Thursday, March 2, 2017

Is It the End of the (Publishing) World as We Know It?

Dear lord IABB Confessions got me lit today. Just a quick reminder that neither IABB nor the graphics artist are responsible for the content of the confession, they merely provide the graphics and the platform for their airing. The confession itself was submitted anonymously, and only represents the views of the anonymous confessor. 

Y'all, there is just so much wrong with this confession, in my opinion. To start with, this confessor just admitted to stealing books. Yes, if you buy a book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, read the entire book, and then return it for a full refund, that is STEALING. There is no world where that is morally acceptable. That is no different than going to a restaurant, eating your entire meal, and then demanding it be free because the steak was overcooked. But maybe you're the kind of person who would do that too. 

Now I don't entirely disagree with writing a "shitty" review and never buying another book the author writes again. That is at least your right as a consumer. Using my restaurant scenario, that's kind of exactly what we expect to happen, to an extent, in fact. You get an overdone steak at a restaurant one time, so you go on Yelp and leave your scathing one star review, obviously neglecting to mention that you got the meal for free because the steak was overdone. Then you just never go back, because obviously if you got one bad steak there, you'll never get food that tastes good, ever. The good news is that your "shitty" review is actually going to encourage more people to buy the book, at least people that like cliffhangers. And most other people are going to realize that you're the douchewad in this situation. But it's okay. I've probably posted a review or two where I was a douchewad as well. 

Then there's the edict about marketing the cliffhanger if you've chosen to write one. While you're at it, could you go ahead and tell me if it was in fact General Mustard in the library with the rope. Just save me the trouble of reading your book altogether, because honestly, if you're going to market your book as having a cliffhanger from the get-go, you might as well tell me everything else up front too. And readers who want to know if books have cliffhangers, I get it. You likely don't deal with the loose threads at the end of the story very well and would likely prefer to move on to the next story in the series right away. I understand being furious about that little taste of excitement to come at the end of book. I have an author or two whom I proofread for that I have told I hate them more than once for leaving me hanging at the end of a book because I want the next book right now damnit. So I get your frustration, I do. But if you can be a little patient, eventually someone will probably write a review that will tell you whether or not the book in question ends in a cliffhanger. Because, you see, there are also a lot of us that don't want to know if a book has a cliffhanger or an HEA or what have you. We want to be surprised by the story, and being told right off the bat that a book has a cliffhanger is a rather large spoiler.  

And I've gotta' say that I don't understand the argument that writing a book with a cliffhanger is a con that will leave people feeling cheated. Just because a book ends with a cliffhanger doesn't mean it's not a complete story. Those two things are not mutually exclusive. When the major conflict of a story is resolved, that story is essentially complete. A cliffhanger after that is just a promise of more excitement to come. I'm going to use The Giver by Lois Lowry as an example here, and this will contain spoilers. In the story, Jonas lives in a utopian society where they've somehow created sameness. With sameness everything is in black and white, and everything about the society is micro-managed by a group of leaders. These leaders literally decide pretty much everything about the citizens lives, including when they will be issued children (each family gets one boy and one girl.) Sameness has a drawback though. Someone needs to remember what the world was like before sameness, to include the war and suffering of millions of people. When Jonas reaches the age to receive his job, that's the one he gets. It's a job that is held in high regard, but it quickly becomes apparent that it's kind of a shitty job. But the biggest reason it sucks is because Jonas comes to realize just how wrong some of the communities' rules are on a moral level. But no one else in the community realizes they're wrong, or why, because they don't have the memories and the knowledge that Jonas is obtaining. So Jonas and the Giver hatch a plot for Jonas to escape the community, which will release the memories he holds to the entire community, so that hopefully things can get better (the only other child in the community that might be able to act as the Receiver of Memory is like 5, so not old enough to take on the job for far too long, and the Giver is OLD, so not physically able to do it much longer.) And he does. Jonas manages to escape the community, to get to Elsewhere. The memories he's been holding onto start to fade for him, so he knows that they've gone back to the community. The book ends with him flying down a hill on a sled with the baby he kidnapped (because the baby was going to be killed), freezing in the snow, using his last memory of sunshine to keep the baby warm, and "they" are waiting for him, to welcome him. But we don't know if "they" actually did welcome him, or who "they" even are. I actually thought that end sequence signaled that he and the baby are dead, and that sled is their ride to the afterlife. I was wrong about that, but with the information I had from the story, it made just as much sense as what actually happened. And what actually happened is part of another story. This one was complete. The main conflict was resolved. It ended, but there was the implication that there was more to come. I didn't feel cheated by this book. I did feel curious about "they" though. (Side note: I'm currently reading about "they" in Messenger...and Jonas is there too!) 

So my message to authors: Please don't think that this one confession represents all readers, or even most readers, because it doesn't. (I know most of you won't think that anyway, you're not dumb.) Write your stories the way you want to, and market your stories the way that works best for you. Your books are your business, and you get to manage them the way you want to. I promise, some of us get that. - Katie 

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