Now Let Me Explain :D

Okay, I got a lot of responses to my poll about serial fiction, and they ranged widely, from responses that people did not want to pay for fiction to suggestions that I should charge more. But one thing that was very clear was that I assumed everyone knew what I was talking about, and I shouldn’t have.

So let me back up for a moment, please!

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  • Serial fiction is a classic format going back to Charles Dickens and other authors you had to study in school. It’s the regular release of chapters or “episodes” in today’s terms (episodes may have more than one chapter) to form a complete novel. It’s the literary equivalent to mid-twentieth century movie serials (10-30 minutes each week for 12-20 weeks or so, what Raiders of the Lost Ark overtly emulated) or a television series. It’s not a series of novels, but one novel (or more) released in shorter pieces, closer together.
  • Additional support of a creator is offering additional financial payment to a creator to encourage more creation of the stuff you like. Probably the best known platform for this today is Patreon, but there are others as well. (For example, I currently have a Ko-Fi page.) Usually a pledge of support also buys additional material from the creator.

Now please let me address several questions which came in, sometimes in different wording.

“I thought buying a book was supporting an author.”

Oh, it is, and don’t ever think I am not grateful for book purchases. That is the first and always way of supporting an author. (Requesting that your library purchase her books is a close second — or additional.)

Additional support is for fans who want to offer more encouragement to produce more work, maybe faster. To see why, let’s look at the ugly underbelly of publishing revenue for a moment.

As an indie author (hybrid, really, but we’re talking just now about my independent work), I have the advantage of a much higher royalty rate than for traditional work. Traditionally published authors may see only 7-15% of their purchase price, while I will see 35% or as high as 70% in the right venue. This is good. But I don’t charge traditional prices for my indie work (you might remember that you paid $3.99 for Shard & Shield instead of 12.99), and there are additional fees taken from that 70% (I write epic fantasy, which runs to longer novels, so Amazon charges me for the data used to deliver to your Kindle).

Blood & Bond

Consider too that my novels are bigger but are sold at the same price. Blood & Bond was 180,000 words, which is two and a half or three times the length of many books! but it did not sell for three times more.

Then realize that Amazon allows readers to return fully-read books and audiobooks, meaning some people regularly read books (that they clearly enjoyed, or they wouldn’t have finished them) without paying for them. (Psst: You can do this from a library, too, and enjoy free books while making sure the author gets paid. Try it!)

This will be true on the new Kindle Vella platform as well. Per my calculations (broken down here), writers may receive as little as 20% of their work’s income on Vella, if readers purchase through Apple apps (which take more in fees).

All that to say, very few writers are making serious bank on their books. One-time or subscription support is a way for fans to make producing content financially meaningful as well as artistically, and many creators rely on this support as much as on their retail sales.

This kind of extra support is always optional. It’s just for the excited fan who wants to participate in closer community and more directly support additional content. There’s no obligation; you can always just pick up the next book!

“I’m not interested in serial fiction because I want quality work.”

Okay, it’s true, there’s a lot of bad serial fiction out there. There’s also a lot of bad books out there, but the bad serial fiction may be more visible, because a lot of free sites and apps host free serial fiction by non-professional writers. I can understand not wanting to pay for sub-par work.

But there’s also a lot of good serial fiction out there! And remember, this isn’t a new format; most of us were probably required to read classics which were first published in serial form.

The thing is, I won’t publish work in any format if I don’t think you’ll enjoy it. My serial fiction should be the same caliber as my novelized fiction. This isn’t a case of dumping the slop onto an alternate platform.

“So is this a book?”

Yes, just one you get to watch grow in real time! Once the serial is finished, it will be collected into a typical novel format for release through regular book retail. Subscribers who supported the serial might get this finished novel as a bonus.

“I follow other authors who don’t charge for extra content.”

I have free bonus content, too! You got multiple free stories when you signed up for the newsletter, occasional pieces or fun research tidbits appear on the blog, and my readers’ group gets more snippets from works in progress. Earlier today, for example, they got the opening scene from a new story in progress. Last week I offered a free short story on my site.

But many writers have even more stuff they’ve cut from the final version or alternate scenes, and they offer this extra-extra content for supporters. Again, that support is wholly optional, and that extra content is just a bonus for those who want to do more.

“So what are you trying to do, Laura?”

Good question. Let me try to sum up.

I would like to put out a new story or two in serial format. This would be on Kindle Vella, but I do not want to be exclusive to Amazon. Several of you replied that you, too, do not want to purchase on Amazon, and you want my work on other retailers or platforms.

So I am looking at several ways to get content out in forms most can use at price points which are fair to all.

I hope this has helped to clarify. Feel free to submit your thoughts in the original poll (anonymous) or in a comment right here (not anonymous). And thanks for letting me be more clear!

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  1. From the text above: “people did not want to pay for fiction”. Seriously? Would those people be willing to work for free? Authorship is a profession, not a public service. BTW, if someone wants to read an entire book for free, then return it, they should support their local public library. Most libraries today have online borrowing. You can enjoy these books without changing out of your jammies!

    There are several things about the Amazon Kindle Vella that cause concern. Why bother with “Tokens” when Amazon can just set the direct price per episode and skip the “middle man” of Tokens. Direct pricing per item is how we buy everything else.

    “To give readers a chance to check out a story, they can read the first three episodes of every story without redeeming Tokens.”
    One episode should be enough to hook a reader. Three free episodes just cuts into an author’s word-count profit. More work for less income. Who would want that?

    Kindle Vella is an exclusive “either/or” publishing realm.

    You cannot “Break down your previously published book or long-form content into Episodes and republish in Kindle Vella, even if that book or long-form content ‘IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE’ or is written in ‘ANOTHER LANGUAGE’.” I would be looking for another publisher.

    “Bonus features” are popular on DVDs, but that is never the reason why I would buy a particular title. I might get a more enhanced version of title, even if it cost a few bucks more.

    The long and short of it is this: If you love someone’s work, then SUPPORT them!

    • >> Seriously? Would those people be willing to work for free? Authorship is a profession, not a public service. << Thank you, Terry! I think a lot of people don't realize how much the "free" stuff they enjoy actually costs, in advertising access or in the farmed data your TV manufacturer is selling. Books don't do that! We just get paid when people buy our work. But if you can't afford to buy books new, then please request them at your library. (A library request counts as a preorder, when I do preorder giveaways!) I do have some quibbles with the Vella platform, as I mentioned particularly re pricing, but tokens can make some sense for many small payments like this. Buying tokens in bulk reduces per-transaction fees. I looked into this when considering a credits option for sales on this site for more short fiction purchases. 2.9% + .30 gets real high real fast when the total price is only a dollar! but it's much more sustainable if they buy $10 worth of credit at once and then spend it on ten $1 items. That's a take-home of $0.67 versus $0.94 per $1 item. (I'm trying to be highly transparent here.) Granted, Amazon gets a better transaction rate than I do, but the concept is the same. Anyway, thank you for taking the time to read and comment! And Terry, you're always careful to support, from following on social media to participating in charity fundraisers. Thank you. :)

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