Powerful Laptop Computer

by Darlene Gardner


Take a young woman who can’t remember details of her abduction. Give her a summer job at an seaside carnival and a memory flash of an evil clown. Introduce a stranger who claims he had a similar experience. And write the story in nine, 25,000-word segments to be released one volume at a time.

I’m no newbie. I’ve sold more than thirty romances to three traditional publishers. How hard could it be to write a nine-volume serial in an unfamiliar genre? As it turns out, plenty hard. Here are nine things I learned along the way.

1) Keep a bible—It’s crucial to keep track of names, descriptions, motivations, plot points, etc. I wrote synopses for each volume and an over-arching synopsis. I kept a timeline and a list of characters. I also noted loose ends to clear up. And I gave thanks daily that I’ve always been a plotter and not a pantser.

2) Everything takes longer than you think—So much more is involved than the writing. Nine volumes means nine titles, nine covers, copy for nine back covers and regular website updates. Throw in some boxed sets, and the work increases exponentially.

3) Build in time for formatting and uploading—(See No. 2). I’m a bit of a control freak. Okay, more than a bit. I farmed out my .epub formatting but learned how to format .mobi files and how to upload the books to sales sites. The learning curve is steep, but nobody cares more about your books than you do.

4) Shorter blurbs are better—I was almost finished writing the serial when I realized my blurbs were too long and too detailed. It’s always best to keep the reader guessing so they’ll keep flipping pages. Dead Ringers is a paranormal mystery so that’s even more reason to be mysterious. So I changed every one of my descriptions and then fixed them at online sites. (See No. 2). 

5) Tease to subsequent volumes—Hopefully readers will be intrigued enough when they finish a volume to be eager to read the next volume. At the end of each, there needs to be a hyperlink to a subsequent volume. I constantly republished older volumes after updating them with links to just-published volumes. (See No. 2).

6) Proofread on an eReader—My work is professionally edited. Not only that, I used to be a professional copy editor. Early on, I didn’t see the need to proofread the volumes one last time on an eReader. Turns out, it’s the best way to catch the smallest errors. (See No. 2).

7) I could be a lot better at marketing—The first volume is perma-free to introduce the serial to readers. But there are a lot of promotional things I haven’t done. I’ve been soaking up knowledge, though. Talking to other indie authors. Going to local chapter meetings. Attending conferences. Subscribing to Marie Force’s selfpublish yahoo email list and others like it. I’ve got faith that some of this marketing knowledge will sink in.

8) Writing a serial is limiting—I released the first three volumes at once, then the next six volumes one at a time. Once a volume was published, I couldn’t go back and rewrite the past. In other words, if someone died in Volume Four, I couldn’t resurrect them in Volume Five. Unless I came up with a really innovative way to do it.

9) Writing a serial is liberating—Now that I’ve finished all nine volumes, I can package them in different ways. Individually. In boxed sets of three. In a nine-volume boxed set. In the future, I even have the option of replacing the covers and repackaging the books as a trilogy. As I’ve heard many times, epublishing is a marathon, not a sprint. The books are on the virtual shelves to stay.


Darlene GardnerDarlene Gardner is the author of more than thirty books ranging from paranormal mysteries to romantic comedies. All nine volumes of her Dead Ringers serial are available both individually and in boxed sets. Visit Darlene on the web at www.darlenegardner.com