Serial Fiction: Writers Building Community with Readers
(The second episode of the STARSHIP serial was released on February 7th. The third episode will be out on February 14th, available from all major ebook retailers. You can find it on Amazon, Nook, Kobo, and iTunes.)
One of the things which interests me about serial fiction is the ability to engage the reader on multiple levels.
Ideally, readers get directly engaged with any good story they are reading! But with a serial, the writer has opportunity to get feedback from readers, and incorporate that feedback into future stories. If readers are enjoying one character more, perhaps the writer can concentrate on that character. Had a bad guy you loved to hate? The writer can bring that bad guy back again.
In the old days of serial fiction, writers didn't have the ability to collect that sort of immediate feedback. But today...? With the internet, there's a lot more writers can do to connect with readers.
So what ways might work?
Of course, writers can connect with readers like I am right now. Post about the story, and readers can give feedback here. This is helpful because most writers like having a blog anyway, as a central point for their web presence. But, hey - blogs can also feel a little one sided! If you want to begin a discussion, writing an essay isn't always the best way to manage it. If you want to build a community, you need to give all the members more tools than just being able to respond to what you feel like talking about that day.
Yahoo Groups were the quintessential internet community source for years. They work; they're easy to set up and manage; they keep all those conversations sorted by threads forever, so you can refer back to things if you want to later.
The down side of Yahoo Groups is that again it's a limited channel of communication. It's awesome for discussions. One person starts a thread. Other people reply to that thread. You can easily get discussions sent right to your email inbox, and reply back from there too. But they lack some of the immediate responsiveness of other social media. There's no way to opt in to specific discussions while ignoring others, for example. You can post multimedia, but not as easily as would be useful.
Google+ is a great community site, right now. It's the second largest social network, so a lot of fans are already participating. You can discuss things easily - and in real time, pretty much. You can upload images and video pretty easily. Users can opt in and out of specific threads. My personal feeling is this is one of the better community tools available today.
Still, on the negative side - you have to join Google+ to be able to participate, and not everyone wants to do that. With a Yahoo Group, for example, you just need to give an email, any email.
What sort of community site do you think works best? Which ones have you used before? Any other thoughts about pros and cons of the options mentioned above?
Writers being able to receive almost real time feedback from readers is exciting, invigorating stuff! As the STARSHIP series continues to grow, I look forward to being able to do something like this in the future.