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 …