Alright guys. Serious money discussion time. Here’s something I want people to never defend again. A book, comic, whatever that is a part of a series, yet doesn’t hold up individually. I’ve read too many reviews of things lately that go as follows:
“overall not a lot of things happen and this really felt like it went nowhere, but I trust the writer to deliver in further installments of this series. The pacing was weird, but since it’s the middle part of the story I’ll excuse it. All the questions that this installment brought up can be answered later. I’m not at all bothered by the fact that the characters, settings, plot, and dialogue were subpar here because there’s more coming and I really do trust that the writer doesn’t suck and a future installment will make this particular installment actually readable.”
I’ll admit I’ve done some similar stuff in the past, totally giving a pass to a writer I like when something they put out kind of stunk. It was wrong.
When someone sells you something you should expect something of that. When I purchase a book I expect that book to be complete in and of itself. This is not to say that this book can’t rely heavily on past books in the series. If someone comes in late it is understandable that they aren’t getting the entire picture. What they should get though, is a completed work.
Here’s an example. When I was in sixth grade I read Tad Williams’ “To Green Angel Tower.” I picked it up not being aware that there were two books prior to that in the trilogy. I didn’t read covers, I just read big things, and TGAT was a giant book. I was confused at times (didn’t realize it was part of a trilogy until at least half way through the book) and made some incorrect conclusions on certain things because I was filling in holes already filled. More importantly though, by the time that book ended I got me a full story. It was great. In fact, it made me want to read the first two. “To Green Angel Tower” had a definite beginning middle and end. The characters moved from one place to the next both physically and mentally. There were full twist (that I know now) only enhance the third book. It also is a satisfying ending to the trilogy and makes the first two books much better reads.
Here’s another example the other way. George R. R. Martin’s “A Dance With Dragons.” This book only barely holds together as an individual piece. Now some people love it thoroughly, and if that’s the case then cool, this isn’t about them. A lot of reviews you see mention how slow the pace is, how the characters don’t do much of anything, and how it all feels like a bunch of set up to something bigger. The conceit is that it’s only telling part of a story, but so much of that story seems to serve no point to a great number of people. Yet, so many people are okay with this. They go out of their way to say how they’re sure it will be remedied. Maybe all of them read it like I did from the Library and as such all they lost was the time it took them to read such a meaningless book, but even still I don’t know why you defend it. I know I’d be pissed if I spent money on this.
You see this a lot in comics. Maybe even more in comics. Someone will write an issue of a book that is completely useless in and of itself, and people are more than willing to say the $3+ they spent on it is worth it because the next $6+ they spend on the series will make that one issue that sucked better. It’s crap. Sell me an original graphic novel instead. Just skip the whole idea of releasing individual issues and go straight to collected versions. Release your crap issue for free. Charge me for the first issue and not for any subsequent ones. Manage expectations. A careless reader might pick up something having not read the last issue of your book for three months (partly because your book is late for no good reason) and be like “this is utter garbage. Why on Earth would anyone pay for this?”
Basically, it all rubs down to this. I’m paying for a product. More specifically someone is selling a product. The implication when you sell me something is that it, in itself, is completely satisfying. It is a complete item. If the seller believes the best way to view that particular item is with a bunch of other stuff, they should sell all that stuff with it. The middle part of your book series sucks? Wait and release an omnibus later, or just rewrite the thing to where it works by itself. It’s not that hard. Talented writers do it all the time. It’s really just the polite thing to do.