I have a little side project I’m going to be experimenting with while I work on other things. I’ve wanted to do a virus story for a long time, and I have been jotting down infrequent notes off and on for about a year. I’ve finally landed on an underlying premise for my story that I think is (hopefully) mostly unique.
With Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited program, which allows readers to binge on unlimited Amazon-exclusive books for $8.99 a month (think Netflix for books), and with my propensity for writing roughly 20,000 word chunks before needing a refueling break, I finally hit on an idea that might work given enough motivation and planning:
A serial novel with steady, frequent releases, chock full ‘o cliffhangers like a television show, exclusive to Amazon (at least in the beginning).
Introducing Red Plague.
There are multiple reasons why, in theory, this is a good idea.
- With Kindle Unlimited, qualifying books earn around $2 every time a reader gets to the 10% mark, even if the book is priced below $2. That means, for me to get the money, they don’t have to finish the full book, and I would still get multiple times what I would receive if the reader had just purchased the book outright for the asking price of 99¢. While I want them to finish, obviously, there is potential for earning money from readers who would never have gone on to the second episode anyway, yet gave the book a shot to the 10% mark. This feeds into the second reason, which is:
- Shorter books mean less effort to hit 10%. If you have a thousand page tome, hitting 10% takes a reader 100 pages. If you only have 50 pages, a reader has to slog through just 5 pages of your work before the little cash register sound effect plays in the background and you get paid. So, less effort to hit 10% = a greater chance more readers will hit the golden mark.
- Putting out a high-quality, full-length novel every one to two months is extremely hard, if not impossible, for me. I tend to favor quality over quantity, even though the opposite is a more proven, effective business model. By releasing novella-length works every three weeks or so, I can keep the quality level high because I am writing shorter episodes. Simultaneously, I am also publishing something new with high frequency.
- There is an entire group of readers, who, for reasons unfathomable, actually enjoy cliffhangers. And not just cliffhangers from chapter to chapter, because who doesn’t like those? I’m talking about cliffhangers between entire books. Certain readers thrive on them. It’s like a narcotic. I’m going to stop asking why and just do my best to make them happy, because it has turned out to be ludicrously profitable for some authors.
Serial novels are nothing new, but, in this day and age, they never seem to really catch on. There are of course exceptions to the rule, as some authors have turned serial writing into a successful business model. Yet, that requires a following, since a serial release is more like a limited-run, lightning-in-a-bottle event than an ongoing experience. Without preparation and without a loyal readership waiting to buy the books, the event is over before word can spread.
As you can imagine, the successes are few and far between. It seems like even Amazon has stopped pushing their own serial program. And there are some heavy obstacles in the way, promotion being the biggest. How do you promote a nascent series with no reviews, and when you, the author, only have the meager crumbs of a tiny newsletter following? Beats me. That’s why the first episode is on preorder for a month, so I can find the answers to those questions.
With all the potential negatives of publishing a serial, it might seem like a strange avenue for me to pursue. If the book were only ever going to be released in separate installments as novellas, you would probably be right. Well, you might even be right anyway. But still, even if the serial experiment fails, I can give this book a second life at some point in the future by combining the parts into a whole to create a complete story. And that complete story is another product to sell, and another way to be discovered by new readers. In other words, the only thing I am losing is a little bit of time by releasing them on a longer timeline. However, with this model, the release schedule suits my desire to publish more often without sacrificing quality, and on top of that, writing it so far has been a blast.
The first installment will be available on October 1st, with an episode every three weeks or so afterward until it’s done. You can preorder the book now on Amazon for 99¢, if that’s your thing, or you can grab it when it’s published. I doubt the price on the first episode will go up, but the subsequent episodes may be $1.99.
Oh, I almost forgot. If anyone would like a review copy, I only have a few little things to tweak with the first episode, and would be more than happy to send out a copy in exchange for an honest review on Amazon when the series begins publication on October 1st. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested.
Red Plague: Episode 1
People will change. Nations will fall.
A primordial virus unearthed at the heart of an erupting volcano…
The storm of the century forming off the coast, ready to carry the virus across the globe…
A world ripe for infection…
What follows will unleash the greatest horror humanity has ever known.
Welcome to the end.