Small Insane Rant

I know we’ve talked about this before but . . .

WHAT THE FUCK IS UP WITH PEOPLE WRITING BOOKS WITHOUT ENDINGS?

I just skimmed one–tried to read it but it was slow–and skipped to the end where the heroine and her best friend are kidnapped and the heroine escapes but the best friend is still missing and the end is the hero and his best friend heading out to find the missing best friend because of course you have to buy the next book to find out . . .

Yeah, I’m never buying this author again. A story moves from stability to stability to create a unified and satisfying whole. I don’t give a damn what genre, what worldview, what politics, what anything, you finish the damn story or your reader isn’t satisfied. Thank god I didn’t care about anybody in this story or I’d have been really angry. The fact that this one alone didn’t finish wouldn’t be enough to spur this rant, but this is a damn TREND? Somebody said “Here’s how to maximize your sales while losing readers?” and people said, “Yeah, that’s a good idea?” Is this happening in other genres or is just in New Age Romance?

This is worse than smirking, worse than head-hopping, much worse than prologues and epilogues. This is story abuse. Respect the craft people, and respect your readers who are not your cash cows.

Rant over, anger continues.

33+

56 thoughts on “Small Insane Rant

  1. That sucks. If I wanted crap, miserable, non-endings I’d go read existentialist litfic (which to be fair, I sometimes do). And I don’t mind being surprised, but no ending at all makes me want to scream.

    Talking of screaming, y’all might appreciate this Twitter thread:
    “…please take joy in this thread of romances with Angry Heroines as warrior women on screen.”

    https://twitter.com/CLAficionado/status/1339546022968737792?s=19

    I’m about to scroll for my TBR.

    7+
  2. This is a trend at least across all romance, possibly more genres. It’s Amazon’s fault: they make it hard for readers to tell how long a ‘book’ is if it’s only offered in electronic format. And they made it sound like self-publishing was easy and lucrative. So a lot of people have gone into writing fiction with a drug-dealer-type business plan: always leave them needing the next fix, never resolve anything, and what is alleged to be a series of 5 novels is actually 5 installments, 25,000 words each, of only one story arc. (Note for anyone who doesn’t keep track: a standard novel like you see on a physical shelf is usually 80,000 to 100,000 words.)

    I’ve learned to be very cautious about unfamiliar authors. I look for reviews, and watch for red flags like “the continuing adventures of…” or “our heroes continue battling the X”. And if it’s marked as part of a series, and not explicitly described as “a standalone, complete story” then I won’t buy it. Borrow from the library maybe, but even for free I do not like being offered a story and then given only part of one.

    18+
    1. … As someone selling books on Amazon, that is good to know. I thought “standalone, complete story” went without saying for your average light and fluffy contemporary romance, but it’s helpful to know that now needs to be specified. Thank you.

      12+
    2. I don’t review enough of the books I read. I especially don’t like to invest any effort into reviewing books I didn’t like. But it’s obvious with the number of wall bangers being offered, that if I *do* buy and read one of those books, I owe a one-star review to warn others. I should also “return for refund” because that, more than a bad review, will get Amazon’s attention.

      Maybe I could make a resolution for 2021 after all.

      13+

    3. If you are talking about kindle books, look wwaaayyyy down after the description. In tiny letters it say how many pages. I pay attention to that because I’m a fast reader and I want a long book. Of course they don’t tell you how many words are on the pages but you just assume it is like a normal book.

      10+
  3. It’s a bit like being in the middle of sex, and just when things are coming to a boil your partner rolls over and says, “Great, let’s pick this up again next week.” NO!!

    29+
  4. For context, is it possible this book was intended as an instalment in a serialized story?

    I ask because there are some authors choosing to release some of their stories that way. Yet many also write full-length complete stories with conclusive endings ergo not all their books are instalments and these smaller books don’t necessarily reflect their overall writing style.

    My understanding, though, is that serialized stories are marked as such so readers know what they’re getting in advance. And they are usually priced very low.

    From what I’ve heard, there are two main intentions behind writers releasing these stories in pieces: One is to offer new content to readers sooner; and the other is to increase author visibility on vendor sites by continually “feeding” the system with new books to maintain their discoverability and attract new readers.

    Since many authors are essentially running their own businesses (especially indie & hybrid pubbed authors), they are constantly evolving new ways to keep themselves on the “shelves” to keep afloat in a sea of books. And constantly looking for ways to keep their readers happy with fresh content without waiting a full year for each complete novel.

    So while some writers do put out books with cliffhanger endings, there’s also an increase in episodic stories in a “stay tuned next week for the next episode” way rather than “here’s a cliffhanger to force you get the next book or annoy you” way.

    That said, if you didn’t expect a book to be episodic, it could definitely be frustrating. As a reader, I’m more a “whole story” kind of gal myself.

    8+
    1. Unless a book is subtitled “Part One,” I expect a conclusion.
      It’s not that I’m against new structures, new approaches. It’s that this is reader abuse and, if the unresolved ending isn’t specified, it’s fraud.
      I think it’s also just a bad idea from a practical standpoint. Unsatisfied readers means loss of sales.

      21+
  5. For context, is it possible this book was intended as an instalment in a serialized story?

    I ask because there are some authors choosing to release some of their stories that way. Yet many also write full-length complete stories with conclusive endings ergo not all their books are instalments and these smaller books don’t necessarily reflect their overall writing style.

    My understanding, though, is that serialized stories are marked as such so readers know what they’re getting in advance. And they’re priced low as well.

    From what I’ve heard, there are two main intentions behind writers releasing these stories in pieces: One is to offer new content to readers sooner; and the other is to increase author visibility on vendor sites by continually “feeding” the system with new books to maintain their discoverability and attract new readers.

    Since many authors are essentially running their own businesses (especially indie & hybrid pubbed authors), they are constantly evolving new ways to keep themselves on the “shelves” to keep afloat in a sea of books. And constantly looking for ways to keep their readers happy with fresh content without waiting a full year for each complete novel.

    So while some writers do put out books with cliffhanger endings, there’s also an increase in episodic stories in a “stay tuned next week for the next episode” way rather than “here’s a cliffhanger to force you to get the next book or annoy you” way.

    That said, if you didn’t expect a book to be episodic, it could definitely be frustrating. As a reader, I’m more a “whole story” kind of gal myself:)

    8+
  6. I agree. I have rage quit a few TV shows because they did not finish off the episode and then the next episode (I’m glaring at you, Stargate Universe) had absolutely nothing to do with the last one and you’re all, what the FUCK?!?!

    10+
  7. And this is one of the reasons why I tend to reread. I know what I’m getting. Although to be fair, I have read one or two interesting new authors lately. Mostly they’ve been recommended here so I know I can trust them.

    15+
  8. Straight up, I’m naming names. Not bashing, explaining. Lindsay Buroker does this a lot and I can’t handle it.

    I bought a few like the complete Chains of Honor series. And some of Dragon Blood because I was desperate for a certain type of fantasy book. I read Emperor’s Edge after that and I do not own books 6 to 9 in the latter series. I care for the characters but I got tired.

    It’s part of the self-pub business model. Make the first three free or near to and then jack up the prices of the last book. I feel the rand-dollar exchange rate is too bad for me to put up with this betrayal.

    I don’t live in another Dickensian era where the books need serialising in my newspaper for poverty-stricken me to read. My budget-concious self will buy good books from smart series by awesome authors such as Talia Hibbert and Alisha Rai. These authors’ books stand alone [b]beautifully.[/b]

    I make a specific effort now to read 1 and 2 star reviews to see if the story is a cliffhanger. Sometimes I am the author on Twitter in reply to a promo tweet they post. If it stands alone well and is in third- person pov, I one-click pretty quickly.

    10+
    1. If you’ve written a good book as the first in your series, you can still end it satisfyingly and get my money for the next one. Martha Wells, for example; I’ll buy the Murderbot books without looking at the price now (which is the best way because they’re pricey). The tag-you’re-it marketing they do that gets me is the notice to pre-order the next book. I have both the next Murderbot and the sequel to Deadly Education on order now.
      But if an author betrays me on the first book, she’s dead to me for any others. Reading is a partnership and she just screwed me over to con more money out of me? Nope.

      17+
    2. I disagree with you about Lindsay Buroker. The Emperor’s Edge books are for the most part complete stories, with the obvious exception where books 6 and 7 are specifically titled Forged in Blood Part 1 and Forged in Blood Part 2.

      And her current Death Before Dragons series, books 7,8 and 9 are titled Secrets of the Sword Book 1, 2 and 3. So she makes it obvious that they’re not a complete story, though book 1 comes pretty close, book 2 came out a month later and book 3 will come out six weeks after book 2. They are also full length novels at 120,000+ words each.

      The only book of hers that I have read (which is most of them) is between books 2 and 3 of the Chains of Honor series, of four books (which I highly recommend), where the main character ends book 2 in the brig of a ship that’s chasing a pirate, and the author specifically apologizes for leaving him there in the foreword to book 3.

      4+
      1. I understand what you’re saying, it seems episodic in the style of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with standalone individual episodes and and over-arching series narrative. But to me, her individual stories leave too many loose ends that lead to the overarching narrative that it’s not a satisfying ending.

        3+
      2. I agree about Buroker, Gary, although I can see why others might not. I find the individual books satisfying, even knowing that there’s a larger arc over the course of the books. I’ve quit some of the Buroker series that just weren’t working for me and didn’t feel compelled to find out the answer to the bigger arc. I probably wouldn’t recommend reading them out of order, but I wouldn’t recommend reading the Murderbot novellas out of order either, so in that sense, they’re not standalone either. Having that longer arc is part of what I like about them so much.

        3+
        1. In some cases that’s true. For instance the Star Kingdom series is definitely episodic, in that although each book is a complete story and they succeed in their immediate goal for that book (for certain values of succeed) they still haven’t succeeded in accomplishing the task their King wants them (is forcing them) to. And even when they do (since he’s lying about his real goal) they manage to accomplish what he told them to do while subverting what he actually wants them to do (because he’s evil). But it was planned that way, and you can stop anytime you either stop enjoying the individual stories and don’t care enough about the overall story arc.

          But really any trilogy does that. Star Wars is a standalone, but The Empire Strikes Back is not. And can you really stop reading The Lord of the Rings after Fellowship or The Two Towers and say you’ve gotten a complete story?

          I just felt that Sure Thing was being unfair to Lindsay Buroker in that she doesn’t (almost never) gives you half a story (or less) in a book and they are definitely full length novels. She just does what almost every other trilogy author does, not what Jenny was complaining about.

          3+
  9. Years ago when I took my husband to see the first LOTR movie, we went to a matinee on opening day, when there were only a few people in the theater. Larry was a big fan of the books, and I had found them impossible to read, but I did know how the first story concluded, or didn’t. At the end of the movie when Frodo turned and just walked away into the distance and the music rose and the house lights came up, a few rows ahead of us a young man jumped to his feet and yelled at the screen, “WHAT THE FUCK?!?! Is that IT?!?” I have to assume that there must’ve been lots of first-time readers of Tolkein’s book who reacted the same way.

    13+
    1. Pet Peeve. I read the Trilogy of the Ring in ’69, and found it boring. Were there exciting parts? Of course. Surrounded by the boring parts. In fact, the Harvard Lampoon published a parody, Bored of the Rings, which was better than the trilogy IMNSHO.

      Over the years, others have said it was supposed to be a single book, not a trilogy, but publishers couldn’t make books that thick, so they busted it up. That explains why the movies don’t necessarily end at logical points.

      8+
      1. Ha, you’re doing better than me. I’ve failed to get through them three times, and I’m a fantasy-reading NZer so I’m really letting the side down.

        I’m a big fan of the costuming though, so that counts I’m sure.

        11+
        1. I have read The Hobbit many times, but only read The Lord of the Rings once. I found many parts of it boring, and I just didn’t like the characters as well. Sam. Sam was good. My wife rereads the Lord of the Rings every year, or did for several decades. Then I introduced her to Pratchett and now she rereads Pterry’s entire ouvre every year instead.

          6+
          1. I read them when I was 11, learned to write in runes, and never reread them. They felt very heavy to me.

            1+
      2. I read them in college, had a really nice hardcover set of the trilogy, but finally gave those away when I had to reduce the Giant Library to something movable. Then one of my best friends turned around and gave me his set, which happened to be a 1965 edition (the year I was born) and I was like ‘well I guess I’m not getting away from these.’ No desire to re-read in this format. If I ever do, it’ll be on ebook because damn so many words.

        1+
      3. I read The Hobbit at 11 and the next year found the LotR books. I was definitely caught! I used to read the series every year, but since leaving Oregon and the majority of my stuff in storage, I haven’t had them and I don’t want to buy new books. I love them, don’t think they are boring, and loved the movies. I didn’t like The Hobbit movies and didn’t even bother to watch the last one.

        2+
  10. Interesting. I have often complained about series on arghink — I don’t read them — but I enjoyed rereading the Lord of the Rings trilogy even more in my 60s than the first read in my teens. However, I prefer The Hobbit to the trilogy.

    I have never watched the movies — the actors don’t look at all like my vision of hobbits.

    7+
  11. One of my long time favourite series – historical, not romance – is the Lymond Chronicle by Dorothy Dunnett. Books no. 2-5 end with a cliffhanger. Quite major ones. But the 500+ pages leading up to the end are such a roller coaster ride that the reader kind of needs a rest before diving into the next installment. The internal structure of each book doesn’t follow any arc-theory as far as I noticed. However, I might have been too deeply immersed into the story to notice.
    Each book also deals with a certain distinct period of the hero’s internal development so it kind of feels like a segment completed, and so to me, it didn’t feel like betrayal by the author. Also, with book 6 everything wrapped up nicely. Without epilogue 😉
    The series is very dense and complex. I’ve started to read the books in a certain very impressionable age (teens to mid-twenties) and re-read them often before I got the kids.
    I’m happy I did find them back then because these days I might find them over-dramatic and exhausting – my attention span is not the same as it used to be.

    This said, a book must have a tremendous charm to keep me reading and not feeling betrayed when it ends on a cliffhanger. But the book you mentioned didn’t even seem to have finished on a proper cliffhanger? But just didn’t continue and end? Bad style. Rage more than earned.

    7+
    1. I have nothing important to say here except YAY YAY ANOTHER LYMOND FAN YAY!

      I have to admit… if I had started it at the age I am now, I don’t know if I’d have given her a chance after book 2 ended like it did. At the time, though, I was a lot younger and more willing and I was absolutely riveted. Book one was kinda hard for me to initially get into, but once my brain adjusted to her rhythms, I was completely hooked.

      [The live chess scene… and what else is happening there… to this day is burned in my memory as one of the most intense scenes I’ve ever read. I sobbed uncontrollably, and I never cry.]

      7+
      1. OMG, others who remember Dorothy Dunnett! I LOVED the Lymond series. Now I want to go reread them. I wonder if I can find them.

        6+
        1. I’ve found them again on audible 🙂
          The first and second (in German) I loaned from the libeary, then no others were available. On a visit to Wales I found the third in English snd then i went hunting. The all sit on my favourite series shelf still. Even made my hubby try them ;-).

          4+
        2. Yes !!! Another Dorothy Dunnett fan here – I have all the Lymond books & the House of Niccolo books.

          If I find them in Thrift Stores I buy them and post them at Paperbackswap.com.

          6+
      2. Very, very intense scene indeed!!

        I also love, love, love Philippa 🙂

        This series kickstarted my love for reading in the original. Imagine having to read those complicated as a non native speaker just because only the first few were translated…
        I’m eternally grateful.

        6+
    2. Dunnett Fans! Whee!

      They’re all available in kindle format — Lymond Chronicles, House of Niccolò series, and my personal favorite, the standalone KING HEREAFTER, and, if you haven’t looked at them in many years, there are also two companion volumes by Elspeth Morrison (paperback only), compendia of the historical and literary references in the books, titled THE DOROTHY DUNNETT COMPANION and THE DOROTHY DUNNETT COMPANION, Volume II. More recently there’s THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO DOROTHY DUNNETT’S THE GAME OF KINGS: An illustrated, encyclopedic resource of translations and historical, literary, … in the order in which they appear in the book, by Laura Caine Ramsey. Reviews say that it’s ideal to read GAME OF KINGS with this book handy.

      And, in case anyone’s interested, here are the links to the pages for the Opera version of Lymond:

      FRANCESO E FILIPA
      http://www.simonhedges.com/nikadoweb/francesco.htm

      and the Opera version of Niccolò:

      THE NIKADO
      http://www.simonhedges.com/nikadoweb/p/pwebscript.htm

      Both good for a laugh!

      4+
    3. Huzzah! It just makes me happy to find more Dunnett fans! I talked a group into reading the Lymond series together on GoodReads a couple of years ago. It was so much fun to 1) reread those books 2) see them through the eyes of new fans.

      I need to put the Niccolo series back on my radar. Thank you for the reminder. 🙂

      5+
  12. I think it adds insult to injury when an author charges $14-15 for each SLIM installment. There’s a series I’m thinking about, of which I bought the first 3 books before realizing it was ultimately going to be a nine book series. So this story was going to cost me close to $150 to finish. No thanks.

    As for LOTR, I love it, but I admit there are parts that I skip over when I re-read. Like large portions of the 2nd volume.

    6+
  13. The cliffhanger thing seems to rise and fall as a practice among self-pubbed authors (whom I’ll be joining as one of my series’ rights has been reverted to me, so I’ll be re-releasing it soon). I remember it being a big deal about five years ago in the self-pub discussion boards, something to do with how people got paid in Kindle Unlimited, I think, where thinner books got more money, and readers were angry about how many books ended in cliffhangers, but the authors said that despite reviews that hated the cliffhanger, readers were in fact continuing to buy the next book. I think there was another change to KU that made the serials less profitable, and maybe reader anger grew, so it kind of fell out of favor. Sounds like it’s coming back.

    But I promise never to do it! I suspect that mystery readers in particular wouldn’t put up with it.

    8+
  14. When I was in college an author whose first book I had *really* liked wrote a second novel, unrelated to the first one, called The Architect of Sleep, which was fabulous. Incredible world building, interesting plot and characters, where a character from our world travels to an alternate earth where primates never evolved and the dominant species are raccoons who did. But it just ends, without warning, in mid-story, possibly with a … To Be Continued. But it wasn’t. It’s rumored that he did complete a manuscript but it was destroyed in a house fire, and for 25 years he didn’t write another word. And when he finally did it was a sequel to his first book, Ariel, which was wonderful but it was a standalone that came to a conclusion and didn’t really need a sequel. What we really needed was the second half of the story in The Architect of Sleep, which still doesn’t exist :(. So I feel Jenny’s pain.

    7+
    1. Apparently a lot of mystery series readers worry about that sort of thing, having a one-off (finished or not), when they crave more in the same world/community. Even where each book is a complete story, they want to be sure there will be a sufficient number of stories in the series (they used to say seven, now it’s probably up to ten), so they won’t buy the early books, waiting for the full quota, which of course is self-defeating, because if lots of people do that, the publisher sees poor sales of the first ones, usually three in mystery, and then don’t renew the series, so it never gets to the number the reader was waiting for, and then the reader (sometimes) complains about the author not sticking to a series. Sigh. I do love writing. It’s the publishing stuff that’s so hard.

      8+
  15. I HATE cliffhanger endings. and once I find one, I almost never read another one by that Author. That’s how I stopped reading Robin McKinley whom I had loved for years.
    Fool me once – your bad. Fool me twice – my bad. Now Jude Deveraux co-wrote a truly awful unfinished book. I hate to give her up but I am going to be super cautious about buying anything of hers again. To me, a book is an unwritten contract between the storyteller and the reader which implies a complete story.
    I understand Robyn Carr’s Virgin River Series on Netflix has a cliffhanger ending to the second season so that one’s off my list. (I read all the books and there were no cliffhanger endings in them.)
    On The other hand, my critique partner realised a three books series called the Blue Coat. The books were .99 each and up-front she said it was a three-part story. I bought those.
    PS Jen, I mentioned your wonderful podcast on Shelf love on my blog.

    5+
    1. Oops. My critique partner – one of them – is Belle Ami and the books are now 2.99 each.. I am glad I got them when they were .99. They are free to read on Kindle unlimited. https://www.amazon.com/Blue-Coat-Saga-Book/dp/B08PBS5WRR

      Belle’s mother was lying two humans over from Anne Frank when Anne died in the Bergen Belson Concentration camp. Belle’s mother is still living and I believe her experiences provided some of the background for the Blue Coat series.

      9+
    1. I think Seeing a Large Cat was the last one I read. thanks for the heads up. Someday I’ll return to the series and finish it.

      1+
  16. As part of 2021 Writer Business I’m thinning my backlist and rewriting product descriptions. Last year I rewrote ‘from the author’ to specify each title is standalone. The descriptions already said whether it was a novella or a novel. Now I’m going back to put that information (novella or novel) as the first line of the description, and putting the word count at the end of the description.

    Re: Kindle Unlimited, I’ve been enrolling my things since late 2018 and there was no sign that I ever received a dime from pages read, so I am now un-enrolling the novels. I’m hoping someday someone will want to read one of those and will be willing to actually buy it. 🙂 The novellas will still be enrolled since I mostly give those away anyway (most downloads are when I do a free-book promotion).

    I don’t entirely blame other self-pub authors from trying every trick to get eyeballs. My own experience of invisibility would be pretty much unbearable *if* I really needed the income. Fortunately I have another full-time job which pays my bills, including ad buys. 🙂

    There is a limit to what I’m willing to spend on promotion. A BookBub deal, for example: based on their pricing and response statistics, I would end up losing money. So even if I got a deal, and even if I ‘sold’ a lot of books, is it ultimately worth it? Only if the people who bought the books went on to buy others of mine and actually pay for them. I don’t have enough faith that the BookBub blurb writer would attract the right readers.

    They are out there somewhere. I believe that someone who reads one of mine and likes it would want to read others. Maybe this year’s revisions will help. In the meantime, if any Arghers are so inclined, I promise each of mine has an actual Ending.

    3+
  17. I, too, hate the serial books that don’t tell you they are serials — I agree completely with what Jenny said. I really don’t like serial books, but I do like series. Big difference. I won’t read serial books. Just no. And I detest cliffhangers.

    5+
  18. I now include in my Survival Race blurbs that the books are stand alone stories in a series in which each book’s couple gets their happily ever after. I also include “no cliff hanger” and “no cheating” so people know up front what they’re getting. I don’t know if this is a good strategy or not, but figured I’d put it out there.

    5+
  19. Cliffhangers are the thing most likely to make me ditch an author or to keep me from reading a book if I know about it in advance. I make exceptions for the occasional serialized story, but that’s completely different to me. I read a review of a book that sounded great, and the review was glowing; but then they said the book ended on a cliffhanger and even though the second one was out and the story seems to be complete with it, I passed. It may be great, but knowing about the cliffhanger makes me suspicious. It would take a lot of faith built up over other books by an author to make me trust them if there is a cliffhanger.

    1+
  20. The only cliffhanger I have ever not hated (actually enjoyed) was Diana Gabaldon’s at the end of Dragonfly In Amber. I think that may be the best ending to a book I’ve ever read. It seemed like an actual stopping point. Now, there are others that I have to go back & read previous books to figure out what’s going on. They just stop in the middle of a scene. I hate that.

    There are a few Women’s Suspense writers who publish the story in 3 books. I really don’t care for that.

    1+

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