Am reading this long post on AVclub about the perils of reading an epic series, especially with regards to the ending being a disappointment. Wow, there's a fair amount of frustration towards George Martin and Stephen King going on there, but there are a number of reasonable points on a reader's frustration about endings.
Something I might have been thinking a bit about recently. The more I'm reminded of things like Wheel of Time, the more I'm glad I stuck to five books and aren't planning follow ups (short stories that I've already written aside). I've been looking forward to having a finished product for such a long time, why would I ruin that by saying there's more of the story yet to come? The shorts are supplementary information, side pieces to the main story that aren't crucial but might be interesting to fans. But even if you do want the full set, you'll be waiting maybe six months after the publication of Dusk Watchman I believe, no more.
The opinions you have to contend with are along the lines of
"it was as if I’d wasted years—or worse, as if King had stolen from me by making offers he couldn’t possibly see through. It’s hard not to get upset about that, much like it was hard for me not to feel cheated when J.K. Rowling brought her seven-book epic to conclusion with the muddled, often inert Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows. Much like it was hard for many fans not to get outraged when the final season of Lost didn’t answer their questions."
These days, would it be excessive to think that a lot of fans are going into an ending of a series wondering how disappointed they're going to be?
"We need a conclusion that… delivers on whatever promises have been made…. This is nearly impossible."
Apparently, saying 'I know how it ends' doesn't cut the mustard with some readers.
But what really jumped out at me was this:
"writers keep trying, and audiences keep buying, despite the almost inevitable disappointment these series bring"
Almost inevitable?! Jesus. Basically, the sense is that the start is always going to be the best, and a series will go downhill from there. Is that the core readership's view? The people who've been disappointed the most, but are the ones a new or mid-list author needs to impress?
I immediately wanted to reply "wait, some of us were still developing our style – the writing gets better as my series goes on!" but i'm not sure that's the most sensible comment to any blog post… it does remind me that the way to a successful series is to get a great opener. The rest aren't so vital – if people like book one and buy it in their hordes, you're going to be earning for years to come. So which way would I – as a debut writer with bills to pay – want to do it, given the choice?
Now I'm not saying anything definitive on that front because the point is moot, but I find myself thinking I should be approaching bloggers to get them to read the whole series in one go near enough. I think it's a series that improves and develops into more than the sum of its parts but the end. How I sell that to the readers is the question?