Writers and publishers: do not do this to your readers!Posted: February 23, 2013
I just finished a book that had what I’d have to say is the worst ending of all time. I know that’s a big call, but bear with me and I’m sure you’ll agree. Now, normally I wouldn’t name and shame the book, but in this case I don’t actually blame the author. I’d be surprised if the crime against readers that is the ending of this book was her idea.
The book is “Red Riding Hood” by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright.
I knew there was a movie based on the book—there’s a little fake sticker on the front that says “Now a major motion picture”. What I didn’t know when I bought it was that the book was actually written after the screenplay; they got Blakley-Cartwright in to write the novelisation. That’s why she has joint billing on the front of the book—the other guy is the screenplay writer. A lot of the oddities in the storytelling style (the omniscient third person narrator; the choppy, short scenes) clearly fall out of this process.
But the worst thing by far—which took the book from being an interesting horror/mystery to being an abomination—is that the publishers have printed the book without the last chapter.
I don’t just mean that the last chapter sucks or the story doesn’t finish. I mean that the final chapter of the book has actually been excised from the paperback. When you get to where it should be a web address refers you to the movie’s website, where the missing chapter is available as “bonus material”.
Don’t get me started on the idea of labeling the critical part of the novel I spent money on as a “bonus”!
Apparently the novel came out before the movie, and someone was worried that it would spoil the movie. Or decided that if people could read the ending of the book (and find out who the “Wolf” was, which was the mystery element) they wouldn’t want to see the movie. Never mind the fact that readers across the world have been managing to read books before movies for decades. Some people actually prefer to do it that way.
So the extra chapter wasn’t actually released onto the website till after the movie came out. I can’t imagine how furious I’d be if I’d bought the book beforehand and had to wait. I am frustrated enough as it is!
Withholding the end of a book from the readers isn’t a clever marketing strategy or a way to build hype. It’s insulting, and deprives readers of something they’ve (probably) paid good money for. I’m glad I bought this book secondhand. I feel less ripped off.
The other thing to consider is that a lot of book readers actually like to keep books they love on their shelves, to reread them or as a collector’s item. I’m one of those—I have shelves filled with books that I love. I would have kept this book (like I said, it’s not bad, and the cover is pretty), except it’s incomplete. What am I meant to do? Print the ten extra pages and stick them in the back? Yeah, that’s not going to happen…
I know I’m getting my ranty pants on here, but I felt extremely ripped off when I finished this book. I lay up past midnight fuming about it. (I know, I need to take a chill pill.) And I hear ranting is what blogs are all about!
I think the main lesson for writers (and publishers) is not to promise things you aren’t going to deliver in your book. If you’ve got a meta-plot arc that runs over the course of several books, that’s okay, but you’ve got to give a reader some closure at the end of your novel if you don’t want them throwing the book across the room.
Now I’m going to take a deep breath and move on. Thanks for letting me rant.