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11 Tips for Launching Your Serial
w/a Small List
We’ve all been there. Starting at ground zero but wishing we could be where they are. In this instance, let’s consider “they” to be whoever you admire on social media who just appears to be crushing it by doing the very thing you hope to be doing one day. We all have those people. I know I have at least a dozen (or more) who I follow on Instagram and YouTube and I see they have a million followers and they get all the likes and views. I’m sure they have hundreds of thousands of email subscribers. And watching them can be discouraging for me. I want to be where they are now, right now in my own life. But I always have to keep reminding myself that they started at zero (same as me) and they had to work their butts off to get to where they are. I may not have to hit as many hurdles as they did to reach my goal, but there will always be fresh new hurdles nonetheless.
So, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at how you (and I) can successfully launch our serial even though our lists are not all that great.
Now, full disclosure before I share these tips:
First, at the time of writing this I already have 500+ subscribers. They were acquired through the use of platforms like BookFunnel and StoryOriginApp. I used their Newsletter Swaps and Group Promo features to share a Reader Magnet. Which put another way means, I offered a freebie and in return anyone who chose to download the freebie was automatically added to my email list. Fast and effective every time. Only catch is you need a magnet (ie digital ebook worth giving away).
Second, while these tips might work for everyone and can be applied to so much more than just serials, that is what I am presenting them as. Each tip will read as if helping just those looking to write and release their serial to an email list with the end result of getting them to eventually become a paid subscriber. But you can replace serial with anything (ie product, service, etc.) and yield similar results. Oh, and as far as results go, there is no guarantee that any will work, but if you put your heart into these tips I’m going to share they just might. Try one. Try them all. The key is to try.
Since we are talking about effectively launching our serial I’m going to divide this up into three phases: Pre-launch, Launch, Post-launch
Pick the right genre and story to tell. If you’re entering the world of serial writing because you heard it’s really booming right now and you want to get in on that cash-money? That’s the wrong attitude and your email list will smell the green coming off you faster than you can add your “paid subscriber” button. Writing a serial is serious business. It’s hard work. And if you aren’t absolutely committed to your characters and the story you intend on telling, stop reading now and go create something else.
Build trust. Speaking for myself, I know the serial I am writing has already taken an enormous amount of research and time just to build the world, let alone tell the story. I refuse to undervalue that. My intent is to put my work on this serial behind a pay-wall as I am sure it is for many serial fiction writers. However, I realize I am a nobody and no one writing to an audience of zero who are more likely to buy a cup of coffee from Starbucks and spend $80 to go see a movie in the movie theater for a one night experience rather than even consider giving me any amount of money every month for my work. That’s just reality. So, if I want to at least make these total strangers open to the possibility I need to get them to trust that I will deliver on my promises. How? By offering an abundance of free stuff in the meantime. So, long before the launch of my serial I will be sharing short stories (some within the genre of my serial but certainly not all) as well as other writings I have that are of a nonfiction nature. This shows my versatility. And my delivery of these things will be consistent. I won’t miss a day. All of this is done, if for no other reason than to let my new and old subscribers know that I am someone who when I say I’m going to do something, I do it. And hopefully they like what I deliver as well.
Keep a list. Not like a creepy stalker list. But just be mindful during the time you’re sending out your free content of who is commenting on your work. It might be a regular group of people. And they might come in handy later on down the line. Make sure you are engaging with them when they comment as well. Build a relationship cause like I said, you’re gonna be glad you have it.
Build a personalized experience using something like Discord or a Facebook Group where you can send those frequent readers and commenters of your work. A great way to give them access to you and get feedback from them on what they liked or didn’t like. They might come with story ideas you can use. Or testimonials you can put on your website about how much they enjoy your writing.
Some free chapters/episodes. How many you decide to offer for free is totally up to you. Some offer just the first chapter while others might offer the first five for free. Either way, give your readers a glimpse into your serial by letting them read at least the first chapter. I will be releasing my serial every Sunday starting in June 2022. Therefore, I’ve decided to just give every Sunday in June for free to everyone to read. A full month's worth should be more than enough to get them wanting more in July.
Create exclusivity. This can easily be done by limiting the amount of time you offer a discount on that paywall you have for your serial? Or something as simple as declaring “for every 25 free subscribers I’m going to give away paid subscriber access for an entire year (or in my case length of the first book).” This will incentivize people to sign up for your email list and you can point them to the content you already have available for them to read in case they need convincing that signing up is worth it.
Look for upsell opportunities. Similar to the free content you are already giving on a regular cadence, what else can you give that won’t cost you anything but will incentivize people to want to read your serial? How about some behind the scenes stuff that helped you write your story? Map sketches? Outline access? Character sketches? Potential readers will eat that stuff up! Make some of it free and save the rest for your paid subscribers. Be strategic and fair!
Personalize and double down on what you’re offering. Try some Q&A and AMA sessions. Make them open for everyone to participate in the beginning (such as in the middle or right after you have shared those free chapters). This will give your subscribers insight into how involved you intend on being with them as they read your serial. Then afterwards bring back that exclusivity by making those Q&As and AMA sessions for paid subscribers only. As I will be using Substack, my intention is to use their threads feature to engage with my readers at the end of each “season” that I release.
Make the options for becoming a paid subscriber clear and simple and easy. Again, I’ll be using Substack, which offers just one monthly option, one yearly option, and one lifetime option with the opportunity for a subscriber to put in any other amount they want in the yearly and lifetime as long as it’s higher than the amount I set. Simple enough. Whatever platform you call home for your newsletter, just make sure the options are clear and limited so as not to confuse your subscriber. They can just as easily close out of a window filled with options as they can take two clicks to pay you for your hard work. You can also offer a discount (which Substack has the ability to do as well) for a limited time.
Once you have a paid subscriber, look out for them. Treat them like family and make sure their stay with you as a subscriber is an enjoyable one. Let them know how the serial will continue to go. Set and meet those expectations. If you ever find that you can’t (cause life happens and we are all human) be honest with them and let them know when your regular delivery will continue. Honesty builds trust which ultimately converts to future sales. Keep up with the Q&As as often as you are able. Continue to respond to comments left on your chapters.
Remind them that the serial isn’t over. You’ve released all your chapters for that season (if you are releasing with breaks like I am) but there are more to come. Not only that, you might consider releasing each book on Amazon. I will be dividing each book into three seasons (with each season consisting of ten chapters/episodes). Once all three seasons are out there will be a four month break to get the print and ebook files ready and six months before the next season arrives. But in the meantime, my subscribers can enjoy my free content that’s filled with great one-sitting stories they can enjoy while they wait. Don’t let them slip through your fingers. Maybe you have some one-shot stories that take place in your serial but aren’t a direct part of it that you can share during the off season?
I know that was a lot to digest and it isn’t even all of it. Look for my next post which will go over how to create an effective launch timeline. Now that I’ve shared some tips for your launch and how you can effectively incentivize people to sign up for your serial, when should you implement these things? How far out should your timeline be for your launch and what should you do specifically for each month of that timeline? Yeah, I have that coming your way real soon.
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