Books I have stopped reading… This is one of those fascinating ideas that every author, agent, publisher and even retailer should be investigating and at the very least thinking about ‘why?’ Now the above blog article obviously doesn’t come under the heading of serious research, (it’s nearly as systematic and statistically relevants as say… raw bookscan numbers. The sort of thing that might act as a vague pointer, but needs to be taken with thought and care, because it’s pretty obvious that this is a small self-selected group, not necessarily representative of readers in general) but it’s the best I have right now, and there are a few interesting things to be gleaned there. Keep in mind that one man’s meat is another man’s poison (and SUCH small portions).
Let’s take some the things that kept cropping up: Didn’t like the characters. What the commentators by in large didn’t say was why they didn’t like the characters (well, okay some did say ‘cardboard’ and ‘stereotyped’ – which, um, hasn’t stopped various authors being very popular even the ones no admits reading or liking but everyone has (often repeatedly). David Eddings for example.) But having read a good few of the books mentioned what I felt was that the characters failed to be ones readers could identify with.
Heavy ‘literary prose’ – well now there IS a shocker! Who would have thought it? It’s plain however that if you’re an agent or an acquiring editor – if you actually NOTICE the prose – it’s a bad buy. And if you’re an author wordy-prosy might get you a literary prize but it won’t attract many readers. On the other hand it does seem to get bought, despite this. So… maybe if you can fool both sides? Editors, agents and readers? Hmm. Maybe.
Difficult styles/voice – as above. But it isn’t always wordy/prosy/literary. I must admit for eg I struggled to read (although enjoyed the story) the early Cherryh books. It took a while of sitting analysing line-by-line to get the style – and – despite admiring the author’s ideas and work, deciding I wasn’t going to go there.
Boring story – this came up time and again. I think the message here for us writers is that a structural editor can be a lifesaver. For the record I work on no more than one non-action at all chapter (of no more than 7 pages) in a row. I sat and analysed a lot of books to reach this figure. Therefore it’s probably wrong – or at least there are authors who can get away with breaking it. But I think that failing on this one – dead simple though it may be, has crashed a lot of authors into the ‘boring’ wall. YMMV.
Books with series inflation – aaaaaaaaargh. Rule I made up for myself (and this is HARD for me too) each book may not be longer than the last. I don’t know if it works, but I’m trying it.
And the most important question: why did they try to read them in first place?
I’m not going to try and answer that one. It’s over to you to think about. But I think it has a lot to do with why our industry is in trouble, not – as it should, by all historical precedent – be making an absolute fortune out of the economic downturn. (Cheap entertainment is historically counter-cyclical, going up when other economic indicators go down – and the reasons why also should be something all authors, agents and publishers are thinking about.)
So: books you couldn’t finish? TBARs? And what it was that got you to try them and drove you to abandon them?