I seem to be doing this more and more often. A book I selected, either on Amazon or in the library, turns out to be such a let-down that I don't bother reading past the first few pages.
The other day I returned 6 books to the library, 5 of them unread. I checked out 6 more, based on a list I made at home of authors who looked promising. It's been 48 hours and 4 have already been eliminated.
It strikes me that the reasons why we won't bother to read a book might be interesting, so I'll explain my rationale for the latest 4 rejects:
1.Ian Rankin, THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD. Not perhaps a fair example since the novel is quite good. But it turned out I'd already read it. Note the generic title which would fit almost any crime novel. There is also a generic cover: a car in a field. Nothing here relates to content. Readers get angry when they buy books they've already read.
2. K.O.Dahl, THE FOURTH MAN. Scandinavian, that's why I picked the author. Alas, this one is a noir novel (not my favorite) about a police officer obsessed with a dangerous woman criminal. Predictably he'll get in deeper and deeper. Not much suspense there.
3. Martin Walker, THE CROWDED GRAVE. Picked because it's set in the French countryside. Bruno, the local policeman is a good protagonist, but the plot is pure cozy (I don't read cozies), and this is the usual Christie-style gathering of local characters somehow implicated in a murder.
4. Kjell Ericksson, THE HAND THAT TREMBLES. Another Scandinavian. This book has a disjointed beginning of trivial and unconnected events in the protagonist's youth and middle years. Apparently the suspense is supposed to come from the reader's wanting to know what made him disappear from a good job in Sweden and take up a life as a poor man with a different name in Bangalore. Frankly, I didn't care because nothing at all had happened in the first 45 pages.
So, let's hear what makes you stop reading.
I can't remember the last time I haven't finished a book. For the last 20+ years I've kept a list of books read so I wouldn't repeat. I also grade each from A+ to F. Rarely has one received less than a B-. This helps picking future reads.
I stay within the broad genre I enjoy. I either know and like the author already and/or do research before I start. Also some Biographies and Non-fiction, always only subjects I have a strong interest in.
I will not put down a book once I start; I despise that. Because the time devoted to reading a novel is a lot more than say, a two hour movie, I make damn sure before I begin one that the odds are remote it will be a complete stinker.
I don't know, I've had some shocking surprises with books I thought I'd like. Also, the authors who are sure bets don't write fast enough for me, so I'm sampling new authors all the time. My time is precious, I will not waste it on a bad or uninteresting book.
I used to make a point of finishing every book I started; no more. Once committed to a book, I'll give it a fair shake--usually at least 50-100 pages--but if it isn't holding up its end of the deal, it goes. Life's too short to drink cheap beer and read books i don't like. Notice i didn't say "bad books." I've gone past the age where i'll read something I don't enjoy because it's supposed to be good for me.
I don't eat broccoli, either.
Fortunately, that doesn't often happen; onoly four times this past year. I only take recommendations from trusted sources, and, when in doubt, I'll read a page or so to see if ther writing style appeals to me.
The Internet has altered the filtration system—used to be we trusted the corner bookstore to weed out the bad from the good. (And even then, a good many 'pre-approved' offerings disappointed me.) But now, between free books on Amazon, self-published authors with good web skills (or deep pockets), and a glut of new writers in general, it's too easy to fall prey to "the less intelligent stuff." Marketing's the key to selling any book—but SEO, guerilla marketing and an author's ability to "buy" quick-sell marketing schemes can push a product far beyond it's typical potential... meaning into a reader's hands who otherwise might be reading something... more worthy. imho.
Marketing is not within reach of the average author, whether he is self-published or traditionally published. The venues that work are far too expensive.
The problem with bookstores is that they are in business. They can't afford shelf space for anything but proven top sellers. That's why they return new releases within a month if they don't sell immediately. At that point a book dies.
I totally agree with "the problem with bookstores..."
However, I'm suggesting that potentially hard-hitting marketing and promotional e-tools are no longer out of reach for an indie writer with even limited marketing understanding. Companies like Vocus are making it increasingly easy for a writer (any writer; self-published or affiliated with some small, boutique pub. company) to compete with mainstream publishing behemoths. If you consider $3k-4k "out of reach"—then yes, you're absolutely right. But if you consider that cost an adequate investment... I'm suggesting that self-marketing opp's can change the playing field. Will the majority of indie/self-published writers make it big, even with adequate marketing? No. Certainly not on the first try. But it gives the self-starter a place to start—at least a chance.
I still believe that talent pays off. A bad book, wonderfully marketed, is (in a perfect world) not as advantageous as a great book, marketed in a limited (e.g; word of mouth) capacity.
Almost anybody can self-publish these days. But to "self-market" still requires skill... and can produce results. Or so I believe. (But like most folks these days, it's just an educated guess. I have no answers.)
Oh, and I have absolutely no capitalistic interest in Vocus (like I'm a shareholder or anything)... other than it blew me away when I discovered it.
Too expensive. The world is full of folks who are getting rich of self-published writers.
I'm sure I'm an outlier, but what is often referred to as "marketing" has very little effect on my purchases. I follow the blogs and Facebook posts of people I know (at least a little) and trust and find almost all of my new reading material there. I guess what I'm doing is depending on the 21st Century version of word of mouth.
I also don't follow the marketing. I have followed the blogs, especially those that specialize in the sort of thing I like, for example "Detectives Across Borders", but strangely the books I bought on those recommendations always were huge disappointments. So I'm back to sampling mostly from the library and buying authors I already know and like. Taste enters into this also. 3 of the books I cited were well written. They just did not work for me. The point about marketing was made in the context of Dave's post. But what sells and why is another interesting thread.
Agreed! What sells and why... a question for the ages!
I wonder whether the death of editing has something to do with it. More and more books have never received more than a cursory glance from anyone but the author, and even the best author sometimes needs someone to say, "Uh, you really can't get away with that." The result is something on the first page that makes the reader throw the book across the room.
I think the 'death of editing' has a great deal to do with it. Change isn't always for the best. I do hope some of the traditional necessities (like editing, long-term author/publisher relationships) return. Or find their way back to the new paradigm.