The Unending Story of Series Cliffhangers

Before I get into my topic today, I want to give a thank you and shout out to Audra Trosper. On November 12, she’s featuring a snippet from my upcoming book, Merlin’s Weft, on her blog. Go check out her blog.



Cliff, hanging

Have you read any books that end like the one described below?

Cliff Studley and Kate de Lion have endured 327 pages of excitement, thrills, romance, near-death experiences and feats of paranormal derring-do to save mankind. In the past few pages, they’ve vanquished 1,132 enemies from seventy-three tribes of people, marmots, were-marmots, and wriggly sixty-two-inch-long earthworms.

Kate wipes marmot-goo from Cliff’s face, and he laughs with relief. They lean together to touch lips.

<you turn the page>

A 212-foot wide hole erupts before the couple and the vast, black spaceship last seen on page 217 rises from beneath the earth, laser cannons flashing.

The end.
Read the next installment of the Studley-de Lion series in
Yet Another Apocalypse,
coming next year.

A good book ends

Maybe you’re like me. I love a good book. I even read a lot of books to the last page that I don’t absolutely love. Some because they present an interesting idea and I want to see how the author carries it through; some because I like the characters but not the plot, or vice versa; some that are just … well … they’re not bad enough to put down.

So I read to the end. But lately, I’ve had to hope that the book I’m holding in my hand or on my eReader has an ending.

Even if I love a book, I am greatly disappointed if I discover that the author has so little regard for my time that I’m not given a satisfactory conclusion to a story in which I’ve invested hours of my time.

The nature of publishing today

I’m a fledgling author. I understand the nature of publishing today. You want to build a platform that carries readers from one book to the next. But more and more I’m seeing low-star ratings that are given because the author didn’t publish a book. A 327-page entry to a 20,000 word serial adventure often lacks the satisfying ending that readers like me crave.

“But wait,” the guilty cry. “There are some great multi-book series.”

Yes, and if you have the talent of JRR Tolkien or George RR Martin, I’ll buy your books and read them one after the other. But even JK Rowling wrote seven complete stories as she was constructing her mega-series about a young wizard.

Epic stories

The Lord of the Rings and the Song of Ice and Fire tell epic stories. Many other series require too many words, too many pages, to put into one binding. I don’t have an objection to long stories, per se. What I object to is the attempt to suck me into a series without telling me.

“But my book is listed as a part of a series. You should know.”

No, I don’t. Just because a book is a part of a series doesn’t mean each book is vitally dependent on the next one to complete its story. I point to the Harry Potter books as an example. Yes, you get more from them if you read them all in sequence, but each book has a beginning, a middle, and—here’s the kicker—an end. Many series are constructed around a sequence of complete stories, with the main characters developing as the tale progresses.

What do I suggest?

I ask for upfront honesty. If a book ends with a cliffhanger that requires—I repeat, requires—the reader to go to the next book to finish the story, then put that in the cover notes and the on-line description of the book. “This is part two of a single six-book-long story.” If I want to invest six books worth of time in the story, I’ll read it.

To be honest, part of the reason I’m concerned about this topic is that I’m working on a book right now that has 180,000 words. That’s longer than the word-count sum of my two Merlin books—each of which tells a complete story, by the way.

Since it’s historical fiction, its length is not as extreme as if it were a contemporary fantasy, but still, I’m not sure what I’m going to do when it’s ready to publish. I do have a “pause” about halfway through that could be a break between two sub-books. Hence, my soul-searching.

If I do publish it as two parts, I want to be able to let readers know up front that they are making a two-book commitment.

It’s a swashbuckler. I think it’ll be worth your time.

Meanwhile, I’d like to know what you think about unending books. Please leave a reply or comment at the bottom of the page.


Merlin’s Weft will be released November 18. The eBook is available for pre-order on for a 25% discount until the release.


Merlin’s Knot is available on

Go to my Web site to obtain a copy of the prequel, Merlin’s Shuttle. He doesn’t battle evil in that story, but he does face off against Mother Nature.

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