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The Revival of the Serial

 

Beth Kery hit the NYTimes combined list, extended at no 32 for the first time in her writing career with the title Because You Are Mine. Kelly Favor (no website) appeared at No. 33 on the ebook NYTimes list with For His TrustSara Fawkes just sold Anything He Wants to St. Martin’s Press in a “significant deal” which is code for an advance of $251,000 to $499,000.  Rumor has it that the deal is on the upper edge of the significant deal parameters.

What do these titles have in common? They are all serials.  Serialized fiction made Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle famous.  The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club were originally published in 20 monthly installments beginning in April 1836 and ending November 1837. At the same time, Dickens was serializing Oliver Twist, writing two serial chapters a month.  After the success of Pickwick Papers, Dickens serialized Nicholas Nickleby and shorter weekly installments for The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge.  (Source: English Literature from the 19th Century Through Today, edited by J. e. Luebering)  In 1860, Cornhill Magazine was founded and one of the works that first appeared in its pages was Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Maddening Crowd.  (Source: The Victorians by Aidan Cruttenden) “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” a tale of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was first published in serial form in 1901, then in book form in 1902.

According to America’s Continuing Story: An Introduction to Serial Fiction, 1850-1900, installment fiction in magazines was the predominant mode of delivery for literature, primarily because of the  lower cost of installment fiction.  In Suddenly You by Lisa Kleypas, the author heroine is encouraged by her publisher to serialize her novel, making it more accessible to larger number of people because of cost.

Serial fiction has a long and deep tradition in publishing.   Roger Hagedorn in Technology and Economic Exploitation: The Serial as a Form of Narrative Presentation argues that the serial is the “dominant mode of narrative presentation in Western culture”.  Jennifer Hayward suggests in Consuming Pleasures: Active Audiences and Serial Fictions from Dickens to Soap Opera that the serial is expressed continually through comic books, soap operas, and serialized novels.  One could argue that the predilection for serials is evident in readers ongoing affection for series books. In fact, when I put out the call for reader feedback on serials, nearly every response I received was from a reader sharing her love for the connected series books.

Reader Michelle clarified that she did read serialized fiction and thought that one advantage was able the ability to digest pieces for longer periods of time:

I tend to read whole books in a single sitting if I let myself and I find that I miss carrying the story with me in the minutes, hours, or days between readings, and that the mental digestion time helps the story move to my long term memory. Books that I’ve read in a single setting are sometimes hard for me to actually remember afterward if I didn’t give myself time to fully absorb it. I also find that I have very little ability to say no to myself when it comes to reading, and yet I really enjoy being denied the next part for a certain amount of time. Anticipation is lovely. Gratification delayed is gratification doubled.

Sunita reviewed installments of Ginn Hale’s 2011 serial, The Rifter, last year. In her blog, she also mentioned the pleasures of delayed gratification:

The unexpected bonus of the serial form is that it forces me to reflect and relive what I’ve read, rather than rush to the next chapter. Romance readers especially read so many books, so quickly, that we don’t always savor the moment. At least I’m guilty of that. With The Rifter, I’m reminded how much fun it can be to delay gratification, and how often does that happen?

Hayward posits that “the advantage of serialization is that it essentially creates the demand it then feeds: the desire to find out “what happens next” can only be satisfied by buying, listening to, or viewing the next installment.”   The JD Robb books, in the same vein as many detective/mystery stories, for example, is what Hayward would describe as an “ongoing narrative released in successive parts.”  So too are books like Nalini Singh’s Archangel series or Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels books.

Alina Adams, a serial writer, shares her background in soap operas gave rise to the idea of writing serialized fiction.

At the same time as I was writing Regency and Contemporary romances for AVON and Dell, I was also working for soap operas, first at ABC Daytime, and then later for Procter & Gamble Productions.  In addition to writing tie-in novels for their shows, “As the World Turns” and “Guiding Light,” I also developed a property for them called “Another World Today,” which was a twice weekly romantic serial, at the end of which, readers actually got to vote on where the story goes next, and I wrote based on their feedback.  I loved the interactive component, of basically writing a story along with my readers.

Author LJ Cohen is serializing a Young Adult novel called Derelict.  (Story here) It was her first foray into the serialized novelization, releasing short installments once a week. Cohen wrote to me upon my request and said that the birth of the story arose out of an admonition of her agent that the novel Cohen was thinking of writing might not have broad commercial appeal:

“The plan emerged from my agent’s caution that the novel I was planning to write might not have a broad commercial appeal and that I should consider working on a different story. But by that time, my stubborn subconscious had already latched on to DERELICT and wouldn’t let go.   … Since I was writing what could very well not be commercially appealing to traditional publishing, I figured it would be worth releasing DERELICT as a serial to see if I could hook interested readers either as a way to demonstrate commercial appeal or as a way to build buzz for a potential self-publishing process.

I made it clear that this was a first draft process and invited readers to travel it with me.”

Delilah Fawkes, the author of The Billionaire’s Beck and Call serial, shared that she decided to publish a serial because her friend Sara Fawkes was doing well with her series, Anything He Wants.

“I’d been wanting to write a longer piece, but at the same time loved the pace of releasing something new to my readers every week or so, so from the moment I started, I fell in love with this format. It was the perfect compromise between production for readers and a longer, more in depth story.”

St. Martin’s Press is experimenting with serials. It released The Sweet Life in serialized installments  of Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield in their 30s.  The success of the serialization has driven the release of more upcoming serials from St. Martins.  Jamie Brenner is authoring The Gin Lovers, a story set in “turbulent and glamorous backdrop of Prohibition and the rise of the jazz age.”  (More here)  Two others are planned: The Heiresses, a YA due out in January, by Allison Rushby, and another by Opal Carew.  Another Sweet Valley High serial may be in the making.

Jamie Brenner loved the flexibility of the e-book format because it allowed her to tell her story in a different way – serializing a novel instead of publishing it all at once. To quote her:

“I love this idea for two reasons: first, it isn’t new at all, but is actually going back to the way Dickens first published Great Expectations.  Secondly, as a longtime fan of daytime dramas and prime time soaps, I was extremely excited by the idea.  I had just finished writing three romances in the traditional way, and I wanted to try this.”

Berkley will doing another serial penned by Beth Kery in 2013. Cindy Hwang, Executive Editor at Penguin, said “we’re really happy with the reception Because You Are Mine has received (Part 4 is currently top 40 kindle, top 5 Apple, and top 20 nook), and Beth will be beginning a new erotic romance serial in February 2013.  This will be a spin-off of Because You Are Mine and be set in the same world, and Ian and Francesca will be secondary characters in it.”

Kery admits in an interview with Romance Novel News that the serial was her publishers’ idea but that the process was exhilarating for her. Much like fan fiction authors, the feedback from readers was immediate.  “Many people don’t realize that in the traditional publishing format, a book isn’t published until six months to a year after it’s written. In the case of BECAUSE, I literally just finished it, and readers are already starting to experience it. It makes for a much more invigorating and fresh experience, in my opinion.”

Carina Press is launching a serial by Zaide Bishop in 2013.  It is a science fiction/futuristic and each installment will be around 20-30k and the pricing will be similar to other Carina Press novellas. Says Executive Editor Angela James, “We wanted to provide readers with a somewhat seamless reading  experience that wasn’t interrupted or prolonged by wait for author to write it & still guaranteed the satisfactory conclusion of a romance novel.”

Most all of the serials cited above are written with the intent to serialize but not all are published in the same fashion.  For Kery and Brenner, the series was completed before publication began.  For Sara and Delilah Fawkes and LJ Cohen and Alina Adams, they are writing as they are publishing, a little like Dickens and his Pickwick Papers serialization.

Adams and Fawkes both agreed that reader feedback affects the direction of the story.  Adams stated

That is absolutely the point of the “Counterpoint” series.  However, what I’ve learned from my previous soap work, especially www.AnotherWorldToday.com, is that there is no such thing as one topic on which every single reader agrees on.  Even when you think there is no way somebody could want the story to go in this direction, someone inevitably does.  I’ve had votes so close, they’ve literally been mathematically 50-50, with a singe vote making the difference.  What’s also interesting is that, since I leave the votes open indefinitely, sometimes they can flip months after the original question was posed and the scenes already written.  The whole interactive aspect is what I find so exciting about writing a serial.

Fawkes looks at reviews for feedback “When I get a positive review, I look for the things that made the story special for people and then try to do more of that. For instance, people seem to really love this scene that takes place under a desk in At His Instruction: The Billionaire’s Beck and Call, Part 5, (and no, I won’t ruin it!), so I thought long and hard about what worked there and why, and tried to ramp it up for the next installments. Feedback has been great so far, so I’m a happy writer!”

Cohen has a different point of view.  She is writing the story and while she invites readers to join her journey, it is her journey.

In examining the internet hoax perpetrated by writers Miles Beckett and Mesh Flinders when the two created an internet serial featuring a 16 year old girl, Courtney Hopf suggests that part of the appeal of serialization is the “possession” that fans take with the story.  Indeed, reader Agnes stated one serial she enjoyed was an  email mystery was delivered an episode at a time to her inbox and had some interactive elements in it.

There is a vocal minority who reject serials primarily because of cost. Fawkes wrote “As far as indicating it’s preferred, I think people love and hate the format like they love and hate their favorite TV show.”

In the early 19th century, an installment of the Pickwick Papers cost a shilling (or twelve pennies).  The cost of a serialized novel was stretched over a year and sometimes a year and a half.   A bound novel was $1.50, an unimaginable price for most of the public.  The Industrial Revolution which brought about cloth bindings (versus leather) and steam powered machines for folding paper and sewing the bindings to the pages dramatically reduced the cost of a book.

The costs of current serials run the gamut from free (LJ Cohen’s series) to $2.99 an installment (the two Fawkes’ series).  Beth Kery’s serial falls in between at $1.99.   Despite the price to content ratio and the disquiet it raises with some readers, others are gobbling up the fiction.  Delilah Fawkes shared that 50% or more of the buyers who acquire At His Service, the first in the serial, go on to purchase the rest of the series.  With each new release, she sees an increase in sales of all the other titles.  In just this month alone, she’s sold over 25,000 ebook units and will make at least $75,000.

With numbers like that, serials will be here to stay.

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

54 Comments

  1. Rachel
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 05:56:38

    @Jane

    do you think the reason these serials are doing so well is because they’re erotic? with BDSM in them? A la 50 shades? I’m wondering if any other type of serialization would do as well as Fawkes or Kery if it was say, straight up contemporary or new adult.

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  2. Patricia Eimer
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 06:33:09

    I have to wonder the same thing as Rachel– is it content, novelty, or actual interest in having a story pulled out over a length of time. And if it’s the third how is that different from buying the books in a series, waiting between one book and the next except for price point?

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  3. Kati
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 06:48:10

    I’m not a fan. I *am* someone who wants to gobble the story up. I find cliffhangers to be among my biggest reading pet peeves, so I’m waiting for the Kery book to be published as a whole before I buy.

    That being said, I totally get why this format works for publishers, they’re selling them at a much higher rate than what the entire book would cost, but they still meet what most readers of eBooks would say is their price threshold. It’s a brilliant move, and I’m delighted for the authors who are making it work. I’d imagine it’s an interesting challenge for them as well.

    But for me, I want the whole book please. I’ll be buying the Kery, just not until the whole thing is out.

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  4. Aleksandr Voinov
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 07:26:55

    Speaking as somebody who’s written a small series (5 novellas), what I really like is the structural freedom of the form. I could move my point-of-view around to minor characters (who were killed off or lived), without having to worry about “narrative cohesion” and explore different angles of different characters, zeroing in in a much sharper way on whatever aspect I was going to stress about the small cast of characters. So there’s also a bit of artistic possibility in the format that might make a novel feel disjointed, but works well in a serial format.

    (And an advantage of the format is that the first episode/installment can always serve as a taster – if you don’t like it, you didn’t have to shell out for the whole thing, which I think is an advantage.)

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  5. Liz Talley
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 07:27:35

    I’m wondering the same thing as Rachel. Seems the serials with erotic overtones have become “the rage” because of FSOG along with paranormal serials. I don’t sense that urge for gratification from readers of, say, straight contemporary romance. Seems that over the past year, I’ve seen readers complain about those particular series going on too long along with not being as well-written as the first few. Personally, I like something like a trilogy and that’s it. Okay, maybe five. But definitely no more. I’d rather hunger for more than be disappointed by more.

    This whole new age in publishing with debut authors of small presses hitting NYT status so quickly boggles the mind. I find all this fascinating.

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  6. Aleksandr Voinov
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 07:38:38

    @Liz Talley: I agree about series having a couple potential issues.

    One is length (Robert Jordan, although you’re dead, I’m looking at you and your bookcase full of Wheel of Time) and the other quality (I’m not finding the latter parts of a Big Current Fantasy Series nearly as well edited as the start of it – in between the author “went big” and is no longer being edited – there’s potential that that happened to the Big Other Genre Writers, too).

    But the fantasy/sci-fi genres have suffered for a long long time of the “why make it one novel if you can do a trilogy, and why do five books if you can have 12″ phenomomen. It’s the reason why I, as a reader, am profoundly skeptical about series of doorstopper-sized books that look like they need a cubic metre in my library. In any case, I’m buying them only once they are all released, least the author dies in between or gets writers block (as is wont to happen, *especially* with my favourites or former favourites).

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  7. Jane
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 07:41:11

    @Rachel and @Liz Talley: The Francine Pascal serial from SMP was not an erotic and they have a YA planned. The Carina Press one is not an erotic either as far as I can tell. Others have told me that non erotic serials are in the works. I know that Jon Scalzi’s next book will be serialized first. Obviously his is not an erotic.

    The Pascal and Scalzi both have large built in audiences. Whether a non erotic or a writer/story with a non established audience can be a success, I’m not sure. I guess it remains to be seen.

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  8. Ros
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 07:42:07

    @Patricia Eimer: I think the difference is that in a series I would expect each book to have a focus on a different couple and its own HEA. In a serial, I would expect the story to continue with a similar focus throughout, not reaching its HEA until the end of the last instalment.

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  9. Janet W
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 08:09:07

    It looks like we’re in for a long run of serialized novels. Why? Because publishing is a business and if something is a success, then we (the reader/consumers) get more of the same. My opinion: it’s too much money. The chapters are too short and the filler/excerpts/advertising in the serials just detracts more from the experience. It’s worth noting that Dickens had completed his books before they were serialized. One reason I might not buy a section of a novel-in-progress is, given my many purchasing disappointments, even of books that thousands had enjoyed, I like to have a book reviewed by trusted reviewers before I buy it. How can you review a work-in-progress? I am a fan of connected novels tho, be it the Lord of the Rings or the Little House books or Fifty Shades of Grey but I like reading big chunks.

    What makes serialized novels more appealing than reading fan fiction for free where readers can get in on the action and affect the outcome of the plot? Are these new offerings better written? I read the Kelly Favor sample and imo, it’s dreck. Anything He Wants, At the Billionaire’s Beck and Call hmmm… let me share a sentence I grabbed from a description: I think the sentence might serve for all of the BDSM books being considered: Everything changes however the day the handsome stranger seduces a stunned _____, first in the elevator then again in the _____ after work. The key elements, from my cursory look, seem to be long hair, elevators, billionaires (of course!) and innocents of one sort or another. A friend said yeah, Harlequin Presents, but they don’t cost between sixteen and twenty dollars. The reviews of the content of the Beth Kery on AMZ have been mixed but she is a good writer and when the book is available in its entirety, I’ll take a look. Anyone who thinks AMZ reviews are a joke should look at the reviews for Kery’s serialized novel because the purchasers are quite critical of the method of delivery, whether they give it one star or five. I asked a friend in the biz why the prices were so high for such a little amount of content per pop and she said that erotic romance commanded higher prices. Is that it?

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  10. Nikki
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 08:27:19

    As a reader, I find the idea of a serial interesting but I am reluctant to shell out that much money unless it is for an author I like. I recall a few years ago Sharon Lee and Steve Miller wrote 2 of their books in a serial fashion. You were able to donate a fixed amount and based on what you donated you would ge ta copy of the book when they published with author signature. In addition it was posted for free. they reserved the right to say when they were done and posted when they wanted and that was that. I remember, as I was seriously underfunded at that time how nice it was to know on a weekly basis that I had something to look forward to. Since then the books were officially published and I have spent far in excess of what they asked for in getting those books in print and e-book form. Of course if they or other authors I have experience with decided to offer a serial again, I would be weak and buy-in since I can this time.

    For the authors who are writing as they go with reader feedback and opinion affecting outcomes, how good will the writing really be? Is it the author’s story or more of a choose your own adventure sort of thing? In terms of price point, I think 2.99 for 10-30k in words is delusional and unacceptable. I believe Siren Publishing had a similar “serial” plan but the books were in the 3.99 to 5.99 range for 30-40k words. However, the fact that people are buying these books means they can still do it.

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  11. Mireya
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 08:33:46

    wow… really? I remember back in 2002 there was an online publishing company that published their erotic stories in installments. Some of them were really good. I didn’t follow any, though. I bought the stories as a whole. It shut in 2003, I believe. Can’t remember the name, it started with a V, I think. Either way, I HATE cliffhangers, even though I read series with stories connected with one another, i.e. Robin D. Owens Celta or Lynn Viehl’s Darkynn. I am not going to be looking for serialized books any time soon. I wish them good luck, though.

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  12. Jane
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 08:41:43

    @Janet actually from what I read Dickens wrote as he published. One article I read mentioned he was writing two serial chapters a month – the pick wick papers and another for a magazine.

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  13. kathy cole
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 09:08:46

    I just started subscribing to Less Than Three Press’ serial service, which seems considerably cheaper than other serials being discussed here; I’d previously bought ebooks of works that originated in serial. Am enjoying it so far.

    Have for a while been reading free blog stories with good luck (e.g., the authors have proceeded to publish, rather than abandoning the effort).

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  14. DS
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 09:49:26

    @Jane: I think you are right about Dickens. Other authors who published serially– Trollope comes to mind– didn’t publish serially until after the work was finished.

    As for modern serials– I have too much on my Kindle to read now to think about buying serials.

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  15. Chicklet
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 10:18:28

    I can’t be bothered to read serialized fanfiction for free; why on earth would I (OVER)pay for the privilege of doing it with published fiction? There’s too much else for me to read to deal with writers who leave stories unfinished (fanfic) or end up with wishy-washy product due to changing elements at readers’ whims (professional). Please just post or publish a complete story and let me read it at my own pace.

    (I’m this way with serialized TV shows, too; I wait until the entire season — or series — is available on DVD and plow my way through them. Worked aces with The Wire.)

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  16. Estara
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 10:20:34

    I like chunk novels – which is roughly what Jo Walton at Tor.com called those “an “ongoing narrative released in successive parts” books (and I think Meljean Brook’s Guardian universe is also one of those) – but even those like the Liaden Universe books which were released on the web first, I usually read after one book has been finished or compiled.

    But if I like a world and its characters I am quite prepared to follow their early or late adventures for as long as the author has something further to say and they don’t completely lose coherence.

    So I’ll continue buying the Foreigner series, the Miles Vorkosigan books, the Liaden Universe, the Essalieyan and Elantran universe by Michelle Sagara West, Hunter Kiss by Marjori Liu, Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews, Eileen Wilks’ World of the Lupi, Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs, etc.

    I do have to point out that a lot of those books have a development arc which is finished within the single novel and only the background plot rolls on.

    This sort of writing, however, is something that I only go for when I love the writer and their voice: the Psy-Changeling series, f.e., I’ve fallen far behind on.

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  17. joanne
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 10:32:00

    To purchase or not to purchase depends a great deal on whether or not it’s a series or a serial. There is a vast difference and serials do not interest me at all. I’m a huge fan of the (well done) series.

    Robb and Singh et al write successive novels that are complete in themselves but are enhanced by being read in order. A serialization of new fiction could end up going in almost any direction and I’m too particular about what I read for pleasure to leave that up to fans and happenstance.

    I’ll just add that even that koo-koo cutie kitten knows that those collars are god-awful.

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  18. Tina
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 10:32:52

    The JD Robb books, in the same vein as many detective/mystery stories, for example, is what Hayward would describe as an “ongoing narrative released in successive parts.” So too are books like Nalini Singh’s Archangel series or Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels books.

    I don’t know that I agree with this necessarily. Mainly because at the end of each JD Robb or Nalini Singh installment, there is an actual conclusion to the story in that book. And while you’d like to visit those people again and see what other adventures they get up to, there is no imperative to do so. No feeling that there is an unfinished narrative. If Nora stopped writing the JD Robb books cold, people would be upset because we love the continuing adventures of Eve, Roarke and their crew, but there wouldn’t be the same feeling of “Well, shit… now what?” that people got when Robert Jordan died with The Wheel of Time series unfinished.

    I like the idea of the serialized story as long as the installments come with regular, predictable frequency and there is a imminent conclusion. With soap operas you know you are getting a new installment the next day or the next week. With written serials likewise There can be no lag or people will get pissed. And unlike soaps I think people will demand a conclusion.

    And while I like Beth Kery’s stuff I am not at all interested in her serial book at this point because we are at four installments for far at $1.99 a piece. They come in at @ 50-60 pages each (according the approximate page counter at Amazon). So at this point you’ll have paid @ $8.00 for approx. 200-250 pages and the story is ongoing. That price point is the deal breaker for me.

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  19. Christine M.
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 11:23:43

    To me serials = chaptered fanfic and seriesc = interconnected fanfics. I may well read the second, but not the first What if the writer (or ff author) gets bored and drops the serials? What about the time (and money, if it’s no fanfic) I invested? And like several persons mentionned, serials are damned expensive, long term. I rememver Stephen King’s Green Line translation was $6 PER “chapter” (I didn’t know English well enough at the time to even consider buying it in English). So I didn’t pick it up and waited a couple of years until they published it as a single book. And then, still feeling vindictive, I picked it up at the public Library before they made the omnibus f*cking expensive, too.

    Bottom line, if you wanna publish a serials and make sure I give it a try you have to a) tell me it’s actually a finished product you’re selling me and b) you price it at 1/Xth of the price of a regular novel, where X is the number of installement you split your book into for serialization (say, 35 chapters at 25 cents apiece). Or give me the option to pay up front (and save a couple of bucks on the ‘bundle’!) for the whole thing and send me my chapters one at a time.

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  20. Liz Mc2
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 11:49:26

    DA quoting studies of Victorian serialization: my worlds are colliding! Dickens did write as he went. He was a fast writer who didn’t do a lot of revising and the serial format worked well for him. He did plot out at least his later books ahead of time, though I think he also adapted as he went (I am not an expert on this). My copy of Bleak House, for instance, prints his working notes for the novel. The overall plot arc and chapter structure is there, but also lots of questions (do this here? Yes), so it seems like he was adjusting details as he went. Then there’s the more hopeful ending the publisher asked him to write for Great Expectations.

    The reason I think Dickens is interesting for discussions of serialization right now is that my impression is he got better at shaping his plots to fit the serial structure as he went: bigger, more complex stories moving between more points of view (as Aleks mentioned above) and episodes ending in cliff-hangers or moments of uncertainty. These aren’t just big books chopped up at random. I am interested in serials if writers are using them to do different things with their fiction, but not if it’s just a cash grab. I also don’t like soap operas as a model for fiction. They are designed to go on forever. I want to know a fiction serial has an end in sight. A plotless string of episodes does not appeal to me.

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  21. Rachel
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 11:55:01

    @Jane

    thanks for your input. I’m an avid reader and have just invested in an e reader, hence my interest in a lot of these online blogs etc.

    I’ve been reading an UF free online read that Juliana Stone is posting on her website, and am now invested (I believe she’s six chapters in, she posts a new chapter every week) After reading some of the discussion here, I emailed the author because I was curious as to why she didn’t go this route (not that I’m complainig ,the content is free on her site)

    It was lovely to get a response back, and she stated that she’d never really thought of selling it as a serialization, it was a book she’d written several years ago and not done anything with (a superhero UF if anyone is interested) and she just wanted to give her readers and visitors to her website new content to read and hopefully, it would attract new readers to her books that are already published. She did say that she knows of several authors planning serializations and she’s excited to see so many different publishing opportunites for authors today.

    I don’t mind waiting a week for a read that interests me, but I’m not sure how much $$ I’d pay for the priviledge.

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  22. MrsJoseph
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 12:06:58

    I’m another person who can’t get down with serialized fiction. I want the whole story NOW or I will forget about you for The Next Big Thing (Book).

    I don’t think of Kate Daniels or Harry Dresden as a serial because each individual story gets an entire arc. I might not know everything but I know the ending of this story. But even with that…I didn’t start Kate until book 5 was already out… I’ve only read 3 books of Harry Dresden…and the rest are being collected.

    Break it down too much and I’ll just 100% (Looking at YOU Robert Jordon).

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  23. Erin Satie
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 12:09:46

    I love a good series. The quotations above about delayed gratification really struck home for me; with the Harry Potter series, for example, I could never stop myself from buying each new book the second it came out and reading straight through in a single sitting, but because I had to wait for new books to come out, the series was a part of my life for several years. I have memories of places and people all over the world tied to Harry Potter (I started the books in California, received one installment while living in Morocco, finished #7 in a public park in NYC surrounded by other people doing the same), which makes it different than any book I could read alone in a day.

    I also think if an author comes up with a truly memorable character, a series is the only way to develop the character fully. I don’t think that Lord Peter Wimsey or Bertie Wooster or Jericho Barrons would loom so large in my imagination if it weren’t for the fact that I got to read about them over the course of a series.

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  24. Moriah Jovan
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 12:10:41

    I’ve said before I don’t like serial fiction and won’t read it. When I was a kid in the ’70s, some of the juvenile magazines (remember the Disney one?) had serialized fiction and it frustrated me to no end because we were poor and I could NEVER count on getting the next installment. The uncertainty (and my gnat-like attention span) pretty much killed any love I would have had for the format.

    That said:

    I’m serializing the historical I’m publishing next year here for free, one unedited chapter every Wednesday for a year (some are longer than others). Unfortunately, I can’t put it up on Amazon for free or I would, and Smashwords doesn’t allow serialized fiction.

    My goal was not to make money in the here and now, which is why it’s free (plus, you know, it’s unedited). It was to create demand for the whole book when it’s released. Considering my forced limited exposure, the stats on the downloads and my blog hits (which started out relatively strong and are increasing every week), I’m very encouraged. I don’t know who’s reading it, but they ARE reading it.

    I could have done this several ways. I had thought about “chunking” it for 99¢ per (large) installment, but that didn’t sit well. I had thought about a Kickstarter campaign based on several models I’d heard of (plus, there are merchandising things I want to do). Then @willaful said something one day about waiting for someone’s serial with bated breath, every Monday morning, and that’s when I had a model to go on that felt like a win-win for everybody.

    (And by the way, if you’re in the mood for some piratey goodness, check it out! /shameless plug)

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  25. Carolyne
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 12:29:41

    I’ve recently come to love Dickens, especially the big, big books such as David Copperfield. As long as I read them serially, rather than trying to digest them in one big narrative. Aside from Dickens’ modern sensibilities and sharp humour, I enjoy having the characters around for an extended, meandering, and truly long-form story, rather than, say, a single “get oppressed by bad guy, find magic object, defeat bad guy” sharply focussed adventure. David Copperfield meanders a bit too much and sometimes over the same patch of ground, but I’m loving it anyway.

    Increased popularity for serials would open up all sorts of possibilities for those of us (me) whose writing style is more soap operatic than a tight novel structure, a rising and falling of intertwined story arcs and resolutions–a style that can’t be painted into a corner as specifically being fanfic style or a quest for increased profit. The most crushing feedback I’ve had from a writing workshop was that my story had “too many acts”–that it had at least seven distinct acts, and therefore must be fixed to work within the traditional three acts toward a single climax. It was the most crushing feedback because I knew full well that my writing never fit that format, and I was wimpy enough to believe this meant I’d irrevocably failed as a storyteller.

    But over the past few years I’ve noticed many novels–particularly fantasy and science fiction–are serialised online. In fact, I would have thought that SF&F serials were more prevalent than romance, but that’s probably because those were the stories I was looking for. (IOW, I don’t think it’s a genre-based thing.) When it comes down to charging for a story in installments, I suppose it depends on what it’s worth to the reader. Sometimes I only want to pay $2.99 for an eBook, sometimes I want the eBook badly enough to pay ten bucks, or I’ll pay $35 for a signed UK edition. Sometimes I’ll fork over ten dollars just for a fancy magazine from overseas. Maybe for some readers it would be a question of value-added features–you pay X for your Dickensian installment and you also get the rest of a periodical. As to whether to get invested in a story the author might not finish, well… it does happen. It would happen if the author were hit by falling space debris, too, rather than ran out of steam.

    In any case, I’m glad for wider opportunities for market success for different reading and writing tastes, so I hope this grows from trend into just another common format.

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  26. SAO
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 12:44:09

    I read for the satisfaction of the ending, whether it be mystery or romance. A serial doesn’t give me that. And if I put a book down for more than a day or two, I forget the details. I just can’t get lost in the story the way I could when I was younger. Or maybe I, too, have the attention span of a gnat.

    I do worry that if too much is written as serials, books will be rife with forced cliffhangers followed by deadly dull summaries to remind the serial readers of what happened in the last installment.

    I could probably get into reading non-fiction as a serial, but not fiction.

    I note that Dickens was writing in newspapers and being read by many people who didn’t buy books for leisure reading.

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  27. Amber Lin
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 13:16:17

    I’ve read my share of Beth Kery before, but those serials are too rich for my blood, and this coming from someone who can easily spend a hundred bucks on books a month. I’m not opposed to the serial format, just the pricing.

    Re: what Moriah said… I think Ruth Ann Nordin posts all her chapters of her books on her blog, and then posts them for sale in book form when it’s done. I don’t know how that works out for her, but personally I’ll always grab the book format, because a few bucks is definitely worth having something on my Kindle.

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  28. Moriah Jovan
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 13:29:57

    @Amber Lin:

    With mine, 52 installments is barely two-thirds of the book (which is almost finished). The idea is that hopefully, the reader will buy the book to find out how it ends.

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  29. Brian
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 13:59:45

    My experience with serializations is pretty limited. Back in 2005(?) Elmore Leonard did a serial for NY Times Sunday Magazine which was a kind of sequel to his novel The Hot Kid. What I found after a couple of weeks was that I couldn’t read such a small amount of the story and then wait a week for more. I ended up saving up the 14 installments so I could read it all at once. My only other actual experience would be with Baen and how they publish 25% then 50% then 75% and then 100% for the new books in a webscription bundle (I guess that’s kind of serialized?). Again I found I have to wait for the 100%.

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  30. MrsJoseph
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 14:04:34

    @Moriah Jovan: This is something I could get down with. And I have the option of buying the full thing.

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  31. Ridley
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 14:04:38

    @Moriah Jovan: I see that SOMEONE got lost on the way to the authors’ open thread…

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  32. Moriah Jovan
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 14:06:09

    @Ridley:

    Are you gonna spank me? (Please?)

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  33. Delilah Fawkes
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 14:16:29

    ^^ Hey, spanking’s MY job! ;)

    Thanks so much to Jane for including me in this wonderful post :)! It’s so great for me to read what people either love (or hate) about the format as an author.

    Funnily enough, on the subject of length, I’m stopping The Billionaire’s Beck and Call at 9 installments because that’s when the story will be finished. I’d promised my readers 10, but I’d much rather have a tight narrative then try to stretch a story past where it should go.

    Anyway, fascinating discussion! :)

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  34. LJ Cohen
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 14:31:27

    @Rachel:

    That’s exactly why I’m releasing DERELICT as a free to read serial. I’m looking to build an audience and perhaps hook readers enough that they will buy the novel I have for sale. There’s also something inherently motivating when you have readers pestering you for the next installment.

    I did wait until I had a significant chunk of the story written and a roadmap for the whole shebang before starting to serialize it. And since I’ve already written 7 complete novels, I know that I can commit to finishing what I start.

    I can tell you that my own teenagers refuse to read DERELICT as a serial. They would rather wait until I give it to them as a finished novel. :)

    (Thank you for including me in your blogpost, Jane!)

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  35. library addict
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 14:31:56

    I’m not a fan of this format. I do not like cliff-hangers. Also, what happens if the author is writing as they go and they lose interest or the story isn’t selling as well as they’d hope and they quit mid-story?

    I consider series or even trilogies a different matter. I love the In Death books, but we do actually get a complete story within each book.

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  36. Anthea Lawson
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 17:19:22

    @Moriah Jovan: Moriah, I strongly recommend you release on Wattpad, as well. Lots of authors doing that these days. Not just YA (which is what I’ve released there as Anthea Sharp) but romance, and basically every genre. It’s a good way to build a fan base and readers are used to unedited versions~

    ReplyReply

  37. Juliana Stone
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 17:39:22

    Interesting conversation. A read sent me over and I’m glad I came.
    @Anthea, what is Wattpad?

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  38. Moriah Jovan
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 17:59:06

    @Anthea Lawson: Why, thank you! I will. Wattpad isn’t really on my radar, so this is helpful!

    @MrsJoseph I thought about how to structure it quite a bit, as there are so many options and no one way is perfect. I wanted to make it not only enticing, but easy for the reader.

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  39. Patty
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 18:35:12

    There are some great serials out there. I enjoy Sadie Haye’s Start Up series and that was a serial, I also enjoy H.M. Ward’s Secrets series, there is something kind of fun about waiting for the release and getting the plot bit by bit while imagining what will happen next…for me it works well with the new adult/young adult genres. Otherwise, Kery’s serial didn’t work for me, probably because the heroine is an artist and every time I pick up a romance novel this week the heroine is an artist or an art gallery director…

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  40. Anthea Lawson
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 20:37:57

    @Juliana Stone: Wattpad is an online site where writers (mostly amateurs, but some pros) can post their work – usually fiction. (www.wattpad.com)

    It started out primarily YA, but has really grown to encompass pretty much everything. There are lots of works-in-process and people tend to feel quite comfortable leaving comments.

    I’ve made some fans and found lots of new readers, but posting authors need to be all right with giving away free reads and interacting with people over their work. :)

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  41. Juliana Stone
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 21:29:42

    @Anthea thanks so much for the info

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  42. Alicia
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 21:31:43

    @Chicklet: Those are my feelings exactly. I pretty quickly stopped reading WIP fan fiction because I hated waiting, the chances of it not being finished, and I especially hate cliffhangers. You also make a good point about changing the story on whims. I certainly won’t (and can’t afford to) pay to be subjected to that. If I suddenly got that craving (won’t happen) there is an infinite supply of free serialized fiction on the Internet.

    If I’m paying for a book I just want to pay a reasonable price and be able to read the entire thing at my own pace. I would hate to have to wait for a book to be serialized over whatever time period before I got to read it (if it’s compiled and sold as a book after). I’m worried about this becoming a bigger trend in publishing. I don’t want to see a lot of the tricks to get more readers and complaints I used to see.

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  43. Liz Talley
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 21:38:14

    Struck me just moments ago as I scrolled through the comments that I’m actually doing a serial right now on Halrequin through the free online read. Every week day a new small chapter comes out over the course of the month for their spotlight on Superromance. Just struck me as funny that I commented this morning and like a moron didn’t clue into the fact that I *have* a serial out right now. Jeez, you’d think it was Monday or something with my limited brain activity….

    Anywho, interesting insight as always.

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  44. Robin/Janet
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 22:05:07

    @Tina: I think the Robb books, especially when they were only released in paperback, were akin to the dime novels/penny dreadfuls that rose in popularity after the height of the serial (in the late 19th century, for the most part). Although there is debate about the differences between dime novels and serials, some argue that the main difference is format, especially since some popular serials were eventually published in book form. One of the most popular subjects for dime novels were detective stories (e.g. Nick Carter).

    Also, Romance, as a genre, emerged from both the dime novel and the fiction of sentiment and sensation, which makes it doubly interesting, IMO. I mean, we don’t think of Robb as either pulp fiction or serial fiction, but the historical roots of the series definitely reach back to those formats.

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  45. sgl
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 22:20:32

    Delurking here.

    There are a few communities of serial writers many of whom are publishing their works for free. Wattpad was mentioned (wattpad.com) as one platform (web, mobile applications).

    If one reviews the various indices/directories of serials out there, it is true that there are many uncompleted works. For some that may be a turn off, but I’m sure there are audiences who don’t mind the risk . (There is a whole younger subculture used to this risk — those who grew up watching tv series with indefinite endings, reading webcomics, or fanfiction. )

    However, there are those who eventually are able to wrangle their work to some kind of resolution. (Not a lot from what I can tell, but they exist.) I’ve seen a few authors use Kickstarters to fund the print editions of their completed serials.

    For those looking to see what the serial environment currently looks like I recommend perusing (as a start): webfictionguide.com , muses-success.info , and tuesdayserial.com .

    A few other writers have talked a bit about the serials for sale route , noteably at http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/tag/serial-fiction/

    My own experiences with Wattpad have been very modest (and if you will kindly forgive the title to the blog post which was picked by the site, and not me), feel free to look at the post at http://tuesdayserial.com/?p=2912 and ask me questions about Wattpad. It is definitely a young place, but enthusiastic. For those who write unapologetic romance and with an eye on the young teen to young adult market, I think you should really look at it closely. I don’t know if Wattpad takes open offers to feature “books’ but it’s worth exploring.

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  46. Hannah E.
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 22:28:13

    I have trouble sticking to series (I have only read the first Kate Daniels book, the first two In Death books, and the first three Night Huntress books), but I enjoy online serials. The difference is, of course, that the online serials I’m hooked on are free. If I love them enough, and they are eventually published in novel form, I will buy them. However, I can’t see myself paying for multiple installments of an uncompleted novel, before there are any reviews out to warn me that “oh, it was great except for X, which came up in the second-to-last chapter and totally ruined the book for me.”

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  47. brandy
    Aug 29, 2012 @ 01:32:41

    That excitement that’s mentioned, about having the new installment out and having to read it RIGHT NOW? Meh. I’m not even that big into new releases either. The pleasure of starting something new and enjoying the journey is why I read. If it’s particularly good, I’ll devour and move on to the next in the series BUT I don’t even start the series until it’s all out or there’s an end date planned. I have a few series that I’m into (Grace Burrowes’ “Moreland” family, and Michele Sinclair’s highlanders) and I’m rather tired of waiting for them to be done. I’ve only been at e-reading for 2 years, so I’ve not even been waiting long! lol

    Liz Talley said:

    Seems that over the past year, I’ve seen readers complain about those particular series going on too long along with not being as well-written as the first few. Personally, I like something like a trilogy and that’s it. Okay, maybe five. But definitely no more. I’d rather hunger for more than be disappointed by more.

    This, exactly! I actually prefer reading a 3-5 part series set in the same world but focusing on different people in it. I would find 20 books about one or two main characters just absolute drudgery. The big, long, dragged out series don’t grab my interest in the slightest. I like when I can pick one book up as a standalone and if I enjoy it will think about going and getting the rest. In that case, I’ll get them all and read them all the way through. Love that my e-reader makes this possible and easy.

    Chicklet said:

    There’s too much else for me to read to deal with writers who leave stories unfinished (fanfic) or end up with wishy-washy product due to changing elements at readers’ whims (professional). Please just post or publish a complete story and let me read it at my own pace.

    With no offense intended at all to readers or the intelligence of the general public: Sometimes readers ship the most ridiculous character pairings! I’ve participated in the fandoms for “Lost” and “X-Files” and honestly, I think I’d have lost interest in the show if the creators of the show changed things to follow the whims of the audience. Listening to a feedback group is one thing, but I don’t think I’d give much credence to an author that wrote for fan votes. If I wanted inexperienced storytelling, I’d write my own! :P

    I also think I’d be VERY irritated if the author didn’t finish a long series due to boredom. I’ve read a few series where I got to the end and wondered why a certain background character didn’t get a book of their own and headed online to check it out. So frustrating when the author puts in their FAQ that they went on to something else. It makes me feel cheated, and I wonder if they’ll bother to finish the new shiny project.

    Chicklet also said:

    (I’m this way with serialized TV shows, too; I wait until the entire season — or series — is available on DVD and plow my way through them. Worked aces with The Wire.)

    This is absolutely what we do in my house, too! There are very few series that we are into enough that we like to watch them as they happen. We much prefer watching a whole series on Netflix while we record new episodes on our DVR. We can skip commercials and don’t have to spend an entire summer waiting to find out if the hero is going to be able to pull the heroine back up from dangling over the cliff. I don’t like being strung along to get higher ratings. It’s probably also worth noting that I’m not a fan of soap operas, with their dragged-out over-dramatics.

    @SAO commented:

    I read for the satisfaction of the ending, whether it be mystery or romance. A serial doesn’t give me that.
    ———————————-
    I do worry that if too much is written as serials, books will be rife with forced cliffhangers followed by deadly dull summaries to remind the serial readers of what happened in the last installment.

    I enjoy the journey, but that satisfactory ending is what keeps me going. Knowing there’s an end point to the torture. And as I said above, I also hate the forced cliffhangers.

    —————————————————————————

    To wrap it all up in a nice bow, I think I can find the source of my feelings about this in my childhood. (Haha!) We didn’t have cable TV, but rather one of those giant primitive satellites and only one TV connected to it that faced my father’s recliner. I did so much reading, that was all I had for entertainment until I bought a 13-inch TV/VCR combo when I started working summers as a preteen. The library didn’t have much by way of modern fiction for my age group (one of the series I read was the LJ Smith vampire books that have recently been made into a TV show). I saved up my money and would buy bags of books at a UBS and new books as we made it to the book stores that were an hour or more away. I remember one particular instance where I purchased a book at the mall and couldn’t make the hour drive again when I realized there was a part 2. My local Wal-Mart had part 3. I had to wait a month until we had reason to go to a town 2 hours away and I was able to get book 2.

    I remember trying to read the Sweet Valley High books and the Nancy Drew teen reboot that was unsuccessful. The SVH books were a gift from a family friend, and I was so frustrated that later books and early books in the series had mistakes and big changes. I gave those up for the Drew books, which I could buy in a box set. I have a fond memory of putting a $13 set on lay-away and making the cashier look at me strange! :P

    So now that I have the ease of access, I’ll just wait until all the parts are ready to read!

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  48. MikiS
    Aug 29, 2012 @ 01:53:57

    I wait for the 3rd book in a trilogy before I start to read the entire trilogy…serialized novellas would be even worse! While I really love the ongoing character growth in the JD Robb books, if they turned into cliff-hanger “episodes” with open-ended story arcs, I’d probably be done with them. (Karen Moning’s “fever” books pretty much killed that for me, if I was ever going to like them to start with).

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  49. Lada
    Aug 29, 2012 @ 08:29:10

    Series: YES. Serials: NO. Seems to me many previous commenters agree with me on this. I think there is a measurable difference between the two and I’m not sure the popularity of series will necessarily translate equally into popularity for serials though they obviously work well for some readers. Nothing about this format appeals to me. I enjoy anticipation as much as any reader but waiting for the next (fill in whichever series) book offers me enough of that.

    The fact that there are some authors using readers to help map out their ongoing storyline just boggles. What’s even more bewildering is readers who are willing to pay for the priviledge.

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  50. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Linkity and earworms for everyone!
    Aug 31, 2012 @ 02:02:35

    [...] The serial is back. *sigh* I am displeased. [...]

  51. Wendy
    Sep 02, 2012 @ 08:34:12

    Byliner just announced they are adding a new serial imprint. Their flagship authors are Margaret Atwood and Joe McGinniss.

    ReplyReply

  52. Dear Author on the e-serial Boom
    Sep 06, 2012 @ 08:57:41

    [...] http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/the-revival-of-the-serial/?shareadraft=baba46959_503acec456a44 Filed Under: book publishing, Press Page, The Gin Lovers [...]

  53. Jen and Sophia Talk About Serial Romance - Fiction Vixen Book Reviews
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 14:00:37

    [...] you are unfamiliar this this publishing format, Jane at Dear Author has a good post on The Revival of the Serial that’s worth checking out. She discusses the history of the serial as well as the recent revival [...]

  54. The Serialization Bandwagon - Ruth Madison
    Oct 24, 2012 @ 12:39:57

    [...] More information on the trend towards serializing here: http://dearauthor.com/features/letters-of-opinion/the-revival-of-the-serial/ [...]

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