Traditional publishing for web serials?

Has anyone here published their serial through a traditional publisher? What did you think of it vs self-publishing?

Self-publishers: what's your view on the process? Would you go trad if offered the chance or are you all about doing it yourself?

Obviously the author has to do a fair bit more work with self-publishing, but then if you're spending that time sending excerpts to 20 publishers who all turn you down you might not have gained much by the end.

I'm pretty confident with pursuing the self-publishing market as I have with From Winter's Ashes.

However, on the very excellent advice of M.C.A. Hogarth, who's both an WFG author and the vice-president of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, I tried out Draft2Digital, and oh man, they make things easy. Amazing customer service and they offer both ebook and print-on-demand self-publishing options. Keith and I were really impressed with dealing with them, so if you're looking for opportunities for effective self-publishing, give them a shot. I'll definitely be doing From Spring's Storms through them.

Simply put, publishing through traditional publishing with a webserial is pretty unlikely, at least until it reaches a popularity and quality level. I know Wildbow has mentioned being approached multiple times before by traditional publishers, but it's a hard question of how they'd handle something as incredibly long as Worm was.

Hi :) I'm pretty new here, but I have some (read: very limited) experience with self publishing!

I've tried getting agents in the past, and I spent *sooo* many man hours contacting them. Hundreds of them, and I received maybe 5 emails back. And out of those five, I don't think *any* of them took time to read my manuscript. At the end of all that effort, I'd rather spend the time writing and creating, which is what I enjoy the most. Now, at the time I was pretty green, but the experience still left me miffed (and pretty bitter).

At this point, I'm not sure if I would take the chance if offered by a traditional publisher, but I'd have to review the numbers. I'm pretty happy with my growth on my own, and they would have to approach me, which is pretty much a pipe dream. My Amazon novel gives me enough money to buy lunch each day which is pretty neat, and it has been growing so maybe one day it will pay for dinners too :) I don't know how to do links on this forum, but if you want a reference point then it is here:

What's really cool is a new app called Radish that I use- it's built for web serial formats, so I can publish a chapter at a time. Then readers can go and buy the chapter if they want to read it right away, or wait a week and read it for free. Basically, it lets everyone still read my stories for free, but also gives them the option to buy them if they are so inclined. The app is pretty new, so it doesn't have too much momentum yet, but it's starting to pick up! And if it does well, this would be my favorite publishing avenue. I cross post the stories on my blog and just give readers the option to download the app to read ahead if they wish- I'm not forcing them through a paywall. I don't know how it will work out in the long term but I think it's pretty fun, and it's easy to gauge engagement- I'm always terrified to find out I spent months writing a novel, which then turns out to be crap because I had no feedback along the way.

-Leonard, currently writing Life Magic, The Bridge, Stormjar, and Eden's Eye as weekly serials

Yeah, there've been a number of trad publishing contracts w/ web serialists, though you shouldn't expect it to be the norm. At the same time, The Martin and Fifty Shades of Gray both started as web serials, and they've been pretty dang popular. Any individual is going to have an insanely difficult time reaching that level of success in trad pubbing (and a lot of it comes down to luck), but are your chances of getting a good trad pub contract better if you send it out to a bunch of agents, as opposed to building an audience online? I'm unconvinced.

@Leo: I was looking at some of your stuff, so it's great to see you on the forums! I actually downloaded Til Death Do Us Part last week, tho I haven't gotten a chance to read it yet.

A lot of your readers come from Reddit, right? I was wondering how you might compare your experience writing on Reddit to the experience you've had with Radish.


Hi! Thanks so much for downloading, I hope you got it while it was free and I hope you enjoy it :)

I would say about 80% of my readers come from Reddit. Reddit is a great place to grow an audience and get my name out there - however, there is only so much I can do with people on the reddit platform. I have about 850 followers on Radish (~10-15 per day increase), compared to about 6000 on reddit.

I'm always careful to be sure I'm adding value to Reddit and giving them fresh,free content and not "milking" them. Radish exists as a profit stream for me- right now, they're not at the point where I can grow organically, though I can see it coming around the corner. Reddit is the opposite- I use it to grow an audience, but not to generate profit. Also, Reddit is my playground to try new ideas and get feedback. If I can grow an idea on reddit, then I can port it elsewhere and know that the audience will enjoy it. Til Death Do Us Part, Eden's Eye, The Bridge, and Stormjar all had their beginnings on reddit subs.

Wattpad is also something I have toyed with, but I can't really utilize 95% of the fans on there. For instance, when I made an announcement about my blog there I got like 2 clicks (.1% of my total audience there). When I made an announcement of it on my mailing list, I got ~20% clicks in comparison. In the future I think I'm looking to get off wattpad because it doesn't really have that much of a tangible benefit, their system is super glitchy, and I'm not writing about 1 Direction (well, at least not publicly :p)

At some level the audience size and beer money earnings are tied together, but I really do want to be careful not to take advantage of reddit (or my fans) as they have done a ton for me. Fan satisfaction and courtesy to my writing peers is #1 in my mind.

So to answer your question, they're both great but for different reasons.

Well, this is purely speculation on my part since I've neither got self-published nor traditional publishing.

Personally I want to try both.

The reasons for that are a bit...complicated, I guess. I write in german, as that is the language I currently feel most comfortable in and I am just starting to learn all the things one can do with a certain degree of mastery over language. But in Germany traditional publishing is still going strong. eBooks and stuff like that are at about 5% market share, compared to about 25% for UK/USA. It is a much smaller market to boot, around 90 Million people of which roughly a third might be potential readers.+

So if I want to make any money out of it, then self-publishing, eBooks and all that "modern" stuff is not going to get me very far.

The problem is that I don't have much experience writing novels or stuff that would get traditional publishers all over me. And frankly I don't have the patience to write four years on one single book to get it published. Because of that I decided to try traditional publishing in a small sense: Contests for short stories, once in a while I might do a NaNo and try to get that book going and the like.

Thus I want both:

Use self-publishing and WebSerials to build an audience and my own potential, to try out the weird/rejected/small stuff nobody would ever publish and to get better at writing, marketing and so on.

Try traditional publishing to actually eat once in a while with books and ideas that have been honed in the wilderness of the internet.


ebooks are my final goal on this journey and I've had this big apprehension of the learning curve for ebook formatting and marketing. I checked out Draft2Digital and it seems almost too easy. Is it really as simple as uploading and then they take 10%? Can they distribute and amazon and so forth? Really intrigued. If editing and cover art are the only things I'd need to worry about, this could be the service for me!

Draft 2 Digital doesn't distribute to Amazon or Google Play, as far as I know, but they cover a lot of other places. Many self-publishers who go 'wide' (meaning, not Amazon exclusive) use D2D. I'll definitely use them if I ever decide Amazon exclusivity isn't for me.

However, keep in mind that D2D takes 10% ON TOP of the royalty cut that the various marketplaces such as Apple ibooks already take. Decide for yourself if the convenience of having one company handle all your marketplaces is worth the royalty cut.

(Note: after years of studying this stuff, I'm a walking talking self-publishing encyclopedia. Ask me anything!)

I don't believe in traditional publishing. Maybe I'm jaded after hearing too many horror stories from authors who published through small presses (and even some Reddit horror stories from authors who got a big 5 publisher), but when your web serial already has an audience, there's little to nothing a publishing house can do for you that you can't do (possibly better) yourself. Sure, they provide editing and a cover, but you give up most of your royalties and your control. Contrary to popular belief, publishing houses don't necessarily make smart decisions in regards to pricing and marketing, and I hear the quality of editing is slipping of late, too. They save costs wherever they can, often to the disadvantage of an unknown new author. Don't expect a publisher to 'push' you when you're new. They spend their marketing budgets on their bestselling authors.

There are many publishers out there just waiting to snatch up a popular web serial with a huge audience such as Worm, but the terms they offer are usually 90% in favor of the publisher and to the disadvantage of the author. Wildbow is smart to turn those offers down.

Regarding Radish: Looking at the huge amount of negative reviews the apps receive, I doubt it will ever take off as a platform for web serialists. The prices are set in a way that you pay per chapter, and if you keep paying for each new chapter it will cost something like 20-30 bucks to finish a novel length serial. Readers are smart, they notice when they're being ripped off. Many of the reviews say 'use Wattpad instead!' There doesn't seem to be a way to 'save' where you stopped reading, and no way to read without active internet connection. There's no reason for readers to use Radish except maybe to follow their favorite author who is Radish exclusive, but will they keep following that author when they notice the insane cost? The quality of the stories doesn't appear to be better than the quality of popular 'FREE' stories elsewhere. Besides, they're strongly romance focused.

Edit to add: Tintenteufel's situation as a German language writer is unique and I agree that in his case, trad publishing might be the better deal. Self-publishing to the German market is waaaaay more difficult than doing the same in English.

Traditional publishing definitely has its perks, however there are also some drawbacks to consider. For the sake of discussion, let's assume most of us are going to small presses rather than one of the Big 5, because getting in with them is a whole process and topic in itself.

The main things you lose with trad pub are control and percentage. Your royalty rate is going to vary between presses, some come in higher than others, and you might be a more skilled negotiator for someone else. Just going from anecdotal things I've talked over with other authors, let's estimate that you get 35% of digital sales (this is far and away where most of your money will come from). Not a bad rate, especially by the old standards, but a stark contrast to the 70% cut you would take from dealing with Amazon directly. You will clearly make less money per book, so what you're betting on is that the publisher is going to get you greater volume, be it through marketing or promos or what have you, than you could manage on your own. Sometimes it's a good bet, but not always. Whether it's the best fiscal move is going to depend on genre, the actual press you're working with, and how much your existing serial readership is engaged to help push the title.

As for control, this one will again somewhat vary depending on the publisher you work with. Some will let you have things the way you think they should be, others will take a more involved approach. However, pretty much none of them are going to let you keep your content up for free on a site while they're trying to sell it. As serial folks, that's something to really keep in mind. I know we all work hard to get people coming to our sites and reading our work, yanking down an entire section, if not all of the content the site has, risks losing a lot of your audience. I just struggled with taking down a piece of mine for three months. I'm not saying it's the wrong call, mind you, only that it's a tradeoff you have to be willing to make to go down the traditional publishing route.

On the whole, I prefer self-pubbing with my serials and using traditional publishers for other books. There is a lot more initial investment upfront, both of time and money, however at the end of the day I feel like it works out better for me. May not be the case for others, it truly has to be looked at on a book-by-book basis. Oh, and while I haven't ever used Draft-2-Digital, several other writers I trust swear by it, so I think it's just as easy as it sounds.

+1 everything Drew said!

I'd like to add that smart 'hybrid' publishing, as he describes, works well for some kboards authors (I spend a lot of time there). But you have to consider it carefully and research the publishing house that's making the offer. Some small presses are borderline scams, others are fabulous. You have to find the right one for you, which is a challenge of its own.

A good agent can help a great deal if you're willing to give up even more of your royalty income. A bad agent is, well, bad. :P

I'd like to add - again from my perspective, because I don't really know how it's done overseas - that lots of "professional" coverage happens to traditional publication. Sure, some of those are far off goals.

But I'm thinking of contests comparable to the Nebula Award or the Hugo - I think to be eligible for those you got to have published in a traditional way. Which - in conservative germany - translates to SelfPublishing and Serialists and the like still being "weird indies" that don't really happen. Not even in literature blogs who are replacing newspaper feuilletons more and more.

So to be part of a professional scene or what is perceived as that traditional publishing is necessary most of the time.

I agree completely with what was said before - the pay is worse. And when you are actually able to make the jump from WebSerial to Novel-Series it is likely that you could to better paywise.

But it has to be said that really good agents make you more money, if you are a newcomer. The deals (I hear from) for debuts are shite most of the time. With trusted agents who work as a kind of quality bouncer for publishers they usually are more likely to take a few risks and give you a bigger cut.


You got me interested on this kboard thing. :) I'd like to check it out. Mind dropping a link?

@Tintenteufel and everyone else interested: this is the 'official' Amazon forum for self-published authors, and it's very active. I learned a lot over there. Occasionally there's misinformation, and they're not very open to subjects they don't know such as web serials, but when it comes to publishing on KDP there's a wealth of author experience to tap into. For instance, I became part of an Urban Fantasy cross-promo group that was started there and really boosted my visibility when I cross-promoted with them. You can also find cover artists and editors there (though the quality varies greatly).,60.0.html

@TCC does D2D manage the marketing as well? If so 10% sounds very reasonable. If, however, that is for formatting and distribution that sounds high to me. Formatting ebooks can be difficult, but there are tools that make it as easy as pushing a button. I write in scrivener and it's trivial to create an ePub (almost everybody accept Amazon take those) and even though Amazon don't sell ePubs you can upload the ePub to amazon and they'll convert it. I haven't stayed on top of distributors for the last couple of years, but I use Smashwords and they get my books into iTunes, Barnes and Nobel, Kobo and others. Ulysses also makes it just as easy to create ePubs (and you can tweak the style sheet in Ulysses if you're so inclined).

Again, noting I haven't been keeping up for the last couple of years, but on the whole Traditional vs Self Publishing question, (where self publishing equals selling ebooks through bookstores) I feel myself moving in the direction of neither. I have books up on amazon and they've been well reviewed, but I feel like it's only a matter of time before the 70% royalty disappears what with Amazon Select and paying for pages read instead of units sold. This is one of the reasons I decided to focus on converting the stories to a web serial (that and I love the format and being able to control completely the layout of the site and update the text as and when I feel like it without having to worry about old versions).

D2D doesn't handle marketing at all, they're a distributor rather than a publisher. They do occasionally talk to Apple about promoting a book that has done well on other platforms, but even then it's technically Apple doing the promotion, and you can't rely on it happening to you.

@Team Contract: Basically, yeah, it was that easy. We uploaded a word doc, they emailed us back twice (human beings, not bots!) to get our Table of Contents in order and check notes on some things, and that was that. It was painless and felt tremendously responsive, not least of all because they answered our inquiries with a human being within 12 hours. On a Sunday!

I've not heard of D2D before, that's really interesting!

@Chrysalis and others who are skeptical: what would a trad publisher need to offer you to make you interested now you've heard the horror stories? I'm not published myself, but 70% is obviously a fantastic royalty rate. I suppose I'm really asking: How much self-marketing have you had to do and how much value do you place on that?

@leo Do you have your own subreddit? Link us up!


Some great points there. For some reason, my phone doesn't show me the radish reviews, so I can't see them- I think it's because there's a new version or something? At this point I strongly agree with you that their future is uncertain, but I don't think it hurts (for me at least) to give it a try and just see what happens unless I get complaints. I don't think that they are ripping readers off if the authors use it right, as the material is free within the week. However, the possibility for that definitely exists. Thanks so much for the input, and many of your points are issues I've experienced with the app, such as their initial focus on romance.

Also, I agree with you about being skeptical about traditional publishers, and see more opportunities with self pub work.


Sure! /r/leoduhvinci


D2D sounds really neat!

@leo maybe this has changed, but last I heard (some time back) authors were encouraged (required?) to keep some content locked for longer than a week, sometimes much longer. They also enforced exclusivity (or planned to) after the Android app went live, I don't know for sure if they went through with it in the end, though. The up to date theme features on their site suggest they're still primarily focused on romance.

@stable I'd be interested if a publisher offered a really good print only deal, but those are rare as a hen's teeth so I'm not holding my breath. I might also be interested in a really big advance (six figures) and there's no way that would happen, either. BUT the Amazon-owned imprints interest me. I've seen their marketing machine in action. It's crazy how much Amazon pushes its own imprints, so with those, I'd know they do more marketing than I could do on my own.

@chrysalis Sorry, I still consider them pretty deep in their initial phase. So yes romance is still their focus. I'm not 100% sure on their exclusivity rules- I joined with their first batch of authors, so I think that I am grandfathered in. Also, whenever I update, I only have the option to lock a chapter for seven days. If I were to upload several chapters at once then that would compound, but I typically only do one a week, and like giving bonus ones too. So yes, an author could upload a ton of chapters which would knock that date back pretty far, but personally I don't think that is a great strategy. I like just having 1-2 available ahead of time so people don't feel compelled to buy them.

Again, I don't know what the outcome of radish will be. But I figure it's worth it to be along for the ride in case they become successful.

@leo Is there still no exclusivity requirement for new authors? Even though the Android app is now live?