Part 1: The Idea
This summer I conducted a little experiment. I decided to publish a book, but not like I typically do. Typically, I publish the whole novel on Amazon. This time, I tried publishing it serially, for free, on different platforms, on the Internet.
This is how my adventure began.
* * *
It began on March 17, 2022—Saint Patrick’s Day. I know, because I checked my journal.
On that day, I put a corned beef roast into the crock pot. I tutored my nephew Cameron via Facetime and we ended a little early that morning. I published a blog post, which happened to be “The Benefits of Keeping a Private Diary.” And because I had extra time, I decided to look through a list of writer resources that had come up in my email.
This one, if you are interested:
Most of the links I did not find helpful. There were many which involved sifting data for the purpose of marketing, which I did not know how to do, and required a monthly subscription, which I did not have. But there was one resource that caught my eye.
Simily. This is a website that pays you for your story. The more views you get, the more money you get.
I was looking for new ways of making money from my writing. I had published my novels on Amazon, but the cash wasn’t rolling in. Besides, I was feeling in a rut. I wanted to stretch myself, to try something new. This intrigued me.
The problem was, Simily asked for short stories. I didn’t have a bunch of new short stories lying around.
But I did have a novel.
* * *
I started writing Girls and Monsters in summer 2019, but the idea for the story had been floating in my head since November of 2014. The original idea, as I had it written down, was almost like a kid’s story, a warped fairy tale.
A little girl (8 or 9 years old) gets kidnapped by a sorcerer and taken to his tower. She finds herself surrounded by other girls he’s kidnapped, of all ages. The sorcerer threatens to turn them into monsters if they don’t do what he says. The girls have something they want—a treasure—and he uses the curse to get him what he wants. One older girl, though, refuses to play his game, and because of this, she is midway to turning into a dragon. Even so, she plots ways of escaping the sorcerer and urges the other girls to resist him.
This idea quickly shifted when I came to realize the sorcerer—who was actually fairly young himself—kind of had a thing for the girl who was turning into a dragon. And I, the author, kind of liked them getting together.
And so the story became a romance. The original little girl went away, and I focused on the sorcerer, who I named Brand, and the dragon girl, who I called Seri, and how this very unlikely relationship would progress. I thought about it late at night and wrote down the story in my idea journal. But eventually, I ran out of ideas and the story came to a stuttering halt. So I moved on. I had plenty of other stories to write.
But in the summer of 2019, I paged through my idea journal and rediscovered Girls and Monsters. This was around the height of the #MeToo movement. Writing about a relationship that starts with a kidnapping felt incredibly wrong. So, naturally, I felt compelled to write about it.
I told myself that my story was trash, but it didn’t matter, because no one else would see it. I was writing it for me. It was a novelty, to write simply because I wanted to, without the pressure of audience or publication. That freedom helped me speed through the story in record time for me—I finished in November 2021.
And once it was done, I thought… maybe it’s not trash. Maybe it’s good. Maybe other people would enjoy reading it.
But I hadn’t planned on publishing it, and publishing is so much work. Editing and formatting and finding a cover artist. I had other concerns. So I put Girls and Monsters aside, and for the next few months, it simmered in the back of my mind.
* * *
My idea was to break Girls and Monsters into small chapters and publish it serially: that is, chapter by chapter, week by week, until the story was complete. Simily had said that longer works could be broken up. This might even be a good way of getting more views. A Granted, they were talking about breaking up 50 page short stories, not full on novels. But maybe I could bend the rules. Maybe it would work.
Before committing, I decided to examine Simily’s website more closely. It looked like a WordPress website. I don’t mind WordPress as a blogging tool, but was it the best site to compile works of fiction? I read through some of the short stories and the writing just didn’t impress me. Would enough people come to this website, if this was all it offered? Would I come to it and read it for fun?
I remembered a time I tried something similar, publishing my short stories on an App called Ether. At the time I was really proud of myself, because it was the first thing I published. But I didn’t see any money off of it. Worse yet, I never really used the App. Today, I can’t find heads or tails of the App or its website.
If I was going to go through the work of putting Girls and Monsters out there, at the very least, I wanted it to be seen.
So, I decided, for various reasons, Simily was not a good home for Girls and Monsters.
But I still liked the idea of publishing Girls and Monsters serially, preferably on a website that had plenty of readers who might be interested in my story.
* * *
April 14th. My nephew’s birthday. I drew a cake for him and sang him “Happy Birthday” over Facetime.
In my journal, I wrote about a revelation I had last night: that each publishing event was not an opportunity to be successful, but rather a step accumulating to success. Not a pass or fail test (which I frequently failed), but a project added to the portfolio. With this new mindset, I felt optimistic about publishing Girls and Monsters. I was ready to research.
What was a good platform to serially publish a novel?
I asked Google. Answers came quickly.
The best article I found came from the Tough Nickel, an article entitled, “The Four Best Platforms for Fiction Writers to Start a Fanbase.” This was exactly what I wanted. The four platforms were: Royal Road, Webnovel, Scribble Hub, and Wattpad. The author of the article, Drew Agravante, spoke in depth about the pros and cons to each site. At the end of the article, he mentioned a series of other platform sites, he had not personally investigated, but could be promising: MoonQuill, Inkitt, Tapas, Tap-Read, Swoonread, and GoodNovel.
I heard about Tapas from another article I found, which came from the Jane Friedman website. The article was called, “A Serial Publishing Platform That Earns Money for Indie Creators.” It had three ways of monetizing content, which I found interesting.
Finally, I found an article from The Write Life, which was called, “Why I’m Serializing My Novel via Substack.” I had never head of Substack, but apparently, it is Patreon for writers. It is a tool for bringing in money, but not necessarily for gaining an audience.
I don’t have a built-in audience. No audience, no money. I needed an audience first. So I put that article away, for the time being.
I had many options for publishing Girls and Monsters, but which would be the best home for it? A younger version of me would have hemmed and hawed and added more research to her To Do list. But I wanted to try this out for summer. I had already broken up Girls and Monsters into chapters, and I figured I had enough to take me from the start of May to the end of August. May was coming up. I needed an answer.
Which one should I choose?
* * *
It hit me a few days later.
April 22nd. I woke up late. I tried to make a schedule for the day, but instead, I went straight into research. I looked up Royal Road and other websites. I made lists of articles for Patreon and Substack. My computer died briefly and I walked the dogs.
At some point in the middle of the day, it occurred to me that there was no rule that said I had to publish exclusively to one website. I could simultaneously publish on multiple websites. Rather than guess which platform was best for my story, I could try them out and then use data to decide which was the best.
What a great idea!
I decided to limit my options to three, however, because I did not want to get swamped in learning how to navigate 7 or 8 new platforms at a time. Three was fine.
These were the ones I chose:
Royal Road: It boasts a large amount of readers and those readers seem to have a predilection for fantasy. However, it can also be extremely niche fantasy, like LitRPG. Would my story fit it?
Scribble Hub: A sizable fanbase, though not as big as Royal Road. However, the anime covers on the site reminded me of Fanfiction.net, where I had some success. Would I find a friendly community here?
Tapas: A new contender, but it had interesting ways of monetization, and I was curious as to how that might work. Could I make money off my work here?
I read through the terms of each website, and I created an account. I put in my basic information, and I called it a day. I was excited about my experiment. I was going to try something new.
What would the results be?
* * *
This is the end of Part 1. The experiment will continue with Part 2: The Start-Up, which I will hopefully post next week.
If you are interested in reading “Girls and Monsters,” the entire completed story is currently available for free on the three websites I noted. You can check my website for how to access it: http://www.rebeccalangstories.com/girls-and-monsters.html
Thank you for reading. If you liked what you read, please give me a like or a comment, so that I know you enjoyed it. And stay tuned for the next section.