I did. We did an anthology that had a lot of first chapters, or other really good scenes, and put it out through smashwords and some others. We were going to do a paid (99 cent) version to fund group advertising like that, but it fell through, lots of people not wanting to be part of that after various rule changes with amazon, fears of losing publishing rights if it was paid, things like that. (looking at the list of serials in it, totally need to revisit some of those stories, i meant to keep up on them!) We were going to do it regularly, grab 5-6 new serials every quarter, with links back to previous Dreamers in each volume. It... didn't happen.

    TOR does a best of book every year, print and E.

    Why not a monthly anthology. or weekly? Set up a not for profit (much easier than a NON profit), sell categorized ebooks and possibly print books/magazines by subscription. It would always be about a month or two behind the websites, but in the final detypo-ed edited a bit more form. Or maybe serialized stories FROM existing online serializers, but not their current online serial? Or both.

    Put them out by category, 5 a month, Superhero, Fantasy, Drama/romance/slice of life, Sci Fi, and a mixed bag of the more popular writers from each genre. Any particular serial will show up no more than once a month that way, so its larger chunks than the online, maybe have a word minimum for inclusion in the next volume of their particular category, so that each month you'll have one or two regular producers that are there EVERY month, and then other smaller stories that you get spaced out a bit more. (A lot of sci fi serials were like that, you got a piece every few months over a year, two years. Asimov did that with foundation)

    Indigogo the first month of volumes, to guarantee payment for the authors. Hire some artists for internal art. Solicit advertisers for future issues. Start a podcast interviewing the authors, talking about serials in general, ours and other peoples, buy booths at cons to be manned by members who volunteer to do so at a con near them, create flyers to distribute, may buy some ad space here and there. Create a serial publishing imprint for the volumes, and then use it (if requested) to provide true editing and publication of individual books of completed (or partway through but at a full book level). Create a brand name tied to the idea of serializing, and get people who write articles like that WAPO trash to come to US. Get to the point where we can solicit large name writers to work on side projects with us.

    I had that dream. Still do. Anyone like the sound of that, or am I just pissing in the wind?

  11. Kess (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    Alexander - I love that idea. 5 a month would be a lot to put out, but doable if we have a team working on it. I think it has a lot of scope to broaden the visibility of serials, lots of places we could take it.

    Curious that people were afraid of losing publishing rights if it was paid. First publishing rights are used up the moment you first publish; getting paid isn't a factor. For serials, you use that up as soon as you post it (for electronic publishing, anyway). So I wouldn't be too concerned about that.

    I'm looking at putting together an anthology in a couple of months with some (non-serial) writer friends of mine. I've looked into the legal stuff, ISBN management, setting up a publishing imprint, all that jazz (I have a good friend who has done a lot of this type of stuff, and picked her brain about how to make it all work). Happy to help any way I can.

  12. ubersoft (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    Curious that people were afraid of losing publishing rights if it was paid. First publishing rights are used up the moment you first publish; getting paid isn't a factor. For serials, you use that up as soon as you post it (for electronic publishing, anyway). So I wouldn't be too concerned about that.

    Just to clarify, losing publishing rights and losing first publishing rights aren't the same thing. "First publishing rights" is a clause you can find in a lot of publishing house contracts because the publishing houses want to make sure they make money off your stuff before anyone else can -- also if you submit your story to a magazine they'll often ask for first publishing rights so the story can debut in their pages (after which you can do whatever you want with it).

    But giving someone first publishing rights doesn't preclude you from making money off it afterwards. For example, I post each issue of Curveball for free on my site (there go my first publishing rights) but if anyone wanted to publish it commercially themselves, they'd still have to negotiate with me for the right to do so. (I can--and do--sell them as ebooks because I can do whatever I like with my material).

    The danger is if you give someone exclusive publishing rights -- that means you're giving up the right to do anything else with it, because you are designating someone else as the sole publisher of your material. Most publishing houses ask for this, though the contracts do usually include a process for you to get those rights back (the process is arcane and can require lawyers).

    If you're going to pay the authors who are involved you're probably going to have to have some kind of contract in place for everyone's protection, and that's when people will start getting nervous, because contracts are scary.

    Curveball (Updating)
    A Rake by Starlight (Updating)
  13. Kess (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    ubersoft - yes, precisely. By publishing it at all, you use up first publishing rights. How much it goes beyond that depends on the publisher, the publication, and the contract that ties it all together. Being paid doesn't really have anything to do with it; that's just another part of the contract.

    Any professional publication will have a contract explaining the rights situation, like you said, for everyone's protection. Even if the pieces were donated and the publication is free. It's just safer and clearer for everyone that way.

  14. Alexander.Hollins (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    I was honestly being bitter and sarcastic. I didn't think anyone would like the idea. I may take you up on that brain picking!

    It was a few years back, and there was a lot of stuff going around with amazon and publishers demanding exclusives and such (Thanks for the differentiation Chris! ) Not saying it was LOGICAL issues, just that people had issues and I was staring down a quarter of the original saying no for that, and another quarter saying no just cause to a paid volume, sigh.

    I was thinking more about the magazine format and internal ads and such on the way home. Yes, contracts are scary.

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