How many pages do you give a book before you quit reading it?

so many books


How far do you read in a book before you close it for good and move on to another one?

Readers close most books within the first twenty pages or so.

I hate to be predictable, but I fall into this same pattern.

Except that I probably don’t make it twenty pages.

If a book doesn’t grab me in the first ten pages, I can’t stay with it.

I know this means I may have  missed countless pages of great writing in my lifetime.

Sorry, but I’m too old to keep reading something that may or may not come to life on page fifty.

I was not always so impatient.  When I was young, I imposed a reading discipline on myself.  My goal was not to quit reading for the day until I had read a hundred pages.

I’m a slow reader, and I wasn’t skimming.

Much of what I read in those days wasn’t fiction.  It was dense philosophical or theological stuff, which made the sledding even tougher.

When I did read novels, I read classics because I felt like I needed to be familiar with the great works of literature.

That was tough sledding, too.

Dostoevsky isn’t an easy read.

Fast forward forty years.

Now virtually all I read is fiction.

Most of the books I read are the works of Indie authors, the people I believe to be the real writers, the men and women who write because they must with little hope of developing a broad fan base.  They keep at it anyway.

But when I read a book by an Indie, I judge it by the same standards as one written by a “brand name” star.  Maybe I judge it even more harshly.

That is one of the ironies in the book world.

I’ll stick with James Lee Burke or Pat Conroy even if I hit a rough patch and my mind starts to wander, or I feel the urge to move on. I guess I do that because I come to those sorts of books with a bias in favor of the writer.  I have read enough of their words in years past that I convince myself that just around the corner I will find words worth remembering.

But with the first book of an Indie author, one whom I have not read before, I don’t have any goodwill built up.  If that writer bores or loses me in the first ten pages, he’s toast.

However, when it comes to my own writing, I have discovered the way to move forward, the way that should please my three fans and avoid the death sentence of their reading only my first twenty pages and quitting.

I plan to write nineteen page novels from now on.

How about you?

How far do you read before you close a book forever?



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  • Jami Gray

    If I’m not caught and held in the first 40-50, I have to set it aside. Unless, I’m in a dry spell for reading material. If there’s something, some spark there, I may slog on, but really, my decision is made in the first 20 pages, even if I keep up until page 50.

  • Gae-Lynn Woods

    I used to slog right on through, no matter how tough it was to keep going. But I’ve realized that life is too short to read books that don’t grab me. I’ll drop some in the first five to ten pages. Others I’ll stay with until page 50 or so. But I’m not giving my life away if I’m not enthralled, and I apply that principle to the big names as easily as to the rest of we unknowns.

    Great post.

  • I can TELL by the end of the first scene, sometimes much earlier. I will quit for sure by a chapter or two. My brain keeps count: infodump – +1 points, describing a character in detail – +1 points, typo – +1 points; word used wrong, punctuation wrong, an apostrophe in the possessive of it – +2 points each; the wrong version of a homonym – +3; each occurrence, of course.

    Everyone makes mistakes, has typos, etc. – but there shouldn’t be many in the beginning, because that’s like not checking if your slip is showing when you go out on a first date.

    Some books are loaded with things I’ve trained myself, as a writer, to avoid. Those books occasionally make it past the sample stage – maybe someone really cleaned up the beginning for the author – and are not representative. I don’t even bother returning most of them because my time is worth more than a couple of bucks.

    I am happy to buy these books, especially when written by people whose blogs I enjoy. But I don’t have to read them. When I read and find them good to great, I leave an enthusiastic review. If not, the writer got a sale, and that’s a lot better than nothing. Many of those books end up confirming that I don’t like that particular genre – at least I tried it. I would never leave a negative review – that’s just mean (unless the author is also arrogant – and I try to separate that from nervous and shy and speaking in public when what they’d really rather do is hide under the bed).

  • Caleb Pirtle

    Stephen, there are so many eBooks to read, and the prices are so inexpensive, that I make up my mind to read or stop at the end of the first chapter. If I want to know what happens next, I move on. If I don’t care what happens next, I move on to the next book.

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