I don’t know how many times I’ve seen comments or reviews complaining about this “new” trend for authors to release books in smaller portions. But serials are nothing new!
Library Science defines a serial as “any medium issued under the same title in a succession of discrete parts, usually numbered (or dated) and appearing at regular or irregular intervals with no predetermined conclusion.”
The origins of serial literature go all the way back to the 17th century when movable type was first invented. It was far more economical to break larger work down into smaller portions for release. Even into the 1900s serial fiction was used and quite popular. In fact, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Three Muskateers, and Anna Karenina, among many others were all originally released as serials. Even more modern notable authors–Michael Chabon, Stephen King, and Orson Scott Card–have experimented with the style.
The serial structure is simply appealing to some authors because it works well with their writing style or it may be particularly well suited to a certain story line. Even today it has many benefits because it allows authors to publish more regularly in order to connect with readers. Some distributors (like Amazon) also reward authors for publishing more often by bumping up the ranks and making the books more visible as long as authors are publishing regularly. If authors are writing only long works and waiting several months or even years between works, they’re losing that momentum between each release.
Serials are not a money-grabbing scheme! It’s not a way to torture readers with cliffhangers! It is simply a style of releasing literature that has been around for hundreds of years and allows authors to make a reasonable living.