The First Among Sequels
I bought a novel last week that looked interesting only to get more and more confused by what was going on. It felt like I’d missed something. The story referred to events and characters as if the reader already knew a load of background info.
After I had finished the book, I Googled the title. My suspicions were confirmed. It turned out to be the second book in a series – but there were no clues about that on the book. That information is usually on the cover, in the blurb, on the spine, or at least listed at the front where the other titles by the author are mentioned. Not this book. No – it hid that pertinent fact from potential readers like it was a dirty secret. It wasn’t mentioned anywhere. The book was marketed like it was a stand-alone début title.
It would have been so easy to have the words “#2 in the series” written somewhere – but the publisher didn’t bother or deliberately missed it out. Nobody in the right mind buys the second book in a series before the first – but someone in the marketing department decided it would boost sales if potential readers didn’t know it was a sequel. They wanted to dupe customers into buying the second book even if they had not read the first one.
I don’t know what they were thinking.
Did they want to annoy readers?
They certainly annoyed me.
It’s not the first time I’ve seen a situation like that. I buy many series of books as bargain box sets which need to be read in the right order. Some publishers do an admirable job of making it clear. The ten books in the Martin Beck detective series had the letters of MARTIN BECK spelt out on the spines so the order was obvious on a shelf. Ian Rankin’s Rebus books have the number in a prominent position. But the order is often not listed on series titles. More often than I’d like to say, I’ve had to figure it out by looking at the dates of publication and organising the books myself. That’s fine if I have the time available for sorting them out. If I had been in a shop choosing just one book, I would not have had the time to flick through those titles to work out the right one to buy first. I would have left without buying anything.
I never watch the last episode of a TV show first. I start at the beginning. That’s what everyone does. So, why do some book publishers think it is an acceptable practice?
Last week, my enjoyment was ruined by the thoughtlessness of the publisher for not providing some basic information. They thought they were being clever keeping it a secret – but they just succeeded in making me feel like I’d been tricked. As a consequence, I didn’t enjoy that book and I won’t be buying the first book in the series or the next one.
How smart is that?