GalleyCat reported this week that Fifty Shades of Grey was the second most abandoned book by readers. Good. First was JK Rowling’s adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, but that’s probably because many readers were expecting more of a Harry Potterish experience.
The article has some interesting stats from Goodreads about when people stop reading books they don’t like. For example, 15.8% of readers who stop do so before 50 pages. Another 27.9% stop before 100 pages. People who finish no matter what total 38.1%.
The Goodreads article lists a few reasons people stop reading books. To me, they sound a lot like the reasons people break off or stick with relationships:
- I really liked the way you looked when I saw you for the first time, but learning that you eat linguine with your fingers is a real turnoff.
- It’s been a couple of weeks now, and I see that you’re not going to stop chewing gum during sex, so…it’s over.
- I truly can’t stand you, but I’m going to see this marriage through to the end even if it kills me.
For the record I’ve stopped reading some books after as few as five or ten pages. The most recent was Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, which is supposed to be a classic. But I found the writing pedantic and unimaginative, so unchallenging as to be sleep inducing, and I knew I’d never make it through. Plus I understand Gaiman eats linguine with his fingers.
Abandonment works both ways, of course, for writers. You stop reading someone’s work, other people stop reading yours. At this week’s writers’ meeting it was my turn to submit, and I presented the first two chapters of a novel I’m working on. Two people liked it a lot, and a third liked it enough to keep reading. But four people said they wouldn’t read any further, and a couple of them were so critical of the writing they tried to take my laptop and erase the file. (Yeah, my writers group can be brutal.)
But three out of seven is about as good as it gets for a writer, so I guess I’ll have to keep working on it. At least now I know which readers I’m writing for, and that helps. No use trying to please everyone, because when it comes to writing, it can’t be done.
What makes you abandon a book?