To serialize or not to serialize


Another writer I know is about to launch a serialized novel. It will release with two chapters a week. It’s free. Ilona Andrews has done the same thing with her Innkeeper series, at the end of which, she pulls it all together into a full book, revising and producing a a final, polished version. Personally,  I don’t read them in serial. I can’t stand to wait for the next entry. I do buy the books when they are complete and available for sale. Some writers do this sort of serialization on Patreon to reward the support of generous readers.

I have contemplated the serial novel. It’s a truly daring thing to do, because frequently the story changes as you progress and the beginning must be radically changed. Or you take a wrong turn and you have to back out. I did that recently, cutting almost 15K out of novel in progress. How would I have felt if I did that in front of readers? I’d be letting everybody behind the curtain and it’s a messy, ugly, strange place back there.

Then there’s the feedback question. Do you want it at that point? Sometimes it’s crushing to get feedback during the creative process. Personally, it could very well bog me down and make me unsure of the characters and the story.

At the same time, I kind of want to try it. Part of it is because of deadline. You have to get the weekly chunk done. I would think it would also make you form a really solid plot so that you didn’t wander too much. That plot might not hold up, but you’d want to develop one that had a good chance. Another benefit is that readers would tell you if you struck a cool idea, or if you went way off base. They’d let you know if your characters were engrossing and compelling. At the end, you’d have something you could publish. I also know a writer who posted something in serial and was approached by a publisher to publish it. It’s rare, but it’s possible

Writing happens in a vacuum most of the time, where you don’t know until the work is done whether it’s a good story. Writing in serial would get rid of the vacuum in both positive and negative ways.

The question, why do it at all? If you’re hoping to interest an editor . . . I’m not sure you’re on the right track. I don’t have much expertise on that subject, however, so if anybody does, please chime in. As I said above, it gives you a deadline and makes you work, or else you have to answer to directly to your readers. It brings people to your website for regular visits, allowing you to sign them up for a newsletter, let them know about appearances, or better engage them to keep them coming back. Then there are all the potential improvements to the story and writing. You could even put a “tip” jar on the site for people to make donations. Hopefully it will win you new readers.

I’m still not sure if I can manage it. It would be far more comfortable to have the story complete and post it in pieces. But then I’d lose the possibility of changes as I write. Of course I can and would revise, but when you’re writing and the story shifts and you race with it, the creative energy is powerful and very different from the revising brain. Plus it feels at that point that you have all sorts of options that might get closed off by the time you hit revisions.giphy

I’ve written about half of my next Mission: Magic book. I’m thinking of starting to post it and then try to keep ahead of the writing until I can finish.

Now, the big question is this: Do you lose sales giving it away free on your blog? Do the benefits outweigh any losses? Honestly, I don’t know. Personally, I’m always afraid I’ll throw a party and no one will come. What an ego-buster. That no readers end up being interested enough to keep coming back to read.

Still, I am very very tempted.

Does anybody out there have experiences writing or reading serials? Care to share your thoughts on them?


Diana Pharaoh Francis writes books of a fantastical, adventurous, and often romantic nature. Her author pic francisaward-nominated books include The Path series, the Horngate Witches series, the Crosspointe Chronicles, and Diamond City Magic books, and the Mission:Magic series. She’s owned by two corgis, spends much of her time herding children, and likes rocks, geocaching, knotting up yarn, and has a thing for 1800s England, especially the Victorians. For more about her writing, visit She can also be found on twitter as @dianapfrancis.


3 comments to To serialize or not to serialize

  • Some thoughts: I wouldn’t serialize until I’d written the entire book at which point the decision would be strictly a marketing one to test the concept. Goal: offer this book free in serial format to see if it helps my sales of my other books. You’d have to have some way to measure that impact. I’d also be careful about which book to serialize. I’d want one that was relatively short, tightly plotted, not experimental in subject or style. I’d also cut off access a month or so after the final chapter, only offering it from that point on for $$.

  • Edward J. Knight

    I’ve seen serialization work extremely well on free sites such as fanfic sites for doing two things: A) building craft for a complete newbie, and B) building a fanbase. If readers find a serial they like, they’ll clamor for more and often talk about what they like and don’t like.

    That said, I haven’t seen many audiences follow a writer from free to paid. 50 Shades of Grey is the only one I’ve heard of that’s successfully made that jump. There are probably others, but I suspect most writers (me included) write different things when they decide to jump from amateur to pro.

  • xmanpub–Why would you not serialize until finished? (I’m interested in your thinking on the subject). Good points on the goals. Having the goals is important. I don’t know how the impact would be measured. You could track your metrics on your books after each posting and see what happened, as well as tracking the numbers that sign up for your newsletter. I’d say that the type of book should be within a writer’s “brand.” Something that will encourage readers to pick up your other stuff.

    Thanks for posting!