How Wide Authors are Marketing Their Serialized Fiction
Hint: They are thinking like comics creators.
Hey there, Igniter!
Although serialized and short-form fiction is taking off in English-language markets, it’s not exactly easy to market your offerings as an independent author. Many fiction apps are a closed ecosystem of sorts, in that you need to gain visibility within the app itself to see traction.
At least, it’s not exactly easy to market your offerings as an independent author if you are trying to market them the way you market your books.
(Source: screenshot of Radish’s homepage)
The truth is that working with fiction apps is a pretty different business model from selling ebooks. It resembles what independent comic book creators are doing far more than what independent authors are doing in many ways.
Today I wanted to share some ways that authors are seeing their books explode on these apps. This is awesome, but is it sustainable as competition enters the space over the coming years? I’m not sure. I think it could get more challenging to be noticed on these apps in the coming years.
Here’s what authors are doing right now, with a hint and where we might be moving to:
#1 - In-App Promotions
By far the best way to gain visibility for your stories is through the app itself. Companies like Radish have in-app promotions that you can apply for. Additionally, they push stories that are doing well on their platform already. This, however, isn’t exactly a chicken and egg problem, as these apps are a data miner’s dream, with lots of public data about readership and visibility posted for all to see.
Fiction apps are extremely trope-driven, and you can easily see which tropes are most popular on which apps. Writing to those tropes or packaging your book in a way that satisfies those tropes will help your stories get recognized and merchandised through these promotions.
Depending on the app, there are voting mechanisms, comments sections, and even a way to go live to interact with fans. Use the promotional tools of the app to get your story visible. You don’t want to throw your content up on various platforms without a concerted effort to get it started with finding readers in the app.
#2 - In-App Metadata
Many fiction apps have metadata to fill out, including episode titles, tags, and summaries. Authors fill these sections with tropes as several apps post this metadata to the web where it can come up in search. For example, when I type in “Best Radish stories about wolves,” there are several specific stories that come up on the site radishfiction.com. While these summaries are posted on individual pages, there is no way to get to them through the top-level site, so the only way a reader might find them is by searching the internet for specific keywords and phrases.
In-app search is also driven by tags and tropes, so getting these sections right can increase your visibility in the app search too.
#2 - Exclusive Stories
Most apps love exclusive content that is not posted anywhere else, and are happy to work with you in getting your exclusive content onto their site. In most cases, the payout for this content is not great, but if you can tie your exclusive content to the rest of your catalog published through the app, then you can often gain a lot of marketing through cross-promotion. Apps are far more likely to promote their exclusive content within the app and through their social media channels, so you have to think of this as an experiment and loss leader to get your catalog in front of the app’s readers.
#3 - Social Media Groups and Forums
Each of the major apps seems to have at least a few communities that connect over social media. These are often readers who are trying to find interesting stories on the app. You can join these communities and explore what readers are looking for as well as where else they might be hanging out.
#4 - Social Media that Caters to the Readership
Because the reader demographics of these fiction apps is pretty specific, you can often find a social media channel or a few that likely have some of the readers. TikTok is a great example of a place where young females hang out, and the demographics are similar to several fiction apps like Radish and Wattpad. You may want to start a social media channel and talk about your short-form fiction there. You can also talk about your books, so either way you are building something for your brand.
The younger generations where fiction app reading is prevalent are also highly skilled at switching between storefronts and platforms. Whereas in an older generation you might need to provide clear instructions and links, for younger readers you can simply mention the title of your story and what app it’s on, and many of them will take action to find and sample your story. This is ideal for social media, where linking is often suppressed in visibility algorithms anyway.
#5 - Dedicated Websites
Although I have not seen many dedicated websites in the independent author community, the comics community for webtoons, webcomics, and graphic novel apps are well-versed in dedicated websites to house their stories. Many of them started serializing their work on the web, so they see fiction apps as another place to make money and get discovered rather than a different format for their main work.
A dedicated website is useful because you accumulate new fans for your true serialized work. It’s also a good place to experiment with fan-based funding like Kickstarter and Patreon. My co-author Russell Nohelty is an expert in this space, with both comics and novels in his catalog. He uses crowdfunding to sell his books, comics, graphic novels, and anthologies and is well-versed in running five-figure campaigns consistently. Check out our co-authored books in the Book Sales Supercharged series if you are interested in how comic creators sell serialized fiction, as there’s a lot that we as independent authors can learn from this community.
#6 - Author Platform
Although most independent authors agree that it’s challenging to get their book readers to join a fiction app like Radish, or even to read serialized fiction in general, many authors still make their presence on these fiction apps known to their current audience. I encourage you to treat these fiction apps as something totally different that requires its own landing pages and content marketing. These platforms will become more well-known as the English-language market matures, so having a page on your site called “Best Radish Wolf Stories” or “Serialized Fiction About Wolves” is probably easy to compete on in web search. The sooner you post these pages, the better you will position yourself for the future.
If These Platforms Remain Closed Ecosystems, How Will Indie Authors Grow Their Readerships?
Kindle Vella doesn’t allow links out to a website or email list. Radish, Kindle Vella, and more fiction apps don’t have easy ways to advertise your books in-platform. So what exactly can you do to drive more readers to your platform with social media and paid ads?
The next several articles I’ll be posting here are:
(Monday, June 14th) Why Social Media Marketing Will Become More Important in a Fiction App World: What to Do When You Can’t Advertise Your Content
(Wednesday, June 16th) Using Social Media to Market Fiction That You Can't Run Ads To: Journaling Questions That Can Help You Get Creative (paid subscribers only)
(Saturday, June 19th) Facebook Advertising Trends For Serialized Fiction (paid subscribers only)
This will finish up the serialized fiction series (unless there’s a Q&A as I know this series has generated a lot of questions) and the next series will be focused on Apple Books as a platform: how the algorithms work, what marketing strategies work, and more.
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