Do you like serials?

Here in what Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler refer to as the “shadow industry” of self-publishing (I feel so clandestine!), trends come and go. Free books, 99-cent bundles, funnels—you name it, someone has a marketing strategy for it. Me, I dabble in some things (like the 99-cent bundle of six romantic mystery novels I’m in that’s coming out June 1) but mostly I just keep my head down, play on Facebook periodically, and write.

Until a trend began to bubble with such urgency that I had to lift my head, take the lid off, and have a look at what was in there.


As in, connected releases of about ten thousand words each, all ending on a cliffhanger that takes you to the next release 2–4 weeks later. Jane Friedman has a comprehensive discussion of serials at Writer Unboxed, if you’re interested. I’m pretty interested. In fact, I’m torn.

So many books, so little time.

Because in the five years between Books 4 and 5, when Claire and the Mopsies are at university and the lycée, respectively, there are still things going on, to wit:

  • Alice and Jake are somewhere (where?) with her father and his wife and children.
  • Snouts and the Lady launch a covert offensive against the Morton Glass Works in retribution for the mysterious burning of Toll Cottage.
  • Peony Churchill and her mother are working on behalf of indigenous peoples … or are they?
  • Gloria Meriwether-Astor now knows exactly what her father is … but what can she do about it besides run off to Paris and buy a new hat?

In my mind, these questions are ripe for serials. The Letters from the Lady epistolary series seeks to answer some of them, but even I can see that this would mean many boxes of letters, and the attic at Wilton Crescent has its limits. Would a serial be the answer? Say, the first chunk free, the next 99 cents, until an omnibus results that would be priced at some lower amount? The impatient could purchase upon release, and the prudent could wait for the omnibus.

I admit I am torn … and a little apprehensive. The Lady merely raises an eyebrow at me for worrying about things like this when Alice has just written to say she’s in trouble, and says nothing.

What are your opinions?


18 thoughts on “Do you like serials?”

  1. BabelBabel

    I’ve recently discovered serials and I’m hooked! I love this format. Short bursts of passionate plot that come in enticing doses. Yes, please. And more beautiful covers to boost 😉

  2. Esther TaylorEsther Taylor

    Well…….this partially answers the question I posted awhile back……….wondering what was happening with the letters……
    Now that was fun to read the letters but I would be up for a serial…….the first letters you have already written……..and I would be delighted to get into what is/was going on with everyone else and have all – well at least some – of the questions answered…….
    Let me know when they are ready to buy!!……..LOL


    • adminadmin

      Esther, you’re so kind! The letters are heavily impacted by lack of time … but sometimes when I wake in the middle of the night I’ll write another one and post it. There should be a few more coming by pigeon this summer.

  3. NeilNeil

    I would sign up for a subscription. This is a good idea! You and Charles Dickens, right? Good company to be in!

  4. LindsayLindsay

    I’ve never read a serial before but I love the world you’ve built and the characters that populate it, and I would be all over this!

    Just want to add a quick note to stress how much I love the series. At the grand old age of 33 I thought I was aware of all the genres, then I was given a Kindle for Christmas and idly typed in this weird word I’d seen bandied about on twitter. The word of course was steampunk, Lady of Devices popped up near the top of the search results and I was hooked! My heart will always belong to The Lady now. 😉

  5. Diana BDiana B

    No. Maybe post this question on facebook? I HATE serials. I would much rather wait and buy the complete story. As MelJean is doing with her Kraken King you can offer it in pieces with a reader able to buy the complete book a year from now. I’m collecting the installments but will not read them until she’s finished with them all. I have too much going on trying to keep up with installments. I’ll miss some and then were will we be? I think there should be options.

    • adminadmin

      Diana, I agree about the options–and I read the way you do. Life is so crowded that I can look up six months later and go, wait a minute. Where was I in that serial?

  6. Cathy YardleyCathy Yardley

    Didn’t Hugh Howey do WOOL as serials? And Johnny Truant, Sean Platt and Dave Wright from Self Publishing Podcast are ardent serial writers. It’s not like you can’t sell the “boxed set” of the serial for those who love to read in their entirety, after all. I say do it! 🙂

  7. cynthiawcynthiaw

    I’m not a fan – I read very quickly and I read A LOT. I’m too impatient to have a cliffhanger pop up and have to wait 2 – 4 weeks for resolution. Heck, I even prefer to wait for a series of novels to be over before I pick up Book 1. I’ve made myself make exceptions for writers who aren’t established big names because I know that, if I don’t pick up Book 1, Books 2, 3, and 4 might not ever happen. And, obviously, I read Harry Potter as it happened because I had already read Book 1, but I did wait for Wool to be done before picking it up. Mostly because he was almost finished when I heard about it, but still, I did wait. Okay, I make lots of exceptions, but I’m not a fan of serials – I tend to lose track of what’s going on.

    However, I WOULD buy the omnibus when you were finished.

  8. bobforwardbobforward

    Some authors that I follow have done… not *serials*, which are sections of a whole — but *shorts* in the same universe. Stand-alone stories that are not long enough to be books, but allow us to have fun with a character or two that we already like. I cheerfully pay .99 for these — they are a good evening’s entertainment, and allow some depth and development of possibly overlooked characters. They are not required reading for the main universe, but are a nice adjunct.

  9. Brad HallBrad Hall

    I like the idea and would certainly buy them as they came out. I eagerly await each new installment of the Magnificent Devices series, so really what is the difference? I read other series where I have to wait a year or more in between installments. I like the idea of little bite sized portions to keep me satisfied until the main course of a new novel is ready.

    • adminadmin

      Thanks so much, everyone, for your replies. Looks like I have a lot of food for thought here, and instead of trying to cram five years of “What happened?” into the next book, I can focus on the adventure and go back and fill people in with smaller pieces.

      Maybe I’d better invest in a white board. 🙂

  10. CatBookMomCatBookMom

    More of the Lady of Devices and her family? Oh, yes, please! In pretty much any format, even if I have to wait in between chapters. And erm, what about Letters? Where do I find them? I love epistolary novels. Thank you for all the fun I’ve had so far, and for the fun I’m looking forward to.

    • adminadmin

      You’re most welcome! The Letters are scattered throughout the blog, but I am going to collect them as soon as I have a hefty number (I’m about halfway there).

  11. KatherineKatherine

    I have just started reading a lady of spirit and am actually struggling because there are all these casual mentions of things I know nothing about. Prince Frog face? Toll cottage burning down? Morton Glassworks? I looked on amazon and just bought what was labelled 6, 7-8, 9 & 10. (Probably shouldn’t have bought that many in one go but I had just finished a reread of 1-5 and had a lapse in impulse control). Where can I get my questions answered? Is there a collection I should have bought?

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