What Do Readers Want?

24 Oct

This is the second post of a rolling blog tour on the topic of What Do Readers Want? To read previous blog tours, check out Plot vs. Character and Funny Mystery Novels. At the bottom of this post you’ll find the other participants in today’s tour, and a link to the next article in the series.

I can’t take credit for researching this question, since many people before me have already done it. Yippee, less work for me. Here are 12 things that readers want, from Amazon.com, based on readers’ reviews of the New York Times Bestseller List, followed by my comments (I’m in a sarcastic mood):

1. A compelling cover – yes, a book IS judged by its cover, no matter what anyone says. Especially an e-book, since all you’ve got is a graphic. Which is why I’m getting new covers. So, to quote fellow blogger Chuck Wendig over at http://terribleminds.com, make sure your cover doesn’t ‘suck a bag of dicks’. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

2. A strong hook – sure, strong hooks are wonderful. But they’re not as common as they should be. Or if the hook is strong, what follows is disappointing.

3. A unique and descriptive setting – this is icing on the cake. Great to have, but for me, not a deal breaker. I’ll still eat the cake without the icing (especially chocolate) and I’ll still like a book minus a unique setting.

4. Stellar writing – not essential either, believe it or not. It’s been said that some readers don’t know what stellar writing is. Neither do editors. Sometimes it’s just about the story and the characters. A good example is Stephenie Meyer’s first novel, Twilight. It read like an amateur novel, but the story was compelling.

5. Subject matter expertise – I don’t really care about this either. I’m not one of those anal retentive know-it-alls that email authors advising them that they got their facts wrong on how to fingerprint a crime scene. This is fiction, I can suspend my belief for a few hours. Plus, I have a life.

6. Easy to follow storyline – depends what they mean by ‘easy’. If it’s too easy, I’ll be bored sick. If it’s too convoluted, I’ll be frustrated. A nice balance is important.

7. Believable characters – This is a must.

8. Surprises – some surprises aren’t good ones. Twists have to make sense, and not come out of nowhere for the ‘gotcha’ factor.

9. Character growth – I love characters who evolve, but I don’t think fans of Stephanie Plum care about this. Stephanie is in an eternal rut. She lives in the same apartment, with the same hamster (now about 12 years old — officially the world’s oldest hamster), the same two lovers, the same family, still won’t carry a gun, etc. It hasn’t stopped Janet E’s fans from buying her books.

10. Realistic dialogue – again, it depends by what they mean by ‘realistic’. Here’s realistic dialogue at my house this morning. ‘Want coffee?’ ‘Um-huh.’ ‘Want the paper? ‘Sure.’ ‘What time is Fred coming over?’ ‘Two.’ I sure don’t want to read this type of dialogue in a novel.

11. Fast pacing – Yes, please. But not too fast. I’ll get a headache.

12. Vivid depictions of emotion – BINGO! Yes, yes and yes. Make me feel something. Make me laugh, cry, get scared, get angry. Entertain me. Take me away from my mundane life. Make me connect to your character and root for them. This is why I read, and in my opinion, this is what every reader wants.

What about you? Take my poll!

To learn about what other mystery authors have to say about What Readers Want, check out the other stops on the blog tour:

Mollie Cox Bryan http://www.molliecoxbryan.com

Kathleen Kaska http://kathleenkaskawrites.blogspot.com

Ryder Islington http://ryderislington.wordpress.com

3 Responses to “What Do Readers Want?”

  1. Kathleen Kaska October 24, 2011 at 10:05 am #

    I like the poll, Nancy. Great idea. And I like these 12 tips. They say it all. And sarcasm is not always a bad thing. Enjoyed your blog today.

  2. Selena Robins Musings October 24, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

    Great blog, Nancy, and good poll. I added my votes in. The cover has to be real bad for me not to even pick it up, as I don’t base my selection entirely on the cover or title of the book. I usually read the first chapter, if I can’t get passed the first few paragraphs, then even if it has a great cover I won’t buy it.

    I want a book that makes me feel a lot of different emotions, but most of all, well developed characters that I will root for, or even hate. Remember JR Ewing, loved to hate that man. LOL


  1. The Scariest Book I’ve Ever Read « The Chick Dick Mysteries - October 31, 2011

    […] tour on the topic of The Scariest Book I’ve Ever Read. To read previous blog tours, check out What Do Readers Want? and Plot vs. Character. At the bottom of this post you’ll find the other participants in […]

Talk to me ;)

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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

%d bloggers like this: