Hello loves! As I was working on a review the other day, I was disappointed that I couldn’t figure out some information I thought should clearly be there. It got me thinking: what are some other book changes I’d love to see in publishing? Thus, this post was born!
Read on to see my (potentially) hot takes of inclusions I want to see in book production.
As someone who really loves reading series (particularly of the fantasy genre), the amount of times that I’ve become intimidated about reading the sequel because I can’t bloody remember what’s happened in the previous book is…sorta embarrassing. So, I would love to see series recaps at the beginning of the book, for a multitude of reasons:
- I’m a mood reader, so I might not read the sequel immediately after I finish the first book.
- I have the memory of a goldfish. Seriously, it’s shameful. Even my favorite books of all time, I pull a Gandalf in the Mines of Moria in trying to recollect them:
- The sequel might not have come out yet, if I’m reading the 1st book right at release. Or, I can’t afford to buy the sequel, things like that, which encourage the memories of the first book to fade.
- I don’t always have time (or desire) to reread.
Please, I beg you. Put a series recap at the beginning of the book. PLEASE.
I’m really not sure why this hasn’t been widely adopted, but it needs to be. This is one of my biggest book changes I want to see! The main argument I’ve heard against it is a trigger warning could be a “potential spoiler” of the novel, but if you’re using a triggering topic as a major plot point, you probably have
bigger issues you need to address in your novel than worrying about spoiling readers. 🤷♀️
Trigger warnings can be so helpful, not only in protecting readers from coming across something than can be damaging for their mental health, but also to help alert readers to prepare to read certain topics.
For example: I knew I wanted to read Solace Lost by Michael Sliter, but I heard it was grimdark and it was cautioned to read it when you are “mentally capable.” It wasn’t until someone let me know of a rape trigger warning that I was able to gauge if I was still interested in the book (I was) and mentally prepare for that element–which resulted in waiting a long time to make sure my own mental health was strong enough to read about that topic.
Without that warning, I would not only have suffered being surprised about heavy rape themes in the book and potentially read it at a bad time, but my enjoyment of the book would have lessened as a result.
List of “Credit”
(Including a very clear distinction of cover artists and editorial)
I’m one of those people who loves to read the acknowledgements section of the book. It might be the one-day author in me who cannot wait to write her own acknowledgements section, but I love seeing how much of a group effort books are. So, I don’t want author-penned acknowledgements to go away! But, I’d love to see a “credits” page before or after the acknowledgement section, where everyone who worked on the book is listed out by name. Almost like credits at a movie.
Authors sometimes don’t know everyone in editorial or marketing by name, so this allows everyone who worked on it–including interns and entry-level staff–to receive named recognition. Also, CREDIT YOUR COVER ARTISTS. In cover reveals, within acknowledgements, in marketing!
Book Number and Series Clearly on Spines
How, in the cursed year of our lord 2021, is this not a standard? I am baffled.
Thanks for reading my list of book changes I’d love to see! As you can see, this just focused on aspects within the book itself that I feel are missing, but could be really beneficial. And honestly, just make dang sense. What about you, though? Do you agree with these suggestions? Is there anything else you’d wish would change, in regards to book production (as we all know there is plenty publishing as an industry could be working on)? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!
Ardin Patterson says
Number’s on spines! Yes! I work in a bookstore and trying to remember which book comes next in a series can be hard when helping customers. I honestly adore that the Percy Jackson series has this because when a younger customer says, “I’m on book four” I can just run and check the spine versus trying to recall which book in that series is book four.
Yes, my gosh. That and a reading order, if nothing else, would just be so, so helpful (especially when you get into authors like Sanderson, who writes complex interconnections, or Hobb, who just has so much bloody out there). Yes, exactly!!
I so agree with the Trigger Warnings! Like maybe have a page at the beginning of the book that clearly says “Trigger Warnings” and they are listed on the back of that page, in case people really don’t want to know anything about the book they can just skip that page. But those who do want to be warned can be prepared for that too.
The recaps! I am also one who doesn’t read them all straight through and sometimes authors aren’t great at recapping within the book. (Some do a good job, others just keep going like you remember everything). But I agree, a page of general summary of what happened previously would be awesome.
I’d love to see a list of characters, even family trees more often, especially for books with 1000000x characters XD Just a list would be quite helpful sometimes, nothing too detailed, just like:
-Bob — He works at the gas station
-Sally — She’s a newly turned vampire
-Ramon — He’s the leader of the wizards
And, along the same vein, more maps! How far is the gas station from the wizard cave? I don’t know, will it take 3 hours or 20 mins to get there? Some books would benefit more from this idea but yeah… that’s what I’d love to see 🙂
Yes, exactly!! For those who don’t want them, you can simply skip them, but for those who need them, they can be so helpful, so WHY NOT INCLUDE THEM!? *shakes fist at sky*
Yeah, my goldfish memory would really, really appreciate this always.
Oooh, that could be so much! And I am never going to turn down a good map! 😍
Twenty years ago I remember just about every book in a series, at least the ones I read, had a number on it, but they seem to have vanished! I really, really need them back. A cast of characters, pronunciation guides, and translations would also be incredibly helpful. I think time travel books could also use a timeline; I get so confused especially since math is far from my strong point. A list of credits would be amazing, too. I’d love to know all the people hard at work behind the scenes to get a book out in the world.
Right? I am really not sure why they aren’t more comment, it’s just so bloody helpful. Oooh, I didn’t even think about the pronunciation guide, but that would be so helpful! Yes, I love all of your ideas, Kat!!
Ena J. says
Great post, and I agree with everything! I remember being very grateful when I started on the sequels for Christopher Paolini’s Eragon, and there were these very helpful synopses of the previous book. Not too much detail that meant I was basically rereading the last book, but enough detail just so I could remember who had done what. <3
Thank you so much, Ena! Yeah, it’s just so helpful to get the main gist again and I wish more series did that!!
Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies says
I’ve been clamoring for recaps for years!!! TV shows have them — books in series need the equivalent of a TV episode’s “previously on…” opening. I love the idea of giving credits too! That’s a beautiful and thoughtful sentiment. I’m someone who doesn’t want to see trigger warnings myself, but I recognize the value. I like the comment above about including them, but in such a way that someone who doesn’t want to see them can avoid them.
A glossary of characters would be incredibly helpful for long, complex books too. And family trees. And timelines. And maps! For complicated or really long series, every little bit helps!
YES, I love that comparison!! Yes, I think it should definitely be a way for someone who doesn’t want trigger warnings to just skip past them, but be accessible for those who really want them.
Oooh yes, that would be a really fun standard! All of those, actually!
Agreed on all of this. I don’t understand people who are against trigger warnings – if I don’t want to know the warnings, I can simply not read them. And if the warnings include spoilers then simply write ‘warnings include spoilers’ so people can choose if they want to know or not.
The recaps and series numbers are so important – especially with books that have titles that don’t really tell you much about the plot – like the Sookie Stackhouse series where pretty much any title can fit any of the books.
I really don’t understand it, either! Especially when the only argument I’ve seen against them is the spoilers, but I like your addition of mentioning that with the trigger warnings, so then someone can actively choose to read them or not!
Yes, I *really* hope the series and series number on spines makes a comeback. I need help.
Hallo, Hallo, Nicole,
Oyy. I thought I’d have to wait another century before someone properly pitched the first two ideas you’ve included on your list!! I had to get more strict and stern and blunt to the point on my Review Policy because I kept running into key issues when accepting books for review. I still run into them – despite my up front disclosures, as sometimes writers don’t actually think readers like me are sensitive to TW/CW or that it would erase the ability for those of us like me to read those stories – um, hallo, yes? Why would be say their bookish turn-offs? *le sigh* Two of my top issues lately are non-disclosures on content warnings and/or trigger warnings which for me work for two different reasons. Generally I’m not looking to read about explicitly violent stories or overt violent or excessively peppered vulgarity (ie. this recently happened with ‘Kate in Waiting’) — likewise, if there is animal abuse, torture, or (insert) a variety to topics/subjects I’d prefer to avoid – please list those as well so I can either a) reach out to the author ahead of reading to clarify the list of inclusions or b) make a better choice not to accept the book at all and leave it for other readers.
I’d prefer those in place irregardless if the book is a review consideration – as I read loads through my local library which means I still run into those issues as a library reader.
I do agree about the series information – for starters, it has been 5+ years since “The Golem and the Jinni” and the sequel has been foretold to be publishing *every year!* since then but I think is finally reaching us in either 2022 or 2023; okay… even though I blogged my thoughts, I barely remember some key points but I think I’ll just read the last quarter of it to segue into the sequel because honestly the final chapter was the hinge chapter which is where the stepping stone was put for the sequel itself. If there was a series recap at the front of it — gosh, what a gamechanger!
When I read #TheClanChronicles (3x trilogies, 9 novels in total) it was spilt over different years but I didn’t suffer as much with those gaps because of how those trilogies were written/told. Once you read one trilogy and moved into another, the story shifted and either reverted to a different place/setting/timescape or moved forward. The first trilogy is a prequel so that was over and beyond separate from the other 2x but still had merit to be read because of the longer arm of consequences of what happened in those second trilogies — without getting into spoiler territory here to explain it better! lol
I think if there was a series recap in each first novel of the second two trilogies, I think it would be an interesting segue back into each trilogy especially as unlike me, most readers had to wait a very long time between installments. I entered the whole series whilst the final three were being released.
I’ve gotten into arguments with publishers about series (titles) and numbers (on books) over the years. In fact, its quite a topic NOT to discuss with any publisher from my own personal experiences. Apparently it is an issue for them in a) marketing and b) long-term sales. If a reader (supposedly – their POV) wants to read a book but finds out its in an established series, they believe its less likely to be bought/read. Now, my POV I shared with them is that I regularly read series and if I buy a book that is fifth, ninth or 20th in a series, I’d like to know that up front so I can either a) backread the series as I buy them or b) backread the series through my library (as let’s face us we can’t always buy all the series we read).
I also noticed they try to hide the series names – on the backs, inside the books themselves or just erase the name of the series completely unless you are a) familiar with the author or b) are a literary detective (self-described) like me and research the heck out of the books she’s reading to uncover yes, one-off or no, series! Aye. The legwork,.. sometimes I spend more time researching books than I get the chance to actually read them.
The one thing I try to circulate on my blog is audiobooks need cast listings and character listings — when your listening to an audiobook (as I get called on this oft enough), you have to interpret character names (esp how their spelt) by how you hear the name. Wells, apparently no one considered for those of us who are dyslexic we hear and interpret language differently than others and we also spell differently, too! So, for me, if I list a name or a character or anything else about a book on an audio review that differs from the print copy its because I wrote it down as I heard/interpreted it to be seen/said. Why that gets me into trouble I know not but its happened.
I’d love for multi-cast audiobooks to actually list which voice actor is narrating with piece of the audiobook (this works for different voices who voice different sections; anthologies, Non-Fiction or short stories, etc) or which narrator is voicing which characters (esp in larger casts or multi-POV casts). I find that invaluable on so many fronts! I like to thank the narrators I listen too (if their social on Twitter) and I like to include a note about them on my reviews – as its hard to credit the ‘voice’ if you have a choice of more than 2x and it can’t be discerned through listening because there is no mention of whose voicing which part/section of the book!! Grr.
The character names would just be ace to have because I wouldn’t have to stress about how I hear the names and how I spell them. I put on my blog’s bio and on my Twitter bio I’m a dyslexic inkslayer but I frankly don’t think anyone pays attention to that disclosure. I’m lucky more at least acknowledge I’m a migrainuer now that I put that up there…. so I feel you.
There are some additions which would benefit the community of readers and also make it easier on those of us who are a) sensitive readers to certain topics/subjects/inclusions and b) have a learning difficulty we’ve learnt to compensate for but still could use a bit of help circumventing if there were cast and character lists for audiobooks (as an example).
Great topic! Loved it because you nailed it beautifully.
Oh, I definitely feel you on needing to be clearer on review requests (though, the people who actually follow those guidelines are definitely hit or miss). Especially when it comes to bookish turnoffs. It will never *not* baffle me when someone sends me something that I’ve publicly discussed not enjoying.
Yes, that’s why I’d love a summary of what happened, because even with books I’ve reviewed, I don’t like writing summaries in my reviews, so I don’t help future me. 😛
Oh, that’s a super interesting take from the publisher side of things. I’d never thought of a clear marker of a book in a series being something they’d fear would turn people away. I have the opposite experience, as I really prefer series over standalones (despite my goldfish memory), so if I can’t tell it’s a series or not, I often get frustrated!
I don’t read audiobooks, but I really love your perspective on that and some things they could change in that area, as well! Especially with the spelling of things, I’ve definitely heard of readers’ getting frustrated not knowing how to spell them. But YES, credit your voice actors!!
Thank you so much for reading and for such an in-depth reply, Jorie!! <3 xx
Molly's Book Nook says
OMG YES if there were recaps that would be AMAZING. I’ve had to google the plot of a book 1 several times because I don’t remember anything. Sometimes authors do a good job at refreshing my memory but other times I literally dont remember a single thing. For example, Throne of Glass. I read it, loved it, but didn’t continue. Now I dont remember anything that happened so I just haven’t picked up the next book for YEARRRRSSS. Ugh lol
Honestly, YES. I have a few books I want to read, but I can’t remember jack shit about the first book. *sighs*
Realms of My Mind says
Yes to all of this! Lord knows one reason I have such a big problem continuing series is I don’t remember what happened in the last book. I’m trying to fix this by reading completed series books closer together, but 1) that isn’t possible and 2) reviewing new releases means you’re stuck waiting a year+.
And oh my God, why is it so hard to find cover artist information? That should be standard inside every book! The number of times I’ve gone in circles trying to figure out who did the cover art for a book is ridiculous.
I do also wish that book series were a little clearer with the planned installment-arc. I know things change and suddenly a trilogy becomes a quartet, but please give me a “first of a planned trilogy” or something. I’ve had a couple of instances where I’ve gone into what I thought was a standalone and realized in the last handful of pages it was actually a duology and my whole pacing meter had been WILDLY off, which dampened my enjoyment of the book because I was expecting a payoff that wasn’t coming. If I’d gone in knowing it was a duology, I would have been better prepared for threads hanging for the next installment.
Honestly, that is so refreshing to hear someone else who deals with this, because sometimes I feel so foolish that I can love a book so much and then not remember shit about it.
Right? I really want to just give credit where credit is due!!
Oooh, I would LOVE that. I hadn’t thought about it, but I totally understand where you’re coming from, in terms of how expectations are set up for a book!
Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction says
YES to all of these!! I once tweeted about how I wished recaps were included for series, and it went semi-viral (at least for me—I don’t remember the number, but it got thousands of likes and retweets). Apparently, lots of people feel this way!!
I’m glad I’m not the only one!!
Chronicles of the Bitch Queen by KS Villoso has recaps! They really help especially when I misunderstood some events in the previous books.
I’m with you on the cover credits! Since I’ve started including names of cover illustrators and designers in all my reviews, I’ve found it frustrating that I have to dig to find their names. Make this the norm!
Yessss, I’ll need them when I finally prepare myself to start book three!!
YES, it should be the norm! I’m so shocked it isn’t already.