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Readers Sound Off

Readers never get heard. Writers are told to write to their audience, but who ever asks that audience what kind of books they want to read?

ReadingReaders never get heard. Writers are told to write to their audience, but who ever asks that audience what kind of books they want to read? Really, the most neglected consumers on the planet (no exaggeration in this post, for sure ūüėČ ) is readers!

  1. So here’s your chance.
  2. What do you most want to see in books you read?
  3. What do you think is overdone?
  4. What makes you want to buy a book?
  5. What kind of a book would you most likely give to someone as a gift?
  6. What bugs you the most when you see it in a story?
  7. What do publishers leave out too often?
  8. What do publishers add in too often?
  9. What makes you close a book and never come back to it?
  10. What makes you throw a book across the room?

I look forward to reading what readers think! Feel free to answer some or all of the questions. It’s your forum to say what you want to say!

Best known for her aspirations as an epic fantasy author, Becky is the sole remaining founding member of Speculative Faith. Besides contributing weekly articles here, she blogs Monday through Friday at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. She works as a freelance writer and editor and posts writing tips as well as information about her editing services at Rewrite, Reword, Rework.

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Bethany A. Jennings
Member

What do you most want to see in books you read?  High stakes.  Heroism.  Sacrifice.  Wise, thoughtful romance between grown adults (and stories set/continued after they are already married).  Deep friendships and loyalty.  Clever blends of the fantasy and sci-fi genres, or stories that add unique elements to those genres. Nothing too heavy/hardcore. Definitely a touch of humor.
What do you think is overdone? ¬†High fantasy and dystopian. ¬†I like fantasy but the typical “princess on the cover surrounded by nature” type doesn’t interest me enough to pick it up these days. ¬†And dystopian is just…everywhere. ¬†I do still read these genres, but they are just very commonplace. ¬†As are love triangles – no thanks.
What makes you want to buy a book?  A well-done, vivid cover.  A hook that instantly makes me care for the character and wonder what will happen to them.  Snappy, sharp prose that throws me right into a fully-formed world.
What kind of a book would you most likely give to someone as a gift?  One that I enjoyed so much that I wanted to read again.
What bugs you the most when you see it in a story?  Characters communicating poorly with each other, or being immature and catty.
What do publishers leave out too often? ¬†Acknowledgments to the author’s friends and family, agent, etc. ¬†I always love reading those!
What do publishers add in too often?  Silly teen drama.
What makes you close a book and never come back to it?  Anything more than a hinting tidbit of sensuality.
What makes you throw a book across the room?  Killing off the best characters at the end or doing completely weird things with the storyline.

Leah Burchfiel
Member

Anymore I’ve made it a kinda-sorta rule that I only buy a physical copy if it’s something I know I’ll read over again and again, and I’m trying to be the same way about movies/anime, except I REALLY, REALLY want The Story of Saiunkoku¬†(<– recommend. It’s shoujo, but interesting stuff actually happens) on my shelves right now, and it’s apparently on nine separate discs (up yours, Geneon). The exceptions are mostly when I find something interesting looking for really cheap, and I probably need to stop that in meatspace and just do that on Kindle. And I need to get more comfortable with buying digital movie/series copies from Amazon,¬†if they had the stuff I want.

Robert Mullin
Member

Uh, ditto everything Bethany just said. Seriously.

Steve Taylor
Guest
Steve Taylor

What do you most want to see in books you read?¬†Truth. No matter if it’s fantasy, sci-fi or a mystery. I want a biblical worldview. I get enough of the worlds crud wworkingin corporate America every day.

What do you think is overdone?¬†Right now it’s distopia and zombies, for a while it was End Times and before that it was angels. The problem with being overdone is not the subject, it’s the copycats that are not as good as the originals.

What makes you want to buy a book?¬† Reviews. If the reviews are not overwhelmingly good to great I won’t waster my time. A good cover also shows time was taken to make a quality product but it doesn’t mean the story is good.

What kind of a book would you most likely give to someone as a gift?¬†One that I’ve read and highly enjoyed.

What bugs you the most when you see it in a story?¬†Bad dialogue. ¬†If you read it and say to yourself “no one talks like this” then I have issues. If it continues I jump into speed reading mode.

What do publishers leave out too often? Before the Internet it was books written for men, fantasy and sci-fi. Now with online buying I no longer care what the local Christian store is carrying

What do publishers add in too often? Beautiful Amish girls that are obviously wearing makeup.

What makes you close a book and never come back to it?¬†Again it’s bad dialogue. ¬†Long windedness and over description also is a pet peeve. ¬†I have only stopped reading one book in the last twenty years due to poor writing. Thanks to reviews I won’t read a bad book unless it’s a gift.

What makes you throw a book across the room?¬†Absolutely nothing! I paid good money for my Kindle DX. I even read The Shack twice (for a study on false doctrines infiltrating the church) and I still didn’t throw it. However burning crossed my mimd many times.

Thanks for the opportunity to give my opinions. Notice how brevity still got my point across?

Hannah Williams
Member

Like others, I pretty much echo Bethany. Except I do enjoy high fantasy, though I require very, very high, not just average.

What do you want to see most in books you read: I want a story that challenges and inspires me for my own life and stories, that teaches me valuable lessons, that takes my breath away with brilliant plots, and steals my heart with incredible characters.

What do you think is overdone?: I dislike being put in the character’s body during the kiss + scenes. I’ll find out on my own, thank you. It kind of feels like dropping in on your best friend saying, “Hey, what do his lips feel like?” ūüėČ Don’t get me wrong, I love a good romance in a book. But I don’t appreciate the physical description and finding books without is very rare. There can actually be really amazing romance without it!

What makes you want to buy a book: Like Bethany, a well-done cover really catches my eye. But then I do a lot of searching through reviews, trying to figure out if it’s worth my time.

Annnd…anyway, Bethany says the rest. =D

Bethany A. Jennings
Member

What you said!! ¬†I wholeheartedly agree with all your points too, Hannah. ¬†And you hit the nail on the head with your comments about the romance descriptions. ¬†I couldn’t figure out how to express what made me uncomfortable with most sensual scenes, at least without being just plain awkward. ¬†ūüėÄ

Adam Walker
Guest
Adam Walker

Linguistics that isn’t laughable.

Glossaries.

Maps.

Well done descriptive passages.

Intelligent characters that actually behave like intelligent people. ¬†I get really tired of characters that are described as super intelligent who then behave like total morons. And then the plot revolves around some basic idea in that character’s field of expertise which he or she doesn’t notice… or even know… until the very end of the book.

Gratuitous romances.  Not EVERY story needs a romantic subplot.

And me? ¬†Well, I’m a nightmare for marketers since the more hype there is about a book, the less likely I am to pick it up. ¬†The more people tell me I will “just LOVE” a book and that “it’s perfect for” me… ¬†The less likely I am to ever pick it up. ¬†Because 90% of the time they are just plain wrong. ¬†Of course I almost missed out on reading Tolkien for just that reason and he’s absolutely amazing!

Becky
Guest

What do you most want to see in books you read?

Heroes. Real heroes who overcome their flaws and do what’s right even when it’s not convenient. I hate it when the protagonist does something bad for “the greater good”. I can’t believe God would force us into evil choices just to bring about some vague plan that will benefit us in the long run.

What do you think is overdone?

Honestly, allegory. Don’t get me wrong, I love The Chronicles of Narnia and The Door Within series. But I just want to see characters live out their Christian beliefs in normal, daily life. At least, as normal as life can get in speculative fiction.

What makes you want to buy a book?

Great characters. I love characters who must face incredible trials to achieve their cause. Oh, and the cause definitely has to be worth the cost.

What kind of book would you most likely give someone as a gift?

One that I believe is tailored to their tastes and personality. Also, one that I’ve read multiple times and gotten something new out of it each time.

What bugs you most when you see it in a story?

There are a few things actually. The first I mentioned in my answer to the first question: characters who do bad things for some “greater good”. Another is adults, even well-meaning adults, not looking after the children in the story. Seriously, what responsible adult sees a kid going off¬†to do something dangerous¬†and doesn’t try to stop him/her, or at least keep him/her from getting hurt? I don’t have kids, yet the maternal instinct in me cringes whenever I see this.

What do publishers leave out too often?

Maps. Especially for fantasy books, although some scifi books could use them as well. We readers actually like to see where the character is in the story, thank you!

What do publishers add in too often?

Long author introductions. No offense to the authors, but I picked up the book to read the story, not your life’s tale.

What makes you close a book and never come back to it?

Characters who are supposedly “heroes” and yet are complete jerks throughout most of the story. One act of selfless heroism at the climax does not make up for one hundred or so pages of wanting to slap the character across the face, especially when the character goes right back to being a jerk afterward.

What makes you throw a book across the room?

See the answer to my above question. Also the answer to the question about what bugs me most in a story. Also, when a character I’ve loved and rooted for throughout an entire book (or worse, a series) dies heroically in the end or sacrifices so much he/she has no hope for future happiness. This character has suffered enough! Let him/her settle down and live out the rest of his/her days in peace for crying out loud!

Jill
Guest

What do you most want to see in books you read? I like books that spend time in thoughtful rumination. I like intelligence and humor and plays on words. I like well-done characters (as in, the writer clearly understands human personalities and doesn’t project motivations that don’t belong with the personality). I also feel gypped if I don’t get enough setting and/or world-building detail. My favorite genre right now is good sci fi tech that doesn’t take place off-world.

What do you think is overdone? I’m getting really, really tired of books that read like movies.
What makes you want to buy a book? an interesting premise (currently a good tech premise)

What kind of a book would you most likely give to someone as a gift? biography or memoir

What bugs you the most when you see it in a story? leprechauns or [fill in blank with latest fantasy trope]; protagonists I can’t admire

What do publishers leave out too often? witty ruminations

What do publishers add in too often? kick-ass heroines who can beat up full-grown men

What makes you close a book and never come back to it? lack of an engaging writing voice (see: 2)

What makes you throw a book across the room? an annoying person, in which case I use the book as a weapon–I don’t ever throw books because I’m mad at the book

Jill
Guest

Golly, that felt good. Thanks!

Leanna
Guest
Leanna

1. What do you most want to see in books you read? A sense of “otherness” – a challenging theme and/or larger than life character/s and/or a well executed plot and/or a captivating setting – a new spin on an old cliche – quotable dialogue (doesn’t necessarily have to sound like real life) – happy nonsense – redemptive tragedy

 

2. What do you think is overdone? Angels/nephilim (please just stop), passive romantic interests, white/European  fantasy settings

 

3. What makes you want to buy a book? Recommendation from a friend who shares my taste, recommendation from a friend in general, intriguing cover art/backcopy/first page (if a physical book)/sample (if an ebook), if it’s written by an author I already love

 

4.What kind of a book would you most likely give to someone as a gift? Something I’m confident that person would like – could be most anything

 

5. What bugs you the most when you see it in a story? Development of the plot or characters that makes no sense, themes that I think will negatively impact readers, lack of actual conflict

 

6. What do publishers leave out too often? Appendices? I love appendices, but the author would have to write them for the publisher to include them.

 

7. What do publishers add in too often? I generally ignore endorsements and study notes but I don’t care that they’re in there. What bothers me is when there is no backcopy, only a stupid big photo of the author. I didn’t buy the book to look at their face!

 

8. What makes you close a book and never come back to it? If it’s boring and I have other books to read or if it is (in my humble opinion) perverted

 

9. What makes you throw a book across the room? I don’t know if I’ve ever thrown a book across the room. But stupid endings that negate everything that came before make me want to.

Shannon McDermott
Guest

Good questions. Here’s my stab at a few answers:

 

What do you most want to see in books you read? Wonderful endings. Conclusions that take me by surprise and yet make so much sense. Deep characters who resonate emotionally. Interesting relationships, good or bad, between characters. Thoughtfulness, a sense of meaning. Stories that are pursuing answers.

What bugs you the most when you see it in a story? Child romance. Plot-convenience character stupidity. Authors making disagreeable political or religious points (I use “disagreeable” in the traditional sense of “points I disagree with”). Carrying on about animals as if they’re people, for crying out loud. Romanticism that puts things on undeserved pedestals.

What do publishers leave out too often? Brother/sister relationships. Are relationships between men and women interesting only when there’s romance, or at least the possibility of it?

What do publishers add in too often? Instant Hook. Somewhere along the way, publishers decided they needed to “hook” readers on the first page, and ideally this involves extreme peril, violence, or – best of all – both.

What makes you close a book and never come back to it? When there are no good guys in the story, just jerks with different motivations.

D. M. Dutcher
Member

1. What do you most want to see in books you read?

A fresh¬†idea. If the concept is good, I’ll stick with the book even if it’s lackluster. The opposite of this wouldn’t be ¬†a bad idea as much as a stale one. I’d rather read a book about Christian giant robot catgirls than¬†another end-times book or traditional fantasy.

2. What do you think is overdone?

Star Wars-ish space opera, traditional fantasy, dystopian, young adult. Superheroes are getting there.

3. What makes you want to buy a book?

I’m an easy date. If it seems interesting from the cover/amazon blurb, I’ll give it a try. I’m starting to use previews more, because I’ve read some really bad novels though.

4. What kind of a book would you most likely give to someone as a gift?

I don’t give books as gifts. Very few people I know read seriously, let alone Christian speculative fiction.

5. What bugs you the most when you see it in a story?

Two things.

1.¬†If it’s hyper-traditional Christian fiction. By this I mean very blatantly a “save the main character” story, but with no ambiguity or creativity. Even if those two things are present, it can be tough to enjoy it at times.

2.¬†“Fake” speculative fiction. If I read the book and think it probably wouldn’t lose anything if all the speculative elements were taken out and the book be a western, romance, or historical book, that’s fake speculative fiction.

6. What do publishers leave out too often?

Making an individual book a complete story in itself. Flight of the Angels was a little bad about this, as it introduced elements that weren’t really touched upon in the novel as opposed to being sequel hooks.

7. What do publishers add in too often?

Long metaphysical, religious, or philosophical dialogues. A recent book had an excellent beginning and middle, but degenerated into two characters (with one not particularly suitable for such) going back and forth about Plato and theology. It’s not bad to do this, but it can be hard to do well and too often its thrown in as if all Christian works need to have it.

8. What makes you close a book and never come back to it?

Boring me, mostly. I have a low bar for boredom, but some books just don’t hook me at all.

9. What makes you throw a book across the room?

Hmm, what books evoke strong negative reactions? Overrated books or books I’m supposed to like. These are¬†mostly secular books though, like George R.R. Martin or Brian Sanderson. Or Neil Gaiman.

Paul Lee
Member

Overrated books or books I’m supposed to like. These are mostly secular books though, like George R.R. Martin or Brian Sanderson. Or Neil Gaiman.

As far as I know, Brian Sanderson is not a writer that exists.

For what it’s worth, I’ve kind of thought that Brandon Sanderson was a bit overrated. He’s a masterful plotter and he’s very good churning out “fresh ideas.” His writing style is often¬†bland, and his characters are usually annoyingly happy-go-lucky, even when they’re trying to be other personality archetypes.

Still, I doubt you’re willing to uphold Robert Jordan as the best recent fantasy crafter, so I’ll have to fight you on Sanderson.

Lelia Rose Foreman (@LeliaForeman)
Guest

 

What do you most want to see in books you read?
Engaging characters, poetic and literary writing (until the metaphors stop making sense) incredible world-building, ecology that makes sense, insight, moral dilemmas with moral resolutions, skillful use of science and/or reality AKA truth.
What do you think is overdone?
I cannot even begin to guess what is overdone. There are things I hate, but overdone? I dunno.
What makes you want to buy a book?
Recommendations. I cannot tell you how many hundreds of dollars I have spent on books after reading about them on goodreads, this site, magazines and newspapers. Reviews. Sometimes it is a negative review that will sell me a book. (This is too poetic and descriptive! One star!)
What kind of a book would you most likely give to someone as a gift?
One that I thought would speak to their situation in life, one that would encourage, one in a genre they indicated they liked.
What bugs you the most when you see it in a story?
Spinning heads and swooning during a kiss. Bad dialogue. Jerks as heroes. Waif-fu. Bad writing.
What do publishers leave out too often?
What order the books should be read in.
What do publishers add in too often?
Do you mean writers? Overlong descriptions of what people look like. One person above said: Study Questions. Me, I love study questions. Sometimes they help me see what an author is doing that I missed.
What makes you close a book and never come back to it?
Boredom. Disgust.
What makes you throw a book across the room?
Typos. I realize typos are inevitable, so two or three per book that I correct with a dark pen are no big deal, but two or more per page? I’m outta there. Speaking of typos, sorry about the line numbers. I could not figure out how to get rid of them.

Lelia Rose Foreman (@LeliaForeman)
Guest

Oh, look at that. The line numbers disappeared. Disregard my prior comment.