I picked up a new fantasy novel the other night and eight pages in was debating switching it for something else. The book’s a 500-pager and the start to a series. If I read it, I’d be making a commitment, most likely to thousands of pages over several years. (It’s not Game of Thrones, just for those of you playing along in the home audience.)
In eight pages, the protagonist was in a seedy tavern in a less than favorable part of town, wondering how he could earn money. I was underwhelmed and feeling like there should be a cardinal rule that no new fantasy books should ever be allowed to start this way again ever.
Feeling like I should give the book a little more time to develop (it’s not a mystery, there doesn’t have to be a dead body in the first few pages), I posed the following question on Facebook:
How many pages do you read of a book before you decide not to finish it? Does it depend on the book’s length?
Several folks commented they feel compelled to finish, no matter what. A few others said it’s a chapter or two and if they aren’t hooked by then, it’s on to the next book.
I used to be one of those compulsive finishers of books. Not anymore.
It was an attitude shift, really, a giving of permission to put a book down before I’d read it cover-to-cover. Maybe it gets better partway through, but I’d been burned enough times.
Not being a compulsive books finisher is glorious. Don’t like it, move on.
As another FB commenter said, “I think there’s too many other good books out there. Do i wanna waste more time on these characters and do I care what even happens?”
Turns out, with the fantasy book in question, the answer became yes. I decided reading 10% was a good margin. So, for a 500 page book, that’s 50 pages, or three chapters. By the end of chapter one, our out-of-work swordsman was now employed by the Crown, a helpful source of income which, it turns out, he need to pay for the care of his brother in Bethlem Hospital and a second main character was introduced — a girl, disguised as a boy, working in the London theatre. Do I care about them and want to know what happens? Yep. It was the disguised girl plot that hooked me. She’ll be discovered, because convention says she will, but it’s keeping me reading (along with other things.)
It’s OK to stop reading when you aren’t enjoying one book and pick up something else.
What about you? How much is enough before you switch to another book?