Incomplete stories in books drive me absolutely bonkers. Possibly because, as I was reading the book, even knowing there was a sequel in the works, I just made the mistaken assumption of assuming I could read the fucking book on its OWN!
Let me back up.
What do I mean by “incomplete stories”? Incomplete stories aren’t incomplete books. Books are finite physical models with page counts limited by book presses. Unless wholesale pages are torn out or the hardcover is ripped in half, the book will never be incomplete. The story, the overarching plot line, can easily be incomplete.
As a writer—hell, as a reader—I’ve read books long enough that I understand basic plot structure, when inciting events happen, rising action, conclusion. I know when these should occur in a book, if only because when you’re physically holding a book it’s hard disabuse yourself of the notion of your physical location in the narrative structure. Ebooks are much easier to get lost in that manner.
It’s okay if a book series has an overarching plot line. Harry Potter did that and with the exception of books 6/7 managed complete stories while progressing the overall series narrative.
Really, I don’t mind books that have recurring characters that build on past events, but you can’t seriously argue that The Wheel of Time, books 6-9 stood on their own as independent, whole stories. If I had to, I could break down what the complete stories in the WoT book series are. (I probably will at a later date) Or that the Lord of the Rings trilogy represents anything other than an incomplete story.
This isn’t a television show with a giant “To Be Continued” at the end. At least most TV has the courtesy of presenting episodes as complete thoughts. Though, Maxiseries and pay-TV like HBO is certainly challenging the syndication model. Maybe there is something to the “if you pay for it, we’ll give you an incomplete story” theory to make you come back and justify its own hype. Some book models, like Pocket Books Star Trek Relaunch series can justify this model because it’s based on a continuity laden, interwoven TV universe. Then again, look at their sales numbers.
Still, when I pick up a book, I don’t want to get to the end and realize that the story isn’t complete. That’s unfulfilling. And unless the series is finished, it makes me less likely to pick up the next book because I just won’t care by the time the sequel comes out. Unlike TV, waiting 2 or 3 years for the next installment of a book I’ll most likely have moved on from isn’t all that appealing. Hell, serialized stories are one reason I’ve moved on from TV for the most part.
Books can’t come out with the frequency to justify the cliffhanger.