Well, not really, but they are popping up in all sorts of different genres these days. They have become popular with readers and authors alike for their bite-sized stories and quick reads. With the fast-paced world of publishing, serials offer an avenue for authors to explore as well, allowing them to publish at a quicker rate.
Although serials have been around for centuries, the Indie publishing world has seen a recent surge in releases. Serials are stories told in two or more parts or books, usually novella size, but there is no true requirement for them. There are no perimeters on the story either. A serial can be an ongoing story with the same characters or several parts made up with different characters in each. This makes this form of storytelling exciting and opens doors for authors to experiment in new ways with their stories.
Currently, there are two main types of serials, giving readers the choice in what they like to read before committing to read it. If they don't like cliffhangers, there are serials just for those readers. Don't mind cliffies, no problem, there are serials for that too.
The Contiguous Serial is one that each book in the series is another piece to the final puzzle. Each part works together to tell a complete story as the reader follows the lives of the same characters.
The Stand-Alone Serial contains books that are different stories with different characters that have something tying them together theme wise. Each part released should be a complete story within itself while adding to the overall theme of the serial.
As I mentioned above, the word count of the individual parts that make up the serial can range from a short story to a novella, though I'm seeing a trend toward the 20k range. This word count becomes more manageable for authors to run through their Road to Publication process, including writing, editing, proofing, and more.
A disadvantage of producing serials is that the rate of publication is also fast-paced. More covers are needed, copyrighting, ISBN numbers, proofing, cover reveals, blog tours, releases have to be created and scheduled. Financially, I've found it's more expensive to produce a serial than one novel, even though it's generally one-fourth to one-fifth the size. This expense is something to consider when thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of writing a serial.
The unique option serials give authors is the ability to play with cliffhangers to alternate endings. In the contiguous serial, cliffhangers are expected, as it's not meant to tell a complete story, but to tell a portion of the story that is vital to the outcome. Enough information should be provided that will lead the reader to want to read the next book. It's not just taking a longer story and chopping it up. A solid serial includes something of value that moves the story forward in each portion/part/book.
Something I'm really excited about that I feel is special to serials is the option to produce alternate endings while offering them both at the same time. With a novel, you have an ending and as an author, you may choose to also write a novella or additional book with the What-Ifs answered. For example, with my new serial, From the Inside Out, I'm able to offer two different endings and release them at the same time, giving the power to the reader to choose their own journey. Although it was not my original intention, I've come to realize this format is applying the 'Sliding Doors' or 'Choose Your Own Adventure' philosophy to stories made for adults.
Serials feel interactive in a new way that breathes life into stories that might not work as longer novels, a lot like TV series. Readers get to join the journey, picking it up at any stage and hanging on for the ride as it unravels.
I believe we're going to be seeing more readily available serials on all the online book distributors. Some of these sites have already dedicated sections to them that are easily found categories. So when you don't have a lot of time to read, but still have a craving to do so, try a serial instead.