As I write this, I’m torn between feeling entitled to a bit of cake and getting on with the next project. I’ve just pushed the button on This Plague of Days, Season Two. It’s not up on Amazon quite yet, but it’ll probably publish officially by midnight. (They say 24 to 48 hours, but it’s usually faster. If you’re a reader from outside North America, it might take a little longer for the digital flying squirrels to get it to you.)
So, what’s next?
1. Wait for reviews. Bite nails.
2. Start up one or two more websites and update existing websites.
6. Let my next guest on the Cool People Podcast I haven’t forgotten about them.
7. Organize getting print covers going for Murders Among Dead Trees, This Plague of Days S1 and S2, revamping Self-help for Stoners and reformatting Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire and Higher Than Jesus so they’re both 6″ x 9″.
8. Locate a local printer. Shipping and customs costs are killing me.
9. Locate a t-shirt place that can deliver at a reasonable price.
10. Prepare for new business launch Nov. 1.
11. Contact book review sites.
12. Write Season 3 of This Plague of Days by spring (and two or three other books by the end of next year.)
13. Wait for reviews. Bite nails.
14. Make another kale shake.
15. Reread some Neil Gaiman.
I’ll start with the kale shake and Gaiman. It seems the most doable thing just now.
(Author’s Note: The following article is about why I serialized This Plague of Days. If you came for a secret revealed that isn’t a spoiler, The Link for the Curious is at the bottom of this post.)
Dickens wrote serials. So did Hemingway. Much of television is based on the serial format. The formula for reader satisfaction is pretty straightforward: hook ’em and give them some play but keep them on the line. Give readers rising tension and cliffhangers and you have a story that keeps them coming back week to week.
When I worked in traditional publishing, the model was much different:
The Zombie Apocalypse serial is here. Get it week to week for a scary summer or get the whole season.
One launch date; blitz all media all at once; concentrate the push within the first couple of weeks of launch; watch all efforts either win or peter out as bookstores sent back their inventory returns a few weeks later.
Here’s what’s different about This Plague of Days:
It has six launch dates; five episodes per season sold at 99 cents each; or get the whole book immediately at a discount (just $3.99) and find out what happens to my autistic boy and my uber-villain.
The change in the publishing model
Amazon used to work something like old world publishing in that you could marshal your forces and do a book bomb. A book bomb is where you get everyone you know to buy your book on Amazon at 2 pm on a Tuesday. The way it used to work, the algorithms would boost your book up the charts. Once the Mighty Zon recognized that was what some people were doing, they changed the algorithm to push those books down as fast as they rose.
Now I know drip marketing is the best way to go (as I learned from David Gaughran, author of Let’s Get Digital and Let’s Get Visible). Amazon algorithms favor book sales over time. It’s still great to get a big X of sales over a short Y amount of time, but Amazon likes sales consistency, not stabs in the dark that can’t be sustained.
Serials can sustain. With each episode serving as a sample to encourage readers to go ahead and buy the full Season One (and Season Two comes out in September) I feel like I haven’t even begun to reach new readers. When you launch one book, it feels like the date comes and goes quickly. Maybe you make an impact, but it feels like one kick at the can. After that, you’re repeating yourself and boring potential new readers. (What? He’s still on about that book he published all the way back in June?)
An autistic boy and his family versus The Running Dead
Serialization allows me to keep talking unselfconsciously. I have new launch dates, new material, and new information. I give readers a lot to look forward to.
I didn’t skimp on the episodes. Many serials give 10,000 words per episode. My episodes run 20-25,000 words. I wanted to be generous and give them lots of action.
Also? This Plague of Days is like two books in one! This is a zombie apocalypse with a contemplative side. At its heart is a boy with autism who sees the world very differently. So yes, there’s tension and creepiness and fast zombie action and an international thriller. There’s also a family dealing with a plague from the cold comfort of their living room in a world suddenly dystopian and unfamiliar.
Not all mysteries will be solved in Season One. A very important story arc in This Plague of Days is fooling readers right now!
Many authors experimented with serialization. It didn’t work well for them. Perhaps they were ahead of their time. Perhaps there were other variables that didn’t fall into place. I modelled what successful authors were doing and added length to the episodes to give bang for the buck. Then Amazon came out with its serials program and I felt like the biggest brains in publishing blessed the model I adopted.
If you haven’t bought Season One yet, there’s a secret I’m prepared to reveal now.
Not only did I serialize This Plague of Days, I did something no traditional publisher would have allowed.