I was talking about the serial schedule, not the ebook publication schedule (although that is relevant too). If I'm only doing one serial at a time, on my blog, there are scheduling issues.
But M.C.A.'s point brings up something else that came up on my blog:
I posted about my decision to do Test Of Freedom as the winter serial instead of the sequel to Misplaced Hero, and talked about the pros and cons (one being that, since it's done, it would give me more time for pre-writing the others). One of the readers commented that if Misplaced Hero had been available as an ebook from episode one, he'd have bought it a long time ago.
So one option is to have the whole trilogy of novellas available in ebook form before I get to the cliffhanger bit. (Which is doable, but that third book is going to need work, so it won't be available from the start.)
But there's another perspective... well, two other perspectives.
One is the simple writing perspective. Lawrence Block did a great post on his blog a while back in reply to fans who were asking when the next Bernie Rhodenbarr book will be out. He said he doesn't know, and will never know. They're done when they're done. Even if he had one 3/4 of the way done, he'd have no idea if he'd ever finish it.
A book is what it is, and a writing/publishing schedule is what it is, and the readers, ultimately, get what they get. As ubersoft pointed out, if the story is engaging enough they keep reading.
And one of the realities, for me, is that writing on deadline is good for me, so getting things done too far ahead is not the perfect solution. For some things it will work, but it's not something I can just say "Okay, I'll publish the ebook before starting the serial!" as a standard practice.
The other perspective is more cynical: You can say that readers are becoming less sympathetic toward cliffhangers between books, but sales numbers say otherwise -- or, perhaps I should say -- sales numbers show that perhaps disgruntled readers are not such a bad thing. I mean, there is a reason why TV shows and movies and yes, book series, are doing this more and more -- it works.
I am not comfortable with intentionally annoying the readers. But there is a difference between manipulating the readers and giving them what they enjoy complaining about. That is, while I hear all sorts of things on the internet, but in person I mainly hear people gleefully saying "... it was just awful, they left us dangling. It was so mean!" and they are excited and enthusiastic about it.
Me... I don't like manipulative cliff-hangers -- but I'm okay with satisfying ones. I'll give you an example with TV shows/series.
CASTLE is a show I love, but they've nearly driven me off several times with their constant manipulation of cliffhangers and the romantic tension. The previous season one of the characters got shot by a sniper at the end of the season. That's the kind of cliff-hanger that makes me lose interest completely. It's over the top, and blatant -- and it doesn't resolve anything. And when I came back to the next season, I was really unhappy with how they handled the pay off. (Basically they didn't pay off on the promise.) But oddly enough, I still watched, just not as eagerly.
But I know people who hate the manipulation even more than I do, and watch it even more eagerly. It's like the manipulation is necessary to get what they want out of the show.
On the other hand WHITE COLLAR ended last season with one character making an irrevocable decision which would seem to bring an end to the premise of the show. But he did it as a solution to a problem, and it was fitting to the premise and the characters and everything. It was a payoff to tension they had been raising throughout the series. And on coming back to the series, even though the return wasn't exactly a strong episode, it continued the payoff. All of the characters have grown and changed, and this change in premise works with that. (And I'll still be satisfied if they manage to pull a rabbit out of a hat and make the situation more revocable -- there is no taking back what the character did, everybody is moving forward from there.)
BURN NOTICE goes both ways with me, and CHUCK mostly did a better job, imho, ending with teasers rather than cliffhangers.
But that goes back to M.C.A.s point -- with television (and I think with serials) people are more forgiving because a schedule is a part of the process. I know that I, as a reader, don't start a book series until there are several books available. It doesn't matter whether there are cliffhangers or not: I like to be able to follow up one book with another if I'm in the mood.
As a writer, I don't necessarily want to sit on the book until more are done, I just don't promote the book until then.
Anyway, I'm still mulling the way I will handle that break in the story. (And also, now, the publication schedule of the related ebooks.) I think I've got it within range of what I would consider tolerable, but I've also got a year to think on it.
Oh, and one of the things I'm going to consider doing for Misplaced hero is a "credit cookie" teaser. That is, I'll finish the story, but have one more episode -- labeled as a "credit cookie" or "teaser" -- which sets up the next season. That's different than a cliffhanger, though.