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I guess the only thing that eventually saved my sanity blog-publishing the world’s first free daily serialized coffee break novel over a period of 72 days was this…
It was already written.
If it hadn’t been, I wouldn’t be writing this at this moment. I’d be locked away in a padded cell somewhere counting molecules in the padded walls. I mean it.
Serializing a novel online as you’re writing it might work if you publish once a week. But 72 days without being Stephen King? Nope. For one thing the writing would likely be atrocious. When I finish a novel, I put it away for several months and don’t even think about before I start the editing and revision process. I went through the entire process with The Weekly Man and considered it ready for publication before it was rejected by over 200 agents. The very first page had the word “noticed” twice in a row. And I never noticed it. The agents did though. And that’s when they stopped reading (if they actually got past the covering letter) and sent the “this does not meet our current…” letter. I’m sure they weren’t trying to break my heart. They just didn’t want to read a manuscript any further that looked like it would be page after page of typos, misspellings and other things the writer didn’t notice.
As I wrote in a previous blog, the novel naturally broke into 72 episodes that were about enough to read during a coffee break. I made each episode into a Word file and put it into its own folder along with any jpegs for the emails in the blog posts and a PDF for the website posts. I numbered each of the folders (144 in all) and included the date of publication for each of them.
Here’s what I did each day.
Post the novel to the blog, including any email jpegs.
Publish the episode’s PDF file on my personal website to get the URL.
Go to my website and link that day’s thumbnail to the PDF.
Write a short blurb about the episode just below the thumbnail.
Post a thumbnail and short description on all the social media sites I used (several Facebook pages, Reddit groups, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, et al).
Since I’d already spent months creating all the PDFs, jpegs, Word files, thumbnails, episode announcements and other components, the process was pretty much streamlined. Only one episode folder had the wrong episode file and, since I had another folder with all the episodes, it took just a few minutes to get the correct one online.
I even arranged the social media site icons on my browser (MacBook Pro) in the order I would post them so that I had a clear, unconfused routine to follow each day.
Everything was looking good.
Until interesting things began happening…things like the formatting and page layout in my blog going berserk occasionally because of some programming quirk in MS Word. There’s something about using technology for the same routine over a long period of time that technology doesn’t like. It’s a safe bet that things will go awry for mysterious reasons and you’ll be spending time talking to someone in tech support or waiting for a reply to an email request for support. Surprisingly, none of these things caused me to miss my daily midnight deadline, though they did waste a few evenings. Given that most people read blogs in the morning…during their coffee break, of course…I published the following day’s episode in the afternoon. That gave me extra time to deal with those unexpected problems.
There’s an understanding that you should offer something of value if you expect people to come to your website…and come back. I figured a free coffee break novel was something of value but I went a bit further and posted a bunch of freebies on my website…things like short stories, mini workshops on writing…and even a couple of photo albums I created in Adobe Spark. These turned out to be popular on Pinterest. But they added to the daily load.
There’s something about having to do something every day for a long period of time. It creates a sense of angst that you can feel in your stomach…a tight, quivering ball of anxiety that haunts your innards every day…even after you’ve met each day’s deadline. I started feeling that ball about a week before I posted the first episode and it continued for the entire 72 days of the serialization and for a week or so after.
This is something I already knew how to handle, having worked as a radio station copywriter for three years somewhere in my long ago youth (Yes, I was young once.) when I had hair. I had two daily deadline, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Miss three deadlines in one year and they threw you out of the station after stripping you of your dignity and self-esteem.
I knew what I was in for, but that didn’t stop the angst.
One of the things I took away from this, probably the main thing, was a keen regret that I ran the serialization for so long…especially for something on a daily basis. The stats on my blog affirmed this: readership started to drop off in the last few weeks. I think the readers were becoming inured to the story. Just as I had to post every day, day after day, they had to read every day, day after day. And newcomers had a lot of catching up to do…scrolling up and down a blog over a two and a half month period or opening 72 separate PDFs from the website.
This also created a problem at the marketing end. I posted a graphic every day with a message that the most recent episode was ready to be read. After about 30 days, those messages were beginning to look like spam and I did one complaint from one of the Reddit groups. I mean, they were beginning to have the same effect on me. I felt like I was spamming myself.
Again though…that was the way the novel was written…every episode was a day of the week from Monday to Sunday. Maybe I should have serialized a different novel.
I think one month is probably a good time frame for a daily serialization.
But was it overall a success? The right column of the blog had links to my published novels. I won’t know until my next royalty statement from my publisher (Double Dragon) if anyone bought one of them. The website version showed a link to my books in the top bar menu that would take people to a page with links to my other novels. But then, I didn’t do this as a means to sell anything. It was something I’d thought about doing for years…and I finally did it. And didn’t go crazy.
I’ve almost re-written the novel since the serialization with a view to self-publishing a print and ebook version for people who don’t like serialized novels. That’ll come out next Fall but it won’t be free. I’ll try to keep the price down, though, so that I recoup the publishing expenses. And I’ll leave the free version up for people to read on their coffee breaks. I spent a lot of time building both platforms for it and I’m finding it hard to tear all that down.
I’m also thinking about a sequel. I’d like to tell you about it but that would give away the mystery in the current book.
I did feel a sense of personal satisfaction after starting this project and completing it with me as the only rule maker and slave driver. It’s something I can be proud of…having done this without going crazy. And would I do it again?
No bloody way.
However, according to the stats on the blog, it had over 6000 views and that was just the blog version.
So…I built it…and they came.