Hello, I’m Elle Griffin
That picture is the day I got to hold a first-edition copy of A Christmas Carol, one of my favorite books. I was nearly in tears.
I should introduce myself. My name is Elle Griffin and I am the editor-in-chief at Utah Business, and a freelance journalist covering business, startups, and the creator economy with bylines at Forbes, Every, The Muse, and the like. But this whole newsletter began because I have a thing for classic literature.
A few years ago I fell madly in love with French literature: Les Miserables, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Phantom of the Opera. And then the associated gothics: Dracula, A Christmas Carol, A Picture of Dorian Gray, Frankenstein. Then I ran out. Apparently, there are only so many gothic novels one can find in 18th- and 19th-century writings—and I even read several of the more obscure ones.
But I wasn’t done with the genre yet—I wanted to stay in that dark, beautiful world. I wanted one more gothic novel, written in the French style, with all the mystery of Edmond Dantès and with all the philosophical complexity of Jean-Valjean—but with a strong female protagonist and a lush Americana setting.
I’m making serial novels a thing (again)
After I finished writing my gothic novel, I spent an inordinate amount of time researching the best way to publish it. What I found is that: No one reads books (you’re better off putting your content on social media or in video format). As a result, books don’t sell (in 2020 only 268 books sold more than 100,000 copies in 2020 and 96 percent of books sold less than 1,000 copies).
If most books sell 1,000 copies, most authors are earning $2,250 if published traditionally or $4,200 if self-published (which is not a lot for several years of work). And if a book has 1,000 fans, a better model would be to figure out how to get those 1,000 fans to subscribe to an author monthly, rather than to get them to pay $9.99 every three years when a book comes out.
Following the wisdom of the creator economy: it only takes 1,000 true fans spending $100/year for a creator to earn a salary of $100,000/year. Theoretically then, an author could release a new chapter every week, charge subscribers $8 or $9 a month, and earn $100,000 a year—from only 1,000 readers. This idea deeply appeals to me because some of my favorite novels were written as serials—including my beloved The Count of Monte Cristo—and they were wildly successful.
When Alexandre Dumas debuted The Count of Monte Cristo it was published as a feuilleton—a portion of the weekly newspaper devoted to fiction. From August 1844 to January 1846 his chapters were published in 18 installments for The Journal des Débats, a newspaper that went out to 9,000 to 10,000 paying subscribers in France—and readers were rapt by it.
It was basically “Game of Thrones.” Readers could not wait to get their hands on the next chapter and that bode very well for the writer who was not only paid by the newspaper in real-time for his work (by the word), but also grew the popularity of his work over the entirety of the time it was being published. As a result, Alexandre Dumas earned about 10,000 francs ($65,743 today) per installment.
There are starting to be platforms that make that possible—like Substack—where writers can build a following for their work and then monetize it. That’s why I decided to run an experiment. In September of 2021, I debuted my gothic novel as a serial, releasing one chapter per week exclusively for paying newsletter subscribers until it’s done in June of 2022. The first four chapters are free. Start with the prologue to sink into Obscurity.
Then in December of 2021, I debuted another experiment: this time I crowdfunded a novel using cryptocurrency using the platform Mirror, writing a new chapter for every 0.25 ETH raised. Start with the prologue here to read it.
What to expect from my newsletter
This newsletter is about my life as a novelist—but it is also a community with other artists. I send one post every week:
Articles about creating art are free for all subscribers.
Interviews with artists are for paying subscribers.
Resources for artists are for paying subscribers.
Literary Salon discussions are free for all subscribers.
Those at the Novelle Collector tier also receive the hardback, collector’s copy of the (very) first edition of my novels as they come out + an annual collector’s edition print magazine of The Novelleist featuring select works and discussions from the year. Subscribe here for the complete experience:
My newsletter has been featured by Business Insider, Publisher’s Weekly, Means of Creation, and Morning Brew; and in 2022, I was awarded one of 10 places in Substack’s coveted fellowship program. I’m so grateful that my work resonates with 3,600 other artists and I hope you’ll join us on that journey!
Get in touch
Subscribe to this newsletter to follow my writing. You can also follow me on Twitter or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about me and my work, you can find my professional portfolio here.
Thanks for reading!