The very first novel I wrote was (as should be expected) bad. It was slow, there was no character development for the MC, and – perhaps the most common criticism I got – it didn’t have a satisfying ending.
Publishing is uncertain. There’s no guarantee any book will get a sequel, so you can’t leave (major) questions unanswered.
Think of the first Harry Potter book. A young orphan finds out his parents were killed by an evil wizard who was trying to kill him, goes to magic school, and defeats a teacher who is working with that evil wizard. If the next book had never been written, that would have been a satisfying story (although it likely would not have developed into the huge franchise it is today).
Of course, there were threads left open for the sequels: why did the evil wizard try and kill Harry? How did baby Harry beat him? After losing at the end of the book, will the evil wizard try again to return? But, overall, the main points in the story got their closure: we found out who was trying to steal the stone, and he was defeated.
Can you imagine if the book had ended just as Harry arrived in stone’s final hiding place? If the last line of book one had been, “There was already someone there – but it wasn’t Snape. It wasn’t even Voldemort.” TO BE CONTINUED…
Would you have read any further?
Of the 23 books I’ve read this year, 2 have ended like this.
Both books were by established, well-known authors* (although these were the first books of theirs that I’ve read). Both were well-written, engaging, beyond excellent books…until their TO BE CONTINUED endings.
I suppose I can see why the authors and publishers have done this. Since the authors have such good track records, they can assume the books will sell, so the sequels will come. And they probably even assume that readers waiting anxiously for the next books will be more likely to go check out the authors’ other works while they wait.
Leaving me on a cliffhanger did not make me excited for more. In fact, it did the exact opposite. I felt like I had just wasted hours of my life. I was so frustrated by the non-ending of the first book, the fantasy, that I plan to actively avoid all books by that author.
Let’s face it, I’m impatient, and I have a bad memory. By the time the next books come out in 2019**, I’m not going to remember the nuances of the stories enough to read the sequels. All I will remember is the disappointment and anger the books left me with. If the books had been twice as long (yes, even the twenty-plus-hour-long fantasy), but ended satisfactorily, I would have been fine.
Maybe part of it is the fact that both books were audiobooks – I don’t follow along with the tracking, so I had no idea how close the endings were until the narrator announced the dreaded: TO BE CONTINUED.
All I know is that these books left me with a bitter taste in my mouth, and a sense of apprehension about every audiobook I’ve listened to after (maybe that’s why the betrayal of the second book didn’t hit me quite as hard as the first, because the first had already scarred me? But still, who ends a mystery novel on a cliffhanger?)
I NEED CLOSURE, PEOPLE!!!
Ahem. In conclusion, TO BE CONTINUED endings suck, especially when they come without warning and you have to wait 2-4 years (or more?) to find out what happens/whodunnit.
As you were.
*I’m not going to name either the authors or the books, because this is an industry I have to work in. All I will say is that one was a Fantasy and one was a Contemporary Mystery (seriously, who writes a mystery with a TBC ending???).
**And that’s assuming the stories wrap up in 2019. Some research revealed the mystery is slated as a trilogy, which means no closure until 2021, and I’m not sure how many books the fantasy is scheduled to include.