Well… I did it. I published the first four chapters of my gothic novel Obscurity for free—and the fifth one went out to paid subscribers on Friday night. If you didn’t get it and you want to continue reading, you can still subscribe here: Before we get into all that happened during book launch month, I want to take a moment just to be excited about it all.
Thank you, Elle. I've started serializing my novel MOVIELAND on substack. How did this experiment with the other platforms work out? Did you attract new subscribers, free as well as paying?
I went to the various links, saw that you linked back to your substack when you could, but it was not clear how many readers you had. Nor how many had crossed over to your paying substack novels.
For myself, I've already written the 4 novels that comprise the MOVIELAND story. The first book is going out free. I'm hoping by the time Memorial Day, 2023 rolls around, when Book 1 will conclude, I'll have a larger following than I have now and can then offer the remaining books to paying subs. Best to you. J.
I subscribed to read your novel. I'm not so much interested in the journey (I've got long one of my own), though I find the concept of serialization intriguing. I could read for free on Wattpad, but probably wouldn't. At least when you buy something you've made a commitment. With all the theological imagery, I don't think you're just putting up an atmospheric gothic tale, but an attempt at high art (I thought of Bernini's St. Theresa in ecstasy with chapter five - the bride of Christ). You spent time putting yourself in this story and have set yourself an ambitious goal.
Thanks as always Elle for sharing your journey. After reading your interviews with other serial fiction creators over the past few months, my takeaway was that putting your work out there for free (as counterintuitive as it seems) can reap dividends down the road. I'm now contemplating do a timed exclusivity with my books as well, with book 1 going up entirely for free on Substack but with lagging chapters being posted elsewhere (as an incentive for people to subscribe to my free tier on Substack), and then gradually bringing chapters from book 2 out of the paid tier as well.
Just letting you know that I found you.
I think this is the right move for you. Like it or not, visibility matters. If your current plan isn't getting you there, then change the plan. You don't get extra points for sticking to a course of action that isn't working.
Next to being prolific, being omnipresent is the best thing you can do for visibility.
Keep pivoting! You're blazing a trail, Elle. I keep trying new things, though I have less energy available to put into it than you.
Congrats!! It is so exciting to hear about your journey. I knew it wouldn't be the book for me but I do love your newsletters and am so excited to see what happens on your journey. I applaud your flexibility in the promotion of your book!
Congratulations, Elle! Pivoting is definitely a smart thing to do when it feels right. I usually give myself some time to sit on the idea before committing to the change to make sure I'm not acting out of fear or on impulse. From your awesome Find Your Readers summit session, I decided to start my own Substack newsletter and, though it's growing slowly, I plan to release my first paid story in the summer 2022. All things take time, but it only takes one or two avid fans to spread the word. Good luck on your endeavors! I look forward to watching you grow on this journey.
I agree. I want to know people are enjoying my novel. Even if it is a small group. I love getting comments. To me, that connection and feedback is better than sales numbers on Amazon. Or the occasional review.
I also think pivoting when things aren't working, and continually trying new things, is the smart way to go. Especially since we are all still trying to figure out how to make this work. Nothing is set in stone.
Really enjoyed reading this issue.
Brava! I love all of this. Onward ❤️
Love this, Elle. Celebrate those milestones. Writing and releasing a book is huge. I’m with you in every way possible. Can’t wait to continue following your journey!
Promotion is an interminable process. You’ve been quite successful with your newsletter. It’s the reason I followed the page. You write well when illustrating the process and your strategies therein. It’s fascinating to track it along with you, mainly because I’ve gone through a similar experience with my self-published books. Without a mainstream publisher’s money and reach, finding the largest and best audience is inordinately hard. Andrew Weir did it by spending ten years online—way ahead of the indie novelist curve—and, in addition to writing in a genre he knew about and was popular, he took his self-built readership’s plot advice through the ten years, making narrative changes to fit their needs. In producing The Martian, he produced his audience. It was a brilliant stroke, if aided by timing and position, being the first of our kind to start this back in the late 1990s, I believe. Being the first to fill a void best is always the ticket to success. With that in mind, I think the feedback you got from your subscribers is probably correct: monetize the thing that attracts the most eyes. Monetize your newsletter; publish your chapters for free with a free newsletter post in the mix to satisfy all needs. I spent years with queries to agents. I’ve pitched editors in-person from the Big Five houses. I’m on Amazon, moving over 1150 copies of my first thriller, which is decent for a nobody. But that costs money. You’ve got to try everything you want to try. It’s a rough business. I’m at the point of sending pitch letters and a copy of whichever book I’m pitching to filmmakers, sending the book which best matches its themes and subjects to their work and experience. For example: I’ve got two vigilante thrillers. One deals with mass shootings with a middle-aged male protagonist (No Winter Lasts Forever), and the other deals with sex-trafficking, based on the Epstein scandal, with a mid-twenties female protagonist (Until Morning Comes). Both subjects scare off agents, publishers, and readers alike, but both books feature a moral center within their heroes which transcends the hideous nature of the themes. I recently sent Until Morning Comes to Rose McGowan—she’d be a perfect fit to direct a film adaptation—and I sent No Winter Lasts Forever to Matt Damon. It’s a crap shoot, a ridiculous one. But, at this point, I’ve done all of the preparatory hard work. All I need is that stroke of luck, and this is one lottery I’m willing to play. 🤷🏻♂️
Wishing you the absolute best with your launch, your book, what you're doing! I'm not your target audience either -- as Gayla Gray commented below. But on the strength of your newsletter writing, your efforts, your willingness to be so open and sharing about the "business" side (as Gayla also commented), and also a willingness to try a new genre of book that I've never read --- ever -- before ... I've subscribed and am looking forward to digging in. Good luck with it all, Elle!
I enjoy reading about your journey and now the pivots you are and will surely take. I'm not your target market for your book, but I enjoy reading about the business side of it. :)