Author Jo Huddleston

Sweet Southern Romance

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Will You Finish a Book You Don't Like?

 How long does it take you to decide whether you’ll finish a book?

Authors know that when they try to get their books published, they have to get the immediate interest of a literary agent or editor. Some agents/editors will allow you to send them your book’s first three chapters. Some agents/editors will only request the first five pages and then some will decide by the end of the first page or the first paragraph whether they’re interested in publishing your book.

I wouldn’t make a good agent or editor by those standards. Even if I don’t get insanely interested in a book at the beginning, I’ll give it fifty pages to grab me. If it’s not an author I read regularly, I might not give them fifty pages—there are so many books to read and so few hours to read. But if it’s a book by an author I regularly read I will go fifty pages before I decide to close the book for good.

I recently read a book by an author (and I won’t mention names) whose books I always read and enjoy. But this recent book was way off base for this writer. If I hadn’t known better I would have been sure I was reading a Nicholas Sparks book (and I like everything he’s written).

The publisher did a huge disservice to this author: the publisher told the entire story on the cover’s flap. So, no suspense, doubts, hopes, speculations, or dreams for the characters or the situation. But I read on and finished the book simply because I’ve liked everything else this author has written.

No, I probably wouldn’t be a good agent or editor in today’s publishing world. I couldn’t be fair to the writer after a paragraph, one page, or five pages. But at page fifty I would make the decision to stop or go on reading.

"You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend." --Paul Sweeney, author

So, how many pages will you read before you decide whether to put a book aside for good?

Till next time ... keep on smiling.


  1. If I buy it, I read it through. But since I'm on a tight budget and don't buy that many novels per year, I usually do my research before I press "buy".

    But I also find that the majority of books that start out a little slow gain traction and are worth the read.

    Conversely, stories that "blow up the building" on the first page, I don't tend to warm to as much.

    BK Jackson

  2. BK, thanks for your comment. Some good thoughts there. Maybe when they "blow up the building" on page one, there's no place to go but down?

  3. Depends on the book. I've gotten as far as halfway through before I said to myself, "forget this!" Usually if I promised to review it then I will give it more of a chance and keep reading. When I find myself dreading picking the book up, then it's over. That could be as early as the first chapter or as late as halfway (or more) through the book.

  4. Michelle, thanks for your comment. I like what you said, "When I find myself dreading picking the book up, then it's over." I love the books I can't find the time to read more.

  5. GREAT questions. I used to read every page, even if I hated it. What changed my mind? Stephen King, or rather Anthony Hopkins in "Hearts in Atlantis." The mother gives the little boy a library card for his birthday. Hopkins tells the boy to give an author an hour ... if he hasn't grabbed you by then, part ways. : )

  6. My mama raised me to read the first forty pages of a book before I decided whether or not I liked it.

  7. If it's a library book, I may give up early. But if I bought it, I've now invested in the author. They get more time. However, I do agree that if you blow up the building in the beginning, there may be nothing left in the end. I have read too many books that started off really well and then fizzled at the end. I'm always hoping the slow beginners will eventually take off ... and sometimes they actually do.

  8. Vanetta, thanks for commenting! The mother in "Hearts in Atlantis," gave her son some pretty good goals in reading a book.

    H (unknown), sounds like your mama raised you right about reading 40 pages; I usually give a book 50 pages. Thanks for your comment!

    cbalmony, good thought on having more of an investment in the book if you bought it. Thanks for commenting!

  9. Great question Jo. Now that I've been writing and reading a great amount of books it is harder for a book to keep my attention. I try to keep reading until I just can't get through it anymore. I really wan't to give it a chance. Some books just don't move as fast as others.

  10. Debbie, thanks for your comment! Yes, "some books just don't move as fast as others." That's why I'll usually give a book 50 pages to gain and keep my attention.

  11. If it's a library book I'll give up sooner than if I paid money for it. If it's a favorite author of mine, I'll read to the end hoping it'll turn around. I just finished a book that I would have put down on page 3 because of a certain word. I always quit when I come to that word. But I agreed to read it for somebody and trudged through. By the end I was glad I did. I guess the lesson is no to give up too easily.

  12. Jackie, I also hope some slow starting books will turn around. Thankfully you were glad you finished that book you mentioned. I like "the lesson is not to give up too easily." Thanks for commenting!