Recently, I settled down with my Kindle to read a book that was described as the first in a series. The opening scene was captivating, and the story drew me in immediately. I was zipping through the chapters, eager to find out what happened next. Then about six chapters in, just as the story adventure was truly getting started, the book ended. I would have to wait for the next book in the series to come out.
I was upset. I felt cheated. I cared about the characters. I had invested a couple of hours in reading, and I wanted a satisfying ending without waiting weeks or months for the next book to appear. My dissatisfaction was a direct result of the wrong wording in the book description. This book was not the first novel in a series; it was a serialized novel.
A series means that each book will have a story complete in itself: a beginning, a middle, and an end. Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series is an example. Imaging if you were in the middle of one of her crime novels and told you’d have to buy another book to learn who committed the murder. In a series, the major characters may be carried over into another book, but the main plot is not. Examples from television would be any series, for example The Middle or Criminal Minds, in which each weekly show contains a complete story.
A serialized novel is one in which the story is told in parts. Back in the days when magazines published a lot of fiction, they often carried a serialized novel through several issues, a method that had readers subscribing or looking for the next month’s magazine on store racks. The daytime soap operas are examples of television serials. I am a great General Hospital fan, but I know that I am only seeing a piece of a story each time I tune in. I am not expecting a story with any ending.
So my problem with the serialized novel is not with the form itself, but with authors who are incorrectly dubbing their work as a series. Please, authors, use the correct term so I will know what to expect and won’t be disappointed when the book comes to an abrupt end and the story is left hanging. Instead, I will be intrigued and looking forward to the next episode.