Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Could Serialized Fiction Be the Future of eBook Publishing?

Yesterday's GoneEver wonder what all the eBook hype is about? Is it really a revolution of content and publishing? Or just another fad?

I recently connected with a couple of guys who are doing something really interesting with ePublishing.

So I asked them for an interview.

Sean Platt and David Wright are authors of an eBook project called Yesterday’s Gone, a series of fictional stories delivered digitally over a period of time — like TV shows and comic books.

But I don’t want to give a lot away. I’ll let them say the rest:

Jeff Goins (JG): What’s the book about?

David Wright (DW): Yesterday’s Gone is a series about what happens on October 15, when most of the world’s population vanishes in an instant.

David Wright and Sean Platt

David Wright (left) & Sean Platt (right)

The series follows those left behind as they try to make sense of what happened, find their loved ones, and come together or drift apart as a growing evil stalks them.

The story has elements of post-apocalyptic horror, science-fiction, and adventure.

JG: How is it unique?

DW: A few ways. First, the format is serialized, something that’s not new, but you don’t see a whole lot of in eBooks at the moment.

The story is told in 100-page eBooks which we (my co-author Sean Platt and I) call “episodes.”

We structured the story like serialized TV in a way, building tension throughout to a great cliffhanger of an ending at the end of each episode that leaves you wondering, “What happens next?!”

Yesterday's Gone - Episode 1The book is told in six episode seasons. At the end of each season, we combine the episodes into a full season book, which people who don’t want to download the whole thing in one shot can do, making the series more like a regular fiction series, if you just buy the season books.

The other unique thing about Yesterday’s Gone is that even though it’s a thriller and fast-paced, we’re not afraid of the quiet moments.

The characters are deep and layered with lots of shades of gray. There are moments in the series where you will cry, some where you will laugh, and then other moments you’ll scream.

JG: What does the eBook revolution mean for the creative writer? What about readers?

DW: The biggest advantage that I see is that you can produce more work in less time.

With publishers, you have to work with their schedule and with their budgets. Why should you have to wait a year or two between novels if you can release a few per year? Why should readers have to wait?

There’s a magical bond that exists between authors and readers. When you find someone who can captivate you and bring you to another world, you want to make a return trip with the captain that brought you there.

When I find an author I like, I tend to buy all their work. If they can release it quicker, we all win.

JG: Why serialized fiction?

DW: I’ve loved serialized fiction since I was a kid in the 70’s and watched a TV show called Cliffhangers. The show featured three ongoing serials and always left you hanging on to the following week. At the same time, and into the 80’s, I was a huge comic book fan, and loved how they always left you hanging.

In the 90’s, Stephen King released The Green Mile in six serialized books (the model we adopted). And that’s when I decided I would someday do the same thing.

Sean and I are big fans of serialized TV like The Wire, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, LOST, Carnivale, and a ton of others.

We’ve wanted to create a serial since we met. We tried with an existing idea I had, a vampire book called Available Darkness, but it wasn’t a true serialization. It was a book we were breaking apart.

Yesterday's Gone - Episode 2We wanted to do it right — time the stories to a serialized format, build the action to great cliffhanger endings, and really get readers excited. So we came up with the idea for Yesterday’s Gone.

While serialization has been around for hundreds of years, surprisingly few big-name authors are doing it today. I’ve heard from a few naysayers: people who think the idea of serialized eBooks is bad — “they won’t sell,” “nobody wants to wait for a book to continue,” and a bunch of other reasons the format will fail.

I disagree.

I think eBooks are the perfect low-cost vehicle for serialization, and it’s only a matter of time before someone does it big and the idea catches fire.

As a reader, the thing I love most about serialized books and series in general, is that when you find a book you really enjoy, a world you want to see more of, characters you’ve come to know and love, or hate, you don’t want to leave.

You want the story to keep going.

We’re not willing to wait for someone else to make it popular. We believe readers are ready now. We’re so excited about serialized fiction that we’re developing two other serials for launch next year.

JG: We’ve heard so much hype about the “eBook revolution” and unknown authors selling a million books in six months. Is writing books no longer a “poor man’s passion”?

DW: I don’t see the recent success of eBooks as some kind of gold rush. I liken it to a crack in the door backstage.

It used to be that there was a hulking security guard standing outside who’d only let certain people through.

Now the door has been left open, the guard is taking a break. You have an opportunity to sneak onto the stage and draw a crowd, but you still need to be able to perform once you get there.

The basics of writing and marketing still apply, and there’s lots you’ll need to learn. But if the timing’s right, your work is good, and you are consistent, you can succeed.

Having said that, I’m not a writer because it’s a path to riches. I’m a writer because I have stories to tell.

I was writing when I was working the graveyard shift at a gas station for years. I was writing when I worked at a newspaper. And I’m writing now.

I don’t think writing books is relegated to how much money you make. You’re either a writer or you’re not. With luck, you find an audience who gets your stuff and you can make enough to keep writing for them, and yourself.

JG: How has blogging shaped the future of books — if at all?

DW: In the fiction world, I think blogging hasn’t shaped book content so much as it has given readers access to authors in a way that was never before possible.

Can you imagine 20 years ago, being able to instantly access your favorite author? Ask a question, comment on something, or have a meaningful discussion?

If I could have commented on Twitter to Clive Barker the day he opened my eyes to the magic that is his writing, I certainly would have reached out in a moment. As a reader and a writer, that connection is incredible.

Some writers prefer to be left alone, and that’s cool. Social media is not for everyone, especially if you’re antisocial.

Blogging is another tool to relate with your readers or market. But use it wrong, and you can destroy what you took so long to build.

JG: Why should someone read your book?

DW: Escape. To get lost in a world, if only for a little while, via great storylines, complex characters, and of course, the killer plot twists and cliffhanger endings!

Plus, reading Yesterday’s Gone is known to cure the common cold, and make you far more attractive.

JG: For those who want to write their own serialized novel, how do you get started?

DW: Write. Write a lot. The more you write (and the more you read), the better writer you will be.

Once you’ve got a few books done, upload them to Amazon, or one of the other eBook services. You’ll want to learn some marketing basics and follow some of the indie author blogs. But don’t let that slow down your writing.

It’s easy to get distracted, which is why I hang this message to myself on my wall, “Always keep writing.”

Note: You can get the Yesterday’s Gone pilot for FREE (usually $.99), or get the full season for just $4.99. If you want to make sure you don’t miss a thing, click here to become a “Goner,” and get exclusive chapters with shocking endings, and a ringside seat to the behind-the-scenes info.

You can also follow the authors here:

What do you think is the future of the eBooks? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Introv

    I might try this.

  • Yeah, I think they’re definitely on to something. The reading experience, to me, is actually better for a serialized book. I feel like I’m reading better because I get farther through the book faster. Personally, I’d love to publish one.

    • I agree. We were just talking about this, but there’s something important about feeling like you’re making progress with a book, especially fiction.

    • Joe – I agree. As someone who loves big books, I admit that when I’m pressed for time, it’s hard to just get started. I’ll stare down a 900 page book, procrastinating for weeks, but you give me something short to start, I’m a lot more likely to dive right in. And, chances are, I’ll read even faster in small bursts.

      • 900 pages. Yikes! I haven’t read one that big since I was in college. I will procrastinate for YEARS on a book like that.

  • Patricia Yager Delagrange

    I loved The Green Mile and would definitely read serialized fiction.  I like following characters I’ve come to know and care about and I bet these books will find a niche.
    Good luck, guys!

    • This is why I LOVED comic books when I was in high school.

    • @1fa27fa599597526bcb830c5179e8b20:disqus  Thank you! I love following characters, too, whether in a serial like The Green Mile or series books like what Dennis Lehane or George R. R. Martin have done.

      @jeffgoins:disqus  Me too! Started with comics in the 70s through the 80s and up to the 90s when they became a bit too expensive to follow.

  • These guys are trailblazers.  I’m totally going to follow their trail!

  • Pauline Scott

    Jeff, the article mentions uploading your book to Amazon. Would you do a blog on how to do that? I tried looking into it, and none of the information I could find really explained what to do. The searches all pointed me towards a publishing company. Thanks!

  • I agree, that when you’re reading a good story, often times you don’t want the story to end, so I think this is an awesome idea – I think they’ll do well with it… It’s just a matter of finding the right audience for the type of story, but that’s true of a t.v. series as well.

    • What would be interesting to know is how far out they write. For instance, do they know when the show is going to end and how? Or do they just write it out one season at a time? (I would imagine doing it episode by episode would be a little disjointed, but who knows.)

      • @jeffgoins:disqus  We sketched out the bones of season one after we wrote a good chunk of the first episode, with some freedom to change things up if the characters presented something better. We like taking the Stephen King approach of allowing the story some breathing room to tell itself, but within the framework we’ve plotted out. In other words, if something more awesome reveals itself or a character changes things up a bit, we’re willing to see where it will go. Season Two is a bit more tightly plotted as we now know the characters and the endgame for the series much better than when we started off with Episode One in the summer.

        Yes, we know how it will end. At the moment, it seems as if we’ll end it with Season Three. However, that could change as the story progresses if we feel it needs a bit more space. We also know why and how things came to be in the story, there are some things we’re very much sticking to script to make sure the story doesn’t go off the rails.

    • @msdeniseu:disqus  Thank you. We’re about as excited as if we were launching a TV show!

  • kati

    David, I’m curious, your comment about blogging as a relational tool: “But use it wrong, and you can destroy what you took so long to build.”

  • Weirdly enough, I’m doing almost exactly the same thing right now- writing a 6-part post-apocalyptic ebook serial on kindle & smashwords. Mine is called “The Mountain and The City”.

    It was very strange to learn about this.

  • Good to know about this 🙂 I’m not really sure if I like it but I’m sure if I like a certain author I almost always watch out for the other books he/she will publish like John Grisham and Sophie Kinsella. Also, if the story is good, I don’t want it to end.

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    Capt. Lanie Romein, A.K.A The Ice Queen  https://yezallstrongheart.weebly.com/4/post/2012/11/part-11.html

    I am having great success with my serial.  I am up to part 11 and I am receiving about 300 hits a week on it.  I update every Friday with a new episode.

  • I’ve been following Platt and Wright for a couple years now (and love their books!) I’ve considered writing a serial myself, but haven’t decided yet.

    Serials are becoming bigger in romance now and if I try my hand at contemporary romance, I may try a serial. So far I’m having fun with a typical series though.

  • rolland

    BOOK SERIALIZATION IS ON THE RISE! Here’s Why! Every SUNDAY morning when the Rooster crows BORN DEAD on a Winter’s Night comes ALIVE — Please Share if you like the fact book serialization means more people will read. Since my writing career began starting with meeting Steve Jobs Apple Computer I have received OVER 1,000 five star reviews. https://noisemedium.com/2016/08/born-dead-winters-night-chapter-ii 💥
    All the best …
    Rolland Love