Dear authors who write disclaimers in their book descriptions,
I have a confession. Generally speaking, I don’t like disclaimers in book descriptions. Not just don’t like, but they straight up irritate me. There, I said it. Published in black and white, and on a public blog with a lot of followers, no less.
Perhaps I should explain.
Mostly, this is about one particular disclaimer that I occasionally run across while I’m searching for books to read on Amazon.
I’m not beholden to the ‘zon; I like iBooks just as much (no, maybe not quite, because truth be told, I really like the new(ish) scrolling feature in Kindle, although I do hear rumor it adversely affects the number of KU page reads an author earns, which sucks). I tend to start on Amazon because A) I find it easier to search when I don’t have a particular author or book title in mind, and B) I’m one of those people who reads reviews before I buy, and Amazon simply has far more of them.
(Side note, readers, leave those reviews on other retailers, too! Other potential readers really do look at them.)
The two things I look for in reviews are call outs about a cliffhanger-without-warning and mentions about grammatical issues and poor editing. I want to enjoy the book I’m reading, and if the grammar/editing is bad enough for a previous reader to mention in a review, I’m reasonably confident it’s gonna affect my experience, so I’m gonna pass.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk cliffhangers, because that’s kind of a lead in to why I even started writing this blog post in the first place. I admit, I’m not a fan of the cliffhanger when it occurs in a romance novel. Probably because I AM a big fan of the romance novel in its most basic definition:
The romance novel or romantic novel is a literary genre. Novels in this genre place their primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people, and must have an “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.” ~definition courtesy of this website: https://www.definitions.net/definition/romance+novel
Let me repeat the most essential aspect of that definition:
“…and must have an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.”
A cliffhanger is not emotionally satisfying to me, nor it is an optimistic ending. So yeah, if I’m looking to read romance, I’m not looking for a book that is missing the very essence of the definition of the genre.
(Another side note: I don’t read exclusively romance, although that is my fave. And if I’m in the mood for heart-stopping, nail-biting, death-defying suspense or action or whatever else a particular non-romance genre may offer, then yeah, bring on the cliffy. Because if I’m in the mood for that sort of book, I have no expectation of a happy ending. In fact, I have no clue how it’s gonna end, and that usually makes the reading experience all that more enjoyable. Unlike when one reads romance. When one reads romance, there’s an expectation as to how the book is going to end. The path to get there is the lure, and if the ending isn’t emotionally satisfying, it ruins the entire experience, no matter how enjoyable the rest of the book was.)
Okay, okay, I’ve beaten this dead horse, so let’s move on. Why did I even bring this up in the first place? Oh, that’s right, disclaimers. Like this one, which I sometimes come across as part of romance novel descriptions:
“Guaranteed happy ending with no cheating.”
Wait, what? Let me check that again. Okay, I typed “romance” in the search engine. And this book came up. Therefore, assuming it was cataloged correctly, I don’t need a disclaimer that announces there will be a happy ending, because that’s what defines the genre.
Seriously. Why waste precious words meant to entice readers by telling them what they already know?
Yeah, I can hear it now. Authors (mostly in the contemporary romance sub-genre, it seems) all around are crying out, “Because I have to!”
“Because some author at some point claimed their book was romance and it got blasted in reviews because it didn’t have a happy ending!”
Okay, um, so what? Shame on that author, but what’s that got to do with you? If your book does have that happy ending readers crave/expect, what are you worried about? You aren’t going to receive those dreaded bad reviews because you didn’t leave them with an unhappy ending.
So again, what are you worried about? Use that precious meant to grab ‘em space to tell them something exciting about the book, instead of what’s not in it—something they are going to assume isn’t in it, by the way.
If you aren’t doing it wrong, then you don’t need to announce you aren’t doing it wrong.
Good. Glad we could come to an agreement.
With that said, I feel compelled to add a bit more, especially since I went off on that earlier cliffhanger tangent. There are some things I don’t mind seeing noted as disclaimers.
Okay, there’s one thing.
Warn me that it’s a cliffhanger. If you’re going to insist that your book is romance, but you’re also insisting on ending it with a cliffhanger (which is an oxymoron, but anyway), then tell me up front. I wanna know.
Okay, yeah, it will prevent me from reading it, which sure, means you’re getting one less sale (unless the cliffy is finalized in a follow up book that does actually have a happy ending, and said follow up book is already released, then, game on, and boom, two sales). But it also means you’re avoiding a whole mess of bad reviews, because in my experience, people who hate cliffhangers really haaaaaaate cliffhangers, and they’re gonna announce it to the world.
So, to sum it up, here’s my completely unsolicited advice:
- Don’t waste your time on a disclaimer that tells me what I’m already going to assume about your book. (So yeah, I don’t need to know it’s a happy ending and I don’t need to know there’s no cheating.)
- Do give me a heads’ up if the ending falls outside of “…and must have an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.” (Read: cliffhanger.)
A reader and fellow author
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