Top Ten Things Readers Hate about Books

(Courtesy Cherrysweetdeal, Flickr Creative Commons)

(Courtesy Cherrysweetdeal, Flickr Creative Commons)

The Paranormal Book Club recently asked their readers what is the “ONE thing you CAN NOT stand about a book when reading it?

While this is not a scientific survey, the results are nonetheless interesting. In a classic example of procrastination, I spent way too much time categorizing the issues, and I hereby present the results to you.

But first, two caveats:

  • A ton of people (21 people, that is, and if they average 95.2 pounds each, they weight a ton) complained about being interrupted while reading. A ton and a quarter (26 people) complained about reaching the end of a book. While I empathize, these issues aren’t the book’s fault, so I excluded them from my top ten list.
  • This list came from readers of the paranormal genre, and many paranormal books are e-books, or series, or self-published. This affects the List of Hates; for example, many comments apply primarily to series. The pet peeves would be different for readers of, say, Charles Dickens, or heroic Etruscan sagas.

 Without further ado, here is the list:

#10 Thing Readers Hate (tie)

Weak female characters. (In a genre largely aimed at female readers, you’d think writers would know better.)

Books in a series that end inconclusively. (Readers seem to have problems with the endings of series books. See also numbers 8, 5, and 3.)

#9 Thing Readers Hate 

Killing off a main character. (George R.R. Martin, please note. If you stop slaughtering your cast, Game of Thrones might actually amount to something.)

#8 Thing Readers Hate

Waiting for the next sequel in a series to appear. (George R.R., you should be careful about this one, too.)

#7 Thing Readers Hate

Too much recapping. (Obviously, this applies primarily to books in a series. And to soap operas.)

#6 Thing Readers Hate

Sexual dysfunction. (Not what you think! This includes gratuitous sex, boring sex, and overly graphic sex.)

#5 Thing Readers Hate

An unsatisfying ending.  (See also numbers 10, 8, and 3.)

(Courtesy Benjamin Gray, Flickr Creative Commons)

(Courtesy Benjamin Gray, Flickr Creative Commons)

#4 Thing Readers Hate

Annoying or whiny main characters. (I was astonished at the number of times the word ‘whiny’ appeared. Stephenie Meyer, please note that Bella was singled out.)

#3 Thing Readers Hate

Cliffhanger endings. (These are, apparently, common in series. Readers think they’re a Very Bad, No Good, Horrible ploy to get readers to buy the next book in the series. But I bet it works.)

#2 Thing Readers Hate

Too much description. (Overwhelmingly, readers complained about description that slowed down the action. J.R.R. Tolkien, please note.)

(And what is it about authors whose middle initials are double-R? Is Stephenie Meyer actually Stephenie R.R. Meyer?)

And the #1 Thing Readers Hate, by a wide, massive, overwhelming, 3 to 1 margin

Typos, bad grammar, and bad editing. (Self-pubbers, please note–get your masterpiece edited BEFORE you publish it. Please, please, please!)

(Publishing companies, please note–you aren’t immune, either. I understand that perfection is elusive, but I see more and more errors these days. Stop laying off editors to save yourselves money.)

 What about you?  Anything you would add to the list? Tell us about it in a comment.

And what about me?  If any of you find any of those horrid typos in any of my e-books (The Trial of Tompa Lee, The Tribulations of Tompa Lee, or The Midas Rush), please go to the Contact Page and let me know, okay? Truly, I mean it!



  1. Great summation, thanks! I didn’t have time to read all those comments. I agree with most of these, except that I don’t mind a cliff-hanger if the book is good enough that I’d read the next book regardless of of the ending. Although I don’t buy serials, because I find them annoying.

    1. Like you, Cathryn, I avoid serials. I’m even leery of series books, because you don’t always know if you’re starting the middle and need to know what happened before. It’s a real pet peeve of mine! I recently wrote about it at Savvy Authors.


  2. S. J. Pajonas (spajonas) · · Reply

    Thanks for compiling these! Agree that cliffhangers in series work 🙂 But it’s funny that some readers have ideas of what a “good” cliffhanger is versus a “bad” cliffhanger, and this is entirely subjective too. My number one pet peeve is bad copyediting. Not content editing, but knowing where to properly put commas, proper idioms, homophones, etc. I bought a book from Intermix last year (owned by Penguin) that was riddled with copy errors. Worse than most self-published books. Traditional publishers are not immune, for sure.

    1. Over 20% of the pet peeves involved typos, bad grammar, and poor editing. I agree about traditional publishers; I recently judged a book from a big-name publisher for an RWA contest, and the second sentence had a misspelled word. The SECOND SENTENCE!

      1. S. J. Pajonas (spajonas) · ·

        OMG. Headdesk. Headdesk. And these people get PAID to do this job? Sigh.

  3. Thanks for the summary. And also for subtly making the point that, like all ‘rules’, they can be successfully broken. Or maybe I should say that everyone’s taste is different.

    1. Yep–all the authors I used as examples are iconic best sellers. It just goes to show that it isn’t WHAT you do but HOW you do it.

  4. Thanks for taking the time to categorize and compile that list, Ed. I’m always interested in hearing what readers think, and this is so helpful.

  5. Mr. V —

    Thanks for taking the time (or procrastinating as it were) to summarize the informal survey.

    As a former acquisitions editor for one of the longer surviving original e-publishers (Atlantic Bridge Publishing, organized in 2000, and its imprint Liquid Silver Books, organized in 2003), I have seen everything on this list many, many times. Acquisitions editors hate these things much more than readers, trust me on that one.

    This is why, even though now that I am mainly an author, I still attempt to mentor authors and teach classes both on-line and at conventions on how to avoid the above issues.

    So, all you authors out there, read the list and pay attention. Don’t treat your readers as if they’re stupid — they aren’t, and the above list demonstrates it very well.

    1. Thanks for the view from the other side of fence, Monette!

  6. Fantastic list, Ed. Hooray for strong female leads.
    Liked and shared!

  7. […] Top Ten Things Readers Hate about Books. […]

  8. […] last post, Top Ten Thing Readers Hate about Books, has turned out to be the most popular post I’ve ever done on this blog. That popularity […]

  9. Nice post. I am shaking my head over weak female leads- please readers don’t like them, puzzled that they are common.

    1. Just a guess, but one reason may be tied in with the fact that there are quite a few stereotyped characters in books, period.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: