I just marathoned the audiobook editions of The Wandering Inn by Pirateaba, one of the largest web serials ever. I am agog.
10.1 million words, so far.
2.5 million of it is in audio, so far. That’s like 200+ hours of listening material.
The TWI series is actually bigger than my Torth series, which is a measly 1.1 million words in its entirety. TWI has more main characters, a larger world, and a bigger word count. It’s bigger than Game of Thrones and The Wheel of Time combined. The author is still putting out 2 chapters every week. They (no idea what gender the author is) have an active fan community, 4,000+ patrons on Patreon, and they (or their publisher?) hired the most talented female audiobook narrator I’ve ever heard.
And the series is awesome. I really got into it. Fair warning: The first book suffers from some amateur storytelling, including a main character that is hard to like or connect with until later on. I nearly quit a few times. But I’ve learned that my favorite series have problematic beginnings, so I pushed through, and I’m really glad I did. I’m ranking this one right up there with my all-time favorites. The author gets better and better, and the series is pure fun. It has the magical ingredient: Really outstanding interpersonal character dynamics.
It’s interesting that it remains addictive even without any majorly oppressive grimdark plot thread. Like Beware of Chicken and He Who Fights With Monsters and other SFF web serials that took off, TWI is light rather than dark. It’s fun rather than grim.
By comparison, I’m worried about how my series will fare on RoyalRoad. Mine just isn’t that light. It has a majorly oppressive galactic empire that needs to be defeated. One of my main characters goes super dark in Book 1, and spends the rest of the series on a redemption arc. Readers love that character–but only if they get past the beginning “gauntlet” of evil oppressive crap that he gets involved in.
I do have length on my side. 450+ chapters ready to go. But mine is finite. It has an ending.
I want a career like Pirateaba’s! They are incredible. They are the Brandon Sanderson of the web serial world.
You know what else? I think this whole web serial phenomenon speaks to the state of the publishing industry. The Wandering Inn is just as good and just as much fun as The Wheel of Time. If this was the 1990s, it might be the new Wheel of Time. Yet here in the 2020s, it’s an underground fandom instead of a trad pub juggernaut.
I think that’s due to the way algorithms are causing readers and literary agents to overvalue trends and books that are already popular, while also tamping down emergent stuff with unrealized potential. Pirateaba’s series has great word-of-mouth, which is allowing them to break out of the underground niche a bit and realize some of their vast potential. I’m sure 4,000+ patrons has enabled them to write full-time and hire an assistant and all that. But they only got there by writing an addictive series with millions of words and consistently adding new chapters. And even with their success, their fandom is still quite underground.
We live in unfortunate times for the arts, I think.
I’m really glad to have discovered Pirateaba, even if it was through underground channels where adventurous readers hang out. I think they have a great career ahead of them.