Serial Novel Advocacy Group

So... We've been hashing this around in another thread. I've put a few of the ideas talked about together into an opening for a business plan. This is a listing of the GOALS and primary methods for acheiving those goals. It doesnt yet touch on the how or how much, because we have to be clear on the WHY and WHAT first, I think. I do have a rough draft of those parts, and I'll share them for discussion later, but right now, talking about the goals and codyifying what we actually want out of the group is going to effect a few things, including funding, incorporation as a non profit, and other similar things. so... pick apart, add, subtract, be brutal.

Goal: The goals of the group are to work to create an easier marketing environment for authors of self published fiction, with an emphasis on those that release their works in a serial fashion, piece by piece over time instead of as a novel as a whole, and to elevate public knowledge and acceptance of the serial novel as a viable method of entertainment and literary culture.

Methods: The primary methods currently outlined to achieve this goal are :

Direct Services. Providing services to serial and self published authors to allow their works to be received by the by the reading public. These services include, but are not limited to, support in the craft of writing, copyediting, story editing, page layout, cover design and creation, brand creation and utilization, marketing, market readiness, listing, and sales.

Publishing. The Group will endeavor to attract serial artists and publish them directly. This will be through two routes, Anthology and Finished Story.

Finished stories will be selected Serials that have completed either a full story, or a full book worth of their story, to a minimum of forty five thousand words. Selected stories will be fully edited by an editor working with the Group of the authors choice, released in a variety of formats, and including within them 2-4 introductions to other similar serials in process to act as internal cross promotion. Selection and royalties of both Anthology and Finished works will be discussed further in the sections Funding and Selection.

Advertising. The primary goal of the Group is to elevate the serial novel in the public consciousness. This is often best accomplished directly, by telling people about the form and its benefits to the reader and author. The Group will therefore spend a portion of its funds each month on advertising, promotion, and cross promotion.

Advertising will be many and varied, and will include the most cost efficient methods as determined by the Group. This can include radio, internet, print media, flyers and physical presence at interest events such as Conventions, and any other form that may present itself.

Promotion will be done through social media presence, communication with traditional media, and soliciting well known creators directly to sell serial works to us. The target audience is to include largely online non serial readers, and offline serial readers, such as fiction magazine subscribers, as well as traditional non novel readers that may fit well into the serial reading experience, such as print and web comic audiences.

Cross promotion will be done through the use of badges on the works of members, community events, forums, and contests in order to share readers and bring those who may be familiar with a particular serial into the larger world of serial novels as a whole.

I guess the first thing I want to know is: who is actually going to be doing the work? Do we have copy editors and people who work in layout design who are both A. competent and B. willing to put in the effort for 0 initial gains?

Interesting stuff, Alex. Just a couple things.

1) When you say that this is " an opening for a business plan," do you mean an opening to discuss it? Because it looks like what you have here is the Goals and Objectives section, not the Executive Summary (the Executive Summary should be written last, anyway.)

2) Instead of Methods, I would probably call what you have "Strategies," just to keep with convention. That said, you probably want to mention Goals, too: ie, small concretized steps that could be taken towards the business's success. This would help you figure out the shape the business would take at first: what sort of skill levels you would need other participants to have, what sort of stories you'd want, etc. I'd also really caution against the, "Minimum of one anthology a month," thing. I understand the impetus, but until the thing has started, you don't really know how much work it'll take. Maybe make it a tentative goal.

I agree with billy on one a month being a stretch. An anthology is a big undertaking, and I have a strong suspicion that there won't be very high initial returns on this. The quality of work in these anthologies is going to have to be very high to defeat the biases that readers hold about amateur/serial fiction.

My view / thoughts on things:

Goal: I'd like to see this include 'To promote quality serial fiction', to reflect that we're interested in improving the perception of serials and helping readers find reliable, good-quality serials.

Methods/Strategies: I think we need to clarify here: are we talking about serials in flight, or publishing them in collected forms? Are we talking about setting up a new serial portal, or taking completed serials / serial arcs and publishing them in different forms? (ebooks, PoD, etc)

Anthology: I think a monthly anthology is ambitious and a risky thing to start with. Anthologies take a lot of work, and unless we've got someone who knows exactly how to pull this off, we should allow ourselves some ramp-up. I'd suggest starting with a quarterly anthology, with regular reviews so we can work towards making it monthly.

Food for thought: a monthly anthology is a lot of work, and also requires a lot of content. A quarterly anthology is, on the other hand, a bit more 'special'. One of the issues with online fiction is the sheer amount of it; we're in the middle of a glut. So, in this case, could less actually be more?

There was some feedback in another thread about how people aren't really willing to pay for a load of incomplete stories. So, we need to be clear: what is the goal of the anthology? If it's primarily to promote serial fiction, should we offer it for free? If we offer it for free, how do we cover the costs?

If we're going to charge for the anthology, I'll reiterate what I suggested in the other thread: the fiction included should be primarily complete pieces / short stories (linked with an existing serial), with one or two first chapters as tasters. All of them link back to their home serial. Then readers are paying for complete stories and getting some fun extras.

Finished stories: I'm curious, why 45,000 words?

What do you mean by 'a variety of formats'? Are we talking PoD? Actual physical print runs? Or just different ebook formats? (epub, PDF, mobi?)

I do like the idea of having teasers for other serials included in the books.

Melonmonkey - very good questions. I'll put my hand up to be involved (I'm a professional technical writer and editor, with experience in ebook layouts and related shenanigans), but I'm also pretty time-poor because I work full-time and do my writing in my spare time. I'm willing to offer my time and input for free to get things rolling, but 'free' is not a long-term solution for me.

I think perhaps I'm using the wrong word here. Magazine. monthly magazine?

Billy, yes, since the final goals are going to dictate the structure and such, the summary comes last.

Thank you for Goals, definitely a good idea to refine it.

There's going to need to be at least 5 or 6 issues at least written, if not finalized and edited (though that would be preferable). I would not go forward with the project if there was not a way to pay those writers and support staff SOMETHING in advance, even if royalties don't pan out. One of the reasons for trying to get some bigger names on board, maybe get some as stretch goals for the inevitable crowdfunding campaign.

I'm including all the ideas here, the magazine for in flight serials, the books for completed ones. by formats, yeah, i meant different outlets, amazon, smash, ect.

45k seems a reasonable "novel" length, smaller is usually considered a novella. again, can be adjusted

Can I propose the business actually be called "The Group"? ;)

This is really impressive. I appreciate the clarification about the anthology/magazine. Do you picture this being electronic or a hard copy? While I read on electronic devices a lot, I am not alone in preferring physical mediums. Offering a physical as well as an electronic copy would take more funding, but I believe it would also make serial fiction more accessible, since you could then (ambitiously) sell copies in book stores.

Also, as pointed out in another thread, a big hold back in the field is abandoned stories (as mine is on hiatus, I feel a bit guilty about this). I think there would need to be some kind of requirement to insure that any serial's published would at least complete a full story arc, if not the full story.

I wouldn't make it that complicated. The published anthology is lame, who reads anthologies? Ergo, who will buy one for an obscure fringe market?

What I would say is needed:

1. A brand name and logo that goes on the story sites -- like Image Comics, creator owned but cooperative for advertising, as opposed to Marvel and DC which are corporations that own the characters instead of letting the creators own what they make.

2. A listing site that has all the stories associated with the brand, including reviews.

3. A platform to let writers create story sites that are aesthetically pleasing and linked to the main site, but make it easier for them to just write instead of playing with html or widgets.

4. An easy way to turn those stories into ebooks so the writer doesn't have to think about it too much -- so a publishing distribution system. This can include connecting them with cover artists and editing.

5. Affixing some sort of percentage off the profit to pay for these services that isn't exorbitant, because publishing ebooks isn't that costly and cooperative advertising of the brand instead of individual stories would be effective.

Just my two cents. If you're choosing quality stories for invitation to the cooperative, why limit what they can publish to word counts? It's the author's choice if they think something is ready for publishing. It should be designed to give maximum freedom to good writers to keep writing but taking away the worry of marketing and distribution, not more rules to follow that are arbitrary and confusing and don't serve the ultimate purpose of letting good writers write good books and making it easier for everyone to create a professional corner for web fiction that attracts readers.

Long time lurker here. I think this sounds pretty cool, and if it gets off the ground, it'll be a great thing to have going. I'd like to echo the suggestion of a quarterly anthology/magazine rather than monthly. If you want more frequent updates than quarterly, you might do regularly featured content specifically written for the cooperative website / the upcoming issue.

Also, you might check with some other author cooperatives, ask what's worked for them, what goals have come with pitfalls or needed to be reimagined. Obviously there will be differences, since serials are a different format, but some things will still apply. The co-op I know of offhand is Book View Cafe, They've been operating since 2008, and might have some good advice to share. They also put out member anthologies, and might be able to say something about how those fare in the market.

Since Pen and Cape Society has put out two anthologies that have done pretty well (and is planning to do more), I'm going to disagree with G.S. that there isn't a market for anthologies, fringe or otherwise. That said, those things represent a lot of coordination and work, so going for monthly out of the gate might be a bit overambitious. I'd say put together the first one before you decide on a schedule, that way you can see how long it all takes without being already committed.

I think this is a really cool idea, and I'm always happy to see anything that gets the web-serial community working together more. However, I feel like I should point out that your plans require spending a LOT of money, and there's very little cashflow represented in the business model. Even assuming you take the lion's share of the royalties from anthology sales, which has the risk of ruffling a few feathers; editing has a serious cost. You can offset this if people within the group are willing to do the work just because they want to see it succeed, but there's always the chance that life will get in the way and you'll find yourself short-handed. Same issue for cover design, e-book formatting, etc.

A crowdfunding campaign to get the first one off the ground is a solid idea, but I don't think it would be viable for every issue. If one time the cash falls short, suddenly a deadline is missed and as web-serialists we all know the repercussions that can have. Royalties can be put aside to fund the next issue, but seeing how low we fringe folks usually have to price e-books, and that you have to expect a sluggish start, even that might not be enough to cover all your bases for the initial few batches.

I'm not trying to be a downer, in fact I really want to see y'all pull this off, which is why I'm bringing it up now so the problems can get solved before they get more complicated. Good luck!

Magazines are really struggling to survive these days :/

I'd like to mention three things that could work and wouldn't cost a lot of money:

1) Add WFG story information of whether a story is available as an ebook, and encourage reviewers to not only rate the web serial, but the ebook on Amazon as well.

2) Make the most well-written and compelling serials really easy to find. If they stand out, web fiction will be more easily perceived as something serious with standards. In another thread, I mentioned the story featuring Wattpad does. I checked out one Wattpad story that had been officially featured, and it was reeeeeeally good! Wattpad has numerous quality standards stories have to meet before they get featured. This is how trad publishers discover promising new authors on Wattpad!

3) Everyone who publishes an ebook, add a link to WFG to it.

I also think a quarterly could be good, but it may not be the best thing to start with. The main thing here is to raise awareness of the potential and actuality of serials.

To that end, the brand image is probably one of the more important things to worry about. That said, monetization is a pretty important part of this. Honestly though, If I had money I'd throw it at it even if I didn't end up part of the brand.

Serials being viewed well would benefit me regardless.

Also, while laying down the foundations, probably best to work in some checks and balances against corruption. I mean sure the founding members could all be cool people who don't eat their own or others, but what about later down the line? Longterm!

I don't think anyone here really wants a situation where what was supposed to be an elevating of our best and brightest becomes an elevation of whoever we like. As for the checks and balances themselves? I don't even know man, all I you is one has to be careful, as sometimes those kinds of rules can turn out worse than the corruption they were supposed to be an aid against.

Ah, actually. Transparency, that'd be good to have going all throughout this.

Another idea - instead of a magazine that could quickly become very costly, how about a WFG blog where particularly outstanding stories and the web fiction industry are discussed in regular posts? I'm sure some of us (like Alexander Hollins) would be willing to help out, so poor Chris wouldn't need to do all the work.

I think such a blog could accumulate a good amount of followers over time. Most potential web fiction readers are easily overwhelmed by the sheer number of listed stories. They might appreciate blog posts that describe stories of particular interest.

We could advertise the blog on r/writing among other places; I'm sure we could get a good number of followers!

Mailing lists that feature ebooks (especially discounted ones) are super successful. People want to be presented a selection of reading material. Most don't enjoy digging through a mountain.

I'd like to first of all echo Drew: I think this is a great, hugely ambitious idea. I also think that the specifics are over-ambitious. Doing one anthology is a lot of work. Doing monthly anthologies would be a LOT of work, and work that might not solve the problem you're trying to solve.

The Pen and Cape Society's experience with doing anthologies is pretty good. Our first one, which was free, sold well, and continues to sell. Personally I experienced a significant bump in the sales of my book, and even visitors to my story. The second one costs money ($0.99), and it's okay too. They can sell. What they are, however, is a different audience than people who read web serials.

I'd say do an anthology once. Then decide how often you can handle it.

That "handle it" part is important because you're trying to do more than just anthologies. As I see it, you've got two competing purposes.

1. Promoting web fiction.

2. Being a publishing house.

You're going to be doing free work for each other at points, and if you're smart, you may be able to make it pay. However, the more anthologies you do, you'll less time you'll have to provide publishing services.

In my opinion, the best ambassador for web serials to Kindle/ebook readers is a book that they enjoyed that turns out to have been a web serial, and more to the point, has more story available that's *not* in ebooks. They will go and check it out.

Personally, I'd think you'd be better off doing a yearly anthology and then putting your efforts into publishing novels, making sure that at the end of the book people know that this a serial that's still out there. "Go check it out!"

And that's only an acceptable marketing route to people who read ebooks.

You want to promote yourself to a general internet audience, you might better off doing completely different things--ideally attention getting things. Do Twitter chats, or take a page out of MCM's book. He'd occasionally write a book online over the course of a day, taking suggestions from Twitter for names. The book would post on the website as he wrote, and you could follow him along.

I'm not suggesting that you do exactly that, but doing crazy, stupid, internet stunts has the potential to get more press than an anthology (with less work). It'd hit a different audience. Is it an audience you want to hit? I don't know. But you might want to try that kind of thing too. More to the point, you might get more out of it than a comparable amount of anthology hours.

In summary:

1. Go for it.

2. Don't be wedded to the idea of anthologies. Test how it works.

3. Ebooks alone might be enough.

4. Brainstorm a bunch of easy stunts. Try them.

And because I can't leave well enough alone, I'd like to add to my thoughts in the post above this one:

Something I view as a basic truth about web serials is this. Web serials are a distribution method. Readers get excited about stories. Only people involved in creating web serials get excited about the distribution method.

What that means on a practical level is that you won't convince everyone all at once that web serials aren't the last refuge of writers who couldn't get published any other way. You probably won't convince people that they finish either. The best you can do is convince people that specific serials are good and that they want to read them.

Bearing that in mind, I think the idea of targeted anthologies (fantasy or science fiction or romance or some other genre) is a really good one. If you do that, you could find it at the top of a particular genre's anthology list for a while.

Similarly, I'd suggest that any promotional events or ideas have one foot in a specific genre and one foot in promoting the medium. The Pen and Cape Society has recently started doing a podcast. We're covering superhero tropes and ideas in books, comics, TV, and movies, but we're also talking about our own works--ebook and web serial both.

You could do that with events. Make sure there's a focus on a genre rather than on web serials and then do something interesting that points at your webserials in the process. It could even be a podcast.

I'm just gonna keep lurking because I don't have anything productive to say yet, but I like Jim's idea of promoting X, Y, Z genres and plots that also 'happen' to be serials. You have a better chance of personally convincing me to watch your TV pilot by showing me a trailer than by saying, "The cable bundle it'll be on if it's picked up has over fifty channels!"

And why the hell not: my hand's up for a broadcast (podcast, blog, anthology) that follows and discusses the serials' plots. Keep discussing amongst yourselves what kind of broadcast that can be - although anthologies look like the most resource hungry option so far.

Thanks for the input everyone! Jim, that was my thought with the targeted ones. And again, I'm thinking I missused the word anthology. Magazine is better. The idea being that it wouldn't be just a showcase of, here are a bunch of intro chapters, the rest of the story is HERE, but to have a platform that publishes the ENTIRE serial, you know.... serially. Shonen jump, as was mentioned earlier, is closer in spirit to what I was thinking. For all the non goal concerns, fairness, funding, selection, ect, I need to grab a free hour or two and write it up and get discussion on THAT as well.

Ambitious? Yes, but at this point I really think its go big or go home.

Playing off the earlier names discussion. Incremental Grains. Cause, cereal. hehehehe, yeah, I'm kidding.

Maybe for the magazine thing, you could focus on the short story authors, April Fools updates, and the more self-contained chapters. For instance, Wildbow's interludes in between arcs would be great to have in an issue, or something like my most recent update.

looks like someone else has the same idea.

they have a panel at phoenix comicon today, dont think ill make it though.