Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Shelf Life of Serial

Every time I do one of these posts, it makes me think of cereal. I just can't help it. Last time, I talked about Grape-Nuts; this time I'm thinking about cereal I liked when I was a kid.

I suppose my first favorite kinds of cereals were those ones with the dried up marshmallows in them, specifically Boo Berry and Fraken Berry.
(Yes, I had to get the Star Wars one in there.)

My aunt used to buy those for my cousin and me down at the farm when I was little. I mean, like, before I was five, but I never got those at home, and, as we got older, my aunt and cousin quit being down at the farm all the time (because of school, I suppose, like me), so that cereal quit being available to me. I always wanted Lucky Charms, but my mom would never buy them for me. Or any marshmallow cereal for that matter. Any time I got any of those was over at friends' houses.

I ended up settling on Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch. Thinking about it now, that was because my mom liked that particular cereal, so that was the only kind of sugar cereal we had around my house as a kid. Okay, not true: we also tended to have Frosted Flakes, but I didn't really like those, so I tended to ignore their existence. Now, don't get me wrong; I really liked the Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch (and still love the idea of it, even now, but, after being off of sugar for... years, now, and after not having had any of it since, basically, living in California, I don't want to go back and try it, now. I might find out it tastes like dirt), but, sometimes, I wanted to have other kinds of cereal, like Crunch Berries, which is still Cap'n Crunch, but my mom wouldn't even go for that.

Actually, all of this cereal talk is making me realize some things about my childhood that are better saved for another day, especially since this post isn't actually about cereal. So let's play Homonym!

and talk about The real answer here: Serial!

I've been doing Shadow Spinner as a serialization for over a year, now, and I've learned a few things. You'd hope so, right? As I said when I started all of this, it's all been kind of an experiment, one in which some  of you have been participating, and I figure it's about time to let you in on some results.

1. Overall, I'd say that serialization is a very viable option in today's publishing world. I know that I've gained a lot more exposure by releasing Spinner in parts rather than if I'd just released it all at once. In that respect, it has worked very well. I've gotten reviews and ratings from people I don't know who, for the most part, have really enjoyed Spinner, and that has been gratifying to see. I've also gained an unknown number of friends on Facebook due to Spinner, people who are following me there specifically because of Spinner. So, yeah, I'd say doing the serial thing has been a positive experience. And I may do it again...

2. However, I think 34 parts is too long. I knew that from the beginning, but, not having done it before, I didn't know that I knew it. Of course, I didn't write Spinner to be a serial when I was first writing it, and the format I wrote it in, the short chapters, was to fit in with the creative writing class I was teaching. If I had known what I was going to do, I would have structured it differently. Or, if I'd really thought about how long the process would be that I was setting up, I may have combined the chapters or something. But none of that matters for this particular project, because I can't go back and change how I've done it, only remember it for the future.

3. The Kindle releases do not help the sales of the physical book. That was a bit of secondary experimentation I was doing. Release the full physical book before the serialization was finished, but I can't see that it made any impact on sales. People wanting the physical book will buy it, but it has nothing to do with the serialization.

4. At this point, I can't see that Shadow Spinner has had any impact on sales of The House on the Corner. Maybe it has, but, if it has, it has been small enough that I can't see it. What that means is that House has continued to sell at approximately the same rate as before I started the serialization of Spinner. But, then, House has been out for a while, so, maybe, without Spinner sales would have dried up altogether and it's only Spinner that has kept sales going. I have no way of knowing.

5. What I do know is that the release of new Spinner parts has almost always resulted in the sale of various older parts, depending on what was available for free on any given release day. Actually, most of those purchases would come later during the week after one of the free days, so that tells me people must have been reading and deciding they wanted to go on. At least, I think that's what it's telling me.

All of this means a few things:
1. As I've said before, I'm going to be collecting the individual parts of Spinner into collected volumes. That will keep it in a serialized format but also make it cheaper for people to buy in the future (once I've gotten beyond the free release days). The first of these collected volumes, "Collection 1: Tiberius," will contain
parts one through five. As an added bonus, I will also be including Bryan Pedas' story "Like An Axe Through Bone" because so many people have requested that I make it available other than in the physical book. [Each of the other collected editions will have a different story from a different author.] Collection 1 will be released on Monday, August 19 (along with "Part Twenty-eight: The Shadow Place").

2. In relation to the additional stories, I need a couple more. If you're interested in submitting an Imagination Room (from The House on the Corner) themed story to be included as a backup story at the end of one of these, please let me know. I'd really like to feature some other independent author at the back of each of these volumes.

3. Here's where you can help! And, really, I mean that. I'm not keen on asking for this kind of help, because it actually involves me asking you to spend money in a way beyond the general, "hey, buy my book," which is, actually, what I'm doing, but with a purpose. See, I'm going to lose all of my reviews on the individual parts of Spinner as I transition to the collected parts. [Yes, I've tried talking to Amazon about this, and, maybe, I'll explain in more detail later, but it would be too long to add to this post. Let's just say it's another thing I learned.] What I really need is for those of you that have already read and reviewed any of the first five parts (and any of you who have been thinking about doing it) to

  • On Monday, August 19, buy Collection 1 of Shadow Spinner.
  • Leave a review some time during the week of the 19th. [For those of you who have previously left a review, this should be an easy process. For those of you who have not, the first five chapters are really not all that long.]
Because "The Tunnel" has been out for so long, I think it's really important to make up as much ground as possible during the switch to the collection, so I would really appreciate your help.

Also, you know, you could post about the release. If you really wanted to. That, also, always helps.

4. I will be moving from a biweekly release schedule on the remaining parts to a weekly schedule. The new releases of the individual parts will still be free as will as many of the other individual parts as possible each week. However, the collections will not be free. The feedback for the later collections will not be as critical as replacing the feedback on this first collection, so, you know, pick up the later parts for free while they're available that way. But, please, buy Collection 1 and leave a review on Amazon and, even, a rating on goodreads. I can't tell you how much this will help me out. Thanks!


  1. Good luck with the whole process!

    I liked Count Chocula, but Cocoa Pebbles were better. Frankly, though, my favorite cereal was Raisin Bran. Even though that topic is neither here nor there.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

  2. You know I'll be getting the first collection, as I want to read Bryan's story!
    Thirty-four is rather long. What is the average length of serials on Amazon.
    Too bad you don't do the sugar anymore, because Peanut Butter Captain Crunch still rocks.

  3. I never liked cereal much. It always ends up getting soggy in the milk. You'd think after all these years some food company would come up with a way to solve that problem.

  4. Did we ever tell you that when Random House first signed us they wanted to do zombies as a serial? I thought it sounded like a pretty cool program. Each chapter would be like 25 cents, released once per week until it was done. Then you could buy the full book as a whole if you wanted.

    Then they cancelled it and thought wait, a publishing house do something DIFFERENT? No way! Let's go back to doing everything the way we always did, yeah, that's better...

  5. Good luck with Collection 1.

    I was really excited when I got to college and realized I could eat sugar cereals every day, not to mention jello at every meal. It got old fast.

  6. Peanut butter Cap'n Crunch is The Transporter's favorite cereal. OYT likes Frosted Flakes and the impossible expensive Honey Nut Cruncy O's cereal which is like Cheerios with crack to him. I buy a box, I turn around, it's gone.
    I'd be glad to buy the first collection and give it a review and promo at Life is Good.
    Tina @ Life is Good

  7. Shannon: I never liked the chocolate ones. I meant to mention that in the post, but I guess that thought got lost in all the interruptions I had while writing it.

    Alex: I bet it does. Sometimes, I want to get a box just for nostalgia, but I'm scared I won't like them anymore, and that would just ruin it.

    PT: I think there a few brands that don't get soggy, but I don't think you really want to eat those.

    ABftS: No, you never told me that. I would have charge less for the pieces of Spinner, or even made some of them permanently free, if Amazon would have let me.

    TAS: Jello is the last thing I would choose to have at every meal. Okay, maybe not the last thing. Sawdust would be lower on the list.

    Tina: I used to like Honey Nut Cheerios, although I don't like Cheerios. I haven't eaten any cereal other than Grape-Nuts in years, though, and I don't eat those all that often.

    Thanks! I will certainly appreciate it.

  8. I like that nearly every comment here focuses on the cereal rather than the serial. That's why I stopped bothering to have my posts have any sort of focus or coherent thoughts.

    I'll buy section 1, of course, and review it. I'm behind on section 27 reviews -- I read it but then didn't review it, yet, and maybe I shouldn't if you'll pull it down? Let me know.

    I also realized that my story was only tangentially, I suppose, about the Imagination Room. But since I've long ago decided that the Room was simply a portal -- you do what you want in YOUR universe, I'll do what I want in MINE (but I cleverly made MY universe the ENTIRE MULTIVERSE so I think I win?)-- I stuck with that for the story. You use the Room much more cleverly and ably in your stories, which is what I like: it's not just a device, it actually plays into the plot significantly.

    Also, before I forget: Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch is my all time number one favorite cereal ever. After I had a heart attack, which was NOT caused by cholesterol, I need to add, but by BEE STINGS, the doctors thought I needed to get into shape, and so I significantly cut back on things like my all time number one favorite cereal, which I now have Sweetie buy at my birthday and Father's Day.

    (I've lost 21 pounds as of last week! WOO HOO! But I miss Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch.)

  9. Briane: I have a whole other take on the comments for this post (or lack thereof), but that's for another time.

    I am going to save all of the reviews you left, so they're not going to just vanish. And part 27 will be up as individual part for months, so, if you wanted to leave one, it wouldn't be "wasted," but, yes, at some point, it will come down.

    There are occasions when I miss lots of things I used to have, especially soda. But, see, I miss the idea of it more than the thing itself, because they couple of times I've tasted of it since giving it up, I found it completely distasteful. So, really, I miss liking it more than I miss the thing itself.

    Congrats on 21 pounds! That's awesome!

  10. Hey, I've lost 23 lbs. Not to be competitive.

    As a youngster I loved Shredded Wheat and Weetabix, don't know if they were available in North America in those days. I loved a whole shredded wheat cut in half, spread with butter and then sprinkled with sugar. Delicious, but not terribly healthy!

    I am still planning to buy the whole book, haven't got around to it yet though, I have such a large TBR pile in my Kindle.

  11. Jo: Well, that's awesome, too!

    We had shredded wheat when I was a kid. I never liked it.

    Well, you could start by picking up collection 1. It won't be long before all the collections are available. The other option is the physical book.

  12. Love shredded wheat - first soaked on hot water, then laced with sugar, then milk poured on it.AND I will get the first collection and pop a review up there!

  13. Donna: Um, the thought of putting cereal in water kind of grosses me out; I don't know why.

    Thanks! I will greatly appreciate it!