Friday, 6 May 2016

Book Puff by Debbie Bennett

When I read a book, I enter into a temporary relationship with the author. I give them my time – a small fraction of my life: hours and minutes. In return, the author promises to entertain me. Money may or may not exchange hands, and the entertainment may involve laughs, shivers and checking under the bed, but the basic promise remains. Time vs entertainment. If I like the book, I may enter into a longer relationship and buy all of the author’s books. But still there is a promise made.

So I read the book. There’s a build-up of tension (I read mostly crime or thrillers these days). I get to know the characters. The author lets me sit on his shoulder and peer into his world. There’s an agreement that in return for an investment of my time, he will let me stay there and enjoy the view. I’m comfy and it’s looking good.

The little % marker on my kindle climbs slowly. My brain is registering this, processing it in terms of what is, and what will happen in the plot. I’m expecting the big reveal, the climax at some point. And then it arrives and I find out whodunnit and why. Oh wow, I think. Impressive. There’s still some % to go, so this can’t be it. There’s going to be one hell of a twist coming that will turn what I thought was the climax on its head. And I close my kindle and go to work; in the car I’m thinking about the book (am I just weird, or does everybody do that?) and how it’s going to end.

Home from work. Tea on. Mess around online for a bit. I’m on my own tonight, so I’ll finish that novel while I’m eating. Sit down and open my kindle. The promise is still there, not yet delivered and I turn the page, expecting a new chapter.

And I get Amazon’s please rate this book pop-up.

What? Where’s my 5%? My extra twist I was waiting for? It’s not fair! And the last 5% of the “book” is puff: reviews, the first chapter of the next book/another book/whatever. I don’t know because I’ve slammed my kindle shut and glowered over my chips.

People (readers and writers alike) seem diametrically opposed here. Many, like me cry Nooo! And vow that said author will never darken the screens of our kindles again. Others say But you still got 100% of the book, so what’s the problem? And it’s true – I haven’t lost anything. The book wasn’t cut short. But I still feel cheated in some way – my expectations have been altered and that agreement I made with the author on page one has somehow been violated. That amazing post-climactic twist I was anticipating never arrived.

I know, I exaggerate. But honestly – why do it? I’ve never yet read chapter one of a new book at the end of an old book. I’m perfectly capable of looking for the author on Amazon if I want to buy more. And I don’t mind a few lines – a link to the author’s web or Amazon page. But not another 5% of content.

Apologies to those traditional authors who have no control over what their publishers do. And those indies who find that adding extra post-novel content works for them – good luck to you. I wish you all the best. But I’m unlikely to be reading you while eating my chips …

7 comments:

Wendy Jones said...

I agree it is so disappointing when that happens. I think I still have some more reading time and then realize this is not the case. I feel somewhat cheated and let down.

Bill Kirton said...

Interesting. I've frequently had that experience but the only time I've had the same reaction is when there was still 30% to go. That definitely felt wrong. Usually, though, if the climax is satisfactory (I know, I know), I'm just happy that I've got suddenly got 15% more time to devote to whatever's next on my TBR list. I never read the 1st chapter teaser.

Penny Dolan said...

It's also such a feature of paper books that I've begun checking (with half-closed eyes) the back of novels for the last story page. I like to know about - and avoid - wads of Reading Group Notes, next/other book puffs and so on. However, I do like Authors Notes when there is factual information related to the background & plot & interpretation.

But not adverts in disguise, whichever kind of book! Pah!

Mari Biella said...

Ah, well - different tastes, I suppose. As long as I don't suddenly hit the end of the story about 70 or 80% of the way through, I don't object to some book puff at the back. I often skim through it, or just disregard it if I'm not interested. Either way, it doesn't really bother me, but then I can see why it might irritate some.

Enid Richemont said...

The Beeb does this all the time. I watch a fascinating programme, then within micro-seconds of its final word or image, I get one of their breathy speakerines advertising the next thing they want me to be watching. Makes me want to chuck a brick at the telly.

Catherine Czerkawska said...

I'm in two minds here. I think I've done it experimentally with one of mine, but on the whole not. I like it when I'm really hooked on a writer and can sample the next book in a series - Phil Rickman for example. I'll read the sample and then buy the next book without having to bother looking for whatever comes next in a series. But occasionally it irritates me - maybe when it just makes me feel as though a book has ended prematurely. Or when the sample is too long. I like author notes a lot, do them myself, and in an eBook they have to be at the end so that anyone downloading a sample doesn't find themselves reading about the book rather than the book.My latest one has author notes, a glossary of Scots words and a bibliography all at the back, but then it is a historical novel on a topic that I just know has a lot of people who are going to want such things!

Reb MacRath said...

Well, this certainly puts the pressure on all authors to deliver perfect wraps. I don't mine a short bio at the end or even a list of quotes. But if the ending isn't 100% perfect, we are more likely to feel let down.

That said, we're well advised, I think, not to put anything extra up front--because preview pages are limited.