Serialization: Its Future and My Crossroads
So, it’s been a while since I’ve talked about anything that has to do with writing (the printed word at any rate), and I thought it was about time to remedy that issue. By and large, I’m a very private person, and I don’t like discussing things that have to do with me in an open forum; and given that I believe writing is intrinsically linked with who I am, I don’t talk about my own stuff much.
That being said, in keeping with the subject of this post, I’d like to change that, if only for the moment. So let’s talk, you and I (whoever you are), and as PhillyD says, let’s just jump into it.
There comes a time in every writer’s career (I assume — I don’t really know any other writers) when they come to a crossroads. It doesn’t have to be “the big question” (i.e. ‘Do I keep trying, or give up?’ Although, I have found myself pausing at that one more often than I’d like to admit); oftentimes, it can be something as simple as, “Do I need to do another draft?” (The answer is almost always yes, in my opinion.)
But this particular crossroads is one that’s entirely new to me, and I’ve been struggling with it for the past several months.
I’m obliged to give a little background here, so bear with me. My current project is one that’s been in preproduction for almost a decade, slowly percolating in the back of my head while I work on other things. This was for a myriad of reasons (not the least of which was that I didn’t think I had the technical skill to pull it off), but the upshot was that, like so many other ideas, I thought: ‘I’ll get to it later.’
Well, I began to work on it in earnest a little over a year ago, and now, as I stand so deep in the weeds that I can’t even see the horizon, I ask myself this question: How am I going to publish this?
When I first conceived it in my head, it was always supposed to be a serialization. This means that it was designed to be released on a schedule, one piece at a time, until the whole story was completed.
At the time, there was no good way to do this, as no magazine would give me a look-in (that’s another post altogether), and Amazon was only publishing full-length novels. Looking back, this was probably a good thing, as I didn’t feel pressured to start a project that I wasn’t sure I could write.
Fast forward a few years, and Amazon launched Kindle Vella. Based on the same business model as Webtoon and Wattpad, Kindle Vella allowed writers to publish weekly installments of their stories to be consumed by readers for a pittance. On paper, the stars had aligned.
Now, here’s the (big, fat, hairy) BUT: Kindle Vella hasn’t taken off like the other two platforms. Sure, it’s known, and writers are posting to it, but it hasn’t reached the critical mass necessary to be considered “popular.” Webtoon has thrived on the strength of its creators (Rachel Smythe, of Lore Olympus fame, being the most well-known). Wattpad has been around for so damned long (2006, in case you wanted to feel old) that it’s entered the public zeitgeist (God I hate that word) based off of time-in-service. Kindle Vella is, as yet, unproven.
And so we arrive, full circle, back to that crossroads. Do I publish on a platform that has what can only be described as a fledgling userbase (readers and writers, mind you)? Or, do I just go with what I know works, and compile the chapters to be published traditionally, as I’ve been doing for the last three years?
One of the main issues I have with Kindle Vella is that it doesn’t seem to be fully developed yet. The list of genre “tags” is irritatingly small (drama isn’t even listed), and beyond the words themselves (and a cover), you don’t seem to be able to upload anything else (I’m having a map developed that I’d planned to add to the chapters as a reference for readers). On the whole, the platform seems to be in its “proof-of-concept” stage.
Now, all that stuff aside, it is a damned sight better than nothing. It gives me the opportunity to release my project the way I’d always intended to release it, and beyond the above gripes, there doesn’t seem to be anything else wrong with the platform (I won’t know for sure until I actually start using it).
The phrase “nothing ventured, nothing gained” keeps swirling in my head whenever I consider this problem, and I know that I lose next to nothing by trying it out.
However, this is going to take about 18 months-worth of effort to release properly (assuming I did my math right). I don’t want to put that kind of time commitment in on a project that won’t be able to garner the kind of traction it needs to because no one knows Kindle Vella exists.
After all, time is the one thing that you can never get more of.
I know that innovation requires taking risks, and that there have been huge success stories throughout history about people that bet on themselves and an unknown quantity. But for every success, there are a thousand failures that you don’t hear about, and that’s the part that scares me.
As it stands, I am planning to move forward with the project, but not without reservations.
I’m not really sure who I’m writing this for (maybe for me, maybe for you), but I felt it was important to air these particular grievances — if only to get them out of my head. Time will tell if I’m making the right call here, so keep your fingers crossed for me, keep an eye out, and make sure you get a Kindle Vella account when the time comes.