Serial (literature)

In literature, a serial is a printing format by which a single larger work, often a work of narrative fiction, is published in smaller, sequential installments. The installments are also known as numbers, parts or fascicles, and may be released either as separate publications or within sequential issues of a periodical publication, such as a magazine or newspaper.[1]

Publicité pour Great Expectations dans All the Year Round.jpeg
Advertisement for Charles DickensGreat Expectations, serialized weekly in the literary magazine All the Year Round from December 1860 to August 1861

Early history

The growth of moveable type in the 17th century prompted episodic and often disconnected narratives such as L'Astrée and Le Grand Cyrus. At that time, books remained a premium item, so to reduce the price and expand the market, publishers produced large works in lower-cost installments called fascicles.[2]

19th and early 20th centuries

Serialized fiction surged in popularity during Britain's Victorian era, due to a combination of the rise of literacy, technological advances in printing, and improved economics of distribution.[3]:34 Most Victorian novels first appeared as installments in monthly or weekly periodicals.[3]:13 The wild success of Charles Dickens's The Pickwick Papers, first published in 1836, is widely considered to have established the viability and appeal of the serialized format within periodical literature. During that era, the line between "quality" and "commercial" literature was not distinct.[3]:31 Other famous writers who wrote serial literature for popular magazines were Wilkie Collins, inventor of the detective novel with The Moonstone and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who created the Sherlock Holmes stories originally for serialization in The Strand magazine.

While American periodicals first syndicated British writers, over time they drew from a growing base of domestic authors. The rise of the periodicals like Harper's and the Atlantic Monthly grew in symbiotic tandem with American literary talent. The magazines nurtured and provided an economic sustainability for writers, while the writers helped grow the periodicals' circulation base. During the late 19th century, those that were considered the best American writers first published their work in serial form and then only later in a completed volume format.[4]:51 As a piece in Scribner's Monthly explained in 1878, "Now it is the second or third rate novelist who cannot get publication in a magazine, and is obliged to publish in a volume, and it is in the magazine that the best novelist always appears first."[4]:52 Among the American writers that wrote in serial form were Henry James and Herman Melville. A large part of the appeal for writers at the time was the broad audiences that serialization could reach, which would then grow their following for published works. One of the first significant American works to be released in serial format is Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, which was published over a 40-week period by The National Era, an abolitionist periodical, starting with the June 5, 1851 issue.

Serialization was so standard in American literature that authors from that era often built installment structure into their creative process. James, for example, often had his works divided into multi-part segments of similar length.[4]:30 The consumption of fiction during that time was different than in the 20th century. Instead of being read in a single volume, a novel would often be consumed by readers in installments over a period as long as a year, with the authors and periodicals often responding to audience reaction.[4]

In France, Alexandre Dumas and Eugène Sue were masters of the serialized genre. The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo each appeared as a feuilleton. The Count of Monte Cristo was stretched out to 139 installments. Eugène Sue's serial novel Le Juif errant increased circulation of Le Constitutionnel from 3,600 to 25,000. Production in book form soon followed and serialization was one of the main reasons that nineteenth-century novels were so long. Authors and publishers kept the story going if it was successful since authors were paid by line and by episode. Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary was serialized in La Revue de Paris in 1856.

Some writers were prolific. Alexandre Dumas wrote at an incredible pace, oftentimes writing with his partner twelve to fourteen hours a day, working on several novels for serialized publication at once. However, not every writer could keep up with the serial writing pace. Wilkie Collins, for instance, was never more than a week before publication. The difference in writing pace and output in large part determined the author's success, as audience appetite created demand for further installments.[5]

In the German-speaking countries, the serialized novel was widely popularized by the weekly family magazine Die Gartenlaube, which reached a circulation of 382,000 by 1875.[6] In Russia, The Russian Messenger serialized Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina from 1873 to 1877 and Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov from 1879 to 1880. In Poland, Bolesław Prus wrote several serialized novels: The Outpost (1885–86), The Doll (1887–89), The New Woman (1890–93), and his sole historical novel, Pharaoh (the latter, exceptionally, written entire over a year's time in 1894–95 and serialized only after completion, in 1895–96).

In addition, works in late Qing dynasty China had been serialized. The Nine-tailed Turtle was serialized from 1906 to 1910.[7] Bizarre Happenings Eyewitnessed over Two Decades was serialized in Xin Xiaoshuo (T: 新小說, S: 新小说, P: Xīn Xiǎoshuō; W: Hsin Hsiao-shuo; "New Fiction"), a magazine by Liang Qichao.[8] The first half of Officialdom Unmasked appeared in installments of Shanghai Shijie Fanhua Bao,[9] serialized there from April 1903 to June 1905.[10]Template:CLarification

Late 20th and early-21st centuries

With the rise of broadcast—both radio and television series—in the first half of the 20th century, printed periodical fiction began a slow decline as newspapers and magazines shifted their focus from entertainment to information and news. However, some serialization of novels in periodicals continued, with mixed success.

The first several books in the Tales of the City series by Armistead Maupin appeared from 1978 as regular installments in San Francisco newspapers. Similar serial novels ran in other city newspapers, such as The Serial[11] (1976; Marin County), Tangled Lives (Boston), Bagtime (Chicago), and Federal Triangle (Washington, D.C.).[12] Starting in 1984, Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities, about contemporary New York City, ran in 27 parts in Rolling Stone, partially inspired by the model of Dickens. The magazine paid $200,000 for his work, but Wolfe heavily revised the work before publication as a standalone novel.[13] Alexander McCall Smith, author of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, experimented in 2004 with publishing his novel 44 Scotland Street in instalments every weekday in The Scotsman. Michael Chabon serialized Gentlemen of the Road in The New York Times Magazine in 2007.

The emergence of the World Wide Web prompted some authors to revise a serial format. Stephen King experimented with The Plant (2000), and Michel Faber allowed The Guardian to serialise his novel The Crimson Petal and the White. In 2005, Orson Scott Card serialized his out-of-print novel Hot Sleep in the first issue of his online magazine, InterGalactic Medicine Show. In 2008 McCall Smith wrote a serialized online novel Corduroy Mansions, with the audio edition read by Andrew Sachs made available at the same pace as the daily publication. In 2011, pseudonymous author Wildbow published Worm, which remains one of the most popular web serials of all time.[14][15][16]

The rise of fan fiction on the internet also follows a serial fiction style of publication, as seen on websites such as FanFiction.Net and Archive of Our Own (AO3).

Many aspiring authors also used the web to publish free-to-read works in serialized format independently as well as web-based communities such as LiveJournal,,[17] fictionhub,[18] and Wattpad.[19] Many of these books receive as many readers as successful novels; some have received the same number of readers as New York Times bestsellers.[20][21]

In addition, the prevalence of mobile devices made the serial format even more popular with the likes of JukePop Serials[22], and Serial Box[23][24], with iOS[25] and Android[26] apps that focuses entirely on curating and promoting serialized novels.

See also


  1. ^ Law, Graham (2009). "Serials and the Nineteenth-Century Publishing Industry". In Brake, Laurel; Demoor, Marysa. Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism. London: Academia Press. p. 567.
  2. ^ Hagedorn, Roger (1988). "Technology and Economic Exploitation: The Serial as a Form of Narrative Presentation". Wide Angle: A Film Quarterly of Theory, Criticism and Practice. 10 (4): 4–12.
  3. ^ a b c Law, Graham (2000). Serializing Fiction in the Victorian Press. New York & Hampshire, UK: Palgrave. ISBN 0-312-23574-7. Retrieved October 23, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d Lund, Michael (1993). AMERICAS CONTINUING STORY An Introduction to Serial Fiction, 1850-1900. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-2401-0. Retrieved October 23, 2011. As Scribner's Monthly
  5. ^ Lyons, Martyn (2011). Books: A Living History. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum. pp. 153–155. ISBN 9781606060834.
  6. ^ Kirsten Belgum: "Domesticating the Reader: Women and Die Gartenlaube" in: Women in German Yearbook 9 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993) ISBN 0-8032-9754-8 pp. 92-93
  7. ^ Wang, David Der-wei. Fin-de-siècle Splendor: Repressed Modernities of Late Qing Fiction, 1849-1911. Stanford University Press, 1997. ISBN 0804728453, 9780804728454, p. 81.
  8. ^ "二十年目睹之怪现状: Bizarre Happenings Eyewitnessed over Two Decades." Chinese University Press, January 1, 1975. ISBN 0870751255, 9780870751257, p. inside cover.
  9. ^ Holoch, Donald. "A Novel of Setting: The Bureaucrats" in: Doleželová-Velingerová, Milena (editor). The Chinese Novel at the Turn of the Century (Toronto: University of Toronto Press; January 1, 1980), ISBN 0802054730, 9780802054739. CITED: p. 76.
  10. ^ Doleželová-Velingerová, Milena. "Chapter 38: Fiction from the End of the Empire to the Beginning of the Republic (1897-1916)" in: Mair, Victor H. (editor). The Columbia History of Chinese Literature. Columbia University Press, August 13, 2013. p. 697-731. ISBN 0231528515, 9780231528511. CITED: p. 724.
  11. ^ "That '70s book". Pacific Sun.
  12. ^ "The Press: Soap Operas Come to Print". Time. August 8, 1977. Retrieved February 27, 2010.
  13. ^ Ragen, Brian Abel (2002). Tom Wolfe: A Critical Companion. Westport, CT:: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-31383-0.
  14. ^ Collings, Jesse. "Adam Sherman of Maynard publishes web serial". Wicked Local.
  15. ^ "Discipline and determination pay off for webserial writer". The Star. 20 February 2014.
  16. ^ "Wildbow is creating Web serials". Patreon.
  17. ^
  18. ^ "fictionhub". fictionhub.
  19. ^ Wattpad
  20. ^ "How Many Books Do You Need To Sell To Become A Bestseller?". book promotion hub. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  21. ^ "Thoughts: A Reflection on growth over two years". 26 June 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  22. ^ JukePop Serials
  23. ^ "Meet a new kind of book, designed for the age of Peak TV". Vox. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  24. ^ "Serial Box is the Newest Medium for Series Drama". Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  25. ^ JukePop Serials (iOS)
  26. ^ JukePop Serials (Android)

External links


DPubS (Digital Publishing System), developed by Cornell University Library and Penn State University Libraries, is a free open access publication management software. DPubS arose out of Project Euclid, an electronic publishing platform for journals in mathematics and statistics. DPubS is free software released under Educational Community License.

European Society for the History of Photography

The European Society for the History of Photography (ESHPh), founded in 1978, is a society concerned with the historical events within photography from a European perspective.

The ESHPh publicly hosts symposia, publishes journals, and distributes the "International Letter" to its members. The ESHPh is actively chronicling the historiography of the history of photography in Europe.

Imaginary (sociology)

The imaginary (or social imaginary) is the set of values, institutions, laws, and symbols common to a particular social group and the corresponding society through which people imagine their social whole. The concept of the imaginary has attracted attention in sociology, philosophy, and media studies.


An instalment (or installment in American English) usually refers to either:

A sum of money paid in small parts in a fixed period of time.

a single payment within a staged payment plan of a loan or a hire purchase (installment plan).

an episode in a television or radio series

an entry in a film series

serial (literature), a publishing format under which a single large work is presented in contiguous successive publications

International Standard Serial Number

An International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) is an eight-digit serial number used to uniquely identify a serial publication. The ISSN is especially helpful in distinguishing between serials with the same title. ISSN are used in ordering, cataloging, interlibrary loans, and other practices in connection with serial literature.The ISSN system was first drafted as an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) international standard in 1971 and published as ISO 3297 in 1975. ISO subcommittee TC 46/SC 9 is responsible for maintaining the standard.

When a serial with the same content is published in more than one media type, a different ISSN is assigned to each media type. For example, many serials are published both in print and electronic media. The ISSN system refers to these types as print ISSN (p-ISSN) and electronic ISSN (e-ISSN), respectively. Conversely, as defined in ISO 3297:2007, every serial in the ISSN system is also assigned a linking ISSN (ISSN-L), typically the same as the ISSN assigned to the serial in its first published medium, which links together all ISSNs assigned to the serial in every medium.

Mad River (novel)

Mad River is a western novel by Donald Hamilton.

Murder Twice Told

Murder Twice Told is a collection of two short thrillers by Donald Hamilton.

Night Walker

Night Walker is a spy novel by Donald Hamilton.

Penny dreadful

Penny dreadfuls were cheap popular serial literature produced during the nineteenth century in the United Kingdom. The pejorative term is roughly interchangeable with penny horrible, penny awful, and penny blood. The term typically referred to a story published in weekly parts, each costing one penny. The subject matter of these stories was typically sensational, focusing on the exploits of detectives, criminals, or supernatural entities. First published in the 1830s, penny dreadfuls featured characters such as Sweeney Todd, Dick Turpin and Varney the Vampire. The Guardian described penny dreadfuls as “Britain’s first taste of mass-produced popular culture for the young.”While the term "penny dreadful" was originally used in reference to a specific type of literature circulating in mid-Victorian Britain, it came to encompass a variety of publications that featured cheap sensational fiction, such as story papers and booklet "libraries". The penny dreadfuls were printed on cheap wood pulp paper and were aimed at young working class men. More than a million boys’ periodicals were sold a week, but the popularity of penny dreadfuls was challenged in the 1890s by the rise of competing literature, especially the half-penny periodicals published by Alfred Harmsworth.

Procedural (genre)

A procedural is a cross-genre type of literature, film, or television program involving a sequence of technical detail. A documentary film may be written in a procedural style to heighten narrative interest.


Prolefeed is a Newspeak term in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. It is used to describe the deliberately superficial entertainment including literature, movies and music that were produced by Prolesec, a section of the Ministry of Truth, to keep the "proles" (i.e., proletariat) content and to prevent them from becoming too knowledgeable. The ruling Party believes that too much knowledge could motivate the proles to rebel against them. In the novel, Prolesec is described in detail:

The term is used occasionally to describe shallow entertainment in the real world. For example, Charles Spencer, reviewing the Queen musical We Will Rock You for the Daily Telegraph, described it as 'prolefeed at its worst'. Theodore Dalrymple wrote in The Spectator that "France .... is less dominated by mass distraction (known here as popular culture, but in Nineteen Eighty-Four as prolefeed) than Britain is."

Serialization (disambiguation)

Serialization, in computer science, is the process of saving an object so that it can be re-created.

Serialization is also another, perhaps more correct name for thread or process synchronization.

Serialization or serialisation may also refer to:

Serial (literature), told in contiguous installments in sequential issues of a single periodical publication

Serializability, in databases and transaction processing

Seriality, a term used in political science, gender studies, and existentialism

Serial verb construction, a feature of the grammar of some languages

Smoky Valley

Smoky Valley is a western novel by Donald Hamilton.

The Big Country (Hamilton novel)

The Big Country is a Western novel by Donald Hamilton, Originally serialized in The Saturday Evening Post as Ambush at Blanco Canyon.

Ursule Mirouët

Ursule Mirouët, an often overlooked novel, belongs to Honoré de Balzac’s great series of 94 novels and short stories La Comédie humaine. First published in 1841, it forms part of his Scènes de la vie de province.The action of the novel takes place in Nemours, though with flashbacks to Paris. It is set in the years 1829–1837.

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