Choosing Hats

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The past month or two, a riot has taken place in my “writing closet”, as I try on various hats, some of which are entirely new to me.  But that’s starting in the middle of the story.  Let me back up a bit.

About two years ago, I received a phone call from my editor.  In a first for me, she requested a new series from me – “Mindy Klasky vampires.”  I was flattered by the request, thrilled that my tone was so identifiable that we could talk in such terms.

Long story short, the series didn’t work out.  While I was publishing novels about witches and genies and drafting novels about vampires, the latter market shifted to two extremes – one very dark and very grim (which I’ve never written well) and one very light and very fluffy (“shoes and shopping”, which I’ve never written well.)  There wasn’t a lot of room left for my vampires, who were funny and erudite, more likely to make a quip about Shakespeare than to identify a pair of Laboutin peek-toe pumps.  (Does Laboutin even make peek-toe pumps?  Do peek-toe pumps even exist?)  My publisher and I agreed to work together on other projects, and the “Mindy Klasky vampires” were officially staked.

And so, my vampires became FRIGHT COURT, a novel about lawyers, vampires, and cupcakes — and my first-ever online, serialized, reader-supported publishing venture.  I have to say, I’m having a ball.

What is exciting about FRIGHT COURT?

First – I’m much more involved with production decisions.  I hired an amazing artist, Reece Notley, to create the cover for the book.  She produced an amazing first draft of the art, and we had a few rounds of discussion to make it perfect.  In the past, I was able to identify elements that I thought would be good for cover art, but I never got to engage in tweaking those elements into a final version that wholly satisfied me.

Second – I’m much more involved with editing decisions.  FRIGHT COURT was edited by professionals; however, I now have the ability to tweak that “final” version.  If there’s a word-choice that has always niggled at the back of my brain, I can change it before I post the file.  If there’s a scene that I want to add or delete, I have the power.

Third – I’m much more involved with my readers.  Every week, I receive email from my most devoted readers – people who are truly engaged with the story and can’t wait for the next installment.  I’ve been thrilled each time a Google alert informs me that news of my novel is spreading, that satisfied readers are directed friends to check out the posted chapters.  I love hearing about readers’ results when they take my Cupcake Quiz.  And I also get a special type of email — notices of donations — from a subset of readers who believe in my project and want to support it most directly.  I get to give back to those readers — not just with more chapters, but with “rewards” for donors who give at certain levels.

FRIGHT COURT is turning out to be “The Little Novel That Could.”  It has experienced adversity, but it just keeps chugging up the hill.

So?  How about you?  Have you ever read a serialized novel?  Do you think, realistically, that this is a model that can work in today’s publishing world?  What tweaks would you make to my model, if you were going to serialize your own?

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14 comments to Choosing Hats

  • L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright

    How cool, Mindy!

    The cover is TERRIFIC!

  • Mindy, I didn’t charge for it, but I did a serialized short about a spinoff character based in the Jane Yellowrock world and it was very successful, bringing in a lot of readers to the website and to buy the JY novels. It was so successful that my agent approached my editor about a spinoff series. That got nixed, but I still have the idea in back of my mind for an online serial book.

    Catie Murphy does the serialized spinoff very well and has sold several novellas on her website. You seem to be having as much fun as Catie does. Makes me more willing to try my own serialized full-length spinoff. You got me thinking. Which can be a good thing. Or not.

  • Congrats on the cover and the success of the ebook, Mindy. I find this totally intriguing for several projects that I are sitting in my computer or churning in my head. I wonder if next month you would consider a nuts and bolts post on how you did all the stuff that had to be done to get this up and running.

  • Great cover, Mindy! I’m not serializing anything, but I’ve got a collection of my short stories coming out in a few months from a small press publisher and got to be involved in a very hands-on way regarding the layout of the interior and the design of the cover and I’ve got to say, it’s a lot of fun. It’s also satisfying knowing that rise or fall, sink or swim, this book reflects what I want it to reflect and the final results are on my head.

  • Love the cover, Mindy. I’ve never serialized anything yet, but I’ve been intrigued by the idea. I like that the readers can comment on the story as it progresses and even influence what happens. It changes the reader-writer dynamic in a fun and interesting way. Keep us posted on how it all turns out.

  • Mindy, just curious, but why didn’t you just release it as a full ebook? I’ve been reading the blogs of several writers (JA Konrath, Mike Stackpole, Kristine Rusch, and Dean Wesley Smith) who are saying that’s a viable way for authors to go now. After talking to a local guy who is having some success with his vampire novels, I’m considering trying that route. You are an established name already, though, so it would probably be easier for you to sell yours. It looks interesting, btw. I’ll check this out.

  • Jagi – Thanks for the enthusiastic response! I’ve been so impressed with Reece’s work!

    Faith – I wrote a short story, released in 20 segments, for Harlequin when I first launched my As You Wish series. One of the characters in that story became a major player in the third novel. I enjoyed the experience enough that I told myself I’d do the same for each new novel, publishing on my own. Alas, I’ve grown too busy. Or too distracted. Or whatever. :-)

    David – Thanks for the good wishes! I’d be happy to go into more depth next post!

    Edmund – I know a lot of people working with small press who have had similar very positive experiences. I look forward to hearing more about the collection as we get closer to the release.

    Stuart – Thanks for the cover compliment. I, too, am intrigued by the impact that readers might have on the story. I met with some apprehension at first, from some readers who feared that the entire story would not be completed. I have the entire novel drafted – tweaks, and even major changes, are possible though, given this mode of publishing.

    Christina – As you note, many authors with devoted online followings are publishing straight to ebook very successfully. Alas, I don’t have *that* strong a fan-base. I decided to experiment with serialization because it’s relatively “different” in the current environment, and I hope to attract some attention because of that. (For example, GalleyCat covered my launch, which I doubt they would have done if I’d just put up an ebook.) Also, I’m making several publication passes – early readers can grab the serialization. Later readers will be able to purchase an ebook, once the serialization is complete. That creates sequential streams of monetization. I hope you enjoy the story when you check it out!

  • Mikaela

    I read the first chapter on your webpage, and I must admit it is interesting. Still, I wont read the serialization, since I hate waiting for the next part. I’ll buy the book, though! 😀

  • BillSmith

    Read both chapters and cant wait for the rest! When it’s finished you need to try and get the whole book published.

  • Mikaela – Thank you for your interest in the first chapter – *especially* since the format is something that doesn’t appeal to you!

    BillSmith – Thanks for your enthusiasm! Next chapter goes up tomorrow!

  • Not yet, I did put up a work in progress to give people an opportunity to give feedback. I had mixed success. What feedback I received was great, but it kind of tapered off.

    Congrats on your experiment.

  • Perryw – Thanks! I’m very intrigued to see how my experiment fares over time. I suspect that there will be a definite lag in intermediate chapters, but I expect comments (and, hopefully, donations!) to pick up as the book nears its climax!

  • Tom G

    Mindy, I’ve read several online serial novels. I actually enjoy the experience. I serialized one novel once upon a time, but I didn’t ask for donations. It was a fanfic novel. I know, the horror!

    But I’m much better now. LOL But I got such a favorable and enthusiastic response, I gave up fanfic and dedicated myself to original fiction.

    I have already started reading your story, and I’m enjoying it a lot. I think making it an ebook afterwards is a great idea. Good luck!

  • Tom – I laughed when I read your line about the “horror” of fanfic. My first attempt at novel-writing was a sequel to The Lord of the Rings – classic fanfic, if I’d known the word then! Good luck with your current writing ventures!