Friday Reads: Serial Annoyance

I have a complaint to air. And I am curious to see if any others agree with my sentiments, so please let me know in the comments what your thoughts are, regardless of whether you agree with me or not (or have even noticed what I’m about to discuss).

It seems that lately, more and more books are being released in pieces instead of being released all at once. That we’re getting serial novellas instead of full-length novels. And I, for one, am not fond of this trend. (These are almost exclusively e-books. This does not make it any better.)

I have recently read two novellas that were the first part of a series and ended on what felt more like the end of an Act instead of the end of an arc. If anyone is unfamiliar with what I mean, this would be like ending the play at the intermission, and making the audience come back later to finish the play. The arc here is the story arc – and while there are different arcs for the individual book and the series as a whole,

There are lots of possible reasons for this trend, of course. The upswing in self-publishing or e-publishing likely make this easier. It might be easier on the authors to work on novella-length works instead of novel-length ones. The content can get out to the reader faster if the author is working on smaller bits at once, which might keep some readers happier.

Releasing the novel in novellas instead of one larger volume might make it look like the reader is getting a deal instead of increasing the cost of the book (even though when you combine all the novellas the cost is higher). I’m not complaining about the increase in book prices here – I know that as the costs to publish rise, so will the cost to the consumer. But not all people are as agreeable, so maybe this is having an impact in how we will get our content.

Maybe people are just used to getting smaller doses of content at once. TV shows are a popular medium for entertainment, and they are released in half-hour or hour long sections.

I think my biggest complaint about this trend is that what we are given does not feel like a complete story. I have this complaint with other forms of fiction as well. Some YA books are more concerned with getting you to keep reading the series than with finishing the story. That trend annoyed me to no end, and I complained personally to at least one author about it. (She got better with her endings.) With the serial novella, however, there is no pretense about it being the end of a book. (The YA books at least wrap up most of their loose ends, even if they dangle the series plot in front of you right before “The End”.) Some of the serial novellas seem to look for the biggest cliffhanger they can find to dangle you over just to ensure that you keep reading the series.

You know what? That feeling that I’m being strung along is one of the surest ways to get me to stop reading a series.

What do you think? Is this a trend that anyone else has noticed, or is it just me? And does it annoy you too, or do you prefer the novella length & format to the longer novel?

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4 thoughts on “Friday Reads: Serial Annoyance

  1. I haven’t got caught up in this but it may be partly due to my general avoidance of novella size work. There are a few serials I’ve followed on author blogs, but I knew what I was getting into, and when they’ve then published the completed novel I’ve bought it up.

    I completely get what you’re saying, though, and it’s a pet peeve of mine too. I wanted to do bodily harm to one author when she ended a couple books in her series on major cliffhangers. And those were novel length books so it’s not just the novella.

    I’m sure with the ease of self-publishing and ebooks in general, we’ll see more of this. As Kait Nolan once remarked, today’s indie ebooks are like yesterday’s pulp fiction (and not the movie, either). Authors are learning on the job, so to speak.

  2. Lorraine says:

    Nicole- I have noticed. I like a beginning, a middle and an end. I find I just can’t keep up with when things come out, and if I do, I have forgotten what happened in the first parts.

    So, no, it isn’t a trend I like, but I think you’re right when you say people’s attention spans are limited. Sad, but true.

  3. Chris says:

    I hate serials with a burning passion. Esp the ones where there’s nothing to indicate it’s a serial until you get to the end of the first one. Generally I just cease reading the author entirely at that point.

    I really don’t think it’s limited to ebooks – I’d argue that there are some books that were published as being a series that felt more like they were serials – like the Karen Moning Fever “series”… which I also stopped reading in annoyance.

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