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Book Serials vs. Book Series. What’s the Difference?

Book Serials vs. Book Series

A common mistake is to mix up between “book serials” and “book series” despite the fact there is marked difference between book serials and series– they are being two different formats of storytelling in literature. A book serial is a story or novel that is released in instalments or episodes over a period and there, every instalment normally ends with a cliff-hanger or unresolved plot points- thus alluring the readers to continue with next instalment. The classic example of a book serial or serialized book is Charles Dickens’ “The Pickwick Papers” or “Great Expectations” were published in monthly instalments and is a classic example of book serial. In present times, book serials are released online or in e-book format and with each instalment that are released at regular intervals and can take various forms, including novels, novellas, short stories, or even non-fiction works and being released in daily, weekly, or monthly instalments, depending on the publication schedule. Whereas a book series is a set of books that are interconnected by characters, settings, or an overarching story arc. In a book series, each book can be read as a standalone story, but there is often a progression or development of characters and plotlines across multiple books. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is a well-known example of a book series, where each book builds upon the events and characters introduced in the previous ones. If we try to do a difference between Book Serials vs. Book Series, other differences are observed as well. Book serials are released in instalments and are originally published in magazines, newspapers, or online platforms. They were popular 150 years back and are making a headway again and here, the instalments are normally shorter in length than a full novel. Regarding book series, they are a collection of books sharing common themes, characters, or settings and it is the overarching narrative that ties them together where each book can be read independently but often has an overarching story and these books are normally released over a longer period. In case of book series, each book normally has a complete narrative arc while they contribute to the broader story.


Series and serial fictions are forms of storytelling that involve the presentation of narratives in multiple instalments or episodes and have their own merits and appeal to different audiences. They both provide opportunities for in-depth storytelling and character development over an extended period. While series and serial fictions share some similarities, there are also distinct differences between the two. A series normally refer to a set of related stories or episodes featuring the same characters, settings, or themes where each instalment of a series is relatively self-contained, with its own plot and story arc. However, at times there are an overarching narrative that develops and progresses throughout the entire series-book series like “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling or television series like “Game of Thrones” are typical examples. Serial fiction refers to stories that are presented in a sequential manner with each instalment building upon the previous ones- often released periodically, such as weekly or monthly, and readers or viewers follow the story from the beginning to fully understand and appreciate it. Charles Dickens’ novels like “The Pickwick Papers” or radio dramas like “The War of the Worlds” by Orson Welles are classic examples of serial fiction.


Continuity in books is the consistency of the story, characters, and events within a series or across multiple books by the same author ensuring that that there are no contradictions, discrepancies, or errors disrupting the narrative flow or confuse readers. Maintaining continuity has always been crucial for the creation of a cohesive reading experience and for keeping readers engaged. Continuity helps in following the progression of the story and get involved in the characters and their development. A well-executed continuity helps the readers in overcoming their disbelief and immerse themselves in the fictional world without being jolted out of the narrative by inconsistencies. For maintaining the continuity, the plot must progress logically from one book to another, with events and their consequences in line with what has been previously established. Major plot points, unresolved conflicts, and character arcs are carried forward and resolved in a consistent and satisfying manner and characters should remain true to their established traits, personalities, and motivations throughout the series. Their growth and development must be gradual and believable, reflecting the experiences and events they encounter. The author must keep in mind the maintenance of consistency in the backstory, history, and worldbuilding elements of the book or series where the rules, laws, and dynamics of the fictional world should remain the same unless there is a valid reason for change, which should be properly explained. The physical and environmental details of the story must remain consistent, and it must be kept in mind that if a specific location or setting is described in one book, it must be accurately depicted in subsequent books.


When instead of publishing a complete book at once, the style of releasing a fictional story or novel in instalments over a period is adopted, it is referred as the serialized publication of fiction- a method that has a long history and has been used by many authors throughout the years. Serializing fiction is advantageous for both authors and readers- as it can provide the author a steady source of income as their payment comes for each instalment allowing them to adjust the story based on reader feedback or evolving ideas. Serialized fiction provides the readers a regular dose of entertainment that allow them in following a story over time and engage in discussions with others who are reading the same work. Multiple books in a series are a collection of interconnected books narrating a continuous story or exploring a common theme thereby allowing the authors in developing complex narratives, characters, and worlds that captivate readers over multiple instalments. These series are extremely popular in various genres like fantasy, science fiction, mystery, romance, and more.