I recently read a short review of Good expressing appreciation for a book in a series that doesn't leave off on a major cliffhanger. Now, that's debatable. As I've discussed before, we all have different definitions of "cliffhanger." For some, it's the ending point right at a major event. For others, it's any unanswered question, even if that question is, "What color shirt was she wearing?"
But another interesting thing was pointed out in this review: the reviewer lamented a trend she's seeing in contemporary fiction where authors write what she calls "half stories" with the intention of leaving the reader hanging and subsequently compelled to buy the next one. It's not even sneaky. We can call it what it is: a smart business move . . . or is it? It is a business move to insure some cash flow for the next book, but is it smart? How about this: Is it respectful? Does it honor the author/reader relationship? Or does it take advantage of it?
When I set out to write Good, my initial intent was to put the entire story into one book. I like stand-alones. I like writing them. I like reading them. But as I wrote (and saw my word count climbing higher and higher), I realized there was no way I could tell Cadence's and Mark's story in one book. So I made the decision to split the story into two books, ever mindful of my audience. I made sure to end the book on a note I felt gave closure to Book 1 of the series. The reviewer pointed this out as well. She explained that while there definitely needed to be a sequel, she felt the first book was a complete story in itself. And I appreciate that because I never make writing or business decisions with the intentions of taking advantage of my readers and their trust in me. It's wrong, and it pisses me off when other writers do that.
That being said, I do fear we're living in a reading culture that despises cliffhangers so much that it scares authors into writing contrived stories. They fear the repercussions of a story that does not end the way the mass market expects. And my editor wrote a fabulous piece on the subject that warrants a few minutes of your time to read and absorb. Yeah, there will be those authors who take advantage of cliffhangers, but for the rest of us, we understand when they are necessary, and we're respectful of giving you, the reader, a REAL story. Not something silly and contrived. Not something that may warm your heart, but that you'll forget about the next day. My fans know I've got no time for that. I never write a story to convince you of anything I believe, but I sure as hell want to give you stories to make you think.
So remember: I cannot speak for other authors when it comes to cliffhangers (and HEAs, too), but for me, I will always be respectful of you as a reader--your heart, your intelligence, your time. In return, please trust me.