Serial and Milk(ing it)

Writers love playing the “what-if?” game.

It’s how we get our best ideas. Many years ago, I read a series of articles in The Oregonian about the growing problem of eco-terrorism in the western states. One line in particular grabbed me: the reporter wrote, “It’s a miracle nobody has been killed.” So, I thought, what if eco-terrorists did kill people? And that led to my novel, No Time for Kings.

A few years later, I started experiencing lucid dreams. When these occur, you become aware that you are dreaming…and can control the outcome of what happens next. Most often, I chose to fly, and the sensation was heady. It felt like an out-of-body experience. That prompted me to ask myself, what if you could master lucid dreaming so expertly, you were able to bring objects from your dreams back to the waking world? And that led to Dream Sailors, a novel some nine years in the making.

I’ll never be accused of being a prolific author!

I finished writing the book in 2017, but typing “The End” didn’t mean I was done. Not by a long shot! Any writer worth their salt knows the real work begins with the editing process…and that’s often harder than the actual writing. Personally, after spending so much time working on a project, I like to savor that feeling of accomplishment for a while before diving back in.

So, savor I did. And then I decided to quit my job and move 1,250 miles across the country. Add in three new jobs plus a full-time freelancing gig and I barely had time to breathe, let alone edit a 271-page manuscript.

Then, a few months ago, Amazon announced they were rolling out Kindle Vella. It’s billed as “an interactive reading experience for serialized stories.” There are some unique features: the first three chapters (called episodes) are free, then you can buy tokens to unlock additional episodes if the story captures your interest. The number of tokens required is based on word count, and they aren’t too pricey. An average book should end up costing $10-$15. Authors can add notes to each episode, offering readers behind-the-scenes information and other fun tidbits. It’s a very different publishing model, but I think it’s got great potential.

Ever since Stephen King released The Green Mile in serial form back in 1996, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of doing something similar. I felt the short chapters in Dream Sailors lent themselves well to the format, and by uploading one chapter (episode) at a time, I’d be forced to edit along the way.

Today, Kindle Vella went live…and I’m excited to announce the launch of Dream Sailors! Feel free to click on the link if you would like to check it out for yourself, but there is absolutely no pressure! Currently, there are eight episodes available for immediate reading. I plan to publish a new one every Friday. There are 27 total, which by my calculations means the final episode should be available on November 19, wrapped up just in time for Thanksgiving!

I kinda feel like Taylor Swift, dropping a new album on an unsuspecting public without any fanfare.

I feel a mixture of emotions. Excitement that I’m finally able to share this story. Fear that I’m finally able to share this story. Look, other than cocky bastards, most writers are plagued with self-doubt. I’m no exception. I have no idea if Dream Sailors is any good. Most people enjoyed No Time for Kings, but this one is completely different in every way possible: technique, narrative, genre. I’m too close to it to be able to determine whether it’s brilliant or stupid. Most likely the truth is somewhere in between.

Plus, only one other person has read it…and her name is not Tara. She had mostly good things to say, but maybe she was being polite. Another friend offered to be a beta reader, but either life got in the way or he grew bored with the whole thing because I never did get any feedback.

No worries, Jeremy. We cool, bro.

So, if you like first-person sci-fi crime thrillers that feature Elvis Presley and parallel universes (does such a genre even exist?), Dream Sailors might be right up your alley.

The closest comparison I can make is Inception meets The Fugitive.

I’m also curious to see the reaction to Kindle Vella itself. Publishing on a brand new, unproven format feels like a gamble. It’s not perfect: currently, it’s only available on the iOS Kindle app and the web, so Android users and those who read on their Kindles are out of luck for now. There are plans to make it available on both of those platforms in the hopefully near future, and that’s something I’d really like to see. A dedicated reading device will make the experience more user-friendly and distraction-free.

On the other hand, I’m able to publish a novel easily…and it’s not costing me a dime. I’ve got nothing to lose and can always opt to go the traditional route and publish a paperback and Kindle version if the response is good.

Regardless, I’ve taken a page from my protagonist. I’m not only following my dreams—I’m taking control of them.

31 thoughts on “Serial and Milk(ing it)

  1. Congrats on the launch. I like the title of your novel and I adored Inception so it might be right up my alley. Unfortunately I hate Kindke… and basically all ereading platforms. It’s a tactile pleasure for me, so if you publish it the old fashioned way… let me know!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was anti-Kindle right up until the moment I received one as a Christmas gift years ago. Now you can’t get me to read a print book, ha! But I totally understand that. You can be sure if/when I ever release a paperback version, I’ll be touting it here like mad.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Congrats! I’ve been intrigued by the thought of Vella, but am not confident enough to go that route. I’m going to check out your tale, though, if I’m smart enough to figure out the process. Best of luck, you intrepid explorer, you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It definitely feels like a pioneering venture of sorts. I have no idea if Vella will be a flash in the pan or a whole new way of reading/writing/publishing…but I’m along for the ride in any case!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Super nifty concept! Brilliant actually. I’m sure loads of people are going to jump on that. I make no promises to reading your book. I have a hard enough time reading blog posts, but it does sound like an awesome premise. Maybe I’ll wait for the paperback. I’m old school like that.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Congrats! I didn’t even know the Kindle Vella existed! Maybe we should be using that instead of blogs (except it would probably work best for just the memoir parts of my blog, which lend themselves to a chronological, serialized format).

    You’re such a trendsetter.

    I’m still trying to go the traditional route in publishing, mainly because of the amount of time and energy and money self-publishing and promotion take. So of course I’m interested in seeing how your novel does with none of those things. 🙂

    I wish I could lucid dream. How much more fun it would be to turn around and attack the monsters that chase me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Kindle Vella is brand new. Because I already have a novel for sale on Amazon, they let me know about it early. To drum up more business, of course, but I do like the idea and am intrigued to see how it all goes.

      I would always choose the traditional route in publishing if I could. Always follow your dreams!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Your inspiration for your past books is fascinating, Mark. A story in itself. This is new information for me “Kindle Vella.” I am a reader that enjoys the behind-the-scenes and tidbits with books and movies. I also think this is a great idea, if people will be open to try something new. I did not know about Stephen King and how “The Green Mile” was released in serial form.

    I am bookmarking your post, Mark, since I want to wrap my mind around how I can obtain the stories. We are off the grid again, soon, camping.

    (An aside: my first story published touched on parallel universes – it was a nonfiction short story) – I have had only 2 stories published – not in the big leagues at all) Exciting about this venture for you, Mark. Kudos to you for stepping outside of the box.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did a lot of research on parallel universes, so those nonfiction reads are every bit as fascinating to me…if not more so. There is so much out there we don’t know and/or can’t explain, I truly believe it is possible!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I was not aware of Kindle Vella which is a cool name for what it is. I don’t do much with Kindle, but I hope that your serialized novel is as big of a hit as you want it to be. It’s fun to try new writing things, whether it be as an author or as a blogger.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Congratulations to you on this new launch! I get the self-doubt part; we are all alike in that aspect.
    I’ve never been a Kindle person either, but this does sound like an interesting way to read (and publish).

    Liked by 1 person

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