Authors can publish their stories in many different ways beyond an entire novel released on a one certain date. Serial platforms, websites where authors can release stories by episode or chapter instead of as a complete collection, are a great way for authors to gain exposure from readers and get feedback from their audience as they write.
Authors interested in writing and publishing serial fiction have several options when it comes to the distribution of their work. Whether you’re most interested in a paying platform, one that offers plenty of customization, or one that allows you to republish your work as a complete collection once it’s finished, there is a platform for you.
Substack is an online platform that allows users to create subscription-based email newsletters. Authors can use this site to send out monthly emails with a new episode of a story every month. Writers like Fantasy author Maggie Stiefvater have used Substack in the past to share short stories and other small works with readers. The platform is free to use, and authors can publish text and audio without paying for extra storage. Posts can be made free to read or require a paid subscription.
Substack has begun offering new tools to help publishers have more flexibility on the platform as well, such as
- writer profiles: Substack is offering new profiles that make it easier for authors to share their work. Author profiles will show your publications, other Substacks you read, and feeds you’ve written.
- flexible paywalls: This gives writers control over how much of a paid post they are willing to show as a preview for non-paying readers.
- file embeds: Authors can embed PDFs, Excel spreadsheets, and comic files into their feed, as well as change the title, description, and image of the file. The files will show as a downloadable attachment within the newsletter.
When it comes to posting on Substack, publishers can publish three types of posts: text-based, discussion threads, and podcasts or audio posts. These different types of posts can help publishers reach new audiences and gain a feel for different media types for telling their stories.
When posting on Substack, the following tips can help authors succeed with their newsletters:
- Pick a short and simple title.
- Take advantage of the button feature on your newsletters.
- Take advantage of the different text styles.
- Use hyperlinks.
- Create an online community by interacting with readers.
Substack offers many tools, but a great one is the upgrade option. Once you create an account, you can upgrade your themes to customize your welcome page, the home page, and post by selecting accent colors, font styles, and one of two home page layouts.
Patreon is a membership-based platform that allows creators to earn a monthly income by providing rewards and perks for their subscribers. Patreon creators can choose whether to charge per month or per creation (https://support.patreon.com).
Author and Patreon user Miya Kressin says she enjoys Patreon because it’s a way for her to talk directly to her readers.
“Patreon is a platform for multiple different artist groups,” Kressin says. “For the most part, it allows you to reach out directly to your fans and supporters, and as an author, I use it to allow my readers to come to me to choose what stories they want me to write.”
Kressin says she can get to know her readers and what they’re like through Patreon’s Discord tool. The Discord tool allows her and her supporters to talk in a live room.
“I’ll say, ‘Hey, find me on Discord. I’m gonna have my camera up. You can talk to me while I’m working on a book cover.’ And we’ll just sit there and visit while I’m working and put on music and just hang out together,” Kressin says.
Kressin has five different tiers on her Patreon. Each tier offers readers increased access and privileges. For example, the one-dollar tier offers early access to her content and access to her cover reveals, and patrons can post about her writing.
Patreon offers many perks for authors, but it also has some drawbacks compared with similar services. Although authors face no upfront costs for using the site, Patreon does take a percentage of the author’s funds from their monthly earnings and charges up to 5 percent in credit card processing fees. Still, with the potential to earn a monthly income from content shared across different tiers, it’s worth considering as a serial platform, albeit a less conventional one.
Kindle Vella (https://amazon.com/kindle-vella) is a relatively new serial platform that launched on Amazon in June 2021. Stories are posted one episode at a time. On Kindle Vella, readers can find detailed story pages for free and access features like “faves” and “thumbs up” awards, which allow readers to engage with stories.
Readers access episodes on Vella with virtual tokens. A full story is five thousand words and costs fifty tokens. A two thousand-word story costs twenty tokens. Tokens are purchased on the site, and authors receive 50 percent of the money spent on tokens paid for their story. If a reader spends $1.99 to purchase two hundred tokens, then spends fifty of them on your full story, you receive twenty-five cents.
Kindle Vella provides a lot of flexibility for authors through the platform. A finished story is not exclusive to the site, so you can repackage it as a book once you are done. Authors can also publish their stories on other serialization platforms, and readers on the site have the opportunity to provide authors with feedback on published episodes.
The platform currently offers fiction in genres such as Action and Adventure, Children’s stories, Dystopian, Humor, and more.
Wattpad is an online-reading platform that’s meant for authors to write original stories. Wattpad is based around interaction between readers and authors and gives readers the chance to give feedback to authors.
Wattpad is free to authors and users with no option to sell anything on the platform. This means authors are giving their work away for free. However, Wattpad allows readers to offer immediate feedback on your stories as you write. A comment section also lets readers note what they like and dislike as they read.
When it comes to genres on Wattpad, there is no limit. The site offers more than twenty base genres to help authors categorize their stories, including everything from Romance and Horror to short stories, Vampire fiction, and Fan Fiction. Authors can visit https://support.wattpad.com to view a complete list of base genres.
Pro Tip: When it comes to writing on Wattpad, tailor your content to your selected audience. Write about something well-known to your audience: celebrities, movies, or characters you love. But make sure whatever you write is appealing to your audience. The most important aspect of writing on Wattpad is to make your audience feel special, so interact with them as much as possible.
Finding which serial platform best fits you and your niche doesn’t need to be difficult. You will find the right one to help you put your stories out there and that will feel like a perfect match.