On a book review blog last week, the talk turned to the way series end. The blogger had been disappointed in the last book of a series (I honestly can’t remember if she said which series it was) because the author had left some things open-ended and questions unanswered. She felt cheated to have invested so much time reading a series only to have it just…end. The question was: Does the author owe it to the reader to give a series a satisfactory conclusion?
It was clear from the responses to the post that a lot of people do feel cheated by the end of series, and that the blame gets placed on the author. A few years ago, because I was a reader long before I was an author, I would have agreed with them.
As a reader, I understand the frustration. I mean, a lot of people obviously didn’t like the way Charlaine Harris ended the Southern Vampires series, aka Sookie, but at least she ended it. Kim Harrison was very forthcoming about when the Hollows series will end, and she managed to tie everything up very neatly.
But you know what? Charlaine Harris and Kim Harrison are best-selling authors, who can dictate the length of their series. They can wrap everything up in a pretty bow and resolve all the questions.
The rest of us schleps? Not so much. Let’s look at my Sentinels series as an example of how a series works in the real world. I turned in the manuscript for book five, BELLE CHASSE, on January 4, 2015. It came out on Nov. 8, 2016. There is one more book planned in my mind for the series, but the publisher hasn’t decided whether or not it wants to continue.
If my publisher decided that no, sales have sucked and they don’t want to publish any more, in their mind the series is over. They make that decision, not me.
EXCEPT these days, authors of orphaned series have options they didn’t have even five or six years ago. They can self-publish and continue the series. If the Sentinels series is orphaned, I can and will put out at least one final book to wrap things up. A publisher doesn’t feel loyalty to readers, but to bottom lines, and that’s the way business goes. Authors, however, owe their series readers a conclusion.
I have no answers here—every author is different in how he or she chooses to handle the ending of a series. And I think it’s inevitable that some readers will be disappointed. I just thought it important to point out that a suddenly abandoned series usually doesn’t happen because of anything the author does or doesn’t do.
So, what say you? Have you been disappointed when favorite series ended without a satisfactory resolution of story? Do you think authors—or their publishers—have an obligation to readers to put out a final series book that wraps up the storyline?