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