We are pleased to welcome writer E.A. Aymar to the Tuesday Serial site today for the next installment in our guest post series. In this post, he discusses his strategy of building a base of readers for his debut novel by using serial fiction. You can view previous posts in our guest post series here. Welcome, E.A.!
I pretty much lost my mind when Black Opal Books told me they wanted to publish my debut thriller, a revenge story gone wrong called I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead. I wanted to chest bump everyone I knew, I wanted to jump up and down, I wanted to run to wherever Black Opal’s offices were located and hug everyone there until it grew awkward (too late). But all I did was call my wife and blabber excitedly for five minutes, then I sat in my chair and smiled contentedly. And then I realized, “you know, I need to find people to read this book.”
I had been putting the finishing touches on a noir novella about a depressed hit man who suddenly learns he has to question the loyalty of everyone close to him, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it. But I had been reading about serial work – articles in The Atlantic and The Wall Street Journal talked about the attraction of serial fiction, and pointed to the popularity of sites like JukePop Serials and Wattpad. So I decided to release the novella about my dejected assassin, When the Deep Purple Falls, on a weekly basis and see if I could drum up any interest for my novel’s publication.
A lot of writers release serial projects with the ending unwritten, but that approach didn’t work for me. I worried too much that something would happen before the story was finished – I could die, or get involved with some distracting drug or time-consuming video game, or end up in a sex/torture dungeon somewhere and my work would never be finished. So before I put the first chapter out there, I completely finished the novella and had it professionally edited. I also contacted a couple of artists-friends and asked if they would be willing to provide other components to the book. One drew a murderers’ row of the novella’s characters, and another took black and white photographs of locations included in the story. And I had a trailer created.
I set up an author’s web site, Facebook page, Twitter account, blog and everything else a writer does nowadays and put the novella on blast. I told everyone I could that it would be coming out weekly, and each chapter would include original artwork. I contacted JukePop Serials and they accepted When the Deep Purple Falls for their site; I also put it on Wattpad and, of course, Tuesday Serial.
I started on Facebook with about two-hundred likes for my writer’s page; by the time the last chapter of the novella was out, nine weeks later, I was over two thousand. The folks at Tuesday Serial did a really nice job of using social media to help promote my work, as did the staff at JukePop. The only problem I had with JukePop was getting people to vote for my book – you have to register for the site to vote, and that may have turned off some people, especially since I was also distributing the story on my web site and nobody needed to log onto JP to read it. Still, JukePop put out a nice product, and the other stories on the site were well-written. And I made friends with other writers who were contributing to the site.
This was not the case with Wattpad. I like the idea of easy access to any literature whatsoever, but it was depressing to see my work competing with Justin Bieber fan fiction and Twilight knock-offs. Plus, like any social media site, you have to put time in to get fans – all of these sites are created to further their own growth. You really have to become an integral part of its community to stand out, and I sort of lost interest in Wattpad after a while; particularly because, like a lot of sites ostensibly devoted to readers, writers took the opportunity to aggressively self-promote their work (“vote for my story and I’ll vote for yours!”). Maybe I’m not being entirely fair…a lot of good writers use the site, as do a number of publishers, and Margaret Atwood champions it, but it just didn’t work for me. I didn’t invest the time I should have, and I might try again someday. And, to be fair, I put out nine chapters once a week. Two months really isn’t enough time to build an eager fan base.
So, in the end, did all of this work?
Truthfully, I don’t know yet. I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead was just published, and I won’t have a sales report for a few weeks. I don’t know if those two-thousand new Facebook fans will turn into buyers. But here’s what I ended up with: a solid prequel that serves as a strong introduction to my style and the novel, some new friends whose writing I admire, and the enjoyment of having people eager to read my work. During those two months, nothing was cooler than getting an e-mail or Tweet or Facebook post from someone asking about the next chapter. So there’s that connection. And there’s that success.
E.A. Aymar studied creative writing at George Mason University and earned a Masters in Literature from Marymount. Born in Panama, he has lived throughout the United States and in Europe. You can find more information about E.A. Aymar, his works and read his weekly blog on his website .