How Long Do You Give a Book to Hook You?

How long do you give a book to hook you?
Photo by Mike on

This is something that a lot of writers don’t like to think about, but how long do you have to hook the reader? I’ve been to writing events where editors and agents will read to the end of the first manuscript page and then say whether or not they would read on. At some of these events, they only read the first 11 to 15 lines – a true first manuscript page.

When I talk to readers, people give me a variety of answers. Some will read 50 pages. Others read 20.

If the book or manuscript doesn’t impress, thumbs down! Rejection!

I have to admit that if I really don’t like something about a book, I will quit at the end of the first chapter. What can I say? If I don’t like it, I don’t read it. This isn’t like working with a trainer. I don’t NEED to do it.

So why do I put a book down? Sometimes the situation is just too improbable to believe. Put a timber rattler someplace timber rattlers aren’t found and pair that with a cistern in a ridiculous location and you’ve lost me. And, yes. We have a cistern. I’ve reassembled a pump, know how to soak the seal, and have seen a timer rattler.

Sometimes I really don’t like the character’s voice. This is a huge problem with audio books. I have to fall for the character’s voice and the reader’s voice. One or the other can be a deal breaker. I don’t like mean characters. I’ll read an anti-hero or a character who is hard but a meanie? No thank you.

And you absolutely cannot bore me. This is where things get really personal. Name drop clothing designers and high end whatever and I’m going to nod off. Other people might love that, but not me.

The book might also be a bad fit for me right now. I was sent a galley and just couldn’t read it. I love the author but the story was just too dark. My sister tried to read it and said the same thing. I gave the book to a friend and she devoured it.

Not every book is right for every reader. Even a reader who will love our work on Tuesday may be in the wrong place to appreciate it on Monday. Our job is to make our work as solid as possible.


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