When I decided to write Shadow Stalker as a serial, I knew I’d be taking a risk. Shorter pieces don’t sell as well as a long novel. I was driven to do it, however, because the idea of self-publishing a novel was a bit daunting. I knew I could write one, but I couldn’t afford to have it edited properly, and that might have worked against me. I also couldn’t afford a professionally designed cover. Intellectually, I knew the process of self-publishing, but I had no hands on experience. Plus, at the time, writing a novel was a months long task, and Shadow Stalker was going to be a very long series. I wasn’t sure it would be a good idea to keep readers waiting a year before the next novel was released. So writing a serial seemed a better option. I wouldn’t make a lot of money with it, but at least people would be reading my work.
As it turned out, I was right. Serials are not a big money maker, but it did have quite a few major benefits. The first that I had noticed was I could experience the process of self-publishing in a nonthreatening way. For some reason, people have higher expectations for novels, but they are more forgiving when it comes to shorter pieces of work. It’s a safer place to start because there is a lot less backlash. In fact, in the last ten months since starting my Shadow Stalker serial, I haven’t received any backlash at all. In turn, it helped boost my confidence because I wasn’t dealing with all the negativity many new authors go through. When I did receive critiques, they were always very helpful and constructive, which leads me to my next point.
Writing a serial helps you improve your writing and editing skills. When I look back at my earlier episodes of Shadow Stalker, especially when I look at the earlier drafts, I can see how far I’ve come. Not only has it helped with grammar and other things you think of when you think of improving your skills as a writer, but it’s also helped with the speed of my writing. Through practice and reading books to help me further improve my skills, I’ve gotten to a point where I feel I can now write a novel or novella (yes, novel) every couple of months through proper planning. An indie author’s success is very dependent not only on the quality of your work, but how often you publish a new piece of your work. And well, we all know practice makes perfect. The more often you do something, the better you get.
It helps to build your author platform as well. I won’t lie and say it’s helped me get hundreds of readers, but it has given me the visibility I need to get started with building my platform. Like anything else, it’s a numbers game. The more you publish, the more work you have available, the more people are going to start noticing you. My mailing list is growing steadily, and more and more people are taking an interest in my work. I have no doubt now when I publish my first novel, it will do well. I may never be a bestseller (not that I put a lot of stock in bestseller lists), but I will be happy just to make a lucrative career doing what I love.
Finally, and for me most importantly, it helped me get over a lot of my fears. I had a huge fear of success (i.e. I become successful and suddenly I have more obligations than time). Taking things in smaller bites has helped me realize you just adapt as you find more and more success. It doesn’t become a burden. In fact, it’s quite liberating. There’s also that fear of releasing a new book. You wonder if people will like it, whether you will get sales or if people end up giving you bad reviews. When you publish more often (I release episodes of my serial monthly), you get into a rhythm. It becomes second nature and most of those other concerns disappear. I’m sure when I publish my first novel, some of those fears might come up again, but I doubt they will weigh on me as heavily as they did before.
I’ve always been told it’s better to start small and work up to the big stuff. So that’s what I did, and so far it’s working out great! For writers who want to self-publish, and are too scared to get that first novel out there, I highly recommend starting with a serial. It won’t make you rich. It might not even pay your bills, but the other benefits make it well worth your time.