Advice when starting a new web serial

I'm trying my hand at a web serial. It's a fantasy story that starts off after the usual end of a typical fantasy trilogy - after the destruction of the Death Star. Link is here. http://karavanir.com/ (Any feedback on the site would be appreciated!)


Here is the thing - I've tried to absorb as much as I can about starting web serials on the site and elsewhere, but since some of the topics are from a while back, wanted to start a new one and check with you guys about pitfalls to avoid and the things that I should ideally be doing. (If this has already been answered, then please shut me up and point me in the direction)


I understand that a web serial is a slow burn, that it takes a while to build a small audience, but how should I get eyes to my story? I was thinking about posting on sites like wattpad and royalroad. Saw Inkspired as well and will be trying that as well. Is there any other site that I should target?


I can't shake off the feeling that I must really be doing something but can't figure out what it is. I figured that I will wait a while, have some posts up before I request some reviews, but is there anything that I am missing out?


I've been thinking a lot about this lately (and by lately I mean the past couple years lol).


Two of the most successful web serial authors you'll find on WFG are Drew Hayes and Wildbow. In this post I'll be addressing the sort of success they've seen. RoyalRoad and the LitRPG scene is a different beast, so if you want fast success, I'd recommend talking to some of the guys who came from that community (a number of them are on here, so I'd be surprised if they didn't chime in.)


So, Wildbow and Hayes. Thinking about their writing styles and business models, they have more differences than they do similarities: one's dark, the other more humorous; one has focused exclusively on Paypal/Patreon, the other has found success via Amazon. On and on, though there are some obvious similarities -- they're both youngish (in their 20s or 30s) white guys who wrote superhero fics and posted them online -- I think their styles and business models are different enough to highlight the similarities that are important if you want to run a successful web serial.


The first similarity that jumps out at me: neither went into this planning for fiscal success. Wildbow did it to improve his writing. If memory serves, Hayes did it for fun? They both committed to telling loooooooong stories, with no promise of reward. Now, you'll notice: that's a shitty deal. You're pouring your heart and soul into something that will literally take years to finish, something you can't take a week off from (for reasons I'll get to in a sec).


I'm sure some of my more virtuous colleagues will have good takes on it. "No one asked you to write this so they're doing you a favor by reading," "there's already a glut of people out there writing things for other people to read, so the market isn't going to reward you easily for your writing," etc. etc. You want to know the truth? Fuck that. You're doing something awesome and something valuable, something readers will derive enjoyment and wisdom from after awhile. Unfortunately you won't get paid for it for a long time, because as it stands the marketplace is designed to fuck writers and devalue the written word (there are actually a # of advantages that come from devaluing the written word and I'm not 100% against it, even tho it angers me that writers get fucked over as a result. But that's a separate post and this one's surely going to be too long anyway. Plus it's hard to write all this shit on an iPad. Christ.)


That said, the truth is pretty unescapable. Most successful web serialist spend years before finding true success. So you have to figure out something that attracts you to web serials other than potential money or fan base. Maybe a love of the art form, or for the story you're telling. Something in the world you're creating that makes you think, "I want to spend years here."


The second thing Wildbow and Hayes had in common was genre. Though both of them branched into other genres later, they started with superheroes. This is important because when they started, superheroes were an underserved market. People wanted to read about supeheroes. So among the smallish group of people who knew about web serials, a largeish percentage of them looked for superhero stuff. But Hayes and Wildbow wrote their tales during the early part of the boom, which meant there were way more readers than there were writers.


This is a semi-difficult topic that I haven't fully mastered yet. Chris Fox wrote a great book about it for the Kindle market called WRITING TO MARKET. I'd say a number of his insights/suggestions are transferable to the web serial world.


The third thing? Consistency. It's not complicated, but it is hard. You want to write regular posts, proabably at least 2 times a week to keep reader interest, w/ a minimum of 800 words per chapter (at least) to avoid annoying readers or having them forget you. At the same time, you have to be able to keep this schedule during the busiest week you have in the next two or three years. Simple to explain, difficult as hell to actually do.


So those are the pieces of advice I would provide someone starting out. The second point doesn't work for you specifically since you already have your genre, but that's alright. The grenre thing is probably my most controversial point anyway.


When it comes to getting eyeballs on your work, I would focus on getting the WFG listing and maybe cross-posting some of your serial to RoyalRoad. It can also be nice to start a TVTropes page for your serial. Other than that? I would mainly caution against "the feeling that I must really be doing something." Your main goal is to write and keep writing. Make sure you can manage your schedule, think as much as you can about your world and its characters.


Thinking too hard about stuff outside the serial will burn you out. So focus on the serial. Let it become a part of your life. Maybe your serial is the bonsai tree that grows and flourishes around your life, or maybe it just becomes a fun hobby you nonetheless commit to.


Either way, find a good genre and be consistent in the long run. Once you've figured out how to do that?


You'll be golden.


As a newbie in the webserial world, what's 'worked' for me so far is just keep moving forward and try to have some fun with it. There's nothing better than watching your table of contents page grow week after week, the number of words you can share with world grow, your story taking shape.


Also, be prepared to laugh at your stats for a very long time. At least for me, they'll stay low for longer than I'll expect. And for that, all I have to say is don't be discouraged, and keep writing.


LOL @ stats. I've been doing this for a bit and my stats are never anything worth writing home about. But what nippoten says is true: as long as you keep at it, even if your stats don't increase, your skills will. Picking a schedule and sticking to like glue can only help, even if the numbers don't necessarily back that up.


Don't assume that having a WFG listing will bring in readers. Always be on the look out for alternative avenues for promotion, especially outside of the webserial bubble.


Don't be afraid to be creative when it comes to advertising, too. I've made a few teaser videos for my web serial, (and while they didn't do much for views) they were fun to do and they add a little extra for newcomers to look at.


For a successful "launch" that nets you a non-zero readership quickly, I do recommend posting to a fiction hosting site like Royal Road or FictionPress (I got literally one view and zero comments from posting on Wattpad, so I gave up on that pretty quickly). Being listed as a new update on a large site is an easy way to get eyes on your story. I've never hosted an independent website for my fictions, so I have no real advice on that side of things.


@Billy Higgins Peery

Thanks a lot for such a detailed reply. Much appreciated.


I'm in agreement with most of what you've said, and totally get that I need to worry, or at least spend more time writing, or thinking of my story and less about the other frills. It's usually counter-productive if you worry about being successful than trying to make your story the best it can possibly be.


And I get that this web serial is a slow burn, and that it takes a long, long time for most people to get any sort of eyeballs on their story.


My own reason for writing web serials is pretty much the same as Wildbow's. To write/tell the story that I want, a long story, with a big cast, over a long period of time, with characters in the foreground moving to the background and vice-versa. I've been writing for a good 4 months now, hit a good word count and have only now decided to start posting them online. And I intend to keep writing to the ending that I have in mind even if my story gets absolutely no readers.


My own feeling of doing something from a web serial standpoint is secondary to first, writing the story and second, improving my writing craft. That's where this whole post is coming from.


@nippoten

I know the feeling. That sense of progress is satisfying in itself.


@unice5656

Thanks. While I know of FictionPress, it sort of slipped my mind completely. I'll be updating over there as well.


At first when your story is listed on the right side of the webfictionguide you will get some clicks from here. That'll taper off though.


Hello! I am new to the site and just started writing a serial as well. I have been running a webcomic for a number of years, so all of my advice on promoting comes from that, hopefully there is some cross over or something you have not thought of.


Guest comics are a tool that the webcomic community uses to get more exposure and links to their sites. The idea is this: constantly creating content is time consuming and hard and most creators jump at an opportunity to get a break if it means that they don't lose readership. It is very common for other creators to take advantage of this and create a sort of mini fan comic (done in their own style) and submit it to a more popular site. The creator receiving the comic gets an ego boost, a post for the day, and a break. The person making the guest comic gets a link and new readers.


I know that there may not be a direct analog to this, but many in the blogging circle use the same principals in guest blogging. Maybe you can write up an article about writing or your favorite genre and share it with others in your niche? If Tuesday Serial gets back up and running (they have been on hiatus for two months) I know they take guest articles (http://tuesdayserial.com/guidelines-2/guest-post-guidelines/).


The TV Trope page is not a bad idea and is one that webcomic creators seem to use more than serial writers. I get a steady stream of readers from it and every trope you have an example on is another potential portal for readers. I would just list your serial as an example on as many tropes as you can, wait until you have a large amount of examples listed before you make your own page.


DeviantArt has a passionate (albeit smaller) writing community. If you have time and are not spread too thin across sites you might find some luck there.


I hope that this helped! I realize that some of it may not be immediately relevant, but I hope that the core concepts are. I hope you find success in your serial and I wish you the best of luck!


@revfitz

Hey, thanks for the links. I'll check them out. I think the extra effort that you make at the start sort of pays down a little down the road, though for the life of me, I'd really want to see if it's true. So it's good to stretch yourself a little thin...


And about guest artists - while you're right in saying there is no direct analogue, I think there's definitely something that we can use for web serials. Perhaps I'm new here, but I get the feeling that web serials writers are rather spread out and there's not that same change to mingle.


Since most write genre fiction, where world building plays a large role, there's definitely a benefit in having another web serial writer play around in your world, for a single chapter or a short arc featuring some other character, or in some other part of the world. I've collaborated a little for other pieces of fiction, and I find having another mind poke through the world you've created actually elevates the quality of the overall world-building rather than diminish it.


I suppose legalities would be an issue? Not sure though, but I think this is an intriguing prospect. Obviously, this won't work for everybody, but I'm actually a little curious to see if this could work.


@thelonewanerer

No worries, I hope that they help!


Typically the person receiving the post then has the rights to it, though the person submitting it retains credit.


I am open to a swap or guest posting in the future.