Frustration With The Publishing Industry

I just fin­ished a book that I was real­ly enjoy­ing, Free­dom’s Land­ing by Anne McCaf­frey. It had main char­ac­ters I real­ly liked and could relate to, who weren’t per­fect but were com­pe­tent and just plain good folks. It was­n’t very well edited—some of the gram­mar was atro­cious, with sen­tences that looked as though the author wrote them, then rewrote one half with­out doing the oth­er. I hon­est­ly thought McCaf­frey’s pub­lish­er could afford bet­ter, but what do I know? 

The book was placed as sci­ence fic­tion, but if any­one who has read it attempts to put it in that cat­e­go­ry I will laugh in their faces. Loud­ly. With vig­or. I’m sup­posed to believe that a group of mixed-species slaves tossed down onto a (sup­posed to be) vir­gin plan­et with noth­ing but some knives and blan­kets, with no knowl­edge of the plan­et and no train­ing in col­o­niz­ing any­thing, man­age to pull togeth­er, restart civ­i­liza­tion, and have min­ing oper­a­tions going in 16 days? That’s with­out con­sid­er­ing the hos­tile robot­ic care­tak­ers they dis­cov­er, as the world isn’t quite so vir­gin as their slavers thought (they call the robots Daleks—appropriate, I sup­pose). No. This one is def­i­nite­ly fan­ta­sy. No uni­corns, mag­ic, elves, witch­es, etc.—but that’s fan­ta­sy, kids. 

Any­way, I sus­pend­ed my dis­be­lief enough to be enjoy­ing the sto­ry and inter­est­ed in the char­ac­ters fates—and the book end­ed. Just end­ed. On a cliffhang­er. With no indi­ca­tion on the cov­er or on the ver­biage inside the cov­er to indi­cate that it’s part of a series. I hate that!

Why is it that so few authors write books that stand alone any more? Is it pres­sure from pub­lish­ers to cre­ate series? Is it a lack of dis­ci­pline in get­ting all those unruly plot threads tied up in just 300 to 500 pages? Half the books I read now have absolute­ly no rea­son to be pub­lished as sep­a­rate vol­umes instead of stick­ing the entire tril­o­gy in one cover—except for the sheer unwield­i­ness that would result. Noth­ing is wrapped up in the first book or two. More and more char­ac­ters are brought in, with more and more sub­plots, until you get a whizbang end­ing in the last quar­ter of the third or fourth book to swing it all together. 

And if they’re going to do that, why not prac­tice a lit­tle truth in adver­tis­ing? Say, clear­ly, obvi­ous­ly, where it can­not be missed, “Free­dom’s Land­ing, first book of a new series by Anne McCaf­frey!” or some­thing sim­i­lar? Per­haps all her big fans knew that it was a new uni­verse she was just start­ing to devel­op, but I don’t read any fan mag­a­zines or even web sites and I don’t attend cons much, so how was I to know? By the time the next book is out I’ll prob­a­bly have for­got­ten half the details of this one, and the sense of urgency to find out what hap­pened next will cer­tain­ly be gone. I’ll remem­ber the sense of annoy­ance at being gypped out of a com­plete tale far bet­ter than I’ll remem­ber all the plot twists and such. In short, I will not be a par­tic­u­lar­ly moti­vat­ed buy­er. Have pub­lish­ers not fig­ured that out yet? (Actu­al­ly, I was just informed that the sequel, Free­dom’s Choice, is out now—have I gone out to get it? No, I fig­ure this will be at least a tril­o­gy, and prob­a­bly more depend­ing on how many suck­ers buy it.) 

Oh well. I may read the oth­er books in the series some day, but I’m cer­tain­ly not going to buy them in hard­back, and I may not buy them in paper­back. I’ll check the books out of the library after the series is more or less complete—in short, the author and pub­lish­er won’t get any of my mon­ey, as I feel very much cheat­ed this time. 

Orig­i­nal­ly writ­ten August 31, 1997

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