15 Ways to Make Readers Hate Your Book
All authors want readers to enjoy their books. Authors want readers to feel good, come back for more, and tell their friends to read the author’s book. No author wants readers to hate their books, stop reading, or feel like throwing the book and/or Kindle.
In life, we can’t make everyone happy, and everyone won’t always like us. The general rule is that 30% of people will like you no matter what, and 30% will never like you no matter what. You can affect whether or not the remaining 40% will like you.
The same concept applies to books and readers. Every reader won’t love your book. Approximately 30% of readers will love your book no matter what, and 30% will hate your book no matter what (e.g., don’t like the genre, don’t like sex in books, don’t like strong language, there is a trigger for them in the book). Worry about the 40% of readers who could go either way. Focus on making them love your book, and use the tips below to avoid making readers hate your book.
1. Book Covers That Don’t Fit
The book cover is often the first thing a reader will see. Readers have expectations for the covers of specific genres. If a book cover screams romance but is really a mystery, readers will feel misled. Not only do readers expect the cover to fit the genre, they also expect the cover to relate to the story and give them some insight into a piece of the story and/or a character. If a book cover features a castle on it, there better be a castle that plays an important part in the story.
2. Too Much Description and/or Background Information
Readers do not want to be overloaded with background information (a.k.a. info dump). Giving too much background information at once can bore readers and lead to skipping pages or putting your book down. If the information is integral to the plot or the character, then by all means, share it, but spread it out throughout the story. Share the information through a mix of narrative and dialogue.
When it comes to detail, readers don’t want to know everything, nor do they need to know everything. Yes, detail helps paint a picture for readers, but readers don’t need to know every nook and cranny of a room and every characteristic of every item in a room. Detail can help explain what a character is doing and why, but readers don’t need to know every single thing a character does before and after the important piece of detail. If each step is explained in detail, you risk readers skipping that section, which could lead to readers missing an important piece of information that was included in the detail. If it isn’t important for the plot or the character, stick with something simple.
3. Unwarranted Romance and/or Gratuitous Sex Scenes
Don’t throw in romance just because. Romance needs to fit with the plot and the characters. If a romance between two characters isn’t necessary to make the plot work or for character development, then don’t add it. Romance thrown in just because will stick out to readers and leave them trying to figure out how the romantic relationship fits with the plot. A romance thrown in just because can also change the way readers look at your characters.
Don’t add sex scenes just for filler or because you think readers want them. If the sex scene isn’t integral to the development of the relationship between two characters, doesn’t move the plot forward, or doesn’t add to the characteristics and development of a character, leave it out. There’s no reason to throw in a random sex scene just because. It leaves readers with the impression that you were looking to provoke a reaction in the reader or attempt to garner interest in your story again.
4. No Hook Within Chapter One
Within the first chapter, preferably the first page, authors should “hook” the reader. The reader should be enticed with an interesting character or premise. Present something that is different, stands out, captures the reader’s attention, and leaves the reader wanting to know more. A hook is an attention-getter that causes readers to keep reading. If a reader’s curiosity hasn’t been piqued, they may choose not to continue reading your book.
Read more about Creating a Hook.
5. Death of Too Many Characters or Death Without Meaning
If it’s a war or big fight scene, it’s okay for multiple unknown characters to die. However, killing off a main character’s entire family and all of his/her friends throughout the story will cause a problem with readers. It feels like a ploy to garner sympathy for the character or turn the character into a victim or “poor me” character who always has something bad happen to him/her and his/her loved ones.
Yes, you can kill off one or a few characters readers might have connected with; however, there must be a meaning or purpose to the death. If there is no meaning to the death, readers will feel the character was killed just for the sake of adding drama/conflict to the story through means of a main character who is now grieving.
6. Predictable Plot
Yes, there are similar plots, especially within specific genres. Romances are one genre that have one of the most predictable plots—girl meets boy, stuff happens, and girl and boy live happily ever after. A general predictable plot is fine, but your plot needs to stand out so it isn’t completely predictable. What makes your story different? Are there any unexpected conflicts and/or twists? What makes your characters unique? What makes readers feel your story is different from all the other stories in this genre?
7. Stereotypical Characters
Stereotypical characters are ones that readers easily recognize like Mr. or Ms. Perfect, the victim, the school bully, the boy/girl next door, the damsel in distress, the antihero, the absent-minded professor, and the femme fatale. Readers already know everything about this character and can figure out what will happen with this character quickly. Your character needs to be unique. Something about your character needs to stand out to readers so they can connect with your character.
If you create a stereotypical character, be prepared for readers to complain about a boring, flat character who they couldn’t really connect with.
8. Cliffhanger Not Done Right
A cliffhanger is designed to leave readers in suspense while they wait for the next book, but it needs to be done right. An abrupt ending with no closure that doesn’t answer any questions or resolve any conflicts will lead to angry readers who want to throw your book. A cliffhanger done right will resolve at least one major conflict for one main character. A cliffhanger done right will answer most of the questions readers have but will leave them with new questions at the very end.
9. Head Hopping and/or Unclear POV
Head hopping and/or an unclear POV will leave readers wondering who, what, and why. Head hopping occurs when the viewpoint shifts between characters without proper transitions. Readers won’t know who is doing what, why a character is doing something, and why a character is feeling a certain way. Readers will have no idea if it is Laura or Mark who is late to the meeting nor will they know if Laura is upset with Mark or Mark is upset with Laura. It can make it difficult for readers to determine whose head they are in and whose experiences they are following. This leads to confusion and destroys the emotional connection readers have with characters.
Read about Choosing a POV.
10. Overused Clichés
Clichés lose meaning and impact the more they are used. Clichés are boring and readers get a sense of “blah” when they read a cliché instead of feeling what the author intended to convey. Instead of using a well-known cliché, use your own words to create metaphors that will resonate with readers.
11. Unhappy Non-Ending
Everything doesn’t need to be a perfect happily ever after at the end of the story. The ending can be unexpected, happy for now, or even not so happy, but don’t leave readers without an ending and a sense of closure. This will leave readers feeling disappointed, disgusted, and dejected.
12. Characters Who Break Character
Characters can change throughout the course of the story, but this change should be gradual. Bob can’t be a vindictive, heartless jerk who kicks stray dogs in one chapter and then two chapters later be a kind, caring man who volunteers at the homeless shelter and adopts stray dogs.
A sudden change will leave readers confused, unable to connect with the “changed” character, and with unanswered questions as to the how and why of the character’s change. A character’s change needs to occur over a period of time and something needs to trigger that change. There has to be a period of reflection showing the character recognizes who he was and what he was like compared to the person he is becoming.
13. Awkward Phrasing
Awkward phrasing is difficult or confusing to read. Awkward phrasing includes sentences that are too wordy, have dangling and/or misplaced modifiers, are repetitive, and include unnecessary passive voice.
Awkward phrasing can slow readers down and leave readers guessing at the author’s intended meaning. Readers might miss something important or interpret a sentence in a different way than the author intended. Readers may have to read a sentence several times in an attempt to understand what you are trying to say. Readers don’t want to have to guess at the author’s intended meaning, nor do readers want to reread sentences. If this occurs too often, readers will become frustrated and may stop reading your book.
14. Lack of Consistency
Consistency is important not just to your characters and plot but also to readers. If consistency is lacking, readers will notice. Lack of consistency can confuse readers and cause readers to look back in the book to make sure they didn’t miss something. Be consistent with capitalized terms and spelling (especially names and terms you’ve created). Be consistent with locations and their descriptions, character descriptions, and timelines.
15. Too Many Typos and Errors
Yes, even traditionally published books might contain typos and errors, but too many typos and errors, especially encountered early in a book, will lead to frustrated readers who put your book down. At the very least, readers expect that authors will have reviewed their work and had it reviewed by others. Some typos and errors can be caught and fixed if authors have carefully reviewed their work and had beta readers or advance reviewers read their book. Some readers expect that authors, whether traditionally published or self-published, will have had an editor go over their work, and these readers expect to find very few, if any, typos and errors.
Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Do you agree or disagree with the points in this article?
Authors, have you discovered other things that make readers hate a book?
Readers, what makes you hate a book?
Understanding Passive and Active Verbs
All writers have heard passive verbs should be avoided as much as possible and active verbs are fundamental to good writing.
Do you know the difference? Can you find active verbs and passive verbs in your writing? Do you know why active verbs are considered better than passive verbs? Do you know when you should use passive verbs?
Why active verbs are better (most of the time) than passive verbs
Active verbs clearly show who or what is doing something and who or what is responsible. Using active verbs equals writing that is more concise since active verbs require fewer words than using passive verbs. Active verbs make writing flow more smoothly. When using active verbs, your writing also seems to move more quickly.
Passive verbs can create wordiness and are often found in lengthy sentences that may be hard for readers to understand. Sentences written with passive verbs (or in passive construction) can lead to misleading and/or confusing statements. However, passive verbs can be effective when you want to slow down the pace of your writing, focus on a scene, or emphasize an object over a subject.
The most common passive construction happens to be past tense (e.g., I’ve been robbed), which adds to the confusion in identifying passive verbs. The difference is voice has to do with who, while tense has to do with when.
Once you understand the difference between passive verbs and active verbs, you’ll be able to detect passive verbs in your writing and change them to active verbs. You’ll also understand when passive verbs should be used. These understandings will lead to writing that is clear, concise, and effective.
Before looking at the difference between passive verbs and active verbs, let’s quickly review verb types, subjects, and direct objects first.
Verb Types Review
Verbs are words that show action (action verbs) or conditions and relationships (linking verbs). English also has auxiliary (helping) verbs.
Action verbs (not to be confused with active verbs) are verbs that describe something that can be done. Verbs like talk, run, throw, cook, eat, jump, drive, write, and read are all action verbs.
Linking verbs include any form of the verb be (am, are, is, was, were, being, been, etc.) as well as become and seem. Linking verbs connect the subject of the sentence with additional information. Linking verbs perform the function of an equals (or inequality) sign. Linking verbs perform no action and merely state the presence or absence of an existing condition or relationship.
A true linking verb is neither active nor passive. Linking verbs link, or connect, the subject of the verb with other information. Some verbs, however, can act as both linking and action verbs: look, appear, feel, taste, smell, prove, grow, and remain.
Auxiliary verbs (also called helping verbs) are used in forming the tenses, moods, and voices of other verbs. The most common auxiliary verbs are have, be, and do.
Subjects and Direct Objects Review
Subjects are what or who the sentence is about. The subject always includes at least one noun, pronoun, or word functioning as a noun. A subject can even be a group of words. The subject answers the question of “who or what is doing or being this verb.”
Direct objects are the immediate recipients of the action or the item the verb affects. The direct object receives the action performed by the subject and generally answers the question “what.”
Identifying active verbs and passive verbs
Active verbs show the subject of the sentence performing an action.
- The author wrote the book.
- The author hired an editor.
- A cover artist designed a stunning cover for the book.
- After working with an editor and cover artist, the author finally published the book he had spent months writing.
The sentence structure is: subject + verb + direct object
Passive verbs show the subject of the sentence receiving an action.
- The book was written by the author.
- The editor was hired by the author.
- A stunning cover for the book was designed by a cover artist.
- After working with an editor and cover artist, the book the author had spent months writing was finally published.
The sentence structure is: subject + helping verb/verb + doer of action
Tips to help identify passive verbs and active verbs
- Passive verbs always have a direct object.
- The subject isn’t doing anything when a passive verb is used.
- When a passive verb is used, something is done to the subject by someone or something. *Note* “By someone or something” is often implied rather than included in the sentence.
- When an active verb is used, the subject is doing something.
When should passive verbs be used?
- For less confrontational discussions and in customer service situations.
Using active verbs (active voice) can often carry an accusation. Passive verbs (passive voice) communicates the same message but is gentler and is more likely to lead to a conversation rather than a confrontation.
- Example 1 Active: You didn’t get me anything for my birthday.
- Example 1 Passive: I didn’t get anything (from you, implied) for my birthday.
- Example 2 Active: You didn’t pay your bill on time, and we disconnected your cell phone service.
- Example 2 Passive: Your bill wasn’t paid (by you, implied) on time, and your cell phone service has been disconnected (by us, implied).
- When the doer of the action is unknown.
- When it is irrelevant who performed the action.
- When you readers don’t need to know who performed the action&emdash;or you don’t want them to know who performed the action.
- To emphasize an object and/or de-emphasize an unknown subject.
Examples of active and passive verbs in each verb tense
- Simple Present
- Active: Amazon ships books around the world.
- Passive: Books are shipped around the world.
- Present Progressive (or Continuous)
- Active: The cover artist is designing the book cover.
- Passive: The book cover is being designed.
- Simple Past
- Active: The writer finished the book yesterday.
- Passive: The book was finished yesterday.
- Past Progressive (or Continuous)
- Active: The author was making a release date announcement.
- Passive: A release date announcement was being made.
- Active: Amazon will ship paperback books to readers.
- Passive: Paperback backs will be shipped to readers.
- Present Perfect
- Active: Readers have purchased the books from the author.
- Passive: The books have been purchased from the author.
- Past Perfect
- Active: The author had shown readers teasers for the new book for two months.
- Passive: The readers had been shown teasers for the new book for two months.
- Future Perfect
- Active: By next month, the author will have sold 5,000 copies of his new book.
- Passive: By next month, 5,000 copies of his new book will have been sold.
- Active: Readers can read this book for free on Kindle Unlimited.
- Passive: This book can be read for free on Kindle Unlimited.
To learn more about passive voice, check out this article: Passive Voice: Myth vs. Fact
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