What Killed It For Me #8: Personal Preferences

Looking back at the posts in this series, I’m starting to get a complex about being wayyyyy too picky with my reading. Thankfully, I’m running out of reasons why I stop reading books, so I’m going to finish this series with a final post on why readers might stop reading your book. It’s a blessing and a curse: Personal Preference.

Basically, no matter how well written your books are, certain people will never read them because they’re not the kind of books that they like to read. It’s really that simple.


Here’s an example: I remember starting a book that had everything a good book is supposed to have: solid writing, likable characters, high stakes. It was a dystopian set in a future where there were no trees. Interesting premise, yes? I thought so. The lack of trees made for an arid, dusty, sterile-feeling environment, and the author did a masterful job of drawing that. But here’s the thing: as a reader, I’m kind of weird in that the setting is hugely important for me. I like settings that are rich and thick and textured—places I would like to visit or even live. This was not one of those places. The story was good, but I just wasn’t feeling it because I couldn’t totally buy into the setting.

Let me reiterate: nothing wrong with the book. It just happened to go against one of my personal preferences.

Here’s another example: Recently, I picked up two different books by favorite authors of mine. I was primed to really like both of these books, but I didn’t make it all the way through because they were written in a genre I don’t normally like to read. I was hoping that my love of their writing would get me past the genre, but it didn’t. That is all.

Other Books That Pretty Much Everyone Liked Except Me: The DaVinci Code. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The Hunt for Red October. All great books. Couldn’t get into them. Why? I don’t know. They just weren’t my thing.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do to fix this particular problem, because it’s not actually a problem—not like the other reasons we’ve discussed in this series. There isn’t something you’ve done wrong or need to change. Some people simply aren’t going to like your book, no matter how great it is. And there’s precious little you can do about it.

What you CAN do is 1) accept that some people just aren’t going to like your stuff, and 2) write for the people who get you. Also, study the craft. Practice, practice, practice, so you can put out a quality product that won’t contain the gaffes we’ve discussed in this series and cause your eager audience to toss your book aside within the first twenty pages.

And for the love of all that’s chocolate, if you review books often, please don’t pan a book because it wasn’t your cup of tea. Angela and I have run into this a few times, where we were given a bad review because the reader didn’t understand what our book was supposed to be about. If there’s something wrong with a story, by all means, let the review reflect it. But don’t discourage other readers from picking up a book simply because it’s not the kind that you prefer to read.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series. I’ve learned a lot by figuring out why certain books didn’t work for me. Here’s hoping that we can put these ideas into practice so our readers keep reading, page after page after page.

Need to catch up? Here’s the rest of this series on WHY Readers Stop Reading:

#7: Issues With Sequels

#6: Action Too Early

#5: Weak Writing

#4 Cliched Characters

#3: Too Much Going On

#2: Characters Who Aren’t Endearing

#1: Lack of a Clear Goal



#7: Issues with Sequels
#7: Issues with Sequels

Thumbs Down Image: Geralt @ Pixabay


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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20 Responses to What Killed It For Me #8: Personal Preferences

  1. Pingback: Monday Must-Reads [05/05/14]

  2. Julie Musil says:

    Excellent point. I took forever to read Hunger Games, because it’s not a genre I normally read. Loved it. Started another series, even though it wasn’t in my fave genre…barely finished it and didn’t get to book 2. Nothing wrong with the book. My friends raved about it. It just wasn’t my thing. Reading Divergent right now and loving it. You just never know! But I’m glad I give different books a try, since some off-genre books became my favorites.

    • :Donna Marie says:

      You MAY like the “Legend” series by Marie Lu, Julie 😀

      • I read the first book in the series,and would like to read the rest. It was a great book!

        • :Donna Marie says:

          Angela, I was actually satisfied with the entire series, unlike others I was utterly disappointed in. Marie didn’t lose her focus or her steam in writing, and it played out in a way that made sense and didn’t leave you thinking “You’ve GOT to be kidding!” lol I also found them very easy to read which, for me, is a plus. An occasional dipping into the dictionary is fine and I appreciate it, but when books are written with vocabulary that makes it feel like a textbook, with me looking stuff up on every page to be SURE of the definition I just can’t do it! lol Love this series 🙂 And, of course, for me it pretty much goes without saying: HARRY POTTER!! 😀

  3. Marcia says:

    This is so true. We all have genres we don’t like that much, and no matter how well a book sells, there’ll always be people who don’t care for it.

  4. Erica M. says:

    I’ve found this happens a lot with me when I try to read outside my comfort zone. I found a mystery that seemed very dark and atmospheric, which was very different from my usual reading at that time; but the book slowly shifted its focus to the protagonist’s body image issues and illicit relationship and I got bored and flipped to the end to see what happened with the actual murder mystery. I guess I prefer a “what you see is what you get” approach to story telling.

  5. ED Martin says:

    I also recently had the experience of reading several books by one of my favorite authors, that were in two different genres from what she usually writes. While they weren’t bad, they weren’t her normal stuff, and I don’t think I’ll continue reading them as series. On the other hand, she probably gained some new readers who like these genres but not her other stuff.

    As a writer, I’ll take from this that it’s good to branch out and write what I want, because I’ll never please everyone.

  6. How true, how true! Just one more reason to write the book *you* want to read–at least you’ll have one fan.

  7. Stacy says:

    Great post! I’ve been reading a series I picked up a couple of months ago — LOVED the first three books. They had a particular flavor I really liked, much like I love Dragon Pearl Jasmine Tea. The fourth book got darker, and I didn’t like it as much, but figured maybe it was just one of those things where the “tea” wasn’t brewed exactly as I like it, so went charging on into the fifth book … and they changed the flavor entirely, as if they’d handed me a cup of Earl Grey instead. Now, don’t get me wrong — I love Earl Grey, just not as much as Jasmine. And it has a completely different flavor to it. So while I can probably make some mental adjustments and go on to the next book (assuming there is one … haven’t heard yet), it won’t be the same for me. I think it will feel like a different story, but with familiar characters and carryover stuff.
    I was tempted to review the last two books in light of my preferences, but then realized they were just that: personal preferences. So the books will still get good reviews, just not as glowing as the first three. Also, I had recommended the series to a friend, and was tempted to email her and tell her about the wild changes, but didn’t — she might like them. Just because I didn’t doesn’t mean she might not absolutely love the series even more than I did. So, yep, we all have built-in preferences that color how we view the world, and books are no exception. Hope I can remember that when I finally publish!

  8. So true!! I know there are A LOT of books out there that people love to read that I just don’t for whatever reason. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the story sometimes it’s just not my cup of tea.

  9. C. Lee McKenzie says:

    This is a perfect post. When I review books I keep in mind that this is someone’s way of seeing the world, and if it’s not my way, that’s good. In reading their work, perhaps I’ve seen another way of looking at things. I tend to choose books for their type, but I’ve also chosen them because of the author. Either way, there are some that grab me and keep me reading and others that do not. I’m glad because if we all liked the same things, how dull we’d become with all that nodding.

  10. :Donna Marie says:

    Becca, this series has been outstanding, for sure, and I (and I’m sure all your readers) sincerely appreciate the painstaking effort! 😀

    And yep, personal preferences. It’s what makes the world go ’round in every possible way. Books are certainly no different. We like what we like and don’t what we don’t. I will never read horror or romance novels. Just not worth my time—but that’s ME 😀 It’s really no different than why we, as writers, choose to write what we do. There’s something for pretty much everyone and we have no control or way to know who or how many people with find—and like—our work. It’s the same reason it’s so difficult to match up an agent with a client or a publisher with specific works. It has to “fit” 😀

  11. Kit Dunsmore says:

    I really enjoyed reading this series. Nice to know I’m not the only one who gets fed up and puts down a book in the middle. I also try to figure out what happened when I read a book I expected to like and then didn’t. Might as well learn from the mistakes others make, especially since I’m not as likely to see the problem when it’s my writing I’m looking at.

  12. Judith Schiller says:

    This was a good series! You guys always do a great job on your presentations for writers. When I see your email in with my others, I always check you out first. This particular series helped me in doing critiques for first time authors. Even though I thought I was doing a good job, this really gave me more insight. I have been writing for years for various magazines (mostly non-fiction, but a few short stories too) and just put a novel out on kindle, a romantic suspense. Although, some of my reviewers said it was mult-genre, which is new to me. Anyway, I have a 2nd novel in revision, and sure enjoy what you gals do. Thank you for all your hard work, and for always choosing great stuff for all of us.

    Judith Schiller

  13. Paula Cappa says:

    Great post. I did not like the DaVinci Code but I loved Angels and Demons. Personal preferences reign, you are so right. As a writer, I find beta readers to be helpful in getting reader reaction. Sometimes I’ve as many as 9 beta readers on one of my short stories and I look for a consensus of opinion. There’s often someone who doesn’t really get it or like it and someone who gushes over it. It’s those middle opinions that seem to have the real grist that I need.

  14. Deb says:

    Excellent post…and so, so true. It’s the one thing we don’t have control over. And yes yes yes to this:

    “And for the love of all that’s chocolate, if you review books often, please don’t pan a book because it wasn’t your cup of tea.”

    I too have seen this happen and don’t quite get it…

  15. Enjoyed the series of posts and hope I can learn from them. Personal preference is something I find as a reader that I can’t avoid so I try to apply it when buying – very few regrets. I’ve had prospective reviewers admit that my equestrian thriller is not their thing – great to know that upfront before I sent a review copy. Only had a couple of reviews where reader thought the book was the wrong genre.

  16. Missed the series but agree with you that what we like and the genres we like to read in so influence whether we’ll like a book or not.

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