writers tips / writing

Reasons Why Readers Quit a Book

This article I posted over at Chrys Fey’s a few years ago. She has a wonderful blog filled with helpful tips about writing. If you haven’t visited, do that now! I’ll wait…

OK, back to the article. It’s called Reasons Why Readers Quit a Book. If you read it during my guest post, I understand. Have a wonderful day!

Reasons Why Readers Quit a Book

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 to me 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 115 books in the series. And am waiting for the next to reach KU.
  • 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 Wicke’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?

Copyright ©2023 worddreams.wordpress.com – All rights reserved.

Here’s the sign-up link if the image above doesn’t work:


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Man vs. Nature saga, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the acclaimed Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. 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, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Endangered Species, Winter 2024


83 thoughts on “Reasons Why Readers Quit a Book

  1. I’m with you, Jacqui in that I won’t finish a book just for the sake of finishing it. There are so many books to choose from so why waste time on struggling through a book that bores me. But when I find a book that excites me I find that I can’t put it down. Those are the kind of books I love to read! Great post, Jacqui and your reasons for not continue to read a book are very spot on. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I suspect there are a lot more reasons, often personal to the reader. For example, I tend to skip books that are depressing or negative where other would keep reading because they’re learning.


  2. I’d say you got it covered. Lol, you’re a tough critic. 🙂 But seriously, My biggest peeve is terrible endings without tidying up people’s lives or wondering what exactly was the plot after investing 5-7 hours of my valuable reading time, hoping for a big reveal and closure. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post, Jacqui! I agree with most of your turn-offs but I’m with you 200% on the dog/horse one. I love animals and the wanton destruction of any animal just to ‘spark the reader’s interest’ leaves me colder than cold. :/

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ll usually power through a bad book, Jacqui, but there have been a number of times I’ve tried a new novel with an intriguing premise, only to discover the execution was strictly YA (even if the book itself wasn’t labeled/advertised as such). If I get 50 pages in and determine that the prose and plotting and characterization are YA-caliber, I’ll often mark that one DNF.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi, Jacqui – I seldom give up on a book once I begin reading. Many of the books that I read are for book club (I’m currently in five)…so there’s that motivation. My non-book-club books are usually very carefully selected, so that factors in as well. Last year, I did abandon a book from a favourite author. I just couldn’t get into it and had a tight time frame for reading it. I planned then to give that book another try someday. Someday! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Jacqui, now that I write, I don’t like head hopping. It is a sign of a writer that doesn’t know their craft. I had some in my earlier books but I had them developmentally edited and remediated a lot of that sort of thing. I don’t like incorrect use of language where a word that doesn’t make sense in the context is used. I don’t like excessive sex, unnecessary graphic violence or bad language. Hmm, looking at this, I know why I only read Zinder authors and classics. Traditionally published authors always include graphic sex now.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Jacqui – I’m afraid … it’s having too many books around – and not being able to concentrate for too long on one book: stopping and starting … I’m not good with novels – yet I’d like to read some of them. I guess my problem is decisions, decisions … which to read and which to finish. I do scan read some to finish them … way too many here and way too many listed to get out of the library. Cheers – Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  8. When I open the worddreams link I frequently get “unsafe link do not open”, it happened on this one too. I know your link is safe so I open it. I don’t know if that is fixable but it might turn away some readers.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jacqui, your latest post #AtoZChallenge and one other this week are giving me the “Oops, that page can’t be found” message. I think it happened on one of your tech posts this week. I’m not sure if it’s me, or if something else is going on?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Unrelatable, good or bad (A well-written villain getting what they deserve is satisfying) characters always kill it for me. Preachy authors usually drag me to a stop, especially if it isn’t related to the story somehow. But if a character’s soliloquy is for the whole purpose of spouting your politics or whatever, I just close the book. Killing off a critter has to be for a purpose as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Reasons Why Readers Quit a Book — – uwerolandgross

  12. If I could care less about a character, I’ll stop reading. When there’s too much detail, I might skip over it and continue, but if the main characters aren’t likeable, I’ll move on to another book. I can’t tell you the number of times my editor has said “She’s too mean!” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. All good reasons to put a book down, Jacqui. I am doing this more often too, if I don’t like it. The most important thing I’m looking for is to care.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I began my reading journey with literary fiction, which was too descriptive and boring but it was essential for me to read those novels to pass my exams. I still wonder why they are called classics but they surely made me understand the difference between a good book and a bad book. I drop a book if the language is profane, uses too many curse words. Modern novels use all kinds of POVs and I have learned to accept them but errors or typos really put me off.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I never used to give up on books but I’ve learned that it’s okay for all the reasons you list. I just stopped reading The Golden Notebook by Doris Lesser. It is one of those books that is difficult to follow and since I read mostly at night I can’t get interested in it enough. I put it back on my TBR shelf because it is a book listed on my 100 great novels scratch off poster so I’d like to give it another try.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I think I used to be like that…finish a book that I started.
    The first one I did not was Vanity Fair. It had such a complex mix of characters in the first few pages that I just could not keep track. And so I abandoned it.
    Good in a way ass I have become a little more easy on myself.
    The second was Mein Kampf.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Oh my gosh, how funny that you bring up the dog death scene in I am Legend. Whenever I think of that movie, that scene is all I see. 😦

    I watched a “Pitch Meeting” with Ryan George for Guardians of the Galaxy 3 on YouTube. He said, “I’ll make it so everyone immediately hates the bad guy.” Then he drew a picture of a dog and punched it. The “other guy” (Ryan George plays both characters) became immediately incensed. So, yes, this seems to be a universal truth that harming dogs is evil!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. An excellent list, Jacqui. I will give up on a book for most of these reasons too, some more than others. I do have problems with terrible spelling and grammar, and head hopping. Both of those pop me out of a story. Since I “listen” to most of the books I “read,” the head hopping is incredibly confusing – I never know which pov I’m in.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I hear you, but when POV are done well, (which, like you said, takes significant skill), it’s a delight! I recently read a book that did it exceptionally well, even when diary entries were included!

      For non-fiction books, it’s rambling. I recently quit reading a book where the author, not a professional one, writing of his accomplishments in another field, explained that he wanted his voice to come through, and so he used minimal writing support. It showed. 😁

      For fiction books, I don’t have to like the characters, but I have to care at least about one of the, ideally about more than one 🙃

      Liked by 2 people

      • That is so critical–caring for a character. Then I can write off their inconsistencies as ‘being human’. I’m not a fan of ‘unreliable narrators’ either because then, I don’t know what to believe!


What do you think? Leave a comment and I'll reply.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.