What readers hate about books #MFRWauthor

For week 22 of the Marketing for Romance Writers blog hop, the prompt is:

My Biggest Pet Peeve in a Book

That’s an easy one: I hate when a novel isn’t good enough to finish.  I used to finish everything I started. No more. Nowadays a book has to earn the right to monopolize the hours of my life.

That’s not a very helpful answer, though, so I offer a recap of an old post. In 2014, the Paranormal Book Club recently asked their readers what is the “ONE thing you CAN NOT stand about a book when reading it?” I categorized the responses, and present them here to you from the smallest peeve to biggest.

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

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

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

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

#5 An unsatisfying ending.  See also numbers 10, 8, and 3.


#4 Annoying or whiny main characters. I was astonished at the number of times the word ‘whiny’ appeared.

#3 Cliffhanger endings. These are, apparently, common in a certain type of 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 Too much description. Overwhelmingly, readers complained about description that slowed down the action. J.R.R. Tolkien, please note.

#1 (by a wide, massive, overwhelming, 3 to 1 margin) Typos, bad grammar, and bad editing. Self-pubbers, please note–get your masterpiece edited and proofed BEFORE you publish it. Please, please, please!

Read the original, rather longer, post.

Click here to enter your link and/or check out the cool romance writers taking part in this blog hop.



  1. I hate when a main character is killed off. I love reading Stephen King but always move cautiously toward the ending of the book since I am well aware that he often makes me mad by the way he ends the story.

    1. Readers have complained about a main character dying at the end of one of my books, The Trial of Tompa Lee — even though in later books in the trilogy, he’s “alive” inside the heroine’s head (hey, it’s sci fi) and at the end of the trilogy he’s born again.

  2. Sherry Lewis · · Reply

    Great list. I agree with every one of them.

    1. This proves that our readers are very wise.

  3. Cathy Brockman · · Reply

    I am the oddball. I like cliffhangers in series. I don’t like weak characters though.

    1. Myself, I’ll give a pass to books that come to a satisfying conclusion and then tack on a scene that raises new questions for the next book. I find those endings sort of “tacky” but not as annoying as unresolved story questions.

  4. Well I’m glad I don’t suffer with #2, giving description is something I struggle with. Having the main character killed off can be annoying if it’s pointless. A book by Jodi Picoult comes to mind on that. I was so angry with what happened in that book I refused to see the movie even though people told me that they changed the ending.

    1. I’m reminded of the ballet version of Romeo and Juliet, the third-most performed ballet in the world. When Prokofiev was writing the music, the original version had the young lovers still alive at the end for the simple, obvious reason that dead people can’t dance. Everyone was appalled at the change. Public pressure forced Prokofiev to revert to killing off his lovers.

  5. Oh My Gosh, so much critique. Best to you, my friend.

    1. Readers can be an opinionated bunch.

  6. I was reading Game of Thrones on an airplane and the guy next to me told the book was good, but not to get attached to ANYONE. He was right. I haven’t read another book in the series since.

    1. That’s one reason I avoid GoT. The other is it’s too darned long. In my youth I plowed through War and Peace (unabridged) but in my dotage I resent any book that demands too much of my life’s precious time.

  7. Great list of peeves, Ed. I see a lot of negative comments on Amazon about the cliffhanger endings in some series. A friend of mine simply won’t buy a book if she sees that in a comment, even if it’s free. I like a satisfying ending, too, and I’m surprised at some of the endings that get by professional editors. I’m thinking of a certain YA trilogy that begins with Divergent. Loved the first two books; hated the last one. George RR Martin type of ending.

    1. I felt the same way about The Hunger Games. The first two books were good (though not as good as the hype). The third book, though … jeez, lady, get an editor. You know, one who has a clue about what readers want in an ending, one who’s brave enough to say “Enough with the $%#!^ preaching already!”

  8. Great list, Ed! I don’t read SciFi, but I think it’s great to be able to kill a character and bring him back to life. So many options for the author!!!!

    1. Even if you don’t read sci fi, you could, perhaps, resurrect a character in an inspirational.

  9. LOL….a friend told me she HATES series books which cliffhanger the reader into buying the next one…..yet she has begun ending each of hers with an ‘epilogue’ cliffhanger to do just that!

    In both my series and my alter-ego’s women’s fiction series, I simply foreshadow an event; the reader can choose whether or not to keep reading. There IS a bit of a teaser about the next one, only in blurb form, at the end.

    1. I’ve seen these kind of ‘tacked on’ teaser several times. When there’s a satisfying ending first, I don’t mind.

  10. #7 is definitely a pet peeve of mine and can keep me from getting into a book! Also I love #6! LOL, had me lauding my fool head off while I totally agreed! What a fun post!

    1. The original, from a couple of years ago, is one of the most-visiting posts I’ve ever done.

  11. Thanks for bringing up cliffhangers in a series. Had someone tell me at a lecture I gave the other day that not everything has to be tied up in a bow in a series. I HATE cliffhanger endings. For me. The book has to stand alone. If I want to tease, I’ll add a coming attraction blurb at the end of the book, not as part of the story itself. Cliffhangers are even worse when there are five or ten years between books in the series.

    1. I know of one author who writes a novel, then chops it into smaller sections and sells each section as a separate 99c book. Maybe it works for him, but I’d avoid his works like the plague.

  12. YAS!!!!!!!! #9 and #2! Once, when my husband andI first met I told him about book 2 in the lord of the rings trilogy. I summed it up by saying “It was a LOT of walking. Like 500 pages of just walking. Very descriptively.” I have never skimmed a book so much!
    And what kind of monster (George RR) kills MAIN characters!? I understand that sometimes a supporting character has to die. But when you kill a MAIN character?! I just can’t!

    1. I once killed a main character in The Trial of Tompa Lee — the romantic lead — and I caught so much flak for it that I resurrected him in the next book in the trilogy. It’s science fiction with overtones of fantasy, so I figured I could get away with it.

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