Would you read books in serial form?

My husband follows music closely, including trends in how people buy and listen to music and find new artists.  Recently, he told me that one of the websites where he finds music, NoiseTrade, launched a similar platform for books.  Around the same time, he sent me an interesting Mashable article about the growing trend of publishing books in sections online.

Serialization is not a new concept, of course.  Tons of literary giants published their novels in serial form in the 1800s, and I’m really interested to see if this will become a legitimate publishing route again.  At the moment it seems like something that non-fiction authors and certain types of fiction writers (YA, romance, paranormal etc) do, but I would love to see really big name literary people try it.

There is something appealing to me about reading a book as it’s written.  I think it would take an entirely different skill set for authors though.  Today’s authors are used to endless rounds of revisions and replotting and tightening things up.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to see modern novels written in the older, serial form, with a bit more rambling, more seat-of-the-pants changes, and more colorful characters?

I could actually really see that working, even for more literary fiction.  As the Mashable article points out, people like to buy things in snippets, and people consume media in smaller doses at a time.  I like how serializing would make the writing process more social, with real-time feedback informing the writing process.

What do you think?  Would you read fiction in serial form?  Does this trend seem like a good idea to you?  Why or why not?

3 thoughts on “Would you read books in serial form?

  1. Hmmmmmmmmm, I don’t think this would work for me. I guess I don’t want interaction between the author and the readers influencing the work.

  2. I don’t think it would work, or at the very least I think it would produce an entirely different form of fiction. For one thing, I suspect the temptation as a writer/publisher of serial fiction would be to throw in lots of ‘keep ’em reading’ cliffhangers and plot twists. After all, you want your readers to want to buy the next installment, especially if they are going to have to wait for it. This works as you read the story, but I suspect the finished novel would come across as hurried and unbelievable. I also strongly suspect you would end up paying a lot more for, say, six installments of a novel than you would for one novel. Publishers might, I suspect, see it as free license to rip people off!

    Personally, I’m not a big fan of serial fiction as I’m basically impatient and want to read at my own pace. I would have to wait, buy all the installments at once and then read them like a book, which is somewhat defeating the object!

    I vaguely recall that ‘The Green Mile’ by Stephen King was published as a serial (the only relatively recent example I could think of), but not having read it I can’t comment on whether it worked or not.

  3. I will have to check that out…I thought The Green Mile was pretty good (not Shakespeare, but okay). I was thinking of George R R Martin who seems to have had a plan for his Game of Thrones, but as it became successful, he changed things and seems to be trying to stretch things out, more books, more attention, more money. I read the first two and stopped b/c of his over use of obscene/vulgar stuff. Also, just plain bad writing. I hear they’ve gotten worse, which is almost hard to imagine.

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