Generally when we think of fantasy novels, we think of epic volumes similar to the 1500 page Brandon Sanderson novels or the 14 book Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (later taken over by Brandon Sanderson). So when I wrote my first draft of Falls of Redemption several years ago and it came out to 160,000 words (roughly 600 pages), I thought I was off to a good start. I was keeping it short-ish, since this is recommended for new authors, and yet it was long enough to meet the standards of fantasy novels.
Over the years of the revision process, my book changed drastically (as a book should), even to the point that I decided to publish it as 6 "Episodes," of about 100 pages each.
"What-the-what?" you may ask. Here's my logic:
Two main influences on my decision to go the episodic route were the "Self-Publishing Podcast" and watching how gaming companies are making a successful model out of episodic games.
If you read my books (Creative Writing Career) or blog posts (CreativeWritingCareer.com), you know I'm a big fan of the Self-Publishing Podcast. The guys over there are prolific and amazingly open with their process and advice. They advise pushing out your episodes every week or two, but for many of us, that is a tight schedule. Since I am not as well known as them, I'm starting off with once a month for my Falls of Redemption serial, though I'll consider their schedule in the future as I pick up traction. My reasoning here is that this will allow me to properly market each book as they come out, and I can always push my last 3 or 4 books to a weekly or bi-weekly schedule if the demand is there.
Some good points they make is that you have to still do proper editing and find professional looking covers, because you want to showcase yourself as a professional. The hard part there will be that if you are publishing 5 or 6 books in your "season," as serial books are often broken into, you don't want to have to pay someone to do 5 or 6 covers. Instead consider one cover with different color schemes, different enough to make it clear that they are different books. The Chronicles of Steele: Raven books do a great job of this, and I'd love to work with the cover artist of those.
One main reason I see episodic games being successful is that they break up the level of commitment into chunks. Some of us feel that a 40 hour game, or even a 15 hour game, is too much time to spend in front of the television hacking away at pixels. But if you give me 1.5 to 2 hours a month? Sure, I can manage that. So it works for parents and people with jobs, anyone really who finds that time is scarce. Maybe it works better for kids with lower attention spans? Like a game, fantasy novels can be huge commitments, but if you tell me I only have to read 100 pages and I'll be done with the first episode, I'm intrigued. I can give you enough time to read 100 pages, and if I don't like it, I don't read the rest.
But it also works better for the producer of the material, because instead of waiting until the whole 12 hour game is developed, which would likely take a year or two, now the company can publish something every couple of months, and keep the audience engaged and excited. Likewise with a novel, instead of trying to edit a massive beast, now you can edit 100 page chunks -- and I would argue this could make your story better, because you're considering the pacing and plot in a specific part of your story. Like the screenwriter, you really should give this kind of attention to each scene, while keeping the bigger picture in mind the whole time.
Pricing is another factor here. With an episodic game I may have only spent $4.99 an episode, compared to as much as $60 for a traditional style game. While $10 for a novel may not sound like a lot, if I read a lot I'm going to go broke after a while. With serials I can charge $0.99 to $2.99 an episode, and give people a fun experience for much less money, time, and commitment. Now it's up to my story to pull them in and get them hooked.
Returning to Your Roots:
But if you want that massive fantasy novel, or whatever other genre novel, don't worry. After publishing your serial, or episodes, you can follow what other authors are doing and publish them all as one. If you do this, you'll have your 5 or 6 episodes, plus your book that contains them all, for a grand total of 6 or 7 books on Amazon helping you to get exposure. Serials may not be the way you want to present your book, but I hope I have given you something to think about. As an author who has done both, I can say there are some books that work better for it, and some that are great as standalone pieces. You have to make the call as the artist.
To follow my adventures in the serial business, check out Falls of Redemption on Amazon. My other novels and non-fiction books can be found on Amazon as well, and the audiobooks are available on Amazon, iTunes, and Audible.com. Enjoy!
About Justin M Sloan
Justin Sloan is a video game writer at Telltale Games, where he writes on Game of Thrones. As a novelist, Justin has published several MG and YA novels, and is about to publish his first literary novel. He is also an optioned screenwriter. Justin studied writing at the Johns Hopkins University MA in Writing program and at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television's Professional Program in Screenwriting.
Justin was in the Marines for five years and has lived in Japan, Korea, and Italy. He currently lives with his amazing wife and children in the Bay Area, where he writes and enjoys life.
A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
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