Publishing as Online Serials: My Take

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Publishing as Online Serials: My Take

Post by JohnDurvin » January 17th, 2012, 12:17 pm

I spent a long time trying to be a novelist. I completed then shelved two novels, and was steadily working on two more that might have a chance in the market--or might not. I was getting really frustrated, having spent years working on this stuff, with my only feedback being form rejections from agents and friends and family saying they didn't get it. It was getting to the point that my creative impulse was the only reason I was still working on it--I was starting to suspect I was never going to make a go of it. But then, something happened.

My laptop died.

Sure, I had backups, but I hadn't bothered checking to see if the files would open on other computers--seems like the sort of thing you should just assume would work, but then again, my laptop is over a decade old at this point, and I prefer an old, discontinued word processor (WriteNow) to the version of Word that was out in 2001. This was pretty disappointing, as there was a LOT of material on there, but I thought maybe this was a good excuse to try something different. Now you might have a different experience, but I had always had trouble with my ideas being a little too strange for prose--see the forum's "Excerpts" section and my "In the Land of the Super-Geniuses" for a time when it was working fairly well--and so I tried switching to a weekly webcomic. Now I'm a few months in, I have several dedicated fans (including some I've never met in real life), and I've already hit a major milestone in every up-and-coming creative professional's career: the first time somebody asks "how did you do that?"

I've been talking to a lot of other serial writers and artists, and they all say about the same thing: stick with it, and you'll do well. It can take some time to build up to success, but it's just the same with traditional publishing, right? So, either you spend two years writing, polishing, and marketing a novel, or you spend two years writing, polishing, and publishing individual chapters. In the first case, yes, if you get an agent's attention and they publish you, you might do well, but the same is true in the second case, except that you also grow your own fanbase. Online prose-fiction hasn't gotten huge just yet, but it will happen, and some of the online content-providers have producers throwing projects at their feet, begging to distribute them--and if you've got either a good business sense or a friend that does, you can turn them down because you're getting better publicity and making more money on your own. That's a long way down the road for most online creative folks, but it's the same way for traditional novelists, right? So here's how I see it:

Traditional Publishing
Pro: fame, fortune.
Con: not bloody likely, especially until an agent picks you up and probably not even then.

Online Serials
Pro: instant gratification.
Con: the internet is the world's slush-pile, which means you have to market yourself. Also, since you're putting up a chapter a week for all to see, editing is a little more difficult.

I know it's not for everyone, but I would suggest you consider it. There are plenty of free sites online where you can publish; is what I use, and for seventeen bucks a year I can own my domain. Yes, the internet is a slush-pile, but most of the awful stuff doesn't last for long; stick with it and do good work, and people will remember you. (Heck, I've generated hits by posting on TV Tropes.)
Everybody loves using things as other things, right? Check out my blog at the Cromulent Bricoleur and see one hipster's approach to recycling, upcycling, and alterna-cycling (which is a word I just made up).

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Re: Publishing as Online Serials: My Take

Post by nielsencl » February 18th, 2012, 12:53 am

I enjoyed your online serial. The story is quirky and interesting and the artwork rich in my opinion.

I would prefer a "reverse blog" layout where the first post is always on the home page and you have to page through the site to go in sequence. Reading the posts in order is a little cumbersome as it is.

One drawback of publishing in image files as you are doing is that none of your text content can be indexed by search engines that can help your site to be found. You are doing exactly the right thing by putting some text after each strip, but consider writing more and using keywords and phrases that will help people to find your site. Things like comics, free comics, free stories, online comics, etc. And it might help if you wrote out the dialog in screenplay format at the bottom of each page so it can be indexed as well. Have the characters use some keywords that you want to be found for like "killer robots", "sassy 18 year old girls" and so on. :-)

I have thought about publishing in much the same way if I ever get something written. I might use a blog or try to find something like a blog that is more conducive to being like a book with bookmarks for example.

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Re: Publishing as Online Serials: My Take

Post by Mira » March 3rd, 2012, 7:53 pm

I'm considering doing something like this, too. Thanks for sharing your experience with it - I'm so glad it's working out for you, John!

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