An Open Letter to All Publishers

Dear Publishers,

There are two things you keep doing that affect my reading pleasure. Well, okay there are lots of things you do, but I don’t have time to go into detail about all your cover sins, and your back jacket copy lies, misinformation, and bad writing, which frequently keep me away from genius books. Thus I will limit myself to two complaints:

Complaint the first and smaller of the two:

Please do not place spoilery acknowledgments at the front of a book. Actually, please don’t place un-spoilery acks at the beginning of a book. Acknowledgments belong at the back of the book. They are back matter. It’s only after we’ve read the book that we understand what the author is thanking people for and what it means.

Complaint the second and hugest:

For the love of all that is wondrous, do not place an advertisement for another book on the page facing the final page of the book.

This is the worst thing in the world.

I just finished Annette Curtis Klause’s Blood and Chocolate.1 It’s a wonderful book that’s intense and involving and made me totally forget I live anywhere but in the world of Blood and Chocolate until I turned to the last page and there facing it was a whopping great big ad for another book by that publisher.


Way to break the spell, publisher people. Why would you do that? You just destroyed my reading experience. You just ruined thousands of people’s reading experience. A curse upon your house. A really nasty curse. One that means you never publish a profitable book again. You will lose all bidding wars, your publicity campaigns will crumble to dust, your most successful authors will leave you.

What should have been on the facing page was nothing. A blank page. There should never be anything facing the final page of a book. EVER. I do not understand how publishers don’t understand this.

Readers want a moment of quiet in which to savour the end of the book. Do not worry, we will eventually turn the page and find the back matter. We’ll read the acks, peruse the ads, and the opening chapter of the next book by the same author. That’s when we’ll be in the right frame of mind to be receptive to your blandishments to buy more of your books. There’s absolutely no need in the world to SHOUT at us to do so before we’ve finished the book.

Stop it immediately.

Yours sincerely,

A lover of books2

  1. I know, I know, everyone else read it years ago. Once again I am way behind the curve. []
  2. Of the ones that don’t suck that is. []


  1. Icy Roses on #

    I SO agree with your first complaint. You think I’d learn after having at least two or three books spoiled that way–and I’m not a big spoiler freak; I’ll keep reading even if I can guess the end–but I still read those acknowledgments, and I still think, “Why did I do that?” after I do. My life would be a lot better if plots weren’t ruined.

  2. Paige on #

    I wonder what publishers would say if they read that?

  3. Megan on #

    Hmm that’s an interesting point!
    However I disagree with you – I think acknowledgements belong at the beginning of a novel!
    I agree with the no-ad policy!

  4. Justine on #

    Megan: You can’t just say that acks belong at the beginning of the book with no justification.

    Why do want to be spoiled before you begin a book?


  5. Rebecca on #

    I so agree on point number two. I have a burning hatred for ads, even more so when they’re in bad taste or purposefully obnoxious.

    The only exception I make to point number one (that I can remember, anyway), is Suite Scarlett. Because I am a weird person who reads the acknowledgments, and Suite Scarlett‘s was actually funny, but it really doesn’t make as much sense at the end of the book (which they moved it to for the paperback). I was sad. I have to say I’ve never had a book spoiled by the acknowledgments, though. I always get spoiled by the prologues, and I skip them half the time because of that. Sometimes I feel like certain prologues weren’t the author’s idea at all. But putting spoilers in the acknowledgments makes noooo sense. Maybe the author didn’t know the publisher was going to stick them at the front?

  6. Nosidam on #

    I agree whole-heartedly with this blog post. Do you know what else makes me angry? When the book jacket blurb highlights on events that don’t happen until halfway through the book. Another thing that makes me mad is when you look up a book on Amazon and it practically gives you a summery of the book. They should post a spoiler warning or something. You can entice someone to read a book without divulging all of the details of the story.

  7. Justine on #

    Rebecca: I hated the SS acks being at the front. They were totally spoilery. Much better at the end.

    Writers frequently thank people who helped with their research or list books they used in the acks. So if they’re at the front and they’ve thanked an explosives expert I spend the whole book waiting for the explosion. Not good.

  8. Rebecca on #

    They were spoilery for Scott’s books, for sure. Hehehehe.

  9. Stephanie Leary on #

    I hate acknowledgments at the front of the book! As a web designer, I’m constantly trying to get people to skip the useless intro stuff: Flash splash pages, pointless “welcome to our site” text, that sort of thing — and get right to the point! Acknowledgments at the front of a book feels the same, and makes me start losing interest in the book before I’ve even gotten to the story. (Woe to the author who has acks AND an author’s note AND a prologue.)

    That said, it’s just as bad to have the acks in the back if they don’t have a proper heading. I hate turning my attention to the next the page, thinking there’s more story, only to be confronted with something else entirely.

    Design matters. The story needs to be clearly separated from the not-story bits.

  10. jonathan on #

    am i naïve, but I would have thought that acknowledgements, dedications, index &c. are editorial content — on the same lines as the ms — and under the control (or at least the approval) of the author…

    are there fixed rules in the matter? a dedication is often set out at the begining, but acknowledgements can surely be at the front or back, as the author thinks best.

    advertising, yuk. no thanks.

    but then again, what is the real difference between an ad and a couple of blank pages and then a list of other books by the same author? or other books in the same collection? [personally I discovered many an author through the back pages of Puffin books…]. it probably all comes down to a matter of respect: if the layout and whitespace at the end of the book respect the reader, then this is seen as information, even a continuing of the conversation, rather than advertising. however when it arrives as an intrusion, then, yes, it can break the tone, the silence that extends beyond the book and into the moment, and intrude, even ruin the experience.

  11. Justine on #

    Jonathan: There’s nothing wrong with ads in books. My objection is to anything appearing immediately after the end of the book. All I want is some blank pages. Then they can have ads for books and whatever they want.

    As for your question some houses have a set style for where the acks go. Some will consult authors. Some won’t.

  12. Glenn Yeffeth on #

    As a publisher I accept your demands.

    Also, it’s not a bad idea to let the author look over the cover copy before it’s designed. We’ve avoided some real problems that way.

  13. Pixelfish on #

    The cover copy sins are the worst to my mind. (Particularly in omnibus editions where multiple books reside within.)

    I sometimes really think marketers needs to stop trying to play with their crystal ball and just tell the meat of the premise, instead of trying to play adjective soup and convince a particular demographic. (For every demographic you try to blatantly hit with your marketing rhetoric, there’s half a dozen more going, “Oh, I guess this isn’t for me,” and putting the book back down.)

    But sometimes I wish they’d leave major plot points out of the cover copy. I spent the first few chapters of a book recently wondering when a certain character was going to die, because it said so right on the jacket copy. I think it would have been better and more impactful if they’d left that major plot curve out.

  14. Diana Peterfreund on #

    Stephanie, you sound like a designer after my own heart. When I was looking for web designers, though, they all wanted all this fra-la and fripperie stuff that took ten minutes to load before you got to any content at all. They’d learned all this cool java stuff in their web designing classes and wanted to play with it, rather than make me a useful website. Pretty and all, but not what I wanted.

    Pixelfish, I agree. It’s also tough because sometimes editor have their pet words that you see cropping up over and over again on cover copy. I’ve definitely had to ask for changes that described consecutive (and really different) romantic relationships in my series as “imploding.” And don’t get me started on spoilers! I have a standing rule that copywriters are not allowed to include in a blurb anything that happens after the midpoint in my book (and/or synopsis). But it’s not a rule that’s been followed with any regularity. 😉

  15. Zoe on #

    Totally agree with you on both points, Justine. And as a publisher, I have the power to make it so. Huzzah!

    On a related note, I recently read the ebook of John Green’s Looking for Alaska and had to plough through pages and pages of ads for his next book and an interview with the author … after the prologue and before the book had even started. Huh?

  16. Steve Buchheit on #

    The other day when I was in half-price books they had a few by Clifford Simac. So I added to my collection, but one book that was heavily water damaged I almost bought just as a relic. It had a glossy ad for cigarettes bound smack in the middle of the book.

    And just like Stephanie, I get so tired of the “rotating logo now with fire” conversations about design.

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