Sunday, July 14, 2013

You Mean That's All?

Over a year ago, I met a pleasant writer on Twitter who had an ebook for sale. I bought it for a buck and it was a really good read. BUT I learned something unpleasant about the Kindle that day. The hero had just gotten out of trouble, and then...

The book ended.

Several story questions remained unanswered. There is a difference between holding a paperback in your sweaty palm and holding an ebook therein. For one thing, you're holding a Kindle, an iPad, or something, but the big thing is that a Kindle feels the same when the book is on page one as it does on page three hundred.

In my decades of reading paperbacks, I could always feel the number of pages on the right side of the spine. When they got thin that gave me tactile feedback that this novel is almost over.

I recall reading Cryptonomicon and thinking, "wow, there's a lot of dangling threads of this novel and there's not that much paper under my thumb." And that novel tied most of them up, but the last chapters felt like a train wreck.

In an ebook, a novel can end without warning. Well, actually, there is a warning, but you have to look for it. There's a progress bar that will tell you if you have the sense to look at it. It's less automatic than a thumb on the book's spine.

My friend clearly intended to write more later. And I had to wait for a sequel future installment. That never came...

Earlier this week I had a similar experience when I read Sliding Void by Stephen Hunt. To be fair, he advertises the work as a novella, and he gives it away free. So, I have no basis to complain. And unlike my friend who hasn't published another installment, both the 2nd and 3rd novellas in Mr. Hunt's series are currently available.

I like the immediacy of independently published ebooks. I also like the fact that the reader is closer to the writer. I don't like having a work abruptly end. When you buy the super-cheap or free ebook, check to see what you're getting and whether you want to buy the rest of the story in parts, or wait for those parts to get written, or risk those parts never getting published.

So, how many stars for Stephen Hunt's Sliding Void? I liked it, but I'm giving him an "incomplete" I'll let you know when I finish the 2nd and 3rd installments.

5 comments:

  1. I've read a couple of those ebooks. Regardless if you bought it for a buck, or twenty. Every story should have reasonable end. Okay to have a few dangling chads. But to end it like a 60's soap opera? Let the organ music play.

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  2. I'm cool with cliff-hangers, but those belong at chapter-breaks. I think you have to have some measure of closure between novels.

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  3. As you said, it's a marketing gimmick, one designed to sell future books. But if the books aren't forthcoming...

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  4. I'm new to writing but as an avid reader, I've made a promise to myself to never (ever) write a book with a cliff-hanger ending. I remember reading a best-selling Sci-Fi series where one of the books ended in an action sequence where the protagonist made this heroic leap...and the book literally ended with him in mid-air. I was so disappointed in the author (and publisher) that I refused to read the sequel (the protagonist can dangle out there forever for all I care). It's a cheap ploy that is beneath a good writer. Honor the reader and give them some closure between books. (Now...my rant is done - smile).

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    1. I think its OK for the last chapter to introduce something unresolved to set up the sequel. I agree that it must honor the reader. I'd be OK if the hero is left in mid-air IF and this is a big IF the reader has had a satisfying sense of closure otherwise.

      To summarize: in an N chapter book, you should resolve almost everything by chapter N-1, and use the last chapter to sell the sequel. In your case, the cliff hanger was an ineffective sales tool.

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