Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Dear Author, Here Are the Reasons I Didn't Finish Your Book

One of the bonuses of being a subscriber to Kindle Unlimited is that I can read a huge number of books for free. This means that I don’t suffer through bad writing. If I don’t like something, I delete it unfinished, without remorse. Sometimes, I only get through a few pages before hitting the kill switch. 

As an author, why should you care if I leave your book unfinished? For one, I won't be posting a review for your book and reviews are the lifeblood of promotion. But a less obvious reason is that Kindle Unlimited pays authors according to the number of pages read by the customer. If I buy a book outright, the author is paid whether I like it or not. With Kindle Unlimited, the author is paid a percentage of the KDP Select Global fund. And that percentage is based in part on how many pages the customer reads. More than ever before, it's important to keep the reader happy right to the end. 

Maybe I’m picky. But life’s too short and there are too many good books out there for me to waste time on bad ones. So here’s my letter to all the authors whose books I’ve deleted unread.

Dear Author,
Here are the reasons I didn’t finish your book:

1. After reading 25 pages, where the character is jumping at shadows and dealing with an impending doom, I still have no clue what that doom is. I’ve decided that I don’t care enough about her angst to stick around.

2. Five pages in, your main character has done nothing but quip jokes that fall flat. I love a good snarky attitude, but with sarcasm, like with perfume, less is more.

3. On page three, right before your main character has sex with a man she just met, she says “I don’t usually do this.” Enough said.

4. I read almost half of your book, but the main character keeps making life-choices that put him in the “Too Stupid to Live” category. I realize that you need to move your plot forward, and I commend you for making your character active in that plot instead of reactive. However, in fiction, just like in real life, I don’t suffer fools gladly.

5. Your story begins with a dream sequence full of extraordinary imagery that I’m sure is relevant to your main character, but means nothing to me. Have her wake up already.

6. I’m on page 5, and your main character hasn’t been out of his own head yet. Please make him do something!

7. I’m on page thirty and your main character has already battled an army of demons, cried over the body of his father/brother/mother and overcome six other obstacles. And I know nothing about him. Please give me some reason to care about this character. (This grievance is the flip-side to #6)

8. By page 2, I’ve already found 6 typos and 4 grammar errors.

9. I’d like to know about this fantastic world you’ve built, but not on page one. Please let me get to know your world through the eyes of your main character. Don’t dump it on me like a page from an encyclopedia.

10. I can actually hear your villain laughing “Mwahaha!” and rubbing his hands together in evil glee. Please give me a three-dimensional bad guy, someone I love to hate.

11. By page 3, your main character has killed someone with a photonader, fixed the wiston-phallax drive on his class 5 starship with a new fangled birka, then asked his computer to generate some sups-feed for lunch. Wait? What? I’m exhausted trying to keep up with all your fun gadgets and lingo.

12. “Good morning, son. I made you oatmeal for breakfast.” said Dad. “Dad, I know Mom had an early meeting with the mayor to go over the proposal for a new park, but she always makes me pancakes for breakfast,” whined Billy. Stop. Right. There. People don’t talk like this.

Some of these examples are exaggerated to make a point, but not by much. What are your thoughts? Do you have pet-peeves for book openings? Do you finish a book you don’t like, just to find out the ending? How do you feel about the royalty structure of Kindle Unlimited? I’d love to hear your perspective. Leave your comments below.

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  1. I used to stick it out till the bitter end, just natural curiosity to see what happens and if it gets any better, wins out over boredom and frustration. I would never review one of these books though, not publicly anyway. Nowadays I'm like you, I have more books on my Kindle than I can get through, why waste valuable reading time?

    1. Sylva, I feel the same way. I used to feel beholden to the author or the book to finish it. Now there is so much to read that I don't waste time with the subpar. I think that attitude is the catalyst for authors to really put forth their best work.

  2. I run out of patience fast too. If it doesn't resonate, or keep my attention, it's gone. I'm not signed up to KU, but have a fair few (read lots) free books downloaded. I'm more prone to finish reading a book if I've paid for it, but if it was free and I'm just not into it, I won't bother trying.

    1. Lisa, I've noticed over the past few months that the caliber of free self-pubbed books has gone up. I think authors have taken note of the many bad reviews for poor quality work.