My attempts to get my novel agented have been met with resounding, deafening silence. I haven’t even gotten a request for a partial yet. (The way it works is: you send out a query letter, and if they’re interested, they ask to see a “partial”, i.e. the first few chapters; if they like that, they ask to see the whole manuscript.) The lack of response is somewhat disheartening — okay, I’ll be honest, it’s a lot disheartening — but it’s also making me think seriously about self-publishing. Or, more specifically, I’m thinking about serializing the novel online for free.
This isn’t a “holy cow, I must suck” kind of thing. I know that I am still at the apprentice level of learning my novelist’s craft … and possibly farther down the apprentice curve than I had realized. It’s hard to juggle all the elements that go into a novel: plot and character and worldbuilding, dramatic tension and description and action and quiet character moments. I wrote the best novel that I possibly could, but there’s a very real possibility (getting more real with every week that goes by with no response) that it’s not quite enough to catch an agent’s eye. I think it’s a good novel and I’m deeply in love with the characters. Could it be better? Sure. Hopefully the next one will be. And in the meantime …
The more I think about self-publishing, the more I like it. I don’t want to go flying into the endeavor without making a good plan, though. After all, I have an entire novel (edited, beta-read, researched to within an inch of its life) and a sequel that’s complete in rough draft. I don’t want to squander them. I want to make them work for me.
So what is the best way to approach it?
At this point, I’m thinking of serializing the novel on my blog, a chapter a week, and also having it available as an ebook. I’m still trying to think about how to handle the timing of the ebook release. Having the ebook available while I am still serializing the novel is a good incentive to buy: you read all the free chapters, and need to go get the ebook to find out how it ends! As opposed to waiting until it’s all online and then releasing the ebook. However, I need enough of the book online to make a good teaser. And releasing the ebook at the beginning also makes it impossible to edit the story in response to reader comments (it’s not going to be a choose-your-own-plot-point free-for-all, but I do think I’d be a fool not to take advantage of readers pointing out weaknesses, typos and so forth).
So what I’m currently thinking is this: I’ll serialize half the book (that’s about 3 months at a chapter a week), then have a release party for the ebook, then serialize the other half. If people prefer to wait and read it online, they can certainly do so! If they want to buy the ebook, there will be a good stack of chapters to sample, and some buzz generated by those chapters as well. (Hopefully.)
And, yeah, I could go the safe route and just release it as an ebook, forget putting it online for free. But you know, honestly, I actually think I’d sell more books that way? Or, at least, I want to try. I think it would be a very interesting project. Serializing stuff is fun. I love doing webcomics. I enjoy reading serialized fiction. Can I make money at it? Well, I don’t know. But I’m kind of excited to find out.
Here are some things I’m pondering:
- Should I have a dedicated community or blog for the novel, or just release chapters on my main blog?
- When to release the ebook? At the beginning, middle, end of the serialization process?
- Should I try having a subscription option, with extra content? I was seriously thinking about doing something similar to Catherynne Valente’s Omikuji Project, where a very cheap monthly fee ($5 or so) gets you access to all kinds of cool stuff: extra stories, artwork, character bios, sneak peeks of upcoming stuff.
Ummm … thoughts? Ideas? Tell me I’ve lost my mind and I’m jumping the gun on giving up so quickly on traditional publishing?
Crossposted from Wordpress