January marks two big milestones in my e-serial writing career. On the 15th, I posted the prologue for the first e-serial in my YA series. And next week will see the release of Men of the Otherworld, containing three of my early e-serials (and a new story.)
For those who aren’t familiar with the term, an e-serial is a story published in segments on the internet. When I do them, I’m posting as I write, on a set schedule, usually a chapter every couple of weeks. There are ways to charge for the downloads, but most—like mine—are done as reader freebies.
I started writing e-serials shortly after launching my website in 2002. A web guru at my publisher suggested I find ways to make my site “sticky”—bring people back between books. It was a time in my life when I was looking for more storytelling opportunities. I’d finished maternity leave and decided to quit my job (two kids under the age of two plus a new career as a novelist meant something had to give.) I decided to write an e-serial novella for my site. I polled readers for a topic, then started Savage, a prequel telling the back-story of my male lead.
I loved the e-serials. They brought a freshness to writing that I missed, taking me back to the days when I’d show a work-in-progress to family and friends, getting that instant reader feedback and gut-reaction constructive criticism. They brought the reader into the process and they allowed me to tell stories I couldn’t do in the published series.
I also discovered that posting the stories free online didn’t satisfy every reader. I’ll be honest—I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of publishing these. They were meant to be a gift for readers. So I started saying “I’ll publish them when I’m in a position to do it as a charity endeavor.” That opportunity came last year, and when Men of the Otherworld comes out next week (and Tales of the Otherworld in 2010) all my proceeds will go to World Literacy of Canada. I get to re-gift these stories to a worthy cause, and that feels almost as good as writing them the first time.
I took a year off e-serial writing last year. Anyone who sees my publication schedule for 2009 will know why! But I started again this month, switching to my new young adult series, to give a little something extra to those readers. And I’m already having a blast, regretting that year off. Although e-serial writing isn’t for everyone, it’s something I’d urge writers to try. It may not pay the bills, but it pays off in so many other ways.
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