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Thursday News: Is the serial revival around the corner? Or a...

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One thing that the mainstream rise of fan fiction may have an impact on is how stories are told.  Fan fiction is almost always told in serial fashion with writers uploading a section or chapter at a time.  Wikipedia says that serialized novels gained prominence in the Victorian period and Dickens is probably the best known serialized author.

One author who is burning up the  charts is self published author Sara Fawkes whose series “Anything He Wants” sells on Amazon for .99, $2.99, and $2.99 for the published versions so far for a total of 111 pages of fiction.  Serials can build anticipation and lead to increased word of mouth.  The pricing for serials, however, is problematic.  Even Fawkes’ fans are chafing about the wait and the price.  Says Gina D on Amazon “I guess I wouldn’t be as annoyed if they were all out but I hate waiting. plus 2.99 is a little much for a quarter of a book, .99 cents probably would be more appropriate.”  The first entry is #20 in the Kindle store, the second is #63, and the third is #79.  It’s hard to say whether Fawkes will lose readership and part of the problem may be the lack of defined schedule.

But Fawkes isn’t the only one thinking serial these days.  Take a look at the following three news items.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

42 Comments

  1. library addict
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 05:38:40

    I have a difficult enough time waiting between books in a trilogy and have been known to wait until all three are released before starting the first one. I am not a fan of the serialization idea at all. When I buy a book I expect a complete story. Sure, there may be unresolved issues if the book is part of a trilogy or series, but it should be a story that stands alone in many respects. I am also not a fan of cliffhanger “endings” which I suspect many of these proposed serials would have.

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  2. brokenglass
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 05:42:51

    I think M/m author Jordan Castillo Price is actually doing this. Very interesting as I didn’t know this form of publishing had even a name “chuncking”. I was doing some numbers & I do think that authors earn more money with this.
    To my mind I don’t think is a wrong approach as It has its logic since ebooks are expected to cost a lot less than print books. I understand why an author would rather spend less time and produce more ebooks and sell them than devote one or two full years to a long-novel.

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  3. Patricia Eimer
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 06:28:38

    Didn’t Stephen King try this years ago with the Green Mile? He didn’t make nearly the profit he thought he would and after that went back to publishing full books instead.

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  4. Jess
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 06:36:05

    I had no idea I had so many thoughts on serial novels!

    Serial novels that release a chapter at a time have only one benefit (in my mind). I’ve read books where some chapters are action/the plot/at least relevant to the overall idea and other chapters might as well be cut because they’re total filler. In those cases I wouldn’t mind only buying the chapters that served a purpose.

    The things that bother about serials are how frequently a chapter is released, what happens if midway through the story the author changes their mind about the plot and the next chapter doesn’t fit with the chapter before it plus the book takes a much different turn, and that you get less content for a higher price. On the frequency of chapters, an author I like used that approach (granted, for free) and while I thought it was an awesome move, the chapters were released sporadically. I’d read one chapter and think “Okay, I totally know where this is going” and the next chapter might take a couple weeks. In that time, I’d forget what happened the week before. I’m not necessarily saying I want instant gratification, but I think that for readers to remember the story in serial form, things have to be memorable and the chapters have to be released decently soon after the one before it. On the pricing concern, I see full-length e-books going for anywhere from .99 to 11.99 (and probably higher). I might be able to see a big-name author charging $1 per chapter because of their popularity, but I certainly wouldn’t pay that same amount on someone who was completely new to publishing in general and serial publication. Don’t get me wrong, I love new voices in writing, but I’d be questionable on them until I get a feel for what they write. I’m not nearly as concerned about an author changing their mind halfway between the beginning and end because there’s just as good a chance they already have the full novel written and they’re just releasing it one chapter at a time. It’s just something that occasionally crosses my mind.

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  5. rebyj
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 06:45:42

    I would never buy a book in serial form. Even if it were free I wouldn’t! I hate cliffhangers and I hate reading a story and having to wait for it to continue. Add me to not buying trilogies until the last book is released. I got burned with the cliffhangers of Karen Marie Moning’s Fever trilogy. Never again! Why put myself in that cranky mood one chapter and 2.99 at a time?

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  6. SAO
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 06:56:03

    When we went to Cyprus, we bought the Lonely Planet chapter for the area we were visiting. I think by three chapters, you would have paid more than for the whole book. The chapter we bought included the general sections on Cyprus, as well as the area. We paid about a third of the price of the book for about 20% of the content.

    I think I’d be hard put to read a whole book in chunks. I already have a problem with putting stuff down in the middle. If I had to pay for the next bit, I’m not sure I would, even if I’d read to the end if the rest of the book was there. I’d be quite likely to forget smaller pieces of plot development or, if a mystery, clues, so I’d probably not like the book as well because it might seem like the author had just dropped in a deus ex machina to solve the conflict when actually, it was carefully developed and I’d forgotten half of the development.

    And you wonder how many writers will finish if not many people are buying the next chapter. It wouldn’t take long for that to kill the entire concept.

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  7. DS
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 07:10:20

    I used to have subscriptions to every sf magazine being published in the 70′s and (Analog especially) serials occurred frequently. But you also got a lot of other content for your money and there was an editor to make sure that the serial was finished on time. Another way that sf stories were published was sequential smaller works. Anne MacCaffrey’s first dragonrider novel was a combination of two stories that were published in Analog a month or two apart– I actually still have the two issues but I’m too lazy to look them up.

    However, I would be disinclined to go with self published serials. I’ve seen enough people writing fan fiction abandon stories deliberately or due to unforeseen circumstances to make me wary about investing in a serial.

    I remember the Stephen King serial. I think each of the slim sections was $2.99 which at that time was close to the price of a whole genre novel. People grumbled about price a lot. Also, Julie Garwood (?) did something similar with her Roses novel. Don’t know how that worked out but I don’t remember anyone else following her.

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  8. eggs
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 07:18:10

    Like Rebyj, I too am a fan of the Fever books, but they had all already been released before I discovered the first one so the cliffhangers didn’t bother me at all as I just raced from one to the next. Thinking about it, if I’d been reading the Fever books as they came out I would have happily forked out $2.99 to get, say, the first three chapters of the next book in the series as an installment to tide me over until the full book was completed – and then happily bought the entire book for full price when it came out. I know when Jim Butcher put the first chapter of Ghost Story up on his website (for free!) my friends and I went insane with joy. For authors like Butcher and KMM who have heavily invested fans serialization would work well for everyone. They could make more money by serializing and the fans wouldn’t have such a long wait between fixes.

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  9. Mireya
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 08:14:18

    I HATE serials and I HATE cliffhangers, hopefully this will not become a trend, and hopefully my favorite authors will not go that way. I don’t mind a story arc which spans a series, i.e. Lynn Viehl’s Darkyn or Kindred series. However, those books can be read as stand alones each with an individual, complete romance story. Additionally, each book adds to her world creation. They can be read out of order as well, though I don’t recommend doing so. A serial is an entirely different beast and not even as a child did I like them. Heck, I didn’t read comics for that reason, I just didn’t have the patience to wait, and usually, if I did, by the time the end came it was either too anti-climactic for my taste, or I had completely lost interest in what was going on, having moved to more interesting (to me) things. Either way, it will likely just be another option… but I am still going to hope that my faves don’t go that way, the waits for their full length stories are long enough as it is *sigh*

    M.

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  10. Ashley
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 08:19:26

    I read a lot of serialized works online for free and I have for years. I write them as well. So I have no problem with that. It’s when people ask for more money than I feel comfortable paying for a serialized story that the problems arise for me. If the price is right, I have no problem with it, but that $2.99 price tag for one of the stories mentioned is too high in my opinion.

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  11. Angela
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 08:20:47

    I have a lot of mixed thoughts about serialization of novels, but the biggest one – and the one I keep coming back to – is the amount of story I’m getting for that price. For $0.99, am I getting 2,000 words? 5,000? 10,000?

    I haven’t read any serials in a long time (I think the Green Mile one was the last one – I liked it, but I got it used for a lot less than $2.99), so I don’t know the average serial-release book, or what the probable answer to this may be in the future.

    Let’s say 10k words per release though, and a total story length of 90k words – that’s 9 ‘chunks’ at $0.99 is $8.91 for the total story. I think 10k words is probably a high estimate, and $0.99 a low one, and this is past what I normally spend – except on my very favorite and trusted authors.

    Looking at that Beth Kery special – 8 weeks of story at $1.99/week = $15.92 for the ebook. And I’m back to wondering what I’m getting for my money. There’re only 3 authors that I pay these kind of prices for in ebooks, I don’t see that changing.

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  12. Las
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 08:48:07

    I’m resigned to putting up with series since that’s what publishers and authors insist on giving me, but no way in hell will I buy a book in serial form. All the problems I associate with series will just be magnified in serials, the main one being that authors obviously start making crap up as they go along in order to milk more money out of a popular series . I’m not wasting my money or time.

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  13. Kate Hewitt
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 08:52:48

    I’ve written serials for magazines in the UK for a long time, and I’ve read them as well. I think it’s a great format, but the price is right: about a US dollar for one instalment, and that includes everything in the magazine. Magazines also provide stability; you can be guaranteed a new instalment every week. Paying $2.99 for a couple thousand words seems ridiculous, in my mind, but if people are willing to pay it, who am I to say? I know Harlequin has online serials that are free and run everyday, and are for mainly promotional purposes, which seem a good use of the serial format to me.

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  14. MelM
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 08:54:06

    This the premise behind Baen’s successful monthly bundles program. You end up with the book two weeks in advance of the publication date but over the course of three months. I won’t buy cliffhangers myself but I know a lot of people who look forward to their monthly bundle.

    Of course this is a complete book that is simply being doled out to you in pieces by a reputable publisher. I imagine something written as a serial would read more like the Perils of Pauline with the heroine dangling from a cliff at the end of each chapter. That would be tedious to read in my opinion. Or comical. In college we watched old reruns of The Man From UNCLE and joked that both the heros had to have mush for skulls because one of them had to end up unconcious before each commercial break.

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  15. Lauren Willig
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 08:59:11

    This caught my attention because I’m currently serializing a contemporary romance novel on my website. (http://www.laurenwillig.com/news/2012/06/23/dare-me-chapter-one/)

    I’ve dabbled in serial format three times: with this contemporary romance and with a couple of novellas that are spin offs from my usual historical series. In all of those cases, I had projects I wanted to play with in addition to my usual writing load. I knew that unless I created a set of public expectations for myself, by promising that chapter a week, other deadlines and the procrastinatory imperative would kick in and I’d never do it. By putting them out there, chapter by chapter, I force myself to keep going.

    It’s also a great way to get feedback for a project in process, especially something out of one’s normal field.

    Of course, in all these cases, these were purely for amusement rather than for profit ventures, which does change the game a bit…. But I do think there’s some benefit to the serial form as a laboratory for authorial experimentation.

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  16. Estara
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 09:12:59

    Well, as DA already reviewed and quite liked, Ginn Hale’s serial The Rifter worked. But the chunks were bigger if I remember correctly?

    I am tickled by the fact that we’re back to serialization of novels like in the 19th century. Gives me a Karl May (her certainly made his mark in Germany and was a bestseller in his lifetime – his books are still being published regularly; there’s a society that owns the rights now), Groschenroman (aka pulp fiction), Hedwig Courts Mahler feeling ^^.

    Our regional newspaper had a serialized novel for years! Mostly older romances or women’s fiction.

    And there’s the serialization to raise the money to write the book – Sharon Lee & Steve Miller raised enough to release both Fledgling and Saltation per chapter on special websites AND finance a first, signed hardcover printing – but the books were picked up by BAEN, so people eventually got the BAEN hardcovers with signatures from the authors (and since then BAEN has published their backlist in many ways).

    But the most successful example I can remember is Cathrynne Valente’s children’s fantasy book The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making – again, serialised on the web and donationware – bought and published and won a Hugo or Nebula, not sure – and now there’s a follow-up novel out as well.

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  17. Kay
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 09:51:18

    I don’t like serials; I read too fast and I like immersion. (I also don’t generally like short stories, so take that with as many grains of salt as you like.)

    Fan fiction can be different when it’s part of the experience of someone “like us” writing and one knows it’s the nature of the beast; there may be author/audience interaction (which sometimes may affect the story, for better or for worse) or at least insights on the process, and a general sense of community (including fan art) that can make it worth it if one has the time to participate. If the writing gets better as the author gains more experience, that’s part of the process and something to be appreciated. With pro fiction, I have higher standards for the work as a whole and suspect that “writing as you go” wouldn’t often work out as well to my tastes; when pro fiction is written in advance and serialized, it can feel frustrating, as though the pro is doling out the content as a control issue, and I won’t go there.

    But what’s really a pain about serializing? Imagine having to keep track of individual chapters on your e-reader… or else downloading “the story thus far” over and over and having to find where you were. Over and over.

    (P.S. I bought the Valente book when it came out in hardcover.)

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  18. becca
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 09:54:53

    I’m with the majority here – I hate serials and I hate cliffhangers. I won’t do it. Cliffhanger endings have been a great way to get me to quit (or not start) a series. I’ve been burned too many times on things just not ending but being dropped for whatever reason.

    I *might* put up with something like the Baen subscriptions, but again, the books are finished items being doled out in pieces. But I still don’t like the suspense, and my poor memory usually has me forgetting what went before the latest installment, which translates out to forgetting about the book.

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  19. Moriah Jovan
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 10:04:42

    I hate serialized fiction. I really do. BUT! A lot of people love it, and I’ve discovered that I’m usually in a microniche as to my own tastes so they don’t ever translate to any kind of significant numbers of people.

    So I’m serializing my unedited next book, which is due out next year. One chapter per week, free, for a year.

    I toyed with a lot of different ways I could do it, with paid installments being my first idea. But it didn’t sit well with me. I just can’t see asking people to pay for an unedited work (and I’m not looking for feedback, either). I saw @willaful say (on another DA thread) how much she and her friends awaited with bated breath some serial that came out every Monday morning, and realized I was going about it in the wrong way and with the wrong end goal in mind.

    MY end goal is to create demand for the finished, edited, dressed-up book because people want to know what happens at the end.

    Unless you’re really hung up on getting paid for every single word you write right now, I really can’t think of a downside to this approach, especially for those who like serial fiction. You know when the installment will post every week, you know all that material is in the bag already (or, at least, you know that now), and you know there’ll be a finished product on a specific date next year for a specific price–and hopefully I’ve established myself as being a dependable writer.

    This is week 2, and I’ve had really good response; better than I expected, in fact. I told my husband last night that this will either be the best idea or the worst idea I’ve ever had.

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  20. Anne V
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 10:56:20

    I hated the Fever series because of the cliffhangers, and I will never read KMM again, because I felt that how those were deployed cliffhangers was so manipulative and disrespectful of readers. I don’t read Rachel Caine because of how the titles in the Weather Warden series were left unresolved as bait into the next book – not exactly cliffhangers, but definitely openended, and again – manipulative. I don’t want to be played in that particular way, thanks, and I am unwilling to pay for the privilege.

    The relationship between authors and readers is by necessity transactional. Because I don’t know what a new author is like, or sometimes even a new title by a known author, it’s a leap of faith, buying totally new work (thus the heavy dependence on reviews), and while I have a lot of slack for some things, feeling played by who shot JR style endings isn’t on that list – it violates my version of the unwritten contract.

    I have a peculiar fondness for series – good worldbuilding looks like a lot of work, and as a reader, I enjoy slipping back into the stream of a familiar place and/or set of characters.

    It follows, then, that I like serialization, with some caveats around length, cost and timing. Price for sections should break out to roughly the retail price for an entire book, (which in my head is >60k words). Sections should release regularly and often, especially if sections are chapter or partial chapter length. Longer section, longer release cycle. I know that she didn’t charge for it, but the thing Lilith Saintcrow did with Selene a couple of years was interesting, and I would’ve paid for it, no question. I thought Hugh Howey did a good job serializing Wool.

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  21. carmen webster buxton
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 11:40:46

    Sign me up for the I Hate Serials camp! I can see selling chapters from a nonfiction book separately if they can stand alone, but when I start reading a novel, I want to be able to finish it! I think in Dickens’ day serials were popular because a lot of people could not afford to buy the whole book at once, but I see no reason to do that now. Plus, I think the author of a serialized novel runs the risk of losing readers. If the second quarter of a book you’re reading (as in holding the whole thing in your hand) seems a little slow, you will probably keep reading a while to see if it gets better, but if it’s in serial form, you might not buy that third chunk, especially if you’ve started reading something else.

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  22. P. Kirby
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 11:43:19

    Uh, no. Just no.

    While I am currently following a couple of fan fiction stories that are, by the norm, serialized, it’s not a format that I’d pay cashy money for. I also read webcomics, which again, come out a bit at a time.

    But they’re free. If the author doesn’t produce content regularly; if the author loses interest and stops writing; if I lose interest; I’m not out any money. No harm, no foul. It isn’t unusual for me to get distracted and forget about a favorite fic or webcomic, never to return.

    If I pay money for a story, I want a complete story arc in one big chunk, not a chapter over time, parceled over weeks/months. I’ve got enough to do in my life without adding, “Did I remember to download the latest chapter of Serial Novel?” to the list. Blargh!

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  23. Michael Shean
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 12:03:00

    Hey, folks.

    My new novel, BONE WIRES, started out as a weekly serial that I did through my publisher, Curiosity Quills. It was a contracted serial that ran from November to last month, and next week (7/19/12) it’ll go out in e-book and paperback formats as a complete work for purchase. The book is going to remain free in serial format on the publisher’s site, as well – which I think is the best way to handle this. At the very least, the serial format allows someone wondering if the book is worth the purchase to check up and make their decision!

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  24. Susan
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 12:22:04

    @Jess: “I’ve read books where some chapters are action/the plot/at least relevant to the overall idea and other chapters might as well be cut because they’re total filler.”

    Absolutely. And this is why those Dickens novels were so long and convoluted. When you’re essentially being paid by the word, there’s no incentive to tighten things up.

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  25. lazaraspaste
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 12:58:05

    Getting all Victorianist on you: Although Dickens published his novels in a serialized format, he did NOT write them in a serialized format. Dickens wrote, plotted and outlined to the nth degree and the novels were nearly always finished prior to publication. He also EDITED prior to publication. Dickens was also a writing machine. He wrote more in a day than most write in a year.

    The point being, I wouldn’t have a problem with serialization IF I trusted that the writer had already written and edited everything, rather than if they were just writing it from week to week totally off the cuff. That seems to me to be the problem.

    Also, the fact that series/serializations tend to extend the narrative beyond their ending in order to get more money from fans. Which irritates me on principle.

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  26. lazaraspaste
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 12:59:13

    P.S. Dickens wasn’t paid by the word. Common myth but he wasn’t. The long convuluted plots were just the style of the day.

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  27. Chicklet
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 13:02:26

    Ugh, no. I don’t even read works-in-progress as fanfiction, where it’s free; I’m sure as hell not going to pay for serialized fiction. If you want me to read your work, post (or publish) the whole thing at once. My stance developed in part because I’ve been burned too many times by WIPs that go unfinished, and in part due to my overloaded memory — half the time I forget what happened in the last installment, so I have to skim it before I read the new installment. I’d rather just read the whole story in one go.

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  28. SonomaLass
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 13:52:36

    @lazaraspaste: You beat me to it on Dickens.

    I watch some series television, so I don’t have a problem with the idea of series fiction. Waiting a week (or longer, in the case of season-ending episodes) to see what happens next is part of the fun. But I enjoy it more when each installment has a story arc that stands on its own, as well as advancing the overall story. Serialized stories in comic books work like that as well, or at least the good ones do, IMO. That’s different from writing a book and then releasing a few chapters at a time. To me, short fiction is one form, long fiction another, and series fiction an amalgam of the two. I would prefer to wait for long fiction in its complete form, but I would enjoy a series of short fiction pieces that made up a longer complete story.

    Pricing is a real can of worms here, obviously. I read some serialized science fiction in magazines when I was younger, but as others have commented, it was in magazines with other content. I don’t mind paying a little more per word for short fiction that is reasonably complete, but I would not be interested in paying more for a novel in order to get it on the installment plan. I think it will be a real challenge to know what you’re getting with these projects.

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  29. Joy
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 13:53:32

    I’m not opposed to serializing if the technique isn’t abused.

    NO stretching it out for years. 3-4 months should do it. NO full-novel prices for one installment. Everything at novel-length price should have a complete story arc and at least 200 pages. NO making me your beta reader–have a fully edited product ready to go. NO 13 installments; 3-4 is about the limit.

    DO experiment with step-prices (0.99, 1.99, 2.99) for sequential installments, or other similar pricing methods. This will make you more money and if we are hooked we will have no choice but to pay it! DO make it fun for your readers. Stir up buzz. Interact! Fans can drive themselves crazy debating what will happen next.

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  30. Megan Derr
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 13:53:39

    Less Than Three Press does serials. It was actually how we got our start. I don’t think the serials will ever be as popular as ebooks, but our numbers for serial fiction stay pretty steady. The trick is definitely in reliability and price. We never run a story if it’s not complete, we try to make sure no one story runs too long (we’ll probably never run a 100k story again, they just go forever), and keep a good mix (we have five serials running total, and next year it’ll go to six). People can subscribe a month at a time, or in 3/6 month or 1 year blocks. We also pick stories that are well-suited to the format, so there aren’t things like filler chapters and all that.

    The audience for those will never match the ebook audience, but there is a crowd that loves them. I’m a huge fan myself, which is one of the reasons we started with serials at LT3. Serial fans tend to be very loyal fans–it’s rare we lose a subscriber, and generally they reappear after a few months.

    Whether or not it will ever become a big thing, I couldn’t say. But it’s been a very solid and reliable aspect of LT3 since we opened our doors.

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  31. Carolyn Jewel
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 13:59:48

    While I think the idea of a serial has a lot of merit, it needs to be done right. Those complaints need to be taken seriously as a harbinger of what the future might end up looking like. It’s one thing for a given reader to pony up for 1 set of a serial at a (relatively) high price and quite another for that same reader not to start feeling exploited by all the other serials at prices that don’t jive with their perceived value.

    The bookselling environment should, in my opinion, be very careful about approaching the business from a seller-centric position. There are so many readers already who are annoyed and even angry about how they see the price-to-value ratio. Booksellers of any ilk would do well to give a great deal of weight to that when arriving at pricing decisions.

    Think about how you feel about your cable or wireless device provider. Most people (in the US –these markets elsewhere are far more competitive) understand very well that they are being overcharged for an under-performing environment. As soon as someone comes along with a US product that has a better value-to-price ratio, you’ll see an exodus. As an aside, of course, in the US these markets are rigged against fairness to the consumer so I hold out little hope of that happening anytime soon.

    I see the book industry as perilously similar. It’s just not good when the person paying for the product actively hates the product provider. I believe the current bookselling market has been artificially limited by bad price-to-value decisions, true more for traditionally published books than self-pubbed ones.

    As an author, I hear from readers who feel ripped off by book pricing decisions. Publishers, by and large, seem to have created an environment that isolates them from their actual customers and/or encourages them to ignore the ill-will.

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  32. Janet W
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 15:56:08

    I’m comparing apples and oranges because I don’t know how to translate number of words to pages. I’ve read that each of Beth Kery’s segments are around 15,000 words. I think that’s what I read. So the final novel will clock in around 120,000 words, right? What does that translate to in terms of pages? And if you buy all the segments, will Penguin give you a complete e-book (at the end of the day)? Penguin doesn’t permit e-book lending as I recall.

    A couple longer books — Outlander is 600 pages, Fifty Shades of Grey is 528 pages — how does that compare to the eventual length of this book?

    Do I find this exciting? Appealing? Fresh? Am I interested? Yes and no. Is it a rather novel approach but I think it’s priced too high. I’m no price expert but this is one way I might break it down:

    #1 free
    #2, 3, 4 $1 each
    #5, 6 $2 each
    #7, 8 $3 each
    Total: $13.00 if you buy it serialized.
    OR Offer the opportunity to buy the book for $11.00 say a week or so after the final unit comes out. My guess is that if you hook folks early and with tempting prices, they won’t be able to resist buying all the units, in a timely fashion. Penguin loses three dollars with this approach but I think $16.00 is a rip-off. What’s the price of goodwill? A free first unit might generate a lot of exciting buzz!

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  33. Merrian
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 18:53:22

    Maybe talk to Blind Eye Books about how the serialisation of Gin Hale’s Rifter series went?

    It was around 100,000 words (?) in ten parts each part about a novella in length. This was a complex fantasy world with timeshifts so a real test of the story. I found myself waiting until I had two parts to hand so I could immerse myself in the story. The spacing out of the story did add to the epicness of it all though.

    I have read other books as chapters and find you lose impetus because you have to hold so much of the story in mind so that the new chapter makes sense. I am also not sure how this would work with a romance or an erotica story which are not episodic by nature. The writing and story would have to be very strong to overcome this.

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  34. sao
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 19:29:06

    @Angela

    What you’d be getting for your money is the option to not invest more. If you decided the book wasn’t worth it after chapter 3, you’d have spent 2.98, not $9.99. It might weed out the bad writers.

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  35. sao
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 19:36:36

    I watch most of my TV in Russia, which has fewer ads than America. What I find is that the documentaries, like the ones on the Discovery channel have built in reminders. They sum up the show before the ad break and have a second, slightly different summary after the ad break. It’s notably repetitive and tiresome if you didn’t have the ad break so you get summary one, immediately followed by summary two, going over the exact same material.

    I’d wonder if writers with a serialization coming out less often than every day might need to do the same and bore to tears the readers who are reading the finished product from start to finish, when they get the helpful reminder of the events of the chapter they just finished reading.

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  36. Angela
    Jul 13, 2012 @ 05:59:37

    @sao: You make a good point. But that’s not a good enough value add for my time and money.

    Which isn’t to say I’m totally against serialization. I would be open to it, but I don’t think it’s something I want to become the norm.

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  37. Devon E.
    Jul 13, 2012 @ 13:26:21

    As a reader & writer of fanfic for 15 years, I have to tell you that while there’s a fair amount of serialization, it’s far from most, or even half of what’s out there.

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  38. Rune
    Jul 13, 2012 @ 13:49:41

    I agree with Devon. A lot of fanfic isn’t serialised, especially the more serious writers know beter than posting WIPs because the story might run away from you and if in chapter 8 you realize you need to change something in chapter 1 or 2 for the plot to make sense you can’t because it’s already published and people won’t go back and reread from the beginning.

    I’m not a big fan of serialisation, especially not of serialisation of novels or so. If a novel draws me in I tend to read it quickly and I think having to wait for the next chapter to be published and having to pay for it again would just piss me off too much.

    There’s also the danger that I lose interested and by hme time chapter 10 or so is published I have totally part of the story, might have to reread parts to get back into the story and no, just no.

    I also only hope that the writers are either people who plot very tightly or that they are publishing an already finished work as a serial. Publishing a wip is a seriously bad idea.

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  39. Sirius
    Jul 13, 2012 @ 15:33:08

    As a rule, I hate serials because I hate cliffhangers. I waited to read Rifter, because I just did not want to get involved in that when I could be subjected to one. I just wanted to make a comment about Jordan Castillo Price’s serials – yes, as I learned when both books were already published as complete books her Magic Mansion and Starving years were done in a form of monthly serial in her newsletter. Of course the huge difference was that she was not charging for them till the books were done. Had I been subscribed to her newsletter when these stories were serialized I would have still waited, however, however her new one – Turbulence seems to be done a little differently, while it is definitely shaping up to be one story, the two parts which are already out are two small novelettes, they move plot forward, but I can easily read them withhout being annoyed that I have to wait if that makes sense and they also free on her site. This is the serial I can live with :)

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  40. T
    Jul 13, 2012 @ 15:55:46

    just to say I find the idea of serials getting more expensive as they go along totally offputting. It feels like exploiting fans and it would put me off. I can see a first chapter being free, but I see no reason besides “because-you-can” for any chapter to be any more expensive. If I was buying faithfully each subsequent chapter and then when we were getting to the ending, the price was hiked, I would be really really really mad. Not buying mad. Not buying anything from the author again and discouraging everybody who asked my opinion mad.

    Come on authors, we are not cash cows. For pricing things as high as market will bear, it is better if there is some more detachment between market and those doing the pricing and a few more things to make people look the hiked price is worth it. Some installments being more expensive? WHY? Really bad idea.

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  41. Trisha
    Jul 13, 2012 @ 16:49:06

    I would be open to reading a serial, and I see why it’s an interesting form for authors, but the pricing model as it is described in this post is probably not sustainable. Most people find it anything from a turnoff to a blatant moneygrab and as others have pointed out, having to remember to go back to B&N or Amazon every week and pay for another chapter is a buzzkill. Unless the serial chapters are more like novellas, with a narrative arc of their own that can be satisfying outside of the larger picture, it doesn’t seem right to price them individually.

    It would make more sense to sell serials that are more like an app—with a notification when a new chapter has been added. That way, you pay all at once and get the fun of having something new turn up on your device at regular intervals. And at the end, you have the complete book as a single file, not a million individual chapters cluttering things up.

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  42. Readsalot81
    Jul 13, 2012 @ 17:42:14

    In this, I’m more than happy to let other people be the guinea pigs and have them tell me if they like this format. What John Scalzi & Tor describe may work because as a bigger name SF writer, he does have an established fan base and he’s going back to a world that he’s already done several books in (Old Man’s War). I like his work, I may try it out.. and he does state that it is a bit of an experiment. So we’ll see.

    But discovering new authors this way? Yeah, I don’t know about that one. From the pricing schemes described above, I would just say NO and be done with it. 2 bucks a piece for an 8 part story? I want to make sure I’m interpreting that correctly. Because I haven’t ever spent $15.92 on an e-book.. not even for a big name author. And jacking up the price incrementally on serials is just a bad idea. Why, all of a sudden, would I have to pay more for an going piece of the story? That makes absolutely no sense and just would foster ill will towards the authors/publishers that are putting it out.

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