The State of The Web Serial Fiction Industry


  1. Kess (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago


    I think you have a good idea there. Huge and ambitious, but good. I think we can get to something that works. Give me a shout if you want to chat about it more.

    (Amazon is tricky with rights and pricing, but there are ways around it. Ahahaha.)

  2. Billy Higgins Peery (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    Funnily enough, I was reading about Shonen Jump, Morning, and a couple of the other manga magazines recently. Unfortunately, the article talked about how the magazine format is becoming less popular, because readers want to pay only for the stuff they specifically want to read.

    Still, I think the idea has a lot of potential. It reminds me a bit of those sampler comics they hand out during Free Comic Book Day. Though hopefully the individual stories would have more substance; those samplers always fall a little flat, imo. There are also parallels to a lot of the British comics anthologies. Futurequake is one I've been looking at recently (, but 2000 A.D. is the well-known one.

    Starting five anthologies at once sounds incredibly ambitious. What about starting with one anthology that targets a single demographic (like most comics anthologies, really), and expanding from there? Mixing some established talent with some less-established talent could lead to something very interesting. I also wouldn't set up a solid schedule until the first issue finished production. That way you know how much time/work it takes.

    "Any number of hitlers, are still not my problem." -Tempest
  3. JDT (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    I'm interested in the anthology idea. What would be included? Original works by specific writers, or pre-existing works?

  4. Kess (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    Billy - agreed about starting out with one. I was thinking along the same lines: what Alexander is proposing is ambitious and a great goal, but the implementation and how we build to that point is something we'd need to figure out.

    I like what you said: we should start broad, get a good cross-section of stuff going, and see where it takes us. Once we have some momentum, we can look at breaking it out into genre-specific titles, or maybe do different issues focussed on different genres to test the waters.

    I can understand why the manga magazines are struggling - a collection of fragments has limited appeal, especially if you have to pay for it. However, perhaps we can mix it up. Include mostly (complete) short stories that complement the writer's serial (I think Alexander mentioned this?), feature one or two first chapters, toss in a writer interview, and call it good?

    Format is another question. I'm not sure how magazine-style works with ebooks or PoD (unless we're thinking of paying for a print run?) - I'd have to do some research there. Considering the serial audience that we know and love, what's the best format to reach them? Or the audience that we want to have?

    It's worth being clear about what we're trying to achieve with this periodical, too. Exposure for serials? Payment for authors? I guess the question I'm leaning towards here is: how important is making money out of this? Especially at the start?

    So many options. :)

  5. G.S. Williams (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    Here are some things I would want, in a "perfect for me" web fiction scenario:

    1. A site that lets you write or upload a chapter of your story, easily fitting it into a table of contents, that lets you choose banner and theme fluidly. Drupal has a clumsy table of contents on its own, the last time I used Wordpress you had to invent your own, but I liked Wordpress' layouts so much better than Drupal and so I want the functionality of one blended with the aesthetics of the other. But I don't want to have to code or work hard to make that happen.

    2. When I finish an arc, or a book, I want to be able to publish it to places like Kindle or Amazon or Smashwords or Goodreads or whoever does that type of thing without having to figure out who does that kind of thing -- I just want to push a button that says "Post" so it goes up on my site, and then "Publish" to choose places to publish to. Why is that not a thing?

    3. Likewise, I want an easy way to create ads and then have them posted for me. I used to play around on Project Wonderful but when I ran out of time to write I definitely ran out of time to figure that stuff out.

    4. If there was a brand or an online publishing house, like our version of Image comics (creator owned!) they could run all the services and let me just write. The house's site would list all the stories and have profiles on the authors.

    5. You would need to be invited into the house based on performance outside of the house. So if you were four to five star on WFG and had completed actual stories, or had been consistently updating an ongoing serial for like three years etc. you would receive this invitation that all the hassles you hate will be eliminated and all you have to do is keep writing. Hooray!

    I want to make something very clear, that maybe I haven't made clear enough -- I'm not saying that there shouldn't be hobbyist or "just trying it out" writers. I'm saying IF someone wanted to be taken seriously, the best way to be taken seriously by me, anyway, is to have a completed book before you start posting. I have zero interest in someone's first chapter ever. I didn't even read Worm until Wildbow had been at it for more than a year, because I'm a prickly pear. Finding out how much writing existed before Worm existed explained why a first novel could be so good -- because it wasn't really the first. That's the best way to write a first novel that people take seriously.

    But fun is just as important -- it just won't advance the medium until it becomes more than fun. If there was a publishing house with standards, it wouldn't be elitism, it would be the difference between major league sports and park league. My kids play park league. I played park league. I found out I didn't want to dedicate myself enough to become a professional hockey or baseball player, but that I could have fun with it when the chance arose. We need tiers to progress through to earn the designation "professional" and it would be nice if someone stepped in to make those steps easier because we all keep reinventing the wheel instead of having one centralized service centre.

    It would be so nice not to have to do those steps, because I never wanted to be in marketing, advertising, library listing and publishing. I just want to write.

  6. Chrysalis (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    I'd like to respond to some points raised by Gavin, if I may.

    2) That idea startles me. The reason being that self publishing has a pretty bad reputation because of (often, not always) low quality standards. No small amount of people outright refuse to read anything that was self published. As someone who invests thousands of dollars into cover and editing to help improve people's perception of self publishing, I'd prefer not to see a 'one click publish to Amazon' option. Most web fiction isn't ready to be published on the kind of platform where it competes with traditionally published books. If web serialists started adding poorly edited fiction to Amazon's Kindle store with a simple click, our reputation would plummet even more.

    You talk about standards - but one-click publications would lower those standards, not help increase them.

    4) There is. Many self published authors use Draft 2 Digital (D2D), which uploads their stories to any ebook store except Amazon and handles the payment details for them. They even automatically assign an ISBN and do the formatting, I believe.

    On the subject of first chapters - that might be correct in some cases, but not all. Some authors edit their first chapters! My first chapter (not the prologue, that one still sucks) was edited by someone with over a decade of experience, and its quality exceeds every other chapter I've ever written. My readers tend to drop out around arc 2, which hasn't been edited yet, but it will be in a week or so.

    Anathema, a web serial about the effect superpowers would have on our world.
  7. G.S. Williams (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    @ Chrysalis -- I'm not talking about "most web fiction" -- I'm talking about a publishing house providing a platform where established writers post chapters serially on a website, the way most of us do, but on one that's easy to update, automatically puts things where they're supposed to be in a table of contacts, has an easy way to add pictures, banners or themes, and when a book is complete an easy way to publish to multiple sources. Right now we have to do all of those things in separate places on separate sites ourselves, and I don't have time for that, so I envisioned a "one stop" for all those needs because that would be MY "perfect for me webfiction scenario" -- I didn't say anybody else would ever want what I want.

    I'm not talking about an option for hobbyists, I'm talking about making an easier to access option for serious writers.

    What you are describing is not a hobbyist first chapter -- you're describing an edited final draft after several rough drafts. I said I have "zero interest in someone's first chapter EVER" (caps for emphasis) -- meaning for the first chapter a person wrote in their entire lives. There are people who read a serial, think they can do it too, and start posting immediately -- and give up after five or ten posts. It's silly for someone on their first writing attempt to want an audience -- finish a story first, edit it, get someone to read it, and then present something great to an audience. Not a work in progress.

    Wildbow, for example, can present a work in process like Twig, because he already finished Worm and Pact. He's proven his consistency. That's a high bar, and it's not a bar for everyone -- it's a bar for me to take someone's work seriously.

    Until my hiatus, I regularly read all kinds of stories -- new ones, established ones, in between -- and I gave feedback to new writers all the time, to build them up, help them along, encourage them. That's a necessary process. But that's very different from expecting readers to start following you when you have no reputation or consistency or time-proven longevity to offer them. Loyalty doesn't fall out of the sky -- it comes from a writer proving themselves over time.

    Once a writer was proven, it would be nice if a cooperative site existed to give them a platform for publishing where they didn't have to chase down all the work themselves, which is the state of things currently.

  8. SnowyMystic (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    Well, it sounds like there is some good discussion going on here. Wonderful!

    So, the general idea seems to be a Branded Guild House thing, fulfilling a number of services to aid writers wanting to go 'pro'

    I'd say the easiest part of that would be the brand, the other stuff can come later. So what are the costs involved here? The processes, the legal nitty gritties? What exactly is it that you want it to be, and what do you want it to not be? What about the standards for entry?

    We don't have to put anything in stone, and you are all already talking about a few of the things, but the further this can be brought into focus and away from my deranged ramblings, the better.

    Also, the fun part; what should the brand look like? The theme? Any mascots? A name? That kind of stuff the less knowledgeable people among us can help think of. People like me ;.;

  9. Chrysalis (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    Ah! I get what you mean. Okay, in that case I can relate. The serious / hobbyist writer discussion has come up in another thread as well. I wonder how we could help readers recognize serious effort more easily, though. RSS feeds for everyone (with latest updates visible on the story page) should help somewhat, maybe?

    Anathema, a web serial about the effect superpowers would have on our world.
  10. ubersoft (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    Wanted to respond to Gavin's comments, because they're interesting...

    1) I'm very fond of Drupal's functionality. I do agree it's quite a bit plainer and clumsier than WordPress and you have to be willing to root around to get it to do what you want. Here's the TOC for Curveball ( and the TOC for Pay Me, Bug! ( for reference.

    I'm not making any claim for Drupal being "pretty," though. It just does what I need to do, after a bit (a "bit" ranging from "some" to "rather a lot") of work.

    2) I'm trying to remember, wasn't the guy who started Novelr working on something that approached that? I vaguely remember him posting about it a few years ago, but I lost track of it. It didn't publish to Amazon or B&N or anything like that, but it was supposed to be able to create ebooks based on what you entered into it... I think the main problem with a "publish everywhere" button will be Amazon, because Smashwords has been trying to get them added as a "publish to" service for a long time and Amazon has steadfastly refused.

    My personal preference would be to build the books myself, but not everyone swings that way.

    3) I would like to build on Gavin's original suggestion and say I'd love to see a one-button-does-your-advertising-for-you solution. Which is impossible and unrealistic, but it's the part of this whole thing I despise more than anything else. Advertising is currently mostly a no-win solution as far as I can tell. Most people who do it see nothing from it. But if you don't do it, there's really no other legitimate (in terms of "this is what potential readers will accept") way to get the word out unless you manage to develop an enthusiastic fanbase willing to proselytize for you.

    4) This is kind of what 1889 Labs was trying to do, right? I know Jim published the first Legion of Nothing book through them, but then I think they went under? Or are they back now? I've lost track of them. (It'd be nice if they were back, they were doing neat stuff). That's the biggest danger of a service like that, though -- if they go away all the work you did through them is in danger of going poof as well. I know you were talking about a best-case scenario, but I get paranoid about stuff like that.

    5) I have no real opinions on this part. Setting up a gatekeeping thing is necessary for any group trying to provide the level of services you're describing, and that's probably where a large chunk of resources would go -- setting up a process to vet potential writers and material. Will there be a slush pile? Review committees? Slush editors? A requirement that the material be on WFG and hit certain bullet points is a good way to weed out a lot of stuff, but the star rating system could be gamed by a writer who had dedicated friends willing to upvote and the "publish x minimum length" is a great way to prove consistency but the more enterprising writers will probably go off on their own at that point.

    I'm just off-the-cuff speculating.

    Curveball (Updating)
    A Rake by Starlight (Updating)
  11. G.S. Williams (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    Novelr's creator Eli James made Pandamian, as a step in this direction, but it went under apparently -- I had to google Eli James and Pandamian to find out that he's moved on to other projects and sees it as a valuable failure.

  12. Alexander.Hollins (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    okay, so...

    we need a name.

    CDP Co Dependent Publishing. When Independent publishing can only get you so far.

  13. melonmonkey (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    Co-dependent implies weakness, imho.

  14. Tempest (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    99% sure Alex was joking. Although you can't always tell.

  15. melonmonkey (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    My bad, sarcasm over text is hard.

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