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Reader Discussions > Do You Read Novels in "Serial" Form?

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message 1: by Michael (new)

Michael Henderson (Michael_Henderson) | 5 comments There's a developing trend of authors offering one novel broken into sections, which are sold separately as a "serial."

This is not the same as a "Series." Harry Potter is a series.

I'm talking about a single novel sold in parts, a few chapters at a time.

What do you think of these, and do you read them, or would you read them?

Mike Henderson


message 2: by Joey (new)

Joey (mostlyjoe) | 13 comments I do a few. Depends. I like reading series that have natural stopping points, or ongoing arcs. Kinda hard to point at something like Malazan and say...I read that. And everyone eyes bugger out when they see the 10+ books.

Now I can say I read books set in a universe like The Culture, or Reynolds Revelation Space and people don't bat an eye.


message 3: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 880 comments Mod
No. I do not like them. Although I do like series. I like to read at my rate not at the rate the author decides to dribble out the product. If your book is not ready yet, don't publish yet.


message 4: by Anna (last edited Jan 19, 2015 05:19PM) (new)

Anna Erishkigal (annaerishkigal) I do not like them. I understand why authors are offering them that way...

[*and for those non-author members of our community, let's just say it's not because the author wants to bug the everliving crap out of you or is greedy, but has to do with the way Amazon penalizes authors who write big books in their complicated discoverability and compensation algorithms ... and I'll drop the topic from there because it's otherwise not a READER topic but an AUTHOR MARKETING one*]

I don't like serials because I believe the reader has the right to receive a complete story, with a complete story arc, that has a well thought out THEME which has been edited and polished from start to finish. Most serials lack those qualities. So much of the worldbuilding and layered themes that are necessary to carry a great space opera tale to fruition come in on the edit, and not during the initial rough draft (no matter HOW much you proofread that individual chapter).

That's not to say I don't enjoy a good novella, or even a series of novellas set in the same overarching universe with an episodic feel like an ongoing television series (like Battlestar Galactica ... their 'episode' goal was always some unique challenge, while their overarching goal was always to survive and find Earth). But each 'episode' has a complete story. 99% of the serials out there do NOT do that. They are simply either incomplete chapters written on the fly, or somebody broke apart an existing longer book that was NOT written to be episodic into shorter chunk because of Kindle Unlimited.


message 5: by Michael (new)

Michael Henderson (Michael_Henderson) | 5 comments Joseph wrote: "I do a few. Depends. I like reading series that have natural stopping points, or ongoing arcs. Kinda hard to point at something like Malazan and say...I read that. And everyone eyes bugger out when..."

Your post highlights something that needs to be clarified. A series is not a serial. A series, such as Culture, is a group of books about the same characters and the same world. It may have a continuing story arc, such as "Harry Potter," or each book may stand alone, such as a mystery series.

A serial is one single novel split into sections, which are published and sold separately.


message 6: by Michael (new)

Michael Henderson (Michael_Henderson) | 5 comments Betsy wrote: "No. I do not like them. Although I do like series. I like to read at my rate not at the rate the author decides to dribble out the product. If your book is not ready yet, don't publish yet."

If I were to do it, I don't think I could do it unless the whole thing was ready to go. That makes it purely a marketing ploy.


message 7: by David (new)

David Blyth | 11 comments I do like serials - after all when I first began reading sf it was in the magazines that many of the great novels were serialised. I read Analog, Galaxy, If, etc. if we go back even further in the pulp traditions it was not uncommon for a single issue to contain up to 3 ongoing serials, e.g Adventure, Argosy, etc

A question I've pondered is whether our reading habits gave changed in that most people like to read a complete book at a time. I must admit it's not uncommon for me to have two collections if anthologies on the go simultaneously with perhaps an sf and a fantasy novel as well.

Maybe it was the mass market paperback that was the main contributory factor in the demise of the series!

I do like 'series' because you get drawn into the world of the authors imagination - some times series can in reality be serials because the same characters are further developed in later volumes.


message 8: by James (new)

James Mascia (jmascia) | 10 comments The only Serial novel I think I have ever read (and the only one I can remember ever seeing in a bookstore) was Stephen King's "The Green Mile".

However, seeing as I am a big comic book fan, and those are pretty much serials, I would have to say that I wouldn't be opposed to reading such a thing, as long as the story was compelling.


message 9: by Joey (new)

Joey (mostlyjoe) | 13 comments I guess I DO like reading serial novels. But I like reading them if they do it in 'series' chunks. Like major plot arcs with breaks between major events. The Belgariad spoiled me to this.


message 10: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 880 comments Mod
I would consider The Belgariad a series, not a single serial novel.


message 11: by Les (new)

Les | 53 comments Lockstep by Karl Shroeder was serialized in Analog before it was published as a full novel. I read through it and enjoyed reading in in pieces, but not sure it would be my cup of tea in full form. Also, I didn't mind the weekly 'episode' format of John Scalzi's The Human Division but have to admit that I'd probably have preferred to read that all in one go.


message 12: by Steph (new)

Steph Bennion (stephbennion) | 302 comments I think a story has to be conceived as a serial from the beginning for this to work, so self-contained episodes set against a larger theme. The Wool Trilogy started off like that but quickly slipped into novel mode. It made for an uneven read, I thought.


message 13: by Jessica (new)

Jessica  (jessical1961) Lockstep by Karl Schroeder is the only book I ever read that was serialized, and I really enjoyed it. I wish Analog or Asimov's, the two sci-fi magazines I read, would publish more like it.


message 14: by Anna (last edited Jan 26, 2015 11:06AM) (new)

Anna Erishkigal (annaerishkigal) I've got gloriously popular fan-fiction I've written in serial mode that as I was writing it I was getting over a thousand 'hits' per day, but that's different.

1) I wasn't charging people to read it;

2) Everybody who read it was part of the core fandom, so if you made an off-the-cuff reference to some character reference or backstory everybody knew what you were talking about without needing to descend into a ton of exposition;

3) When you post each new chapter, a notice goes out to each subscriber to come read the new chapter (for free). You don't have to sit and hope they'll keep thinking of you as you write it, only that you kept people's attention enough in the last chapter to follow the link to read the next chapter;

4) You get real-time numbers of exactly how many people are following your story so you can tell if you missed the mark with a previous chapter;

5) Your readers egg you on to 'do this next' with characters and backstories that everybody is already familiar with, so you can tailor it to what they like. This is great in the moment, but sometimes you go back and re-read it as a standalone chapter and boy, it turns out you went w-a-a-y off track down some plot-bunny rabbit hole :-)

6) Did I mention people don't PAY you for this glorious experiment in stroking your own ego? Yeah ... so if you muff it up you can go back, fix the previous chapter, and then when you post the next one maybe they'll come back?

7) That's a heck of a lot of cliffhangers at the end of every single chapter to keep people PAYING to read in your universe. I mean, yeah, it worked for Charles Dickens. But his chapters were also published as part of a larger general-service publication of which his story was just another add-on value. In general, cliffhangers bug me. I don't like being left hanging and then be forced to wait to get my answer.

Now Asimov's or Analog are nice because those come out every single month (or was that every other month?) so you have that 'value added' feeling for the stories that carry over from month to month. Most of the stories finish up in that episode, so you get other stories to sate your sci-fi sweet tooth while waiting for the next episode to come out.


message 15: by Jessica (last edited Jan 25, 2015 07:13PM) (new)

Jessica  (jessical1961) Both Asimov's and Analog are published 10 times per year with 8 monthly issues and 2 double issues that cover a two month period.


message 16: by Fiannawolf (new)

Fiannawolf | 163 comments Honestly I rather buy the book format of the serial. Most times Ill wait til they release some freebies to see if I'd like to buy the "omnibus" version.


message 17: by Aaron (last edited Jan 26, 2015 10:08AM) (new)

Aaron Nagy | 111 comments Most serials I read are webserials so it's free/donate as you like, I don't really have anything against buying ahead of time, but that doesn't seem to be the way anyone does serials...sometimes at the end they go back do editing(which will often contain some significant rewrites) and release the edited version as a sold book but otherwise.


message 18: by Lexxi Kitty (last edited Mar 20, 2015 06:31AM) (new)

Lexxi Kitty (lexxikitty) | 43 comments I was going to say that I don't read serials. Then I read this thread. But I'll come back to that.

There are several serials wherein I had read the first part, loved it, then never read the next in that serialized book. Because they took too long to appear.

Then there's the occasion wherein I loved the first part, then waited to buy the full book after waiting for all the parts of the serialized book to become available as one book. Then never got around to read that book. It took too long for the full book to appear and I had lost interest.

I mentioned that I had been going to say that I didn't read serials, but then I read this thread and recalled that I do. I do read individual comics. Though I do try to wait until a story arc, and/or collection appears.

re: serialized books in Asimov's, Analog, etc. I've only read one that way. And that actually reminds me that I have in fact read a full book by reading parts as they appeared. Allen Steele's Coyote. I liked it when I read it, but never continued the series. There are something like 8 overall books in the Coyote series/universe. Though I do not know if any of the other 7 were serialized or not.

Coyote is the only one I've read via magazine format, though, because I never seemed to have all the parts of individual books. I'd have like parts 3-5, 12, 19, 22, etc.

I just read too fast for a serialized book to work for me.


message 19: by C. John (new)

C. John Kerry (cjkerry) | 494 comments I tend to agree with David above. Most of the early SF magazines, among others, tended to have serialize a novel over several issues. In fact I believe Astounding at one point could have a couple of serials running concurrently. My introduction to both Saberhagen's Berserker series and Zelazny's Amber series came via novels serialized in Worlds of If and Galaxy Magazine respectively. Of course when you buy a magazine you were getting a lot of other material as well so it didn't seem like such a bad deal back then.


message 20: by Tani (new)

Tani | 9 comments I was also going to say that I don't read serials, and then comics were mentioned. I'm pretty new to reading comics on a regular basis, but I'm finding that the serial method doesn't work for me very well. I feel too much disconnect between myself and the story.

I read an issue, am just barely getting back into the story, and then I have to wait for the next issue. In the meantime, I'm having such a hard time getting engaged that I completely forget what happened in the previous issue, because I just wasn't that into it. So then the next issue is just so many words. I'v pretty much decided that I'm going to be holding onto my comic issues and reading them in a lump, so that I can still get into the story.

I just read too much to remember every detail of something that's so short.


message 21: by C. John (new)

C. John Kerry (cjkerry) | 494 comments When I first started reading comics (back in the early 60s) most of the stories were self-contained. In fact in many comics it wasn't unusual for a comic to have two or more stories in it. If a story was continued it was generally only for a couple of issues (i.e. the JLA/JSA crossovers always took two issue of Justice League of America). There were none of these issue after issue stories.
However English comics were different. In both comics for boys and girls most of the strips save for the humour ones carried on for quite a few issues. As well even the humour books had at least one serialized adventure strip. However they came out on a weekly basis so the wait between installments wasn't as long.


message 22: by Aaron (last edited Jun 22, 2015 11:34AM) (new)

Aaron Nagy | 111 comments Tani wrote: "I was also going to say that I don't read serials, and then comics were mentioned. I'm pretty new to reading comics on a regular basis, but I'm finding that the serial method doesn't work for me ve..."

Serials work best with regular releases.

One part a week is like minimum. The amount of content provided each update normally has to be enough that people can talk about it and have fun in the comments. Honestly 1/2 the reason I enjoy reading serials is it kind of forces a large group read, and you get all the fun theories and predictions of what will happen next.

Honestly if your thinking about trying serials out I would start with Wildbows stuff either Worm(Super Heroes/Villians), or Twig(uhhhhhhhhhhh urban? bio-punk? crime? verbal action? all according to plan?). He is pretty universally liked, the communities split by genre and how many anime tropes you can handle after that, but there are quite a few genres that get big representation in web serials that get very little in published works such as portal fantasy.


message 23: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Bergeron (scifi_jon) | 370 comments Not a fan of the serial format, but if a publisher is willing to pay I'd do it. I just think the character development is nill and the format is too much like a network TV show, each serial has to wrap up something. I'm not a fan of network TV, although Community and Parks and Rec are phenomenal shows.


message 24: by C. John (new)

C. John Kerry (cjkerry) | 494 comments The only real hang-up with the serial theme was when a magazine went under midway through a serial. Then you were left hanging unless the work later came out in book format. I know this happened once and I shall check my reference works if I can to see if I can find out the detaila.


message 25: by Aaron (last edited Jun 29, 2015 01:35PM) (new)

Aaron Nagy | 111 comments John wrote: "The only real hang-up with the serial theme was when a magazine went under midway through a serial. Then you were left hanging unless the work later came out in book format. I know this happened on..."

Well serials are basically all run on the internet now, so an aggregate might go down(very rare) and you have to find your author again or the author might get bored and stop writing(way more likely).

In general for serials it's places like.

Fanfiction.net(they actually have things that aren't fanfiction).
Wattpad
RoyalRoadl

Most of the higher quality stuff from what I have found is on random wordpress pages. If you want to find more good stuff some book forums will have a discussion on it but it's best to find something you like and get recommendations from the comments section there.

Probably one of the big reasons I consume a good bit of this kind of fiction is that the plot tends to move a good deal faster, so you can read basically a complete intro arc in under an hour often in 30minutes and kind of go huh was that any good. Unlike a lot of published fiction where I might have to spend ~10 hours to get past the first 2 meh arcs to where it actually gets good and would of abandoned it if it wasn't for friends yelling at me *cough* Dresden Files *cough*


message 26: by Abby (last edited Oct 16, 2015 11:06AM) (new)

Abby Goldsmith (abby_goldsmith) | 40 comments I'll wait for the serial to be complete.

I love huge books, and I love series, but most of all, I love a well-crafted story.

I think that a story written in installments is less cohesive, by nature. There's a reason novels go through several drafts and editing phases.

That said, I'll be posting my novel (or more than one) as a serial, and probably as a podcast, as well. After it's completed and finalized.


message 27: by V.W. (new)

V.W. Singer | 76 comments No. I would never read stories issued in chunk form. That is not the same as complete novels of an overarching series.


message 28: by C. John (new)

C. John Kerry (cjkerry) | 494 comments A lot of the sci-fi novels from the thirties to the seventies first appeared in serial form in the magazines. Of course once we went down to a bare handful that sort of stopped. I read most of the first set of Amber novels that way as books three to five ran in Galaxy. To the best of my knowledge of the Lensman and Skylark series by Doc Smith only First Lensman didn't appear as a magazine serial first.


message 29: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 114 comments NO.


message 30: by Jessica (new)

Jessica  (jessical1961) Nope! I don't do serials. John Scalzi released a recent novel as four seperate novellas before combining them all into one book as a stand alone novel. I passed on it.


message 31: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Bergeron (scifi_jon) | 370 comments Jeffrey wrote: "Nope! I don't do serials. John Scalzi released a recent novel as four seperate novellas before combining them all into one book as a stand alone novel. I passed on it."

He's normally great with his books, but The Human Division was a mess. I'm positive it's because he wrote that as separate novellas, just like he wrote The End of all Things. I've been debating on whether or not to read it. I'm leaning towards not reading it.


message 32: by C. John (new)

C. John Kerry (cjkerry) | 494 comments I suspect the answer to this question is going to be age-based to a certain extent. Persons such as myself who started reading SF when the magazines rules and most major novels saw their first publication as a magazine serial are going to answer in the affirmative. On the other hand most younger readers who have started in a time when most novels go straight to paperback/hardcover publication and ignore the magazines are going to answer in the negative. It really depends on what we are used to.


message 33: by Les (new)

Les | 53 comments Jonathan wrote: "He's normally great with his books, but The Human Division was a mess. I'm positive it's because he wrote that as separate novellas, just like he wrote The End of all Things. I've been debating on whether or not to read it. I'm leaning towards not reading it."

Yep, as a fan of the original Old Man's War series I couldn't help bu think that Scalzi should've avoided all that "episodic" stuff and just done them as regular novels. Still good stories though.


message 34: by Veronica (new)

Veronica Scott Serials make me nuts and I'll never consciously buy one until I can get all the 'chapters' and read it as one book. Sometimes you don't know it's going to be a serial and that gets frustrating!


message 35: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 114 comments John wrote: "I suspect the answer to this question is going to be age-based..."

I suspect that's going to prove an incorrect assumption. I'm 57 and I'd never buy/read a book that way. It's just such an obvious marketing ploy where you end up paying way more than the full novel will cost. I find it distasteful.

Serialized stories in magazines are a different matter. They weren't marketing ploys for the individual stories because they were in magazines that most readers subscribed to. The reader then knows when the next episode's coming and it's only one small part of their magazine subscription...It's more like a TV show in that respect. Your subscription covers the full cost of the serialized novel, but also a bunch of other stuff.


message 36: by C. John (new)

C. John Kerry (cjkerry) | 494 comments Micah magazine serials is what I think of as you have a few chapters at a time published. I can't see that working in book form, though I suppose it could be done. So when one talks about serials magazine publication is what I automatically think of. Granted there are books which set up situations that are resolved in a later book but I have never considered them to be serials but rather just a series of books. The books are self-contained but do leave some plot threads for later.


message 37: by Jessica (new)

Jessica  (jessical1961) Micah wrote: "John wrote: "I suspect the answer to this question is going to be age-based..."

I suspect that's going to prove an incorrect assumption. I'm 57 and I'd never buy/read a book that way. It's just su..."


I don't know about that being an incorrect assumption. I will be 54 in a few days and like you I would never consider buying anything in serial form. But with the exception of the sci-fi book I read in the fifth grade I didn't really start reading sci-fi until the mid to late 70's when I was in junior high and high school. Truthfully, I didn't really discover the magazines until the90's.

For older adults who started reading the SFF magazines in the 40's or 50's when much SFF was serialized in them, they would probably be more likely to buy a serialized book than you or I would.


message 38: by Jemima (new)

Jemima Pett | 146 comments I sometimes do a serial in December on my book website, but the whole thing has to be properly conceived. (i.e. finished, not a work in progress!)

There is plenty of precedent for serials - it's one reason why Dickens was wordy - he got paid by the word, and most of his stories first appeared as serials. I think it's different putting a serial on a blog, or on one of the Writing sites (e.g. Wattpad), from the Amazon serial set-up. But Amazon is very demanding of its serial writers - you have to get the next one up on time, or you're out.

Personally, I haven't bought a serial since I started to afford complete books!


message 39: by Aaron (last edited Oct 19, 2015 07:01AM) (new)

Aaron Nagy | 111 comments John wrote: "I suspect the answer to this question is going to be age-based to a certain extent. Persons such as myself who started reading SF when the magazines rules and most major novels saw their first publ..."

It is aged based, as in younger readers are way more likely to be reading serials then older readers. Serials are back in fashion as the wild west of writing on the internet.


message 40: by Micah (last edited Oct 19, 2015 07:45AM) (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 114 comments Related article from last year: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maya-ro...

I think the key points in that article are: 1) that proper serialization is not just releasing a story a few chapters at a time (which some authors have done), but that the work needs to be written specifically FOR serialization, so as to build up the anticipation; and 2) that a lot of readers really hate even that format.

Comparing it to TV serialization is probably a good thing to do. Obviously people still really go for weekly serialization of TV shows...BUT as Netflix and other streaming video companies have found, it's even more popular to binge watch TV shows. So Netflix and others release entire seasons at one go. And people eat that s*** up. So if you're serializing in today's market, I'd suggest that you make the entire work available at the same time.


message 41: by Aaron (last edited Oct 19, 2015 10:36AM) (new)

Aaron Nagy | 111 comments Again it's about access and community.

What makes serials great compared to the novel format is the comment section in each chapter.

General things I find that successful serial novels have in common. (Other then of course having good plot/writing/characters)

Every Update is Interesting:
Because basically every update...needs to give something for people to talk about.

Fast and Reliable Updates:
Generally one chapter a week is a minimum, and in general you want to be churning at least 5000ish words a week probably more. Updates spread out too much lets people forget about the serial and you don't want that. If you're reliable you can generally afford to be a bit slower. If you're fast you can afford to be a bit less Reliable. Being both fast and reliable is of course the best.

Let the serial finish:
Too many serials drive on until the author runs out of ideas and it dies a horrid death of being bleh. Don't do this.


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