Authors, whatever you do, don’t do this

I tweeted recently about something an author had done that made me feel cheated. My tweet went viral and the author’s behaviour received near-universal condemnation. So if you don’t want to infuriate your readers, don’t do what he did.

Protestors with a sign that reads "We are better than this!"

A few days ago I finished the book I was reading and trawled through my kindle for something new to read. I happen to have *cough cough* pages of books I’ve bought or downloaded free and haven’t quite got around to reading, so I knew I’d find something.

Sure enough, I came across a book I didn’t recall buying. The cover was attractive enough as a black-and-white thumbnail, and the first half sentence of blurb that my kindle displays was intriguing.

A post-apocalyptic world. Zombies. Yep, that sounded like some good light entertainment.

I began to read.

The writing was competent and the characters didn’t entirely make me want to stab my eyes out with a potato peeler. The plot wasn’t especially original, but entertaining doesn’t always require original and I was somewhat invested before I realised how derivative it was.

Some glaring typos leapt out at me, but what book doesn’t have typos? (Yes, we should hope for better, but a couple will always get through.)

After a few days reading, I drew near the end, expecting the tension to build to a climax.

Nope! The author would not follow this boring, expected path.

Instead, right at the end the main character confronted the main villain. The villain launched into a several-page monologue explaining his dastardly plan and the history and science behind it.

It was so awkwardly done that I laughed out loud, but I’d nearly finished the book by that stage so I carried on.

Then in the last page something happened. I’m not sure what. If I had to guess, the main character killed the villain with some new type of magic that hadn’t been foreshadowed.

The end.

And the prize for Most Unsatisfying Ending Ever goes to…

What happened? Why? How did it relate to the rest of the story and what did it mean for the main story question posed at the start?

Frustration!

But the author wasn’t quite done with me.

He had a message: he’d written an epilogue that (I really hope) explained wt$ had happened and what it meant. And I could download it right then if I signed up to his mailing list.

Nope.

NOPE! NOPE! NOPE!

I thought I was reading a complete book, not a book with the ending held hostage for the price of my email address. I felt betrayed.

But then I considered maybe I was overreacting. I could always get the chapter and then unsubscribe.

I checked my records and discovered I’d downloaded the book free in 2017, though it’s now for sale for a positive price. So I hadn’t even paid for it with money.

Still, I’d paid with my time, and those hours of reading are worth much more than 99 cents.

I posted about my experience on Mastodon and Twitter to see if other people agreed I should feel cheated. The response was overwhelmingly BURN THE BOOK WITH LAVA AND BOYCOTT THE AUTHOR FOREVER.

The lovely folks on Mastodon encouraged me to leave a one-star review warning potential readers about the ploy, which I did. You can find my review here, as well as the title of the book and name of the author.

I never write bad reviews, but I was feeling cheated and angry. I made an exception.

If you want to hear Alecia being mad and scathing, read my review.

Then the Twitter writing community woke up and my tweet went viral. Okay, not millions of views viral, but at last count over 80k views, 500 replies, 116 retweets, and 825 likes.

I’ve never been viral before. Responding to the replies took me a full day.

To my fangirl delight, I was even quote-tweeted by Janet Reid, the Query Shark. (I don’t want to embed her tweet because that comes with dodgey code, but here’s a screenshot and the link… because SQUEEEE!)

A quote tweet by Janet Reid of an original tweet by A.S. Akkalon.

The original tweet reads:
I read a book that wasn't bad. Inexplicable things happened in the last page.
It finished with a message from the author: sign up to my mailing list and you'll get another chapter, the epilogue that (I really hope) explains things.
I feel betrayed.
Would you?
#books #reading

The quote tweet reads:
I think I'd return the book for refund, and put this author on my fecal roster forever.
Janet Reid quote tweeted me. SQUEEEEE!!!

They say Twitter loves drama and hate, and in this case that seems true.

A few people said they wouldn’t mind an author who did what this author did or even thought it was clever. Some said they would be a bit irritated, but would probably sign up to get the epilogue and then unsubscribe.

The other 98% came out with pitchforks.

That’s a lot of potential future readers you do not want angrily warning everyone they know, their dog, and their hairdresser to avoid your books.

So don’t do what this author did.

Would you feel as manipulated as I did? Does it make a difference that this is (supposed to be) the first in a series, though it came out in 2016 and there’s no sequel in sight?

Or am I just overreacting to a cliffhanger?

Get my blog posts by email. I promise I’m not usually this grumpy.

Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

4 thoughts on “Authors, whatever you do, don’t do this”

  1. I hate it when non-fiction self-help books are after my email address to download their crappy worksheets, I don’t want that behaviour from fiction authors too!

    A bizarre choice, seems as likely to permanently turn off readers as it is to have any positive benefit!

    1. Totally agree. I mean, I see what he was thinking: by the time readers get to this point they’ll really want to read the end so I’ll get lots of sign-ups. I just think he missed a few important points about human nature.

  2. Wow, I guess someone told him that this was a great way to win friends and influence people, or he made it up all on his lonesome – either way this is as a great example of shooting oneself in the foot as I’ve read in a long time.

    1. Someone on Twitter told me he’s prolific self-publisher known for his crazy marketing stunts… so I’m guessing he came up with it himself. The weirdest thing is that the book has a lot of good reviews.

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