Fiction Sales: Turn A Dud Novel Into A Powerhouse Serial

Marketing can be challenging. You may market conscientiously, but struggle with fiction sales. Some books, for whatever reason, fail to launch. They fizzle.

Why, oh why?

No one knows. You love the book. Beta readers do too. Sadly, the book makes few sales, but you’re not ready to give up.

You try commonsense solutions. Results? No.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, so you create:

  • Audio versions.
  • Translations.
  • Several rebrands, with fresh covers.

Frustratingly, sales are still a struggle, and you conclude that your book is a dud.

Not so fast. You may be able to rescue your dud.

Make fiction sales: try turning a dud novel into a powerhouse serial

If you’ve tried everything with a dud, consider turning the novel into a serial. This won’t work for every novel. Moreover, you’ll need make significant changes, so you may be better off chalking the thing down to experience, and starting a new novel.

One of my students, Fred (not his name), was convinced his novel was worth the effort. It took rewriting, but finally results: lots of fiction sales, both of the serial, and his other self-published fiction.

Fred’s changes:

  • The genre (I won’t tell you which, it’s his treasured secret);
  • A new title;
  • Characters: his antagonist is now the hero;
  • Much of the content.

I asked him to estimate how much of the content is new. He told me: “I don’t know. Half? More? After I outlined the novel to see what I had, I rarely looked at it while I was creating the episodes.”

His biggest surprise? Reader response. With a link to his mailing list in each episode, the list expanded rapidly, to almost a thousand subscribers. That’s made all the difference to his sales.

Generously, he’s offered some tips for you, so here they are.

1. Include cliffhangers in each episode, but be subtle

Create drama. Narrative drive is everything in a serial: if readers are curious, they’ll keep reading.

Fred reports that he forgot drama completely with the original novel: “I don’t know what I was thinking. Finally, something clicked with the serial. I was writing entertainment. Realizing that made all the difference.”

2. Explore your characters: change the protagonist (main character)

Often, we forget to make things worse for our hero. We like our main characters; it’s hard to make them suffer. But as Fred pointed out, you need drama.

Could you make your villain the new main character?

3. Start by outlining your novel: look for suspense

Fred says that when he outlined his original novel, he was shocked at how few scenes he had. “A lot was narrative. I was telling, telling… With the serial, I made everything a scene. It read faster, and readers like the pace.”

4. Decide on the number of episodes: keep going, if you’re selling

How many episodes? You may decide on ten, as Fred did. However, he kept going, because he listened to reader feedback. “When I got to the seventh episode, I brought in a new character and storyline for more intrigue, so I changed my outline to make room. My episode ten became episode fifteen.”

That’s the big advantage of serials: readers will tell you when they’re engaged.

Could you turn a dud into a powerhouse?

If you want to increase fiction sales, it may be well worth it.


  • Crafting a novel into a serial takes rethinking, and re-imagining;
  • Consider a different genre;
  • Always make things worse for your main character: it’s all about narrative drive.

I wish you success, and from Fred: “although I had to do a lot of work, I’m pleased with my new fiction sales, and even better, with what I learned.”

Want to make fiction sales? A serial may help