A Story in Installments: Using Serialization to Publish a Novel

In late April, I was approached by the founder of Channillo, a new(ish) digital publishing platform that hosts work by authors from all backgrounds: established and new/upcoming, using traditional and/or indie publishing avenues.

At the time I was extremely unfamiliar with the serialized fiction format; releasing a story in online installments was a brand new concept for me. As it stood, I was not keen on attempting to release The Bearers in a serial format, as I had already started the novel and was not writing chapters chronologically. I WAS intrigued by the idea of attempting a serial release with the post-apocalyptic pirate story concept I had been developing. I uploaded the prologue for Stormriders to my Channillo series page in early May, where it will grow every month and hopefully gain subscribers. Ah yes, I forgot to mention the site is subscription-based, which I feel is a good thing, for reasons I’ll touch on below.

As I mentioned, I was intrigued to try writing a series in real-time, both as a way to get some work in front of a potential audience relatively quickly, and also to keep myself on a disciplined writing schedule… nothing beats a deadline for getting a draft done. So far, Channillo has been a wonderful way to accomplish both goals.

So how does online serial publishing work, you might ask?

The Channillo platform itself is an open book to the authors who are accepted as contributors. The application process allows you to pitch your series concept and nail down parameters (how often you’ll post new chapters, etc.) Follow this link for more info on how to participate as a contributing writer. Poetry, short story anthologies, essays, nonfiction book chapters, fiction book chapters… all are accepted genres. As a contributing writer, you also have the opportunity to subscribe to other contributing writers’ series… more on that in a second.

Once your series has been accepted, you are able to create a customized series page with description blurb, cover art, and link to your author profile. You can start publishing whenever you have content to publish. I’m opting for the start-from-scratch method, where I spend a month writing the next chapter, editing, and reviewing the plot arc for continuity… then I post. I would guess that some writers are publishing preexisting work; the caveat with this is, said work cannot be available for free elsewhere on the Interwebs (on a blog, on a free platform like Scriggler, etc.). Authors DO retain all rights to the work they choose to publish on Channillo.

Some folks may be wondering: why go the subscription-based route, when there are dozens of free digital publishing platforms out there?

The primary difference, in my mind, is writer compensation. Free platforms potentially have a wider reach, in terms of audience, but because they are free there is no compensation for contributing authors. What a subscription-based platform like Channillo does is offer a membership program with a pricing tier that offers subscribers (the online reading public) a certain number of series to which they can subscribe based on what they pay monthly. Authors are then compensated proportionally (based on the number of subscribers they have for their series) from the monthly subscription pool. While it certainly will take a specific, special type of reader willing to make monthly payments for access to only indie-published material, it doesn’t mean those readers aren’t out there.

I should note: EARNING ALL THE DOLLARS IS NOT MY PRIMARY MOTIVATION HERE. Nor is it for many of the contributing writers on Channillo, I would assume. A lot of the writers are subscribers themselves, as a way to network with other authors, which I believe has a lot of merit. Of course, building an audience while getting a little compensation for your time and effort spent marketing is not a bad thing.

And now, we write. And write. And write some more.

I am having a ball writing Stormriders in a serial format. It gives me the opportunity to to truly reinvest in my characters each month. While I have a general plot hammered out and did a monstrous amount of world-building and character development prior to starting, each month is a fresh opportunity to explore this world I have created, and to genuinely discover how my characters will interact and work through their story arcs within it. Every month will hold a surprise or two for me, right along with my readers, which is a unique phenomenon with this format.

As I’m sitting here, editing Chapter One to upload on Channillo this week, I have no idea how this story is going to end and couldn’t be more excited about it. The sheer giddy excitement is sparking inspiration. And the swiftly growing potential of the unknown is the tinder.

UPDATE 4/6/17. Please please PLEASE Google “first publication rights” before posting on any digital/serial self-publishing platform, especially if you think you may want to try the traditional publishing route with your book someday!!!