Reading unfinished work, knowing the end

HERE IS A NEW INDIE MARKETING QUESTION:

I’m pondering whether the reason many people don’t try a trilogy is because it isn’t finished.

I’m exploring a concept that would provide the reader with story protection, and get the writer a safe space to write and some moral support.

Suppose you:

  1. were considering reading something long, like Game of Thrones
  2. liked the first book in the story trilogy (or at least the beginning in the Look Inside! feature on Amazon)
  3. were worried the author might check out before finishing, leaving you forever curious about how the story ends – and whether it makes sense
  4. knew there is a planned end, and you think you will probably be happy with it (the prologue gives hints)
  5. knew the author is slow, but patient and dedicated, and will finish if is it at al physically possible to her
  6. knew the author was extremely good at following a plan/outline/rough draft – so the story itself is finished, but the execution (the actual words) hasn’t happened yet
  7. wanted to read it now
  8. were willing to take a chance on an ebook version that could be regularly updated as the final draft slowly dribbles out, one scene/chapter at a time
  9. MOST IMPORTANTLY, had the rough draft included in your current ebook so if the author doesn’t make it, you still know how the story ENDS.

Then, would you buy it now, to get what is already there, and wait for the notification that the next update was available and download the whole again from Amazon?

In other words, buy unpolished work full price so as to get the polished pieces (plus the end) faster than waiting for the whole?

Just curious.

It would be very different from a subscription service, or a planned serial, because you would HAVE the end.

You’d have to decide if you WANTED to read that extremely rough version of the end, or just have it in case the author couldn’t finish it. You should choose NOT to read it; the rest of the story in rough format would be your insurance.


The intent of this post is to start a discussion about whether such a model would work to finish the planned Pride’s Children trilogy in a total of around a half-million words.

I haven’t seen it before, but this is indie, folks, and we can do anything we want.

Amazon already allows writers to update their manuscripts.

 

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15 thoughts on “Reading unfinished work, knowing the end

  1. Shanese Brown

    I do not mind serialized novels. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller did this with their book Fledgling and it’s sequel Salutation. Each week they posted a new chapter until the book was completed.
    They had a donation amount that had to be met before the next chapter was revealed. I happily followed there page through both books. These days I believe you would use Patreon to do something similar.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Thanks for commenting, Shanese, and welcome.

      I will have to see what genre that was, and how they managed it.

      My possible twist was having the ending available – in reduced or rough form – as a reassurance that the story WOULD be finished (at least they’d find out what happened to whom) if something happened to me.

      I did post PC Book 1 every week, but didn’t have enough readers for it to be worth setting up a form of payment like Patreon from my site.

      Did they already have a fan base? Many people to that already – making things available earlier to fans who pay.

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  2. Widdershins

    Very interesting question. 🙂
    As a writer I reckon it’s worth a try … as you say, this is the indie world.

    As a reader? … hmm, that’s a different story.
    I wouldn’t read an story that wasn’t the final product because (putting my writer hat back on) I know how much a story can change between the next-to-last edit and the last edit. (takes writer hat off) … also nothing throws me out of a story faster than typos, and other assorted glitches that (hopefully) aren’t in the final product.

    I think it’s also a question of age. In my younger decades, I probably would’ve really enjoyed participating in a process like this. But now I want to read a story from beginning to end, no muss, no fuss…

    … which leads me to the waiting for all the books in the series before I start the first one. If I read the first one and get hooked then I’m prepared to wait for the next, depending on how long I had to wait. GRRM and A Song of Ice and Fire being the most obvious example. I read the first two and then the ten year (or whatever it was) wait happened and I decided I would wait until he finished the series then devour them in sequence. 🙂

    Every reader is different though, and there’s only one way to find out if this will work. So go for it, I say. See what happens. 🙂

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Interesting reactions I’ve gotten.

      I don’t know what i want to do. I don’t know what I will do. I serialized PC 1 – and gained a small number of readers that way.

      I prefer finished and polished. I might or might not read something myself which was not finished and polished.

      And it is possible that there is so little reader attention span that you get one bite at a reader – and they are looking for ANYTHING not to start a book series.

      But I’ve certainly gotten different answers to my question!

      Possibly GRRM might get away with it, and I wouldn’t, but he already has a lot of readers (including my kids), and I haven’t sold a book in four months.

      Just gathering data at this point. Thanks for answering seriously.

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  3. Liz

    I did this with Leanpub where you can post your book and sell it at the same time and readers can receive the updated versions as you go. You can also do the Patreon route with a monthly or per chapter payment amount, depending on the level of patronage your readers want to support you. When the trilogy is done and edited, your patrons receive the full version.

    I’d probably go the Patreon route much more than relying on Amazon since one has to email Amazon customer service to have the book updated. It’s not automatic and you don’t have their emails.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Thanks, Liz. I’ll remember Leanpub – and look it up. I haven’t looked into Patreon, because there is always a time commitment when you do tthese things, and I can’t afford one. That’s why I serialized Book 1 for free rather than try to monetize.

      It’s not the money, at this stage. It’s 1) finishing the story, and 2) getting readers.

      I hadn’t seen the version with the ending availabe, so I threw that on the discussion pile. I’m sure it’s not original, just because I haven’t seen it.

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      1. Liz

        Leanpub used to allow you to create a book for free but now it’s $99 per book which I did try after I created over six free books before they started charging. But the moment I put the book in KU, of course, I had to sort of retire that paid page.

        I like Patreon as a better option although getting supporters can be a challenge. But I’ve seen authors use them for the readers to stay abreast of their books, and the encouragement to keep going.

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  4. Janna G. Noelle

    I’ve experienced something similar with fan fictions I’ve followed that the author has given up on. With on particular one, the author shared the outline for the remainder of the story. This satisfied my desire to know how it ends, although of course I would have preferred to read the story itself.

    There is an amazing fantasy trilogy that has been incomplete since the early 2000s that (still waiting for the third book that may or may not be in the works) that I’m dying to know how it ends. I’d settle for the outline of this book, and would even pay for it. I’m not sure if I’d actually want to read a first draft, though. It would depend on how polished it was. I might just prefer to know what the author intended rather than suffering through their early/rough attempts to have that intention realized.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      It’s always true that each reader is unique – and would want something slightly different if he/she couldn’t have the actual finished story. I am throwing the idea out because Pride’s Children was NOT planned as a trilogy, but as a single book – so the outline is unusually clean and complete (for what it is).

      Not saying I will, but wondering about exactly the kinds of comments I’m getting. It would, of course, work better if PC1 were currently selling well, but I would wonder whether I was losing sales because of those who have been burned before.

      At my speed, these questions have validity. For a faster writer, the question might be “Do I publish them slowly or quickly once the trilogy is finished?”

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      1. Janna G. Noelle

        The questions you’re posing are legitimate. I think you’re exploring an interesting solution to the problem of a incomplete trilogy by a slow writer who might have difficulty finishing. Some people might indeed be reluctant to start a long series with an indeterminate end. However, I’m sure there are those would wait. I’m still patiently(ish) waiting for the last book of that fantasy series, some 10 years since the previous installment. If people really love the story, I think they would wait (providing it’s not so long that they forgot about it).

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  5. Catana

    As a reader with a very poor memory, I would never start a trilogy unless it was complete (and polished). The only exception would be if the first book functioned well as a standalone and didn’t require going on to the next. I’d guess that I’m not typical though, so I’m not sure how much this contributes.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      As I said, just throwing an idea out for discussion. The first book is good – covers a big chunk of the story, and ends at a good place with ‘To be continued’ – but I hope people will want to keep going.

      This was a thought about how to give them access to the rest AS I write it, because I never go back once I’m through a section.

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