Tune in next week…

by | May 21, 2021 | General | 2 comments

Image by Detmold from Pixabay

When Amazon recently announced the creation of Vella, their new serial fiction offering, I shrugged. I have enough trouble writing one chapter of my WIP per week. Committing to a chapter every day or two just isn’t going to work for me.

In any case, I don’t trust Amazon. I tried to make sense out of their payment policies and it seemed pretty clear that to make any money at all, you’d need to pull in a huge number of readers. Basically, you’ll make about 15 cents per reader, for a 3,000 word episode. (Episode lengths can vary from 6,00 to 5,000 words, with cost to the user proportional to the number of words.) If you wrote a 30,000 word novella (just as an example), serialized it, and one person read all ten episodes, you’d make approximately $1.50. Actually, though, you’re required to provide at least the first three episodes free. So really you’re looking at $1.05 for the entire book.

I would normally price a 30K novella at $2.99. At Amazon’s 70% royalty rate, that’s $2.09 per copy. Tell me again how this is a good deal for writers, please?

In addition, the 15 cents is an upper limit. Amazon will bundle the tokens needed to unlock episodes. The larger the bundle a reader purchases, the better the deal for the reader – and the smaller the value of the individual tokens to the author.

Given this analysis, I was ready to dismiss the entire notion of serialized fiction. Then I got an email from one of my publishers, indicating that they planned to serialize several of my novels on the Radish platform, an independent serialization app.


That got my attention. It turns out that my contracts with this publisher do include serial rights. Furthermore, Radish sounds a lot more interesting than Amazon. Though there’s precious little information on payment available on their site, it’s clear that they support serializing previously published work (though I’d assume they pay less). Furthermore they’re actually looking to commission authors to create serialized stories for hire.


The pay here is quite good: $50 per 1,000-1,500 words, better than a Cleis anthology. Of course I don’t know what the rights situation would be, though I would expect in this case the rights would belong to Radish. One question I’d have is whether you’d get an author credit. If so, you might be able to get some spill over to your other books.

Radish has been funded by some venture heavy weights, so maybe they can actually compete with Amazon.


I have to admit, I’m not fond of the vision promulgated by Radish, of people “consuming” bite-sized chunks of story on their phones while they’re riding on the bus or standing in line in the supermarket. To me this seems to defeat the whole purpose of reading, which is to take some time away from reality and get lost in a fictional world. I also worry that slicing and dicing a book in this way will do violence to the narrative. You can’t have a gradual build-up of tension in a serial format. Every episode needs to have its own hook and own cliff-hanger ending. And I imagine you can’t really rely on readers remembering much from one episode to the next (though perhaps its possible to go back and re-read previously consumed episodes).

Do we really need reading to become like TV? Have people lost the ability to pay attention for anything longer than ten minutes?

I’m probably just being an old-fashioned curmudgeon. Indeed, serial fiction has a long and illustrious history. Some of my favorite Victorian authors including Arthur Conan Doyle and Wilkie Collins originally published their work in serialized form. Alexandre Dumas released The Count of Monte Christo in 139 installments!

So I suppose this can be considered as the latest instantiation of an honored literary tradition. I find that slightly reassuring – though only slightly.

In fact, I’m considering whether to personally get my feet wet with Radish. I have a half-completed novel that’s been going nowhere for years, a paranormal erotic romance that seems to match the sort of content Radish might be looking for. If I have the time this summer, I might try breaking it up into episodes and publishing them on Radish. I have at least 30K written, so that will give me a starting backlog. Then maybe this will kick me into gear to finish the book!

One question that remains unanswered is whether Vella or Radish will accept explicit erotica, as opposed to romance. One would think that erotic content would be a natural for this format, but I haven’t seen any statement about this anywhere.

Maybe that’s another experiment I could try – or maybe one of you who is more prolific than I am might explore that issue.

If you do, let us know what you find out!

Lisabet Sarai

Sex and writing. I think I've always been fascinated by both. Freud was right. I definitely remember feelings that I now recognize as sexual, long before I reached puberty. I was horny before I knew what that meant. My teens and twenties I spent in a hormone-induced haze, perpetually "in love" with someone (sometimes more than one someone). I still recall the moment of enlightenment, in high school, when I realized that I could say "yes" to sexual exploration, even though society told me to say no. Despite being a shy egghead with world-class myopia who thought she was fat, I had managed to accumulate a pretty wide range of sexual experience by the time I got married. And I'm happy to report that, thanks to my husband's open mind and naughty imagination, my sexual adventures didn't end at that point! Meanwhile, I was born writing. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, though according to family apocrypha, I was talking at six months. Certainly, I started writing as soon as I learned how to form the letters. I penned my first poem when I was seven. While I was in elementary school I wrote more poetry, stories, at least two plays (one about the Beatles and one about the Goldwater-Johnson presidential contest, believe it or not), and a survival manual for Martians (really). I continued to write my way through high school, college, and grad school, mostly angst-ridden poems about love and desire, although I also remember working on a ghost story/romance novel (wish I could find that now). I've written song lyrics, meeting minutes, marketing copy, software manuals, research reports, a cookbook, a self-help book, and a five hundred page dissertation. For years, I wrote erotic stories and kinky fantasies for myself and for lovers' entertainment. I never considered trying to publish my work until I picked up a copy of Portia da Costa's Black Lace classic Gemini Heat while sojourning in Istanbul. My first reaction was "Wow!". It was possibly the most arousing thing I'd ever read, intelligent, articulate, diverse and wonderfully transgressive. My second reaction was, "I'll bet I could write a book like that." I wrote the first three chapters of Raw Silk and submitted a proposal to Black Lace, almost on a lark. I was astonished when they accepted it. The book was published in April 1999, and all at once, I was an official erotic author. A lot has changed since my Black Lace days. But I still get a thrill from writing erotica. It's a never-ending challenge, trying to capture the emotional complexities of a sexual encounter. I'm far less interested in what happens to my characters' bodies than in what goes on in their heads.


  1. Rose

    Hi, Lisabet,

    As you’re probably aware, I don’t have a horse in this race at all (in fact, all my horses are pretty old and out to pasture). However, I’m a reader and my view of serialized fiction is that I’m not keen on it. A great example of how I handled a serialized story, a good number years ago, was Stephen King’s “The Green Mile.” That was published in six installments, with at least a month or two between installments (I can’t remember now the period of time between each.) It didn’t matter how much time lapsed, though, because what I did was buy each installment as it came out and saved them all until after the last one was published. Then I read it as a complete novel.

    Serialized stories mean I have to go back and re-read at least some of the previous chapter (and occasionally more than some) to recapture the thread. Good memory…just a little short. I suppose daily would work out not too badly, because only 24 hours would have passed between chapters, but weekly? It’s one reason I don’t get involved in novel chapters posted to the Storytime list. It just take too long to find out what’s happening.

    I don’t know how common this is either, but I have something of short attention span. I lose interest in stories that aren’t (in my opinion) positively riveting.

    And then there’s the risk that comes with getting older; what if I died before the next or last installment? That would really piss me off. (You think I’m kidding, don’t you? Not. One reason I was extra, extra, extra cautious about virtually no contact with other humans during the pandemic is that I knew how I’d annoyed I’d be, if I croaked, especially from something almost totally preventable, before I had a chance to enjoy my retirement, which starts next year.)

    The numbers you crunched for a ROI with Amazon, are really pathetic. Seriously, you may as well just *give* your art away. Or just post chapters on a daily blog… at least you’d get some one-on-responses from and interaction with your readers. (I admit to being anti-Amazon, and refuse to deal with said behemoth on a personal basis *at all,* although just this past week, I was forced to set up an account with them for a one-time purchase of product, for my paying job. I won’t even take part in any kind prize-winning endeavour, when the prize is an Amazon gift card.)

    Anyway, your Radish thing sounds like a better deal for you as a writer, but again, as a reader I’m just not into serialized fiction. I want a whole book, in my hands, to read at my leisure, whatever number of chapters I feel like reading, whether it’s one or ten or a marathon read to the end of the book/story.

    Just my two cents.

    Rose 😉

  2. Lisabet Sarai

    Hello, Rose,

    I actually was thinking about you when I was writing this post, because I suspected you’d have some of the same reactions that I do.

    I couldn’t help chuckle at your comments about Covid and retirement… though they’re eminently reasonable.

    Take care of yourself!

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