10 reasons why a reader will put down your book

Writer, take heed!

In a Goodreads poll, members answered the question “What is it about a book that will make you put it down?”

Their answers are ones you want to scribble down, tape to your computer screen, and keep in mind as you write your stories with the goal of having them published.

Goodreads has 20 million members. That’s a good number of voices. Members means readers. Readers are the ultimate reason for which you write, right?

Pay attention to what readers have to say. They are not shy in giving their thoughts, especially on Goodreads which is a great resource for writers. This poll received nearly one thousand comments.

Here are the results.

What Readers Don’t Want

  1. Slow and boring – 46.4%
  2. Weak writing – 18.8%
  3. Extremely stupid – 8.8%
  4. Ridiculous (or nonexistent) plot – 8.5%
  5. I don’t like the main character – 4.9%
  6. Inappropriate, makes me uncomfortable – 3.8%
  7. When an author is committed to doing something I hate – 3.2%
  8. Bad editing – 2.7%
  9. Any combination of the reasons above – 2.5%
  10. Immoral – 0.5%

What Readers Want

After the large slice of “Slow and boring,” the list reads like a smorgasbord of ideas. But when you look closely, you’ll see there are really three main ideas that readers conveyed to authors with this poll.

Readers want to be entertained. They’ll close your book if it doesn’t keep them wanting to turn the page from the get-go. “Slow and boring” is a cover slammer. 46.4%

Readers want to be taken seriously.  They don’t want to read something that insults their intelligence. From weak writing to bad editing, the stupid to the ridiculous — readers can see through a piece of writing created by an author who hopes the reader just don’t care enough to insist on excellence.  38.8%

Readers want to like the story. Though all of the 10 reasons point to this expectation, the specific reasons noted — not liking the character, discomfort while reading, immorality within the story, and opposite interests — call for a story that makes the reading experience worthwhile. Readers won’t spend time with a book while wishing they were elsewhere. 12.4%

What’s a Writer to Do?

Of course this list isn’t the end-all of what causes a reader to put down your book. There are many types of readers. What one thinks is slow and boring, another thinks is well-paced and thoughtful.

Note #9 on the list with its 2.5%. That’s an interesting one in that those readers didn’t even care to get specific. They just want a good story, one that appeals to who they are.

Here’s the main take-away I got from this poll: Know your reader, write for that reader, and show respect for that reader and yourself as you share your work. You’ll write a story that readers won’t want to put down until your last word is read.

What do you think about the results of this poll, as a writer or as a reader?


2 thoughts on “10 reasons why a reader will put down your book

  1. Excellent list from Goodreads members, Darla. When I’m reading a book–even by an author I previously liked, 1, 2, 8, and 10 will make me close it and not come back to the book…or the author.


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