Recently, Goodreads polled its members, asking what books they walked away from and why.
Here is the fruit of that survey (comments below the infographic):
As a reader, I could start a discussion here about what books I’m surprised are in the top five (Wicked) and which ones I whole-heartedly expected (Fifty Shades of Grey). But, as a writer, I’m more interested in WHY people didn’t finish the books they started.
46.4% of respondents said they stopped reading because the book was SLOW and BORING.
18.8% said they stopped because of WEAK WRITING.
The rest of the responses were scattered. The two above seem to be the most impassioned. For good reason. If you don’t capture the reader in at the very beginning, then there’s no reason for them to stay. If your writing does not draw them into the story, or if they cannot become emotionally attached to the characters, they won’t be invested. And if they aren’t invested, there are a lot of free or cheap alternatives out on the market for them to try instead.
It’s all about supply and demand, people.
2.7% said they stopped because of bad editing.
I find it interesting this statistic is so low. Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but I expect a well-edited manuscript. Especially if I’m wavering on a story line. If I’m feeling the writing is not engaging enough, and I come across a typo, especially in the first chapter, I’m guaranteed to roll my eyes and toss the book aside. Because, in my mind, if the writer is not dedicated enough to ensure at LEAST the first chapter is typo free, then that is a good indication they will not focus on character arcs or story development either.
Now, here’s where the survey results take a weird turn:
When asked, “What keeps you turning the page?”
36.6% of members polled said “As a rule, I like to finish things.”
I don’t know what to make of that. You continue to read it, even if it stinks? That’s some class-A OCD craziness happening there.
25.2% said, “I have to know what happens.”
Now that is a sentiment I can get behind. Except, it’s not enough to keep me actually reading.
I was recently forced to scan through a book, reading only the dialogue and important tidbits, just to get to the end. Because the writer set up a brilliant scenario, but the writing itself was not captivating enough to keep me going. When I got to the end, I nearly threw the book across the room. Because it ended on a cliffhanger, a cheap ploy intended to force me to read the next book in the series. But, while I wanted closure, I didn’t want to waste any more time scanning for answers. So, instead, I had brunch with a friend who had read the whole series. And, in a matter of 30 minutes, over coffee and frittatas, she answered all my questions.
13.4% said they finished a book they didn’t like because, “It’s a compulsive habit.”
Again with the OCD.
So, on the flip side of that, when does a reader abandon a book?
38.1% of respondents said they always finish. NO MATTER WHAT.
Those poor people. They need to know they don’t have to settle. Don’t do it, friends, just don’t do it! There is better literature for you out there. And you deserve it.
27.9% jump ship at 50-100 pages.
This is the category I usually fall into (if I haven’t found a typo to make me quit sooner).
The best thing about reading is there are so many options out there. There are some books that will blow you away, make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside – books you add to your collection so you can look at them years later and feel those emotions all over again. Books that are like old friends.
But just as some friends are not for everyone, not all books are beloved by all their readers. Sometimes, those books are abandoned, in favor of literature that will better serve the individual reader.
And it’s okay to put down a book that isn’t working for you. Because life is short. Too short to keep reading something you hate.
Here’s a link to the full list for your perusal.
Happy reading (or not).