Angie James has become my cliffhanger warning sign. She’s like a giant “CAUTION! DETOUR!” sign at the edge of a literary cliff, warning me away lest I cast myself over the edge and get ripshit pissed off on the way down. She’s warned me off three books now that have cliffhanger endings in the middle of the series, thus ensuring that I will wait until I know the story is completed before I try the series.
Why? Because I HATE cliffhangers.
Some of it is based on Ye Olde Romance Reader’s Expectation, wherein I expect the ending to be, you know, the ending, and I expect it also to be happy. Economically speaking, I like to know I’m buying an entire story when I buy a book.
I have heard many authors on Twitter and Facebook complaining that readers who wait for the series to be complete damage the chance that the series will exist at all past a few books.
My answer: series that contain books which end with cliffhangers damage the chance that I’ll buy the series at all, no matter how long it is. Or how awesome. Because I hate cliffhangers.
There are series wherein each book is a complete tale, with a larger story arc to be completed over the course of several books. I’m down with that. What I am so not on board with is a tale of romance with a killer cliffhanger ending that I have to wait to find out what REALLY happened in the REAL end of the book.
Finishing a book with an ending that leaves the characters with a “happy for now” before laying potential groundwork for the next book is one thing – I’m usually ok with that. There are some long running series (cough cough JD Robb cough cough) that stand alone individually but are made more powerful by the over-arching development of all the characters.
And then there are books that end with the written equivalent of Who Shot JR?
I tweeted about this a week or so ago, about how much I hated them, and someone said, “I guess you don’t like tv much, huh?” Different situation.
Who Shot JR? and the Dallas season finale cliffhanger got a lot of press and is still among the best known cliffhangers - but viewers only had to wait a few months to get the answer when the fall season started up again.
Unless we are talking back to back releases, readers may have to wait six to eight months, upwards of a year or possibly more, find out what happens. And what if something happens to the author (heaven forbid)? There’s a lot of What Ifs in publishing, from contacts to basic mortality. From my budgetary and readerly standpoint, I want the whole story when I buy a book, or I want to know I can buy all the fractured pieces of the story so I can read them all together.
And I appreciate the warning about cliffhanger endings like you would NOT believe. I will wait until Hex Hall 3 comes out before I read Demonglass, Hex Hall 2. I really liked Hex Hall #1, and thought it was terrifically fun YA. But hearing that #2 ends in a cliffhanger means I’ll wait until maybewheneverpants for #3 before I go for #2.
I will wait for Stacey Kade’s YA series to have the answer to the cliffhanger advertised in the blurb for book 2 before I pick book 3. Packed with romance, lovable characters, and a killer cliffhanger, Queen of the Dead is the out-of-this-world sequel to The Ghost and the Goth. What what? Aw HELL no. Thanks for the warning, but not for me. I wait for book 3. And is there a mention of when book 3 comes out? Not that I can find. Daggnabbit.
I often make the mistake of taking cliffhanger endings personally – you might have gleaned that from the vitriolic rage up in here. I find them so offensive and irritating, most especially if I hath shelled out the doubloons for Ye Olde Hardcover.
But at a dinner discussion at RT, I found a lot of readers felt the same way. One said she was unwilling to start a series that had received incredible reviews, whose fans were clamoring for the final installment, because she heard direct from the author that the final chapters of the trilogy would be at least another year in coming. Another said she was irate when she purchased a romance and found herself within a half-inch of the end of the book knowing that there was no way the author could pull together all the plot threads. It was either a deus ex machina magical ending, or a cliffhanger, and either option was bad. And yet she’d invested so much energy and time and emotion into reading the book, she was mad knowing that her time spent would not yield the expected payoff.
Kevin Smokler of BookTour said at a panel he was on at SXSW that inviting someone to read your book is not like a casual date, or having coffee with someone. It’s dinner and a movie and possibly making out afterward: you are asking the reader to spend a lot of time with your book, so you have to make sure that the product is pitched at the right audience who will find their investment of time worth the price.
This fits my reaction perfectly. In my reading, I appreciate the warning signs of cliffhangers, because I get irate when I’ve invested time, emotion and energy only to discover I don’t have the whole story.
What about you? What’s your call on cliffhangers? This is not a new question, (ETA) and Jane is also ruminating on reader feelings about cliffhangers today, but I’m curious if, with the increasing number of series in all different sub-genres, your feelings about cliffhangers are a little different from mine.