One of the magic ingredients of serials is pricing. It’s magic because the pricing is what allows readers to find you, but it is also magic because of all the options it provides you. When you’re writing a single novel you only have one product to work with, and you likely only have a little wiggle room in the pricing of that single product. But over the course of writing a serial you instantly create a small backlist that gives you a few more options for testing your market, finding your audience, and learning where your sweet spot lies.
For someone brand new to the industry or still building a customer base, 99 cents and free are your best friends.
99 cents is low entry point for readers. If you have a great cover, gripping blurb, and fantastic first few pages, then you are likely to start selling a few copies, even without any fan base. Most readers are happy to pony up 99 cents for something new and exciting. Plus, once you get the first three books in your serial out you can lower the price of your first book to FREE! And free can be magical.
There are a lot of marketing options out there for free books. Even using the hashtag #FREE (and combo that with #iBooks or #Kindle) on Twitter will grab you a few eyeballs. If you combine that with some inexpensive advertising and politely ask some relevant blogs on Facebook to post your freebie then you can start to generate some buzz!
Why is free magical?
It sucks in new readers, helps build reviews, and your mailing list. Free books get more reviews because they get in front of more eyeballs. More reviews means more options for paid advertising. It also makes you look good! But the real gold mine is in building your email list. Put a link in the back of your book asking readers to signup for your mailing list to get an alert when the next book in the serial releases. Facebook comes and goes, advertisers decide who makes the cut, but everyone who subscribes to your newsletter sees what you send out. My biggest jumps in sales are always after a newsletter goes out announcing a new release and my biggest signup point is the back of my first free book in a serial.
And by the time Book 5 comes out you’ve got a nice little fan base going. I recommend going wide to all the retailers (unless you don’t have the time/energy.) Release to all retailers and make Book 1 permafree until sales taper. When your sales taper off is the time to reevaluate your sales strategy, reprice your books and your bundle.
Here’s what my pricing strategy looks like:
Book 1: 99c/Free (when book 3 releases)
Book 2: 99c
Book 3: 99c
Book 4: 99c/$1.99 (after the series is complete)
Book 5: 99c/2.99 (after the series is complete)
Box set: 3.99
I play with my prices all the time. For a while I actually put my Tease series in KU (due to family issues I didn’t have the time or energy to keep up with all the retailers and sales strategy. For six months I focused solely on Amazon.)
Kindle Unlimited did affect my pricing strategy, but I was surprised by how successful it was. Even with the first book at 99 cents instead of free, readers kept picking it up! Instead of buying each book individually (because I had raised the price of every book in the series) they purchased the box set. The box set looked like a really great deal since buying the series one at a time wound up costing close to $10. The series also did well with Kindle Unlimited readers. Not so well that I stayed with KU, but for the circumstances we were in at the time, it was a very effective change for my serial.
And that’s what I want you all to keep in mind. There is no single formula for success. Don’t be afraid to change things up. Follow your gut instincts and keep in mind that your readers come first.
Pricing is one of your biggest assets in serial writing. The flexibility, options, and strategy give you so much to work with in a short period of time. In my next post I’ll be discussing the writing process and how to schedule your serial. You can also check in tonight on First Draught! The entire show is dedicated to serials! You can find the links and information on the First Draught website!
When it comes to strategy with romance serials it’s all about the numbers.
Who is your target audience, how hot are you writing, what do you want to charge, and how many words are you willing to invest into your cause? The kinkier you write, the less words you have to write, and the higher you can charge (because erotica is considered a high demand genre with a thirst for very specific content.)
But the hotter you write, the more you run into advertising and visibility issues because many places will not promote explicit content. If you’re like me, you write very hot and use certain four-letter words. So be conscious of what you’re writing and what opportunities that will afford you (and which doors that will close.)
In general, 15k words for $0.99 is a sweet spot. When you write shorter, readers b*tch about paying for your words (unless they are super hot addictive words. For instance, straight up erotica can go as short as 4k words as long as it’s kinky.) If you write too much longer than 15k words then you aren’t maximizing your cost/word ratio (unless you are charging 2.99.) While we all love to write, we also love to put food on our tables. Don’t spend a lot of time writing words you can’t charge for. The point is to put out a fun, exciting, sexy product, but to also maximize your earning potential.
Keep your first episode on the shorter end. It is your hook episode and the one you’ll want to make permafree (depending on sales strategy). With Tease I made each episode a couple thousand words longer hoping to unconsciously make readers feel more and more satisfied, and giving me the option to charge more for later editions. Readers definitely felt satisfied, but I found that I was reluctant to charge more for later editions, which made my extra work kind of pointless. And by extra effort, it was almost doubling my turnaround time by episode 5.
And when you think about it, going back to the TV strategy, every episode is the same length except for season finales or specials. So I now try to keep each episode in the 15-18k word range. Five episodes is a good format for two reasons: 1…it winds up being approximately the same length as a full novel which gives you more strategy options down the road. And 2…when you bundle them up at the end, it gives you the ability to charge a reasonable amount for your work.
What do I mean by that? Well, if you write a three book serial and the first book is free, but you’re only charging $0.99 for each of the next two books then your entire series can be bought for $1.98. That doesn’t give you much power to price the box set at different levels unless you start playing around with prices.
Which brings us to pricing! Stop back for my next post where I’ll talk about pricing strategies and why they work. If you haven’t, please be sure to read my first post on How to Write Serials: Format. In that post I discuss the basics of the serial format and how to plan out your writing strategy.
Have you checked out my latest serial? Tempt was just the featured excerpt of the week over at Cosmopolitan.com!
It was amazing timing because you can read Tempt: Volume 1 for free from any retailer!
Tempt: Volume 3 is here! AND Tempt: Volume 1 is now FREE on all platforms!
And you know what else? I am so in love with this series! Things have gotten hot and intense in Tempt 3 and it only gets hotter and intenser (yes, I’m stretching the limits of English right now, go with it!) in Tempt 4 (which is coming very soon!) Scroll down for the information you need and THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart! xoxo
Fight or flight, the most basic human response. A moment where you have to decide whether to risk everything or run away. Once you choose, there’s no going back.
I never guessed the problems that followed Theo Sutherland could be so dark. It was almost impossible to believe that the quiet billionaire was actually a criminal. And not just any criminal, but a brilliant thief-turned-traitor with a bounty on his head.
Being with Theo was dangerous for both my heart and my safety. But together…oh, together we were magic. Passion and emotion that exploded in the most intense pleasure I’d ever known. Theo knew me without knowing anything about me. It was as if he filled up the parts of me that never felt quite whole.
How could I walk away from that? People went their whole lives without ever feeling what we’d built in a few short months. I honestly didn’t know how I was going to choose when the time came, and the time was coming fast. The past was ready for revenge and the only question was whether it took me down with it.
Get it now!
Tempt: Volume 1 is now FREE everywhere! Find out what Tempt is all about!
That’s all that separates us from the life we’ve known and everything that could change it.
Was all it took to change mine.
Theo was rich and handsome, brilliant and powerful, but he wasn’t a hero or a prince charming. And let’s be honest, I wasn’t exactly a damsel in distress. I wanted Theo, so I took him. Hard and passionately without any regard for the consequences.
At first it was just sex. Wild sex. Fantastic sex. But once wasn’t enough and I got greedy. In all fairness, so did he. One thing led to another and before either of us knew what was happening our lives were tangled up and messy. Inextricably linked. I’d fallen in love with a stranger.
And that was the problem.
Theo Sutherland was a man with a dark past and a price on his head. My life was at stake just for being with him.
One kiss was all it took to make me believe in love.
One heartbeat was all it took to turn him into the hero he never thought he’d be.
Start reading now for free!
What? You thought I’d post this all at once? Did you not read the title? We’re talking about serials! Of course this is going to take several posts! (Yes, I know I’m the only one laughing…) This is the first in a series of posts here and on Wattpad, plus I’ll do a couple of videos because I want to. When I’m done I’ll bind it all up together and put it out there as a finished product, but I figured if I’m going to share with you all how I write serials, I should take you through it exactly as I do it. One step at a time. One finished product in the end.
I’m messy. I go part by part. I’m okay with unfinished and a little raw. And only in the end do I pull it all together. It’s kind of the fun of serials. I love that it’s a little messy. I think it might be the most authentic “me” when it comes to writing. I never quite feel myself when I’m writing a novel. Not because I have anything against novels or beautifully polished masterpieces (because I love those!!!) but because writing (to me) is an art form. And art is a process. And art is sharing your world with the people it’s supposed to affect. So I love serials because it allows me to share my art with my readers as I’m creating it. Volume by volume. They get to come along on the ride and, in some ways, become part of the art along the way.
So first things first. Ideas and structure.
You’ve got to have an idea that can be told serially. What is a serial? It’s one story with many moving parts and pieces. Think of modern television. Many shows are now told episodically. There is one overarching story being told over all or half of a season. Each episode tells its own story as part of the bigger picture. It’s a glimpse into one aspect of all the moving parts bringing us to the eventual conclusion at the end of the season. There are some stories that aren’t suited to this type of storytelling, but there are others, those with multiple plot elements and multifaceted characters, that are absolutely perfect.
So before we delve into each of these points, let’s look at a few case studies. By far my favorite example of serialized storytelling on television is the BBC2/Netflix series Peaky Blinders. Each season is six episodes. Those six episodes tell the story of the Peaky Blinders gang, their leader, played by the incredible Cillian Murphy (whose accent in this is like silk!), and their cat-and-mouse war with Chief Inspector Campbell, in the aftermath of World War 1. Each episode gives us a piece of the puzzle while still leaving us feeling like we’ve seen a satisfying story. Another reason this series is such a great example for serial writers to study, is because in season two the story takes on a different, continuing arc in the characters stories. Two seasons with examples of how to tell one larger story with six smaller pieces. Take a look at the trailer:
Another good example is another BBC show, Broadchurch. Over the first series we follow the story of the death of Daniel Lattimer, and eventually discover who killed him. It is one story told over several addictive parts. In series two another related story arc is followed over several episodes. It is a slightly different example of how to approach a second set of serials than the Peaky Blinders example above, but both employ similar technicques. Do not watch all of this recap video if you haven’t watched all of series one (and think you might want to). It will ruin the end of the series and trust me, it was a good ride!!!
My final example is actually an American show! Arrow isn’t neccessarily what I’d consider the strongest writing, but the serializing of the storyline over the course of each season is! Comics have been in the serial game for decades and there is a lot to learn from reading them, or watching shows like Arrow and The Flash which approach the story arcs a little differently than my first two examples. In Arrow you are much more likely to find tighter story arcs unique to each episode with only a sprinkling of the larger plot. One of my favorite devices from the series is the generous use of flashbacks to Oliver Queen’s mysterious past. In some ways there are two stories constantly being told throughout the series. One much bigger story going deep into the past, and one happening in the present. They are juxtaposed in really fun ways and the storytelling totally makes up for the writing!
All right butterflies! Study up on serials and we’ll meet back next week for more! Happy studying!
Do you like to be tempted and teased? Start my Tease serials absolutely free!
Hey gang! This month First Draught tackled size. Of books. We sat around in a virtual circle and discussed the differences between novels and novellas, short stories, series, and serials. It was a good time and everyone got a good laugh out of my drink.
Just to clarify, it was a whiskey and tonic not just a giant glass of whiskey. I’m stressed, but not that stressed!
Mary Chris also coined the new word #interlapping.
Check out the show on YouTube, Soundcloud, or iTunes and stop back next month when we tackle getting ready for RWA!! Woot!
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