All About Serial Fiction

All About Serial Fiction

What's a serial story?

Think of a serial like a TV show with an overarching arc, such as the X-Files or Lost. Like TV series that are divided into episodes and seasons, a serial story will be divided into novelette- or novella-sized sections released at regular intervals, like once a week or once a month.

Some series are only one season long (stories that span one novel), and some are multiple seasons long (stories that span many novels). Series (and serials) that feature multiple seasons (multiple novels) tend to have both seasonal arcs and overall series arcs: stories whose threads are tied in one season (one novel), and stories whose threads aren’t tied until the series is complete.

Of course, each episode within a season has its own arc too, but those arcs are often much smaller and simpler and cannot generally stand alone. They’ll also often end on a cliffhanger or a note of suspense regarding the season and/or series arc.

How are serial stories different from a regular series?

In some ways, it’s very similar to a series. To use our television show analogy, a book series is like a TV series, and each title in that series is like a complete season of the television show. Serialization takes this one step further by breaking up each season into multiple episodes. However, not all serialized stories will feature multiple seasons.

Why serialize a story?

There are many reasons to serialize a story. Some stories are best suited to being digested in small bites, such as very intense stories or deeply erotic ones. Serializing such stories gives the reader time to come up for air, so to speak.

Serializing also lets a reader truly savor the reading experience. Many readers “gorge” on great books, plowing through them all in one or two large sittings because they’re so deeply engaged. As with episodic TV, if you follow a serial as it’s released, you can satisfy your hunger one episode at a time, but won’t gorge. Even better, you know there’s another great episode waiting for you next week or next month—a delicious treat delivered to your inbox at regular intervals. Of course, if you’d prefer to read them all at once, you can always purchase the serial when it’s complete—sometimes there’s no greater pleasure in life than watching eight seasons of the X-Files in three weeks ;-)

Serializing also heightens anticipation. Having to wait to see what happens next—but not wait too long—is its own delicious torture, and a type of delight in which many readers revel. Anticipation can deeply heighten the reading experience when the new episode is finally released.

Lastly, serializing gives the reader time to reflect on what they’ve read before moving forward to the next piece. More time for contemplation results in a deeper, richer reading experience, and one the reader is much less likely to forget.

But isn't serialized fiction more expensive?

It can be, but we’ve taken great care to offer buying options that won’t cost you so much as an extra penny. We’ve bundled our serialized titles together into collections by “season” (one complete book’s worth of “episodes”), and they’re priced by word count, just like all our other titles. So even if a 80,000-word season is broken into four episodes at $2.99 per episode, you can purchase the complete season for the same $8.99 the story would’ve been if it hadn’t been serialized. However, these bundle deals are available onsite only; on third-party sites like, episodes must be purchased individually.

Individual episodes are only available as ebooks, but complete seasons will often be available as paperback books as well. These will release a short time after the completion of an entire season or series, and some may contain bonus content or additional artwork. Many readers enjoy subscribing to the serial’s ebook titles as they release, and then purchasing a paperback copy at the conclusion of the serial—just as you might watch a TV show as it airs, and then later buy the DVD box set.

How can I buy an episode, season, or series?

Individual episodes can be purchased in ebook anywhere our books are sold at $2.99 per episode. This is $1 cheaper than our standard price point for stories of that length—our way of ensuring the affordability of complete serialized seasons, no matter where you prefer to shop.

Complete seasons can be purchased in ebook bundles at the Riptide website only (you can find them listed with our other collection bundles), though some may be released at various third-party sites several months after the completion of the season. Seasons are priced based on word count, just like our non-serialized fiction. So even though a season may contain four individual 20,000-word episodes priced at $2.99 apiece (for a total of $11.97, in this example), subscribing to the whole season via the Riptide website would cost you only $8.99. Subscribing to an entire season generally results in a fairly large discount over purchasing episodes individually.

You can buy a complete season onsite at any time, either by pre-ordering (subscribing to the season before it’s been released or before it’s complete), or ordering once the whole season is finished. If you pre-order, you’ll receive each individual episode two days before its official release day. If you buy the whole season after its completion, you’ll have access to all season episodes at once as a collection of instant downloads. If you subscribe to a season midway through the season, already-released episodes will be available to you as instant downloads, and forthcoming episodes will be available to you two days earlier than their official release date.

Completed seasons may also be made available in paperback, which you can buy anywhere our books are sold. Print versions of seasons will only be released after the entire ebook season is complete.

Generally speaking, there is no way to buy a complete series in a single purchase. Like non-serialized book series, each complete title within the series is sold individually. However, we may run onsite specials from time to time where we bundle all series of a season together into one purchase. 

Is there any benefit to buying episodes as they release, rather than waiting until the season or series is done?

This is largely a matter of personal taste. If you wish to savor and enjoy the anticipation, buy them as they release. If you love the authors and can’t bear to wait a year to start reading the story, buy them as they release.

If you cannot bear cliffhangers, you may wish to wait until the entire story is complete—or at least an entire season—and buy them then.

Whatever you decide, we strongly recommend you buy them onsite to enjoy the season discount.

How do I know the serial will be completed?

Riptide won’t publish any episodes in a season until the entire season is written. This way, we can guarantee the availability of a complete novel.

However, like many a television show and book series, sometimes things are canceled before their overall conclusion. If this happens with our serial fiction, the overall series arc may never reach its full potential, but all episode and seasonal arcs will be neatly wrapped, and you’ll end your read feeling as satisfied as you would have with any other book with which you hope for but do not necessarily expect a sequel.

That being said, our serial authors are contractually obligated to deliver a pre-set number of seasons. Sometimes events may conspire to make this impossible or to make a season unexpectedly late (death, illness, “acts of god,” etc.), but by and large you can be assured that a serial begun is a serial completed. After all, Riptide staffers all know well the frustration of starting a brilliant episodic story in fandom and then discovering it was never finished. We’ve designed our serial contracts to prevent that from happening here.

How many episodes are in a season, and how long is each season?

This varies from book to book. Some seasons may consist of as few as one episode, some as many as eight or more; it all depends on where the natural conclusion to the season arc falls. On average, however, an episode in a serial story will be 15,000 to 20,000 words (roughly 55 to 75 pages), and an average season will consist of three to five episodes.

When will each episode and season release?

This varies from serial to serial, but release dates for each episode are always clearly posted on the season collection page, as well as on the individual episode pages. Most seasons will feature one episode per month, so the average season will run three to five months long.

As with TV, there may be a “summer break” (or a fall or winter or spring break, depending on the timing of the release) between the prior season and the new season, but many will release one season after the other with no interruption.

And as always, if you pre-order your season subscription through our website, you’ll receive your episodes two days before they’re available anywhere else.