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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A great post by Matthew David Surridge can be found on Black Gate's Blog. It talks about the nature of serial fiction and its strengths and weaknesses. This is one area where I feel e-Books can be beneficial to writers because its a form that allows writers to develop a serial without having to worry if the story gets accepted for publication by one magazine or another. e-Books give the writer an opportunity to develop a serial in its entirety and ensure that the work is at least able to gain the chance of an audience. Here's a quote that I found interesting about a serials strengths:

Sometimes, though, playing about with audience expectations actually becomes a part of what audiences expect from the individual chapter; they look for new things, new approaches to the story. And then sometimes the audience expects only the next part of an ongoing story, aware that it's meant to be read as a unified whole; Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's From Hell would be an example. So serials are less constrained than they may appear to be.
Because of the short, compact nature of serial fiction a writer can explore a wide variety of story ideas within a larger framework; a framework that allows for the continuity of a novel with the diversity of a short story collection. Imagine exploring the limits of a character or setting without the artificial need for a quest that sends the hero around the world for a special quest object/goal.

The essay also brings up a weakness of the form...

When put together, and read as a whole, this repetition can seem overly mannered or simply forced. The plot may appear to amble from set-piece to set-piece rather than develop organically. As a whole, there's a tendency to shapelessness in the serial form. How an individual creator deals with it is likely to depend on where they strike the balance between the installment and the story as a whole.
This is an area I want to explore through self-publishing. Stories that have a wide expanse and range, that are not limited to the plot structure of a short story or trilogy, but enable the writer to explore a character through an ongoing adventure. Have any of you considered using the serial in your self-publishing efforts?
 

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I've considered it, but I read somewhere (can't recall where) that KDP "frowned" upon upload chapters as ebooks.  They only wanted complete stories.  Though, I have read a few authors here who are definely serializing their stories, and I have to say it kind of irritated me when I bought a story that nothing happened in, that was just transition from one scene to another.  But it is possible to tell a complete "mini" story with each installment.

After all, does Kindle have Story Police watching to make sure we don't serialize a story?

The upside:  20 chapters at 0.99 each (99 dollars for your serialized novel) spread over a period of months.

I'd be interested in hearing from someone who is trying this approach.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
TWGallier said:
I've considered it, but I read somewhere (can't recall where) that KDP "frowned" upon upload chapters as ebooks. They only wanted complete stories. Though, I have read a few authors here who are definely serializing their stories, and I have to say it kind of irritated me when I bought a story that nothing happened in, that was just transition from one scene to another. But it is possible to tell a complete "mini" story with each installment.
By serial I wasn't talking about individual chapters to a novel. I was referring to a complete work within itself, that can be combined to a larger whole. Think of them as episodes of a TV show. Each episode is complete, but the characters have experiences that carry over to episodes later in the series. One of my favorite shows used to be Smallville. Each week Clark Kent would have to fight a different villain, but he would also have interactions with Lex Luthor, Lana Lang, Chloe, and Pete through which the series was based on. Clark's relationships with the other characters formed the basis of the show and those relationships would grow and change over the course of a season, while each episode still presented a different and new adventure.
 

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See http://podiobooks.com for over 500 serialized works in audio.

I've said it before and will probably say it again. It's an amazing way to build an audience. With 75,000 members (about 20,000 of them active), you don't need to do much promotion to be discovered. While it's a lot more work than - say - formatting a book for kindle, it pays off handsomely in visibility on the other end.

[disclaimer: yes, eight of those titles are mine. there's a lot of good stuff there that's not mine.]
 

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TWGallier said:
I've considered it, but I read somewhere (can't recall where) that KDP "frowned" upon upload chapters as ebooks. They only wanted complete stories. Though, I have read a few authors here who are definely serializing their stories, and I have to say it kind of irritated me when I bought a story that nothing happened in, that was just transition from one scene to another. But it is possible to tell a complete "mini" story with each installment.

After all, does Kindle have Story Police watching to make sure we don't serialize a story?

The upside: 20 chapters at 0.99 each (99 dollars for your serialized novel) spread over a period of months.

I'd be interested in hearing from someone who is trying this approach.
Don't call them 'chapters'. Call them short stories. Make each one readable as a stand alone; with a cliffhanger that ties into the next episode. Its a little more challenging to write, but I've seen people do it.
 

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Exactly my thinking! Ebooks are ideal for the serial structure (provided you can still afford the editing/cover costs that is  :-\ )

I just published the first book in a planned series. It stands alone as it is, but the plot arc carries on throughout the series.

The 'cliffhanger' at the end came naturally because if the nature of the story . It is not a chapter, it's rather a 'novella'. Like you B, I feel that ebooks are particularly suited for novellas. Some ppl tell me that they feel relunctant to buy a very large work in e-format.

So I guess I'll see how that works out ... 
 

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What a great topic... I'm about to send a serialized story off to the printers soon... Pulsate started as a stand alone short story and ended up winning Best Horror Short tory 2010 and the editor of a web zine asked to me to serialize it... it exploded from there and I finished up the first "season" which is 13 episodes. 

I edited them and added 5 bonus episodes plus a novelette and have it all packaged in a book... it'll be in ebook and print by the end of the month.

I did it this way because I understand people may not keep up with serials online with scheduling, etc. so I want it to be available in all forms... plus if TV shows can put seasons together, why can't authors?  And like I said, I wrote bonus material... think of the "stuff they didn't use" on bonus DVD's.

I want Pulsate to be accessible because I have outlines for 10 books, comics, and that web zine just confirmed they will publish season two of Pulsate starting in October (2011). 


I'm actually in the process of setting up blocks of recording time to get it in audio form for PodioBooks too...

I think there's a market for serialized fiction, yes.  You have to approach like a TV show and keep the reader wanting more.  I'll be the first to admit that I don't regularly follow serialized stuff on the net because it's hard to keep up with with so much going on... but if authors put it in book form and I can sit down and read it all... oh yeah, I'm in! :)

-jb 8)
 

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I'd be unwilling to buy chapters or episodes of something that was serialized. At least, if that's all I got for my money. Serialization is is a time honored tradition, of course -- most of Dickens and his contemporaries were actually published serially in magazines first. But, see, that's the thing: the magazine had a number of articles or stories in each issue. So, for the money, you got more than just the one chapter of the on-going story.

I guess it could go either way. . . .if the story is REALLY good, people might be willing to keep spending their 99¢ a month. But, if not, it could easily drop off easily. And there would be a portion of folks who wouldn't want to spend for even the first installment because it would feel like a commitment greater than they want to make.

What could work is a story blog, however. You can have people subscribe to your blog via Kindle and periodically one of the posts is the next episode of the story. But you'd want to have something else to say for other issues, and make it really clear what the point of the blog is. I subscribe to a couple of blogs on Kindle via Amazon; there are new posts at least every couple of days. Some update daily. But I had tried a couple of others that only updated every 2 weeks or so. . .that wasn't worth it to me to maintain the subscription.

Again, this is just my reaction. . . .I don't claim any knowledge of how anyone else feels about it. :)
 

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It may benefit writers but I *hate* the idea and won't buy a serial.  Smashwords doesn't allow the uploading of series because they have had too many complaints when writers have tried it. 

My take on it is that readers don't like it. 

I can't speak for any other readers, but if I accidentally bought such a chapter/section, I'd return it.  I'd try to return it if it was past the 7 days with a large sticky note attached.

I loathe the idea.
 

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I've been doing serial novels for two years on Wattpad with my last three books and my current WIP. It's a small but appreciative audience and sometimes gives me early feedback as to how a story is going and whether there's any typos.  I had been posting a chapter a week there for a while, but lately its been one every few days.

The main problem I've had with Wattpad is that the folks there tend to be too supportive and uncritical. Perhaps its because of all the fragile teen egos that submit stuff there.

Of course my work, as always, is free, so noone should feel burned about downloading a chapter and thinking it was a complete work.
 

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You know I find it interesting that everybody jumps to conclusions about the word "serial."

AR said clearly, at least in his second post, that what he was talking about was like a TV series - and if he hadn't put "serial fiction" in the header, nobody would be against it. We all talk endlessly about how we should be writing novels in series-- how one promotes the other, etc. We don't criticize, say, Dalglish for writing continued stories about his half-orcs. We don't declare we'd never buy his novels for taht reason.

Heck MOST fantasy novels for the past couple of decades have been trilogies, and openly had incomplete stories in each novel.

For some reason the word "serial" has come to have such bad connotations that people hate it even when they're already reading and watching - and loving - serials every day.

Again, Smashwords DOES allow the uploading of series like AR is talking about. They won't allow the uploading of individual chapters of a story -- that's a different thing.

Camille
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
daringnovelist said:
They won't allow the uploading of individual chapters of a story -- that's a different thing.
Camille
Exactly, that's the point I was trying to make. Distinct and complete stories that can stand on their own, but are connected in some way (Character, setting, etc.) and can be grouped together.

I think a literary example would be detective stories like Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, or Phillip Marlowe. Although a lot of detective stories are based on the serial (multiple novels in a detectives career) other genres haven't used them due to the limitations of the media. For example, Epic Fantasy usually has to do with characters saving the world--a story structure that fits multiple volumes, but not the individual adventures of a character. Stories that do not have a global impact on the character's life, but a more personal and limited impact could make for good serials. Shorter works delivered through e-Books have a chance where they wouldn't if they had to appear in magazines or other print type media.

Ann in Arlington said:
I'd be unwilling to buy chapters or episodes of something that was serialized. At least, if that's all I got for my money. Serialization is is a time honored tradition, of course -- most of Dickens and his contemporaries were actually published serially in magazines first. But, see, that's the thing: the magazine had a number of articles or stories in each issue. So, for the money, you got more than just the one chapter of the on-going story...

Again, this is just my reaction. . . .I don't claim any knowledge of how anyone else feels about it. :)
That's understandable. The serial wouldn't be for everyone and it would be a mistake to try and sell it too everyone. But I think it's safe to say that most people don't read the entire magazine. They may have certain sections they read, or articles by their favorite writers, or the ones that catch their eye. With a stand alone serial, if you like the adventures of a character, you could get all the adventures of that character without worrying about all the stuff you don't want to read.
 

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I'd be curious to hear what others think about publishing a series of novellas versus serial fiction (one chapter at a time). I plan on writing a series involving the same characters. The first book is a novella and it's going to sell at 99 cents. Now I wonder if I would be better off making the next book a novella instead of a full-length novel that I'll end up selling at 99 cents anyways.
 

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Well then, Serials is the wrong word.  If he meant SERIES, it doesn't matter whether it's short stories or novels.

Personally, I probably wouldn't buy them that way unless they were a collection.  But I don't often buy single shorts period. 

I do LOVE short stories that are a series (such as Frank Tuttle's Wistril Compleat--all the same characters, same setting.  Just different stories.)

If I was familiar with the author's work I might buy the stories as they came out. 
 

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MariaESchneider said:
It may benefit writers but I *hate* the idea and won't buy a serial. Smashwords doesn't allow the uploading of series because they have had too many complaints when writers have tried it.

My take on it is that readers don't like it.

I can't speak for any other readers, but if I accidentally bought such a chapter/section, I'd return it. I'd try to return it if it was past the 7 days with a large sticky note attached.

I loathe the idea.
I don't hate the idea, but I'm not sure why readers would buy a serialized novel in chunks when they could wait for the entire thing to be finished. It's an idea that writers love but readers may actually dislike.

As a reader I have a wealth of complete books to choose from. Why would I choose an incomplete book that may never get finished?
 

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I think different things are being discussed here. Unless of course I am missing the point again as I usually seem to do  :D.

I read a lot of novels that are in a sense in a series. I read a lot of romance and I think it might be more prevalent there. I am talking full complete novels where the next one might involve the story of a sibling or friend or such. They can stand on their own, but sometimes its confusing if you didn't read the others. I also read some where the same characters basically go through either cases or plots together over the range of some books.

Not sure why that would be any better on a ebook  though. Its still a book and I don't see the difference there reading the paperbacks or the ebook.

Then there are the what are they called, pulp fiction? I am not sure. I read them in Germany and I am not clear on what they would be called here. They were thinner small magazine size booklets of stories. The one I was hooked on was the John Sinclair series written by a German author named Jason Dark, his pseudonym. It followed a detective from Scotland Yard fighting the forces of darkness. Everything from Ghoules to ghosts to vampires. Not of the sparkly kind  ;D. I think they came out weekly. I would devour those. Not sure how the market is for that stuff nowadays though. Wow, that just brought back a blast of memories.  :D
 

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MariaESchneider said:
Well then, Serials is the wrong word. If he meant SERIES, it doesn't matter whether it's short stories or novels.

Personally, I probably wouldn't buy them that way unless they were a collection. But I don't often buy single shorts period.

I do LOVE short stories that are a series (such as Frank Tuttle's Wistril Compleat--all the same characters, same setting. Just different stories.)

If I was familiar with the author's work I might buy the stories as they came out.
Well, first, even though he said "serial" in the title, his POST clearly described what he was talking about.

Second: most people don't know this, but in the old days, "serial" actually meant an interconnected series (something like we think of as a "trilogy" today), which may or may NOT fit together to be a book. For instance, The Perils of Pauline was made up of distinct stories, as a modern TV series would be -- but they had an arc to them. They did NOT end with a cheezy cliffhanger and tell the audience to "come back next time to find out if Pauline will escape the buzz saw!" Pauline would escape, but so would the evil cousin, at least until he was finally caught in the last episode.

Even those intended to be novels tended to be tied off in each "episode." (Ever read The Dain Curse? Each section seems to be a complete story in and of itself -- with The Continental Op solving the mystery, but thinking about a single loose end as he walks away. Then the next section would begin sometime later when some event brought the case back to the Op's attention.)

What people think of serials today is not what serials actually were.

Interestingly, current practice in many genres of standalone books (and many TV shows) is to have more of a cliffhanger at the end of an episode than serials ever did.

So go ahead and say that you hate cliffhangers or that you hate incomplete stories, but don't say you hate serials, because odds are you read and watch them every day.

Camille

Camille

Most serials were not at all what people claim they are.
 
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