Thursday 14 November 2019

The Extra Chapter by Lynne Benton

In this blog I am writing as a reader rather than a writer.  Sometimes it’s interesting to sit on the other side of the fence, just to see what we think is good practice and what isn’t.

I’ve just finished reading yet another book which ended before I was expecting it to, because the publishers chose to put the first chapter of another novel after the end of the main book. It seems to happen so often these days, and maybe some people want to know what the author’s next book is and have no idea how else to find out – but not me, and not immediately after I’ve finished their last one.  If I’ve enjoyed the book I need to have a little space in which to remember and enjoy it, and to come out of the world the author has created.  (And if I haven’t enjoyed it I’d be unlikely to want to read another by the same author anyway.)  I find it really annoying when I get to what feels like a climax in a story, but I can see a whole chunk of pages left to read, so I think, “That means there will be another twist before the end!  I wonder what it is?”  Then I turn the page and – oh!  It was the end after all, which by then comes as a bit of a let-down.  Simply because the publisher made the decision to include the first chapter of the author’s next book, which is set in a different world peopled with different characters.

This happens with real books and with Kindle books too – it says I have a further 20 minutes to read, but then Wham!  The book I'm reading ends, because again they’ve decided to include the opening chapter of another book.

Not only is this really disrespectful to the author, who hopes readers will be sufficiently engaged not to want to plunge straight into another, it is also disrespectful to the next book.  If you are tempted to read the first chapter and you like it, you then have to make a decision: either a) make a special trip into town and see if the book is in your local bookshop, or b) go to the library and see if you can find it there.  In both cases if it’s not in stock you may have to order it and wait for some weeks, by which time you have forgotten what the chapter was all about.  Alternatively you can c) order it online, either as another book (with yet another opening chapter of a different book at the end) or to download on your kindle.  The latter is the easier course, but even then I don’t want to read a similar book directly after I’ve just finished one.  I like to go from, say, a crime novel to a children’s book, to a historical saga, to a biography, before going back to another book by the original author.  By which time I have completely forgotten what that chapter was all about anyway.

And sometimes I may find a book on the library shelves that looks interesting, or in a bookshop or in a Charity shop.  I flick through the first few pages to see if it’s one I might enjoy, and think, “Oh yes, this looks familiar.  I must have read it.”  And put it back on the shelf, without realising that I’d only ever read the first chapter.

I have no beef with publishers including a list of the author’s other books, either at the front or the back of the book – that is really useful, and it doesn’t take long to read through the list, or you can go back to it at some future date and make a note of any you want to read at some time in the future.  But it doesn’t spoil your pleasure in the book you’ve just read.

I suppose publishers credit us all with an extremely short attention span – they are so afraid that if we put the book down we may never pick up another.  Or maybe it's the accountants, who think it would be a good marketing ploy to make us buy another book right away.  Either way, it’s a bit like those crass idiots that insist on talking over the end credits of a television programme that we might have particularly enjoyed, to tell us about some programme that is coming up, that bears no relation to the programme we’ve just watched and is often grossly insensitive.  In spite of the many complaints they’ve had about this, they still haven’t learnt that some/most of us need to pause and relish what we’ve just watched before going straight on to something else.  Again, they seem to be terrified that if we turn the television off we may never turn it on again – or at least, not to their channel!

Imagine going to a restaurant where, as soon as you had finished a lovely satisfying meal, they then insisted you must also eat a taster of what you might choose to eat next time you go there, just when you were too full to appreciate it.

All right, grumble over.  I love reading, I really do, and I have a houseful of books to prove it – but I would rather read the whole book, please, not just the first chapter.  And not straight after the book I’ve just read.  I know it’s not the authors’ fault – I don’t imagine any of us have ever asked for it.  But it is incredibly annoying for the readers.  Please, publishers, consider us!



Penny Dolan said...

I totally agree with all you've said here, Lynne!
There's also a point when you're wondering how X can tie up all the threads of a plot in the little space left, only to discover there's another book in the series before whatever-it-is is resolved.

Nick Garlick said...

Annoys me too. I now automatically check whether the last page of the book is actually the last page of the story and not, as you point out, the end of the first chapter of the next.

Penny Kline said...

Agree 100%, Lynne.

Lynne Benton said...

Thanks, everyone - glad I'm not alone in this!