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An open letter to authors
While this is just a complaint from one reader, know that for every person who speaks out there are 100 or 1000 who have the same complaint but don’t voice it.
I’m middle-aged, so purportedly my memory is declining. But I have always had a process-oriented memory which means I have to catch a smell or taste of a past event in order to remember it. This permeates stories which don’t get finished in a single sitting.
I have a life, so I read in spurts, sometimes going days before I can pick up an ongoing book. I read a lot though, so sometimes wonder if I’m trying to fit in a plot thread from a different book. Also I read at night when I’m tired and have enjoyed a glass of wine.
What does that mean? I won’t remember earlier plot threads of your story. Or, to phrase it better, I won’t remember enough about the plot threads to enjoy the current writing. Sometimes in continuing to read, eventually some of the story will revive, but I lose a lot of nuance that you’ve worked for months to get into the story. Lately, I’ve just quit reading the story altogether. While some of this may result from poor writing craft, mostly it’s not your fault.
But, you want me to be satisfied having spent money on your books and I’m not. As a matter of fact, it makes me angry. Why? The problem is UNNECESSARY. Because you CAN do something about it. For every author who has control of their book's content and layout (self-publishers and established authors), please add Reader Tools: a CAST OF CHARACTERS (Dramatis Personae), a MAP, a FAMILY TREE, a TIMELINE, something for the reader to hang the bits of the story on while you unfold it. Any reader who’s not interested in these items can skip them. For the rest of us, these are tools to help us savour your story.
When I am Queen I will produce software which pays attention to where one is in the story and allows one to check back on prior events. Authors who use a format which pays better attention to (some of) their readers’ needs will be read more frequently than others.
There is some good news. Because I read a great many ebooks, a DNF just hangs around in my library. If I come back to the book in a month, I might have more ease piecing the events together, and the story will be fresh. Some books have taken me five tries to get through. I now have 36+ DNFs just waiting for me to be in the mood to try them again. Of course, I also have 200+ unread ebooks to choose from.
Edit: As of May 2014, I have 600+ unread ebooks to choose from.
Edit: As of May 2015, I have 900+ ebooks in Calibre without knowing exactly how many have been started and abandoned, never started, or started and completed.
Edit July 2015: Thanks, Larry, for the title "Dramatis Personae". I've now updated to Android o/s and am using Calibre Companion. Wonderful software.
Edit: As of Sept 2016, I have 926 unread, 60 started and quit ebooks in Calibre.