Friday, August 1, 2014

2 Confessions of a Serial Novelist (Part 3) by Clara Kensie

Welcome to the final installment of the Adventures in YA Publishing series on serialized novels! Two weeks ago we discussed the surprising pleasures of reading a serial, and last week I gave you some tips on how to write a serialized novel. Today, we’re talking about how to market your serial. Serialized novels are making a big comeback! If you are considering joining the serial revolution, I hope these marketing tips are helpful to you:

How do you find readers who will embrace your serial?
Photo credit: Robbert van der Steeg via flickr


We’re all word-lovers here, so hold on tight: I’m going to throw some numbers at you. According to my (admittedly unscientific) research, while there is no industry standard for price, traditionally-published serials tend to be priced at $1.99 per episode, regardless if the audience is adult, new adult, or YA. The number and length of installments, however, can vary greatly. To compare, I’ll give you four examples: one adult, one new adult, and two young adult:

• Three of the books in Beth Kery’s BECAUSE YOU ARE MINE adult romance series (Berkley) have eight installments apiece. Each installment is priced at $1.99, and each installment is approximately 55 pages long. The installments of each book were released weekly.

Jessa Holbrook’s new adult romance WHILE YOU’RE AWAY (Razorbill) has six installments of about 48 pages each, priced at $1.99 apiece (weekly releases).

THE WITCH COLLECTOR by Loretta Nyhan (Harper Teen) is a YA paranormal novel serialized into two parts of 184 and 110 pages respectively, and priced at $1.99 each. Released monthly.

The two books in my YA romantic thriller series, RUN TO YOU (Harlequin Teen), have three installments each, averaging 95 pages apiece. They are priced at $1.99 each. The installments of each book were released weekly.

Notice that in the examples above, the YA serials have fewer installments and a much longer length than the adult and new adult serials. Personally, I’m happy that Harlequin Teen serialized my books this way. While it’s not a big deal for an adult to make six or eight purchases of $1.99, teens often don’t have their own accounts with online e-tailers (serials are usually published digitally). To make an online purchase, many teens must first ask their parent’s permission or ask their parents to order it for them—which means for an eight-part serial, they would have to ask permission eight times. Also, an installment of 95+ pages is long enough to leave the YA audience satisfied with both the length and the price they paid. If you are budget-conscious, you will be delighted to note that at $1.99 per installment, the total price of the two- or three-part YA books is still lower than the average full-length digital book. A great deal for the YA audience!

The take-away: While adult and new adult serials have more, shorter installments per book, if you are considering publishing a YA serial, I highly recommend keeping the number of installments low, and the number of pages per installment high.


Weekly releases seem to be the most popular release schedule lately (although there are exceptions). Why are weekly releases the most popular? Weekly releases give the readers enough time to finish one installment, and they don’t have to wait very long for the next. The book is still fresh on their mind when the next installment is released, so they don’t have time to forget about it and move on to a different book. Also, TV series broadcast their episodes weekly, so we’ve become programmed (pun intended) to enjoy our stories in weekly doses. Finally, for readers who prefer to read the entire book at once, they don’t have long to wait for all the installments to be released.


Okay! You’ve determined the length, number, and price of each installment of your serial, you’ve set the release schedule of your serial, and you wrote your serial. Good for you! Now you have to find readers for your serial. I’m not going to lie to you: there are definite challenges to finding readers for a serial. Why?

• Some people won’t read your book simply because of its serialized format. They will see that it’s a serial, and that’s it: they won’t even give it a chance. They want a complete book, and nothing else will do.

• Many readers don’t want to make multiple purchases for the equivalent of one book. They assume every serial will eventually be released as a complete novel, and they’ll wait until then to read it. In my (non-scientific) research, this is by far the biggest reason most people give for not wanting to read a book in serial format. But for some serials, the publisher has no intention of re-packaging it into one complete novel, which unfortunately means those people will never read it.

Other obstacles:

• Some readers will be disappointed that an installment is shorter than a full-length book. They may leave a bad review or give it low stars—not because they dislike the writing or the story, but because they dislike the length or the serialized format. They are perfectly entitled to their opinion, of course. As the author, you just have to hope that they like the story enough to read the next episode. But those bad reviews and lower stars will affect the book’s overall rating.

• All authors spend lots of time promoting their books. But because serials are new and different, you may spend more time explaining the serialized format of your book, rather than explaining what your book is actually about.


But fear not, my friends. While there are definite challenges to marketing your serial, there are some unique benefits, additional audiences, and fun opportunities!


• Multiple releases in a short time frame help get an author’s name out faster through consistent exposure week after week.

• A serialized novel offers an author multiple opportunities to communicate with a growing and potential audience in a short time frame.

• Serials offer more opportunities for reviews.

• Multiple installments means multiple covers! Every author knows how hard it is to stand out from the crowd. The multiple, connected covers of your serial are a unique way to catch the eyes of readers.

Additional audiences:

• Serials appeal to busy people. If someone tells me they don’t read books, I often ask them why not. The most common reason: they don’t have the time. But most people have an hour here or there throughout the week, the perfect amount of time to read an episode of a serial.

• Serials appeal to the reluctant and occasional reader. I’ll give you a personal anecdote: I received an email—one I will cherish forever--from a mother who said RUN TO YOU was the first non-school book her teenage daughter had ever read. Her daughter envied her “fangirl” friends who were obsessed with popular YA novels such as HARRY POTTER, THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS, and DIVERGENT. But those longer tomes intimidated her, and she felt excluded from the book fandom experience. Her mother discovered the RUN TO YOU serial and purchased it for her. Its weekly episodes of 95 pages each were perfect for the girl, who felt accomplished and proud after finishing each installment. Reluctant and occasional readers find serials to be incredibly gratifying.

• Serials also can also appeal to voracious readers. While reluctant and busy readers may take a week to read an episode, avid readers will read an episode in a single sitting. If they still want more, they can wait for all of the installments to release, then read them all at once.

Additional opportunities:

• Serialized novels can make reading a social experience. Like with television series, your readers can read each installment of your serial, then discuss it with each other and online. They will anxiously anticipate the next installment together.
• For example, you can utilize the fun social aspect of serials by having an online read-along! Your current readers will enjoy engaging with other fans, and the read-along will attract new readers as well. (Psst… we’re having a read-along of my serial right now! See the info at the bottom of this post.)


So there you have it, folks: I’ve told you about reading, writing, and marketing serialized novels. Any questions? Ask away!


Clara Kensie grew up near Chicago, reading every book she could find and using her diary to write stories about a girl with psychic powers who solved mysteries. She purposely did not hide her diary, hoping someone would read it and assume she was writing about herself. Since then, she’s swapped her diary for a computer and admits her characters are fictional, but otherwise she hasn’t changed one bit.

Today Clara is the author of dark fiction young adults. Her debut series, the romantic thriller RUN TO YOU, is Harlequin TEEN’s first serial. Book One is First Sight, Second Glance, and Third Charm. Book Two is Fourth Shadow, Fifth Touch, and Sixth Sense.

Her favorite foods are guacamole and cookie dough. But not together. That would be gross.

Find Clara online: Website   Twitter   Facebook   Tumblr   Instagram   Goodreads  Newsletter

About the books

Good news! The first installment of my serial, RUN TO YOU Part I: FIRST SIGHT, is still free across all e-tailers! It won't last much longer, so get it before the price goes back up!
In Part One of this romantic thriller about a family on the run from a deadly past, and a first love that will transcend secrets, lies and danger…

Sarah Spencer has a secret: her real name is Tessa Carson, and to stay alive, she can tell no one the truth about her psychically gifted family and the danger they are running from. As the new girl in the latest of countless schools, she also runs from her attraction to Tristan Walker—after all, she can't even tell him her real name. But Tristan won't be put off by a few secrets. Not even dangerous ones that might rip Tessa from his arms before they even kiss…

RUN TO YOU is Tessa and Tristan's saga—two books about psychic gifts, secret lives and dangerous loves. Each book is told in three parts: a total of six shattering reads that will stay with you long after the last page.

Grab FIRST SIGHT now for free, then join Harlequin Teen and a whole bunch of book bloggers and fans at the RUN TO YOU read-along. It's not too late to join in the FIRST SIGHT and SECOND GLANCE discussions, and we're starting the THIRD CHARM week on Monday, August 3. We’re having a great time, and we have some fun prizes to give away. Get more details on my blog: I’d love to see the Adventures in YA Publishing gang at the read-along!

For more about each installment of the RUN TO YOU series, click here

Find RUN TO YOU at your favorite e-tailers, including:


  1. Fascinating idea! I especially like how you relayed that some kids are looking for shorter books--not EVERYONE likes those daunting tomes that are out there. (sometimes those long books are even daunting to me, to begin! LOL) Sounds like it meets a definite need. :)

  2. This has been a fascinating series of posts. I learned a great deal. Thanks!


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