Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The new serial trend in ebooks

I have to say, I am a fan of serials in general.  I remember when the Green Mile came out as a serial and I had to wait with anticipation for the next installment.  Loved it.  Then The Blackstone Chronicles by John Saul.  But I have to say that one of the things that made them great was they all felt satisfying on their own and then together - Wow.

Nowadays, I am seeing more and more serials in eBooks.  Mostly in horror and paranormal.  I have mixed feelings about them. The tend to be identified as series 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 etc... or as episodes: 1.1 1.2 1.3 etc.  Now first off, calling it an 'episode' bugs me.  To me episodes are TV not books.  I know the idea is to let people know it is an ongoing story just like a TV show, but it just feels wrong somehow.  And the trend continues by calling these "seasons" when the serial finishes up a story.  For instance Season one, episode 1.3.  TV all the way.  So then one presumes, season two has the same characters, just a new story.

Obviously this is all about sales.  Say there are 6 episodes at 2.99 (most popular ebook price).  So that is 17.94 for the story.  It doesn't seem like much episode by episode but it adds up.  Okay, still less than a hardcover, but still not cheap.  And is it worth it?  Maybe...  Depends on how well the author can do the 'serial effect'.  Think those old serial films like the Lone Ranger or Captain Marvel back in the day at the movie theaters.  That is the feel King said he wanted to accomplish (and I think he did).  But with this proliferation now, I have to wonder how many can do it vs. just churching out pieces of a story that just cut off leaving you feeling unsatisfied.  you want more because the story isn't over, but if you aren't satisfied at that moment in time at the end of that 'episode' are you as likely to buy the next installment?

To me a well-written stand-alone is superior to a gimmicky 'serial'.  And what is the difference from a true series or trilogy (modern publishing's favorite baby)?  Usually much shorter 'pieces' of the story.  I am just not sold. 

When done right, I think it can be awesome.  When not, just a gimmick.


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