Top Reasons Readers will close your book.

While recently attending the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia, I sat in on a workshop that gave out this information. I felt that it was valuable enough to pass along.

1) Nothing happens in the opening pages. No one will keep reading about a bunch of characters that are going nowhere, or pages filled with pretty scenery. Start out with some interesting action or problem, and hook your reader.

2) Too much happens in the opening page or too many characters. If  the reader has to make a list to keep track of who’s who, you’ve got too many characters. Also, avoid the same sounding names or names starting with the same letter; Kark, Kanya and Kumbla.)

3) Info dump. Your story barely gets going when the reader is saddled with pages and pages of back story. This bogs down the pace and is tedious to read. Once we get engrossed in the story, a little bit of back story will add a deeper understanding of why your character is acting the way he/she is. The key words above are ‘a little bit’.  In the workshop, it was referred to as “Salting” the story, not dumping the entire shaker out. 🙂

5) Too much of anything will spoil your story. If it’s a romance, keep the romance alive with sexual tension. If it’s a mystery, don’t just have murder after murder. Give us a clever mystery to solve. If it’s an action/thriller, don’t have chapter after chapter of fight scenes and bombs and car chases. The reader needs to get a break. And this is the perfect spot to talk about cuss words. Use them sparingly. Okay, gang members swear. To be realistic you have to have dialogue that fits. Just don’t overdo it. It is very easy to lose readers from extended profanity.  (I realize this is totally based on opinion, but I think most readers will agree that over use of profanity turns them off to the story.)

6) Factual errors. Whatever it is that you’re writing about, someone out there will be an expert in the subject. If you don’t know medicine, be careful when writing a hospital scene. If you don’t know police work be careful when writing about a crime scene. If you have your characters doing something dumb, not only will you get letters, you will lose fans. These types of errors take the reader out of the story.

7) Too helpless and too hopeless. Don’t have your plot revolve around something that could be easily cleared up by asking a question or two.

8) And it is worth mentioning that hiring a professional editor (if you are self-publishing) is of utmost importance! A poorly edited manuscript is the #1 reason a reader will stop turning pages and close your book. 

closing book

What are the things that will cause you to close a book and put it away without finishing it? 


18 thoughts on “Top Reasons Readers will close your book.

  1. In the end a lot of it comes back to balance.
    I think my favorite way to see a story start is with the tail end of a less interesting story. You get to see a sample of the character’s skills/strengths, and their connections, but it quickly becomes apparent that “this story” is far more unique, surprising even the protagonist.

    Info dumps are definitely a pet peeve of mine. Not only are they hard to digest, but it’s a lost opportunity to simultaneously explore subplots by using them as a vehicle to reveal and utilize the info in question.

    Another problem I find is too many red herrings. Sometimes stories get so caught up in trying to conceal the outcome that they flood the pages with details and threads that ultimately prove to be erroneous.

    And then there’s pulling the strings. The worst is when the author has two characters who want to have a relationship, but must deny themselves for the sake of the story. But then the story resolves the obstacle, so the author has to invent another reason to keep them apart, creating an almost cyclical pattern of “finally…oh come on!”
    I think one of my favorite examples was an old action film where two soldier characters wanted to form a relationship, but they both had to work through some emotional issues first. Then, one night, they realize they’re ready. Next morning one of them is killed in the next fight. Part of me laughs at the absurd heavy handedness of it, but I seriously doubt the author was consciously aiming for comic relief.


  2. Jan- I love this. What wonderful info for both us readers as well as for other authors. Great article. Have a great week so glad you’re home and enjoy your rest. Love you.


  3. All great points, Jan. It sounds like the convention was wonderful, especially the workshops.

    Poor editing is something that will make me stop reading in a hurry. I think it’s crucial for writers to invest in an editor before releasing their work. First impressions are so critical. Even professional editors have someone else edit for them!


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