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January 25, 2021

10 Reasons Why Readers Quit a Book / Guest Post by Jacqui Murray



Today I have Jacqui Murray on my blog talking about why readers quit books, an important topic for us all. Please help me to welcome her!

10 Reasons Why Readers Quit a Book

by Jacqui Murray

It used to be I almost always finished any book I started. I'd think about all the work the author put into writing it, figure it was my personal lens not their skill, and continue in the hope I'd learn a different way of thinking. Over the years, I've changed. With Kindle Unlimited, I can borrow a book, read a few chapters, and then return it with no muss or fuss. Now, I quit about 10% of the books I start even after spending the time to preview, read the blurbs, and explore reader comments.

Why? There are good reasons to not invest the time required to finish a book:

  • Characters aren’t likable. If I don't find a character to root for in the first few chapters, I'm probably not going to keep reading. It doesn't have to be the MC, just someone who I'd like to travel 300 pages or so with.
  • Plot develops too slowly. This is a personal choice because I love thrillers. I like fast-paced plots with dramatic consequences. I'm not into those that explore every tangential character, their lives and motivations. I'll whisper this next: I'm not a fan of literary fiction for those same reasons.
  • Plot is too complicated. This happens in political thrillers often. They usually have so many moving parts, my head spins. I used to track all those subplots well but not anymore. Once I no longer connect actions and consequences, I start skipping things. Honestly, I think it has more to do with age than organic reasoning.
  • Plot is unrealistic (and it isn’t science fiction or fantasy). I want to willingly suspend my disbelief, root for a superhero who can save the world without backup. If an author can make me believe that, I'll read the entire series. Case in point: The Jess Williams Westerns. Jess can shoot his gun faster than is humanly possible but the author (Robert Thompson) made me believe it so completely that I've read all 100 books in the series. And am waiting for the next.
  • No hook. The book has a dazzling plot, believable characters, set in a perfectly-described scene, but the author forgot the hook. Why do I care? Well, another word for 'hook' is 'theme'. It ties all the characters and subplots together into a sensible package. Without it, maybe I don't care that Julio lost his job or Amanda broke her fingernail.
  • Author is preachy. I don’t want the author’s opinions on a subject for more than a paragraph. If I wanted preaching, I’d go to church. Same goes for politics. For many--including me--reading is an escape from politics. Let them escape. The exception of course are novels that deal with politics like Alan Drury's Advise and Consent.
  • I can’t see what’s going on. The author hasn’t sufficiently fleshed out the scenery or filled my senses with the world inhabited by the characters. It's common for new authors to forget about the senses but it's a fatal flaw. Our lives are lived in full color. The stories we read must be also.
  • Author didn’t do his/her research. I’ve caught too many errors and no longer trust what the author is telling me. This is especially important in my genre, historic fiction, where readers expect to be wrapped in the atmosphere of the time. A writer can make one mistake, but two is a trend. Three is an end.
  • Author made mistakes. A character has red hair one scene and black the next. It was a drizzly day when the chapter opened and the characters dress for summer–for no reason. We all do that but fix it before publication. If you find you're missing these, hire an editor.
  • A dog is killed for no reason (or a horse). Or abused. This is personal. I can't stand seeing a dog murdered when their entire life's goal is to make us happy. I relate to John Wick's homicidal tirade after someone killed his dog. Remember the dog-death scene in I Am Legend? Why did they have to include that?

One I used to consider deadly was POV switches. I hated when the author jumped in and out of characters heads with abandon. Unfortunately, I see that often now, even from good writers, so I am more tolerant.

What are your reasons for giving up on a book?

If you'd like to chat more about this, you can find me at these social media locations:

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Jacqui-Murray/e/B002E78CQQ/

Blog: https://worddreams.wordpress.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jacquimurraywriter/

LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

Twitter: http://twitter.com/worddreams

Website: https://jacquimurray.net


Upcoming Book

Laws of Nature

Planned publication: Summer 2021

A boy blinded by fire. A woman raised by wolves. An avowed enemy offers help. Can they save Lucy's tribe?


Short Summary

Lucy and her band of early humans struggle against the harsh reality of a world ruled by nature, where predators stalk them and a violent new species of man threatens to destroy their world. Only by changing can they survive.

If you ever wondered how earliest man survived but couldn’t get through the academic discussions, this book is for you. It will bring that world to life in a way you've never seen before.


Author Bio:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Man vs. Nature saga, and the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, Summer 2021.



Thank you for your post, Jacqui!

Please leave a comment for her. 

 

48 comments:

Ankur Mithal said...

I used to be like that. Had to finish a book if I started it, even when every page was like drawing a tooth. But a bit more relaxed now. To each his own, I now realize. The author does not become a bad person if I don't finish her book.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I don't finish some books now for those very reasons. Unlikable characters and plodding story kill it often for me. And never kill the dog. I'll never read or watch the movie for Marley and Me because I know the dog dies in the end.

D. Wallace Peach said...

Great guest post, Chrys, and I couldn't agree more with Jacqui's list. I had a dog drown in a flood in one of my books (it was supposed to show the terrible tragedy of the flood). A beta reader said, "No, don't risk it!" So, I changed it to a rat. Much better. And I don't feel that I need to finish books anymore either. There are too many good ones out there to spend my time on ones I don't enjoy. :-)

Jacqui Murray said...

"Drawing a tooth"--boy does that beget an image, Ankur!

Jacqui Murray said...

It's usually so unnecessary--dog death--and seems to symbolize the death of innocence. I'm not that gal.

Jacqui Murray said...

I'm like that even with vicious dogs because they didn't start nasty. They learned it.

Jacqui Murray said...

Thank you so much for hosting me, Chrys! What a joy to chat with your followers.

Jeff said...

I will put up with poor writing in non-fiction more than fiction. I am currently reading such a book (for information) and I'm thinking this could be a great story if creatively told, but instead I have to be content with struggling through it--but I want the information. I will easily give up on a work of fiction.

Good to see Jacqui on your blog!

sagecoveredhills.blogspot.com
https://fromarockyhillside.com

Bette A. Stevens said...

For many of the same reasons... This is a great reminder to keep us on track as writers!

Pete Springer said...

I generally finish what I've started. It's rare for me to give up on a book or a movie. The one consequence is I'm unlikely to read anything else by the same author in the future if I'm left unsatisfied.

The main deal breaker from your list to me is realism. Fiction doesn't give license to writing the impossible or actions that someone would never choose in real life.

Unknown said...

You're more forgiving on POV switches than I am. That said, as you point out, a lot of this is personal. I like an eclectic mix of reads, some 'literary', but regret to say that mental challenge has been a reason for me - ie some books are just too 'difficult' - or perhaps too difficult for that current point in my life. Don DeLillo and James Joyce are examples here. Bit embarrassing as I studied English language and linguistics.

Chrys Fey said...

You're very welcome! It's awesome to see your followers visiting. :)

Jacqui Murray said...

James- Joyce--spot on. I don't even try the Cliff Notes on that.

Jacqui Murray said...

I'm a bit wishy washy on that. "Willing suspension of disbelief"--that must happen which requires some grounding in reality.

Jacqui Murray said...

That's what I like about Creative Non-fiction--it includes the best traits of fiction while losing none of the authenticity. Thanks for dropping in, Jeff!

jbiggar said...

This is a great list, Jacqui. I don't mind POV switches as long as they happen at a change of scene or chapter- it's annoying when it's every other paragraph!
If the story has pages of sex (romance reader here :)) it turns me off instead of on, lol. I don't need to know how A fits into B into C, and so on- really, it's okay!
The other thing that kills a story for me is if it drags. I can't read if the words are putting me to sleep.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great post. #1 and #2 especially turn me off. I really need a face-paced story to continue reading.

Sandra Cox said...

This was great, Jacqui, and spot on. Ten things, as writers, that we need to remind ourselves of.
'Lo, Chrys:)

Liz A. said...

I think school trains us to finish books because assignments. There's something liberating about not finishing a book that you just can't get into. I can't do literary fiction, either.

Jacqui Murray said...

Agreed with all your points. The dragging--I think the author is trying to get me into the characters head and emotions but I much prefer to do that through action.

Jacqui Murray said...

Me too. I'll like the character by their actions, not their thoughts.

Jacqui Murray said...

Well thank you! I just quit another book today and am analyzing why the next in my TBR pile has already gripped me. I love it!

Jacqui Murray said...

That's a good point. I think you're right, even though it's been a while since school.

nashvillecats2 said...

I quit a book should I get bored with it, may be the storyline or chatacters.
I have always been an avid reader since I was a child and it was the same then.

Loved the post.
Yvonne.

Sarah Foster said...

I usually finish a book once I start it, even if I'm not enjoying it. I don't know what it is, once I start, I feel like I HAVE to finish. I remember once I stopped reading a book because it was getting a little preachy for me. It was a fantasy book, too, and it just kinda took me out of it.

Jacqui Murray said...

I finally caught up with what you do--I just stopped reading one book today. Just didn't do it for me.

Jacqui Murray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jacqui Murray said...

Preachy really makes me quit. It's hard enough to allow those I love to preach at me!

Liesbet said...

Thanks for hosting Jacqui here, Chrys! She’s been an inspiration for me and I agree with many of her book “turn-offs,” I like how you fleshed out this list, Jacqui! To me, a book has to keep moving. Fiction as well as memoir and even non-fiction, in which I don’t like too much repetition. In many self-help books, I feel the author could have shared the same content in half the size of the book.

Tonja Drecker said...

I burst out laughing at the 100 books in the series. I've noticed that I have less patience as I get older for plots. The head hopping POVs bugs me. Or series which flip between characters with each book (I like to stick with the character I first fell in love with). Bad dialogue bugs me, or insane emotional reactions, or stupid characters...I'll just have to restate the getting older part, I guess ;)

Jacqui Murray said...

I think self-help books wander into pontificating, which I don't like. Personalize is fine. Thanks, Liesbet! Have a wonderful week.

Jacqui Murray said...

And the author did a celebration when he hit 100. He'd planned on a trilogy! I love that series.

Lisa Thomson said...

Soooo very useful to know from a lady who has tremendous experience. Thank you, Jacqui for this valid info. I'm currently reading a great book for authors in making their readers into "Superfans" and he (David Gaughan) addresses this exact issue--readers DNF'ing our books. So making the sale is far from the end of the author's journey to success. It's remarkably high, the percentage of readers who either don't open your book or start it and don't finish it. I rarely DNF a book but I am doing it more now in the last five years. I think it's an age thing, too. I don't have the same patience for slow plots, too many POV's and no hook. Thank you, Chrys, for sharing Jacqui's wisdom here.

Mark said...

I very rarely quit a book I've started, but if I do, it's probably around the 50 page mark. A lot of it depends on the reader's mood. Sometimes, you're just not in the mood for a certain story.

Jacqui Murray said...

DNF--love that term, Lisa. Thanks for sharing it!

Jacqui Murray said...

I try to give slow books 25% but don't always make it. And you're right about mood--sometimes, I'm just not interested and it has nothing to do with the writer.

Anneli Purchase said...

I hope my comment doesn't come up twice. I lost it the first time. I found this list of reasons why readers quit reading to be right on the mark, and I found the comments from others very interesting too. I agree with most of them. I'm convinced that Jacqui has control of all the reasons readers quit and has managed to avoid these pitfalls in her own writing. I love her books and can't stop reading them once I start.

Janie Junebug said...

I can't bear abuse of any kind in a book, whether it's children, animals, old folks--whatever.

Love,
Janie

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Excellent reasons to stop reading! My biggest reason for walking away is the unlikability of the characters. I once read a story hashed on an old electric typewriter. It was filled with grammar errors and the writing was elementary, but the main character had so much likability, I didn't care. I had to know how the story would end. But if they're not worth rooting for, I don't care how beautifully written the book is, I'm putting it down.

Chemist Ken said...

For me, it's mostly slow starts that get me. I figure if a writer can't get things moving in the most important part of the story (the beginning) they probably aren't going to be able to do it through the book either. thanks for the list Jacqui.

Jacqui Murray said...

Aren't you a ray of sunshine in my cloudy California morning. Thank you, Anneli!

Jacqui Murray said...

Me, too. I've drifted more toward cozies as I grow older.

Jacqui Murray said...

Really good point--and you're right! I will tolerate a lot in the real world too for people I like.

Jacqui Murray said...

Good point about the beginning. So many writers swear the story gets better when the reader gets into it but will they read that far?

Mark Bierman said...

Excellent points made in this blog Jacqui! These are the very reaons it is imperative that authors use beta readers and proofreaders before they hit the publish button. This blog is food for thought and will help new and experienced writers alike. Thank you for sharing your ideas with us. Thank you, Chrys for hosting Jacqui. You have a new follower in me.

Jacqui Murray said...

Thanks so much, Mark. It is basics, don't you think? I appreciate your thoughts.

Fundy Blue said...

A 100-book series? Holy Toledo! I ordered the first one right now when I read this. Just to let you know, Jacqui, 101 and 102 are now out. LOL! This is an excellent list, one writers should take to heart. Thanks Jacqui and Chrys for a great post!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jacqui and Chrys ... I definitely need to be engaged ... otherwise count me out. I struggle to read fiction now ... but have read one of Jacqui's and it's excellent ... but I can't stand bad, faded endings ... having read the book and enjoyed it - I don't need to be left unhappy with a poorly written finish to the book. Stay safe both of you ... Hilary