I love a good mystery, but I don’t want important things about the book I’m about to read to be a mystery. Like every reader, I have specific things I like and things I don’t like. Authors will be disappointed if they think their book is so exceptional that readers will love it even when they find elements they don’t want. More likely, the reader will give up in disgust or even become angry.
For example, I abhor cliffhanger endings. I rarely write negative reviews, though I have posted more than 2000 book reviews on Goodreads. If I’m not enjoying a book, I abandon it and don’t write a review as I don’t believe it’s fair to review something I didn’t finish. However, if I enjoy a book and get to the end to find a cliffhanger ending, I do review the book negatively and vow never to read another book by that author. Had there been a brief warning in the book description, I wouldn’t have downloaded the book to my Kindle and wouldn’t have been disappointed in the ending, and the author would still have a chance I’d become a reader of other books without cliffhanger endings.
I also don’t like to read explicit sex and violence. I will abandon the book if I encounter more than a very brief episode. Since I abandon the book, I don’t write a negative review, but I will warn other people with values like mine.
If the author just lets the reader know what to expect, she will attract the readers who like what she has to offer and avoid the ones who will write negative reviews or warn others about her.
A book described as Christian will attract my attention, whereas I’ve read many reviews that said, “If I had known this was a Christian book, I would not have ordered it.”
Every reader should be able to read or not read what he prefers. I’m not suggesting censorship in any form. I don’t even want to see something like the Motion Picture Association of America’s movie ratings, where a group of people decide what ages films are appropriate for. All I’m suggesting is that authors and publishers write book descriptions that let readers know what to expect.
And the information doesn’t have to be in the form of a warning. A simple statement like “Readers who love cliffhanger endings will want to read this series” or “Lots of emotion and lots of steam” will help draw the right target audience and repel readers who probably won’t love the book.
Seems to be a win-win: authors attract the ideal readers, and other readers don’t encounter things that offend them, whether that’s blood and gore or Christian faith.