Drew Hayes on Starting a Web-novel

Drew Hayes, the author of Super Powereds and Corpies, posted on his blog about things to know before starting a web-novel. If you are even thinking about writing a serial novel online or writing one now, I would highly recommend you read it. He even links to my blog post about setting up a serial novel in WordPress.

I cannot stress enough #1, the posting schedule. When I started Portal, I followed Drew’s lead of updating twice a week. Since his post schedule was Tuesday and Thursday (posting the previous evening), I followed the same schedule. I wanted my story available to his readers while they waited for his next chapter, so I chose Wednesday and Friday as my schedule. I usually post in the evening before, like Drew, and this has worked well into the schedules for the #TuesdaySerial and the #FridayFlash collectors. Both chapters are picked up during the week as they are posted.

The issue of #4, Promotion, is one of the hardest things I learned. I was lucky that Drew was nice enough to share his methods so I didn’t make any huge mistakes when Portal launched. I am not a big social network person. I use Facebook to keep in contact with relatives and Twitter is normally for weather issues or non-writing interests. I do read a lot, online and on the Kindle. Make an effort to contact people who might be interested in sharing links with you. How do you find them?

One item that Drew did not mention is watch your statistics. I don’t know what he can see on DN’s Drupal, but WordPress has an amazing plugin called JetPack (or you can use Google Analytics). I can watch the number of site views, the number of unique visitors, other sites that linked to my website, the links clicked out, the number of times a character image was clicked, the country of origin, etc. Why is this important? It will help you learn when your readers are reading your chapters (unique visitors), if you have new readers catching up to the current chapter (page views), where they are coming from (views by country), and how they are finding you (referrers). One day, I started seeing a referrer from another serial novel website. I clicked on the link and found that someone had posted a link to Portal as a story they were reading. That single link has provided me a lot of visitors over time. I emailed that site owner and we swapped links. Now, he gets outbound traffic from me (JetPack tracks clicks out too) and I get incoming traffic from him.

If you noticed on my Happy New Year post, I mention several countries and people specifically to thank. Why? Because JetPack told me they are my most frequent visitors or commenters. Take the time and remember the people that help you through visits, links, and feedback. Portal and the followup books are going to be written, whether anyone reads them or not. It makes the time and effort writing much more fun and interesting when others are enjoying the ride.

One last thing about writing your novel. Keep backups. Do not think your Word document will be safe. I use Google docs so I can write on my desktop or my Galaxy tablet. I also backup my WordPress site and database each week (you know, where the online story is stored) using CPanel so I always have my books safe in multiple places.

If you need any help with your WordPress site setting up the plugins to run your serial novel, you can email me at: jeff@thepeninthestone.com. I’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.

Stay warm!