In my last post “Stuck!“, just three days ago, I talked a little about Will, a character that has been bouncing around in my head, and how I had an odd (to me) new kind of writers block.
As I often do when I’m really stuck, I decided to take a little break from writing What Zombies Fear and think about something else. Will was roaring around in my head. I started writing a description of Will. This is almost always how I start out a new writing project, defining the character. Here’s what I wrote.
- Six feet two
- Skinny, not very muscular
- Very good looking
- Age 29
- Hair brown, shaggy
- Jeans, heavy metal tee shirt
- Black boots
Will is a drug dealer with a record for breaking and entering. He is narcissistic and self-centered, but his charm generally makes up for it in the short term. Due to this he has a lot of friends, although none of them are real, deep, meaningful friendships because people who get to know him eventually learn not to like him. He’s charming enough, and good looking enough to constantly replace them with new friends.
He is a great lover of women, often for several days at a time.
Not a very nice guy, eh? Stomping around in my brain, it literally felt like I HAD to get it out. “It’s in me, and it got’s ta come out!”
Laura was off work the last two days. The character of Alexis Cooper was born in her head, and we were off. We sat at the dining room table, dueling laptop style and banged out almost 7000 words the first day. The next morning, we started again, and by 8pm we had 12,890 words written, and the first installment of a new serial was done.
The plan is to release a new “episode” of this serial at least monthly, with the total story arc taking somewhere between 20 and 25 episodes. I’m hoping to have the first one up on Amazon sometime tomorrow.
I’ve been talking to a lot of successful indie authors lately about writing serials. Almost all of them write shorts regularly, with the occasional full novel. I’ve never been one to follow, but it’s becoming more and more apparent why that is. As an indie, a relatively unknown writer without a huge publishing house behind me, I can’t charge $9.99 for a book. I’m in the $2.99 – $4.99 range. When I add up the costs of publishing a full novel, and get up towards $500 – $800 depending on length and quality of the cover, it dawns on me that I have to sell a huge number of books before I turn a profit.
Now, to be perfectly clear, I do not write for the money. I think the fact that I quit a pretty lucrative job in order to make 1/4 of my previous salary as a writer is pretty evident of that. I quit my job to chase this dream of being a writer. I left that all behind to do something that I feel gives meaning to my life. To create. But, I have bills. I require food. My truck needs some repair, and I have to buy gasoline and electricity. I have to have some sort of roof over my head.
I wrote a short story called “The Farmer’s Daughter.” It’s 7500 words, and is one of my top selling books. It sells for 99 cents. What Zombies Fear is almost exactly ten times as long, and sells for 2.99, three times the cost. I recognize that as an unknown, people aren’t going to spend $9.99 for my books. I wouldn’t. So, the beauty of a serial is that people can spend $1.99 to see if they’re interested. If they like it, they can buy the next one. If that one grabs your attention, then you can buy the next. If you get bored, you can stop, without having invested much money. It works out to the same “price-per-word”, but in the serial model, it’s up to Laura and I to earn your readership with each and every edition. We have to make you want to read more. There’s a big difference between risking $9.99 on an unknown author and risking $1.99.
So, that’s my thought, that’s my brutal honesty. There is a financial piece to it for me, and one for our readers. But there is one more thing, and that is that I really enjoy writing in the serial format. I like the short story, the weeding out, the boiling it down, condensing it to it’s essence. When you only have 15,000 words to tell a story, every word has to count, and I enjoy that technical aspect of the craft.
I’m not giving up novels, the long form has it’s advantages too. I just need to shift the business model a little to see if I can survive as a writer.