The Sword and Laser discussion

Serialised novels. What do you think?

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message 1: by Chris (new)

Chris Hennessy (chrishennessy) | 5 comments I’m interested to know how other people feel about serialised novels, like what John Scalzi is doing with his next book The Human Division. Or the Yesterday’s Gone series by David Wright and Sean Platt.

Personally I like the idea, though I don’t know how well it will work, are people going to be ok with reading a couple of chapters a week then waiting for the next book. Those who don’t read that much, like a few minutes in their lunch break might find it ok. But I can see most people just waiting for it all to be released in one book later on.

I can see how this could help new authors, who might not be able, or have the time to complete a full novel. Instead they can release it in chunks as they get it finished.

Would you start reading a series if you knew you had to wait a week or a month for the next part?

message 2: by Rod (last edited Aug 14, 2012 11:16PM) (new)

Rod (terez07) | 97 comments There is precedent for this type of publishing schedule being extremely successful in modern times. In 1996, Stephen King released The Green Mile, Part 1: The Two Dead Girls. The rest of the novel unfolded in six monthly installments. Each ended up on the NY Times bestseller list. Yes, Stephen King is popular, but even his name doesn't guarantee success. The key was the story was very compelling. So yes, I think it can work - if the story delivers.

message 3: by Charles (new)

Charles | 248 comments For me, no, but it's worked for some authors in specific circumstances (and not new to genre either).

message 4: by Jim (new)

Jim | 43 comments It's not really a new concept. In the 1800, if I recall correctly, a lot of novels were originally published in a serialized format in magazines and the like before being collected in book form.

But I do wonder if some people are going to take the "waiting for the trade paperback" mentality you see with some coming book readers and wait for for the actual book to come out and not bother with the individualized chapters as they come out.

message 5: by Peter (new)

Peter | 142 comments It works in podcast from. Scott Sigler does this with his novels, as have other authors quite successfully.

message 6: by Nils (last edited Aug 15, 2012 02:26AM) (new)

Nils Krebber | 199 comments For me personally, this would be annoying. I am already tortured by books series, waiting for the new releases that somtimes take years to finish.

I don't like to have big breaks between my enjoyment of a story. It just works with comics, as there I can simply reread the backstory in a day, but if I have to continuously reread earlier chapters to get back in the mood, that would kill it for me.

So I don't say it can't work at all, just that it doesn't for me.

message 7: by Stan (new)

Stan Slaughter | 359 comments It depends. If it is structured such that each serialized story is like a TV episode, where a small story arc completes, while carrying on pieces of a larger story, then I can see it working.

This has worked for TV episodes for decades, so it is a decent formula to follow. Or, each piece could just each be it's own short story. Kind of like each Dr Who episode is its own story.

message 8: by Rob, Roberator (new)

Rob (robzak) | 6903 comments Mod
I like the idea in theory. Not sure about in practice. I feel like I'd be more likely to wait for them all to be collected in a physical copy.

That could simply be my biased towards physical books. I've read a total of 1 eBook ever.

With the popularity of the format, I think the idea will gain traction and more authors will start doing it.

message 9: by Bryek (new)

Bryek | 273 comments I donno. It depends on how it is written. Is he going to write it all and then release it bit by bit or is he going to write a chapter, release it and then write another chapter?
The first way allows for a more concise plot. The author can polish off the story, move things around, delete and add scenes etc.
In the latter way you get the book as it unfolds and it may not be as good as it could be (more often than not it won't be as good) because the author can't go back and change things to make the little things make sense. For an author to do a really good read in this format I think that they would have to be awesome at plotting and try to not add anything in when the write the book.

Personally I prefer to get it all at once. I HATE having to wait to find out what happens even if it just means I have to drive back to my hotel first.

A lot of Fan Fic is written this way as well as internet stories that you can find on a bunch of different sites. I have read some and they are decent but you can see where some times chapter 21 really should have come after what happens in chapter 23 as it would have made more sense.
Oh and when people don't post on the days they say they post on... It sucks! or they get to the middle of a story and then never finish it.

message 10: by Kevin (new)

Kevin | 701 comments I don't really see the point to it. Why not just release the whole thing immediately in one book if you're going to end up doing that anyway. I don't watch TV-series in weekly installments anymore either, and at least those have a point. I just get the DVD set once it's released and watch the whole thing in a couple of days or weeks (depending on the length).

message 11: by Gordon (new)

Gordon McLeod (mcleodg) | 347 comments This is exactly how I produce my work. My books and short stories appear in a daily serial format where whatever I wrote on a given day gets posted at least once, or very rarely more than once.

Darren, as to it being the future, I don't see a problem with describing it that way. It may very well be the future; that doesn't in any way claim or imply that it hasn't been the past, too.

message 12: by Jason (new)

Jason Craft (vigroco) | 20 comments If the series is written in episodic form, I'm fine with it. If it is literally just a novel cut up into pieces, I really don't understand why.

message 13: by Stan (new)

Stan Slaughter | 359 comments I just heard about Tales of the City a serialized novel printed in the San Francisco newspaper as a column in the 1970's

Serializing has been done in the past, and done well pre-internet. Its that like others, I just hope the authors write like they are serializing and not just a novel they have broken up into smaller chunks.

message 14: by P. Aaron (new)

P. Aaron Potter (paaronpotter) | 585 comments I think I would be much less likely to consider sampling serial work from an untested author who might not even finish their work.

But then, I no longer even begin series fiction unless its installments are reliably stand-alone, or the series is already complete.

message 15: by Paul (new)

Paul Harmon (thesaint08d) | 639 comments Ill keep it simple . I really dont like it.
I read The Green Mile that way and Loved the story but I don't like the serialized style at all.

message 16: by Candace (last edited Aug 25, 2012 10:17PM) (new)

Candace (csavvy) | 5 comments I'm not fond of the idea.... but I'm like this with everything. Even TV shows are painful for me to watch until the whole series is finished and I can pop out episode after episode on the DVD or Netflix or something.

The fact that every book seems to be part of a series nowadays is rough for me. Unless a series is already completed by the time I start it, there's a *very* low percentage that I'll stick with it and finish. So, I think a serialized novel would be even worse.

I don't know what it is. Too much commitment? Haha.

So, in any case, what do I think? I think, no thank you, please.

message 17: by Otto (new)

Otto (andrewlinke) | 110 comments Lots of vague references, but surprised nobody has said this yet:
Remember Charles Dickens?
And his loooong books?

Most (if not all?) of Dickens's books are so long and detailed not just because he was an exceptionally verbose author, but because the novels were originally published in serial form and he was payed by the word.

My wife tells me that Vanity Fair was also serialized, which accounts for several major plot holes in the story (author changed some details later in the story, but couldn't go back and fix them because they'd already been printed).

message 18: by Joe Informatico (new)

Joe Informatico (joeinformatico) | 888 comments A lot of authors in the science fiction "Golden Age" serialized their work before collecting it as a novel. Classics such as A Princess of Mars, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and next month's laser pick, Foundation, were all originally serialized. It still happens today: Robert J Sawyer's novels are still serialized in Analog, and Cory Doctorow's Makers was serialized on This is a long-established practice for the genre.

message 19: by Joseph (new)

Joseph | 2307 comments Don't forget Alexandre Dumas. And I think you could make a strong case that A Song of Ice and Fire is, in fact, one really, really long serialized novel.

message 20: by Tamahome (new)

Tamahome | 6376 comments If its like a tv series, it would fit my brain, which was weaned on the glass teat.

message 21: by Darren (new)

Darren Humphries (darrenhf) | 96 comments It's a question of how it was done. If each episode is a genuine reaction to what people thought of what had gone before then I'm all for it, but it the story's already written then just publish the novel for heaven's sake.

message 22: by Candace (new)

Candace (csavvy) | 5 comments Darren wrote: "It's a question of how it was done. If each episode is a genuine reaction to what people thought of what had gone before then I'm all for it, but it the story's already written then just publish th..."

Completely agree with this! Great way to put it.

message 23: by Reader Reborn (new)

Reader Reborn (readerreborn) It brings a different type of story telling. Like with most everything else, much of it will probably be bad, but odds are there will be some that are really good. The TV analogy was best. Compare Star Trek to Babylon 5. Completely different, each utilizing a different aspect of the serialized story-telling medium. My only thing is that I want them to have written the entire arc/book/whatever before they start publishing the separate parts.

message 24: by Lacey (new)

Lacey (chasingom) I'm excited for it; I think it has the potential to draw in new readers when it's offered on e-readers for a lower price...they can read the first "episode" and then decide if they want to keep with the series or try something different. I don't see it as much different from the Kindle Singles, except there will be an overarching, well, arc.

message 25: by Eirik (new)

Eirik Gumeny (egumeny) | 4 comments I think it could be OK. Scalzi's enough of a name that his readers -- and the author himself -- aren't going to forget that the serial's ongoing. They'll come back every week/month/unspecified interval. And, personally, I very rarely read a book front to back on one sitting, so breaking it up, like I would normally do on my own, isn't going to scare me away.

message 26: by Alterjess (new)

Alterjess | 319 comments Andrew wrote: "Most (if not all?) of Dickens's books are so long and detailed not just because he was an exceptionally verbose author, but because the novels were originally published in serial form and he was payed by the word."

Sorry, but the "paid by the word" myth is one of my pet peeves. It's not true:

message 27: by Stan (new)

Stan Slaughter | 359 comments A quote from the page you linked to:

"...and the author himself, who received payment each time he produced 32 pages of text (and not necessarily a certain number of words), .."

But, only a certain number of words can fit in 32 pages of text. :)

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