Serial Novels: Does reading them make you want to be a serial killer?

Posted 31 January, 2014 | Mary @ TheBookSwarm | | 49 Comments

I’ve noticed a trend amongst some novels — the return of the serial novel. Back in Charles Dickens’s day, serial stories were the norm, with chapters published weekly or monthly in newspapers and magazines. Then, not so much. Sure, they still existed but they’d lost popularity.

And now it seems like every time I turn around, I’m faced with another serial. And, yes, I realize that sounds negative. Well, I’ll say it. I’m not a fan. I like to read a book all at once, to stuff it in my face like a hot Krispy Kreme donut(s. No, I can’t eat just one). I do not like being made to wait.

“But, hold on,” you say. “You read series all the time.”

True. I do. And I get irritated with cliffhangers in those, too. The series that I stick with are those that, while they might have an overarching story arc that covers several stories, have a complete story in each book.

I recently read a novel that I was enjoying (Bound by Lorelei James) but, as I approached the end of the book…I knew the story it wasn’t going to end. In fact, I realized it was going to stop at a crucial point and leave me hanging. I kept reading because at that point, I didn’t want to DNF it but I was highly frustrated at being left hanging. 

Going in, I had no idea this was a serial. Yes, it was a romance. Yes, it said it was part of a series but it did not say that it was going to end halfway through the book and make me wait another month and a half before I could finish the story. I do know what we say about assumptions but, with it being a romance, I assumed there would be a happy ending at the end and that the series would continue with another set of characters. Seems logical, right? 

Another example of this serial series thing is Maya Rodale’s Bad Boys and Wallflowers, which contains historical romances (complete stories with HEA’s. Yay.) interspersed with a contemporary serial, each part of which is coming out between the historicals. A bit frustrating (especially since I didn’t realize the contemporaries were serials until I finished the first one and found out the hard way. Still, I’m hooked and want to read them all. Now.) but they’re labeled…sort of. Actually, I thought the .5 stories were complete novellas, until I finished #1.5 (yes, I was frustrated but, at the same time, caught like a fish on a hook. I’m guessing that was the intention. Tricksy. And dastardly.). 
The Wicked Wallflower (Bad Boys and Wallflowers #1)
The Bad Boy Billionaire’s Wicked Arrangement (Bad Boys and Wallflowers #1.5)
Wallflower Gone Wild (Bad Boys and Wallflowers #2)
The Bad Boy Billionaire’s Girl Gone Wild (Bad Boys and Wallflowers #2.5)
and so on.

On the other hand, there are serials who’ve done it right. The online publisher Collioquy publishes serials and promotes them as such (plus, many of them are interactive, choose-your-own-adventure stories. Very cool.). Kresley Cole just finished her first serial, The Professional, a three-part serial that was marked and promoted as a three-part story. Just as it should be. The three parts were also released in quick succession: December 16, January 6 and January 20. Enough for a tease but not enough time to really forget about what’s happening in the overall story. Plus, if you’re anything like me, you can wait until they’re all out and read them at once. As it should be.

Have you read any serials? Thoughts?

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49 Responses to “Serial Novels: Does reading them make you want to be a serial killer?”

  1. I haven’t read many serials (other than in erotica, and then I don’t really care). As a reader, I could handle it if, like Kresley Cole did, all books were released pretty quickly.

    From an author/business standpoint, everything I’ve seen says you make more money with more books floating out there, so serials make sense. You essentially split one book into three (or more) and give yourself extra money making opportunities. I’m not saying that’s why they’re doing it, but that’s how it makes business sense to me.

  2. YES! It is the reason I don’t read them.

    a) I don’t like cliffhangers
    b) I already don’t like waiting and serials barely give you anything then bam you have to wait.

    I will just wait until they are all out.

  3. OK, best serial book? RUN TO YOU by Clare Kensie. The first part is out tomorrow (it’s all digital only by HarlequinTeen) and having read the first 3 of 6 parts, this author does it RIGHT. And I abhor cliffhangers on principal.

    Seriously! Try it, Mary!

  4. I just read my first serial which is the one Hannah mentioned above, Run to You. I was pleasantly surprised by that one! Possibly because I only had to wait a week in between installments rather than months. It was hard to be too frustrated when the next installment was right around the corner. Serials like Bound that you talked about yesterday would get on my nerves I think though:)

  5. I tend to get really excited at first them run out of steam as I feel like I’m being strung along on purpose.

    I used to finish them up anyway just to find out what happened but now I don’t.

    I didn’t realize that Kresley Cole’s was only 3 parts. I think that’s something I can handle. A beginning – middle and end.

    I really liked Cara McKenna’s Curio series. I think that might be 5 or maybe 6 parts?? But that’s the last one I read because I hate the waiting. lol

    • Something like Cole’s series, I can handle. But, like you, I don’t always finish, though I do want to find out what happens (if it’s a romance, it’s usually an HEA but still).

  6. Our feelings on serials completely depend on how they are executed and marketed, similar to what you’ve said above. Basically, if it’s not just a tease, and if there’s a satisfaction to each installment, then we can be on board with a serial structure. But we would DEFINITELY want to know up front.

  7. I’ve read two novels first published as serials (Clean Sweep and Indexing by Seanan McGuire), but I’ve waited for the whole thing before I even considered picking them up. It’s just not in me to follow such a format, and I’m severely annoyed when I don’t get the whole story when I want it. I don’t know where this sudden popularity is coming from, but I’m not happy either.

    • I loved Clean Sweep, though I don’t know if I would have liked it as much as a serial. I would like to know the reasons behind the sudden popularity, though.

  8. I just started my first serial last night, but I really won’t have to wait because the last installment releases on Tuesday. I don’t know what to think. I am not a fan of cliffhangers, but on the other hand it is fun to have something new to look forward to each week.

  9. I actually refuse to read serials. I mean I know when I read a series, not all of them have cliffies, but usually have an arc storyline. I can deal with those and I’m given enough of a book to satisfy me. But serials… too short and a guaranteed cliffie. Just. Can’t. Do. It. Yea, watch… next I’ll be talking about how I got addicted to one. Darn authors! 😉

  10. Fantastic post, and yes I got caught by a few..some are almost full-length novels and others are one book broken up into 4 or 5 novellas. Personally I try to steer clear of them, but Rodale’s are good I went with it. Now what I truly love are the one’s like Index, Storm Force and Lovely, Dark and Deep. These too me are true serials *from days of old* You pay one price like 1.99 and then once a week or every other week you get a few chapters downloaded to your kindle and this goes on for 8-16 weeks..and I love them, love them. I resent the serials that are 2.99 an installment and end up costing almost as much as a hardcover..just give me the damn book. bwahaha!

    • I’m really enjoying Rodale’s, which I think is one of my frustrations. I want it ALL…NOW. And I REALLY don’t appreciate having to pay for each installment. Paying once, that’s a much smarter move to keep me reading.

  11. I was reading a book from amazon it was .99, and I got into it not knowing it was like 6 parts long. After the initial pt 1 at 99 cents, each follow up was 2.99!! I ended up buying 1 or 2 at that price then was like “NO FREAKIN WAY DUDE!!”.
    Thats my one example of serial killing. Another thats not really SK, but comes close is this: I’ll get an arc (the rare times I do), FALL head over heels for it & then… the time its follow up comes out 1 year later (or more!) I forgot what I read, re fresh myself, then get into book 2 and its a DUD. ALL of the TIME I happily waited & this si like cold water on the face while deep asleep!
    Great post got me thinking..

    • I’ve done that a couple of times, too! And, after the second installment, I dropped it. I’m NOT going to keep paying. Sorry, authors. Not gonna happen.

  12. I’m not a big fan of serials, so I’ve really avoided reading them, at least until they’re all out and usually by then the author or publisher does a bind up, so it’s just like a book to me. The worst is what happened to you, not knowing that you’re reading a serial going in and being left hanging in a major way. They should have BIG surgeon general style markers on them. Awesome post! 🙂

  13. Yes it makes me want to kill, I refuse to read them. I hate waiting so to wait and wait, and on top of that making it all more expensive, no thanks

  14. I loathe cliffhangers. I’m old school. A book, no matter how long or short, must have a beginning, middle and end. If the serial is like a tv show (except for those dratted season ending cliffhangers) then each story should be self-contained, but part of an overall story arc. If it’s a serial I enjoy, I’d read the next one each month and keep coming back for more.

  15. I hate hanging by my fingertips at the end of the book. I never came across it like I have since blogging. I think you can “end” the book, yet keep it going for another one. I think A Voracious Reader says it very well.

  16. I haven’t read these types of series where they are published quicky back-to-back, but more of the traditional you have to wait one year with a cliff-hanger. I think they would either be highly fustrating for me or highly addictive! 🙂

  17. Very interesting post! I don’t mind series that end with a cliffhanger – in fact I eat some of them up, because that cliff can be pretty glorious. However, I want the book itself to have a complete story (a problem that was somehow resolved, even badly) and the cliff hanger to be an additional problem. That’s why I don’t think I would like serials (I haven’t tried them, to be fair) – because when I’m only getting a few chapters at a time, nothing is resolved really. That doesn’t seem like something I would like at all.

  18. I’ve noticed this trend as well, Mary! I haven’t read any myself, mostly because I don’t think they would be for me, but this is a really interesting post, regardless. Thanks for sharing!

  19. I get so totally frustrated with these!!
    I don’t have patience for serials, and I had my share of it when I was reading fanfictions – another thing, series remind me of fanfictions because of their format.

    Great topic, Mary

  20. This is a really thoughtful post, Mary. I haven’t read a lot of serial series, but I don’t care for cliffhangers. Though knowing they’re there definitely helps me cope. Is this new trend toward serials featuring short chapters released like Dickens, or do you mean when a huge series (like FEVER by Moning) is broken into larger books, but really makes the best sense read back to back. That’s one with cliffies and it really runs together. Where some series are more completed books. I don’t like to wait either and I prefer for the mystery to be solved in the first book. But knowing what I’m facing a head of time makes it a bit better. Thanks for sharing!

    • Short chapters/parts of books like Dickens. I can handle huge series, as long as there’s a complete story arc within a book (I try to avoid those with cliffies). I have a hard time waiting.

  21. 1) “a hot Krispy Kreme donut(s. No, I can’t eat just one)” – can anyone eat just one? Those things are like heaven in a donut.

    2) I tend to avoid serials, unless they’re all available. I hate cliffhangers, and I’d rather read a complete story all at once.

  22. I agree with you. I hate waiting for the next book to come out and sometimes, because I have been waiting for so long, I lost interest with the series. I think I have lots of DNF series in my list.

    Anyway, I don’t have anything against series novel but some authors are over-doing it. I sometimes read books that doesn’t even deserve a sequel. I think two to three books are fine. But if beyond that, I rather leave the series unfinished. I think the longest series I have read so far is Harry Potter, Vampire Academy and Bloodlines. I like Richelle Mead and Harry Potter so they’re an exception.

    I used to read House of Night series but when I heard that it will have 9 books, I gave up reading. Plus the story is full of drama anyway.

  23. I haven’t read a serial, I don’t think. But EJ Wesley writes a series of novelettes. Most have a conclusion though, so it’s just a bunch of shorter stories. I’m not sure if that’s the same. I like them a lot, but the latest one does have a cliffhanger and I wasn’t totally loving that. I prefer having some sort of conclusion. At the same time, I think continuing this line of the story will add depth, so in the end it’s probably a positive.

    • Novellas or short stories are alright, because they’re usually complete. But it sounds like the latest one might be reaching towards this serial trend, if there’s a cliffie.