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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top