Poll Results: Why Readers Stop Reading a Non-Fiction Book

Getting ebooks done fast is the hot item on the web these days. Tools claiming to help you "get a book done in just 3 hours" and even services like ours promising "a book in 6 weeks...without typing!" are popping up one-by-one to align with the potential of near immediate self-publishing.

Surely, logic teaches us that when time spent on anything decreases, quality degrades as well.

Yet, many book coaches and legacy publishing associations are teaching how books today should now be written shorter in length. "Short is the new black" or "People just don't have attention spans to read more than 8,000 word books anymore" are some of the common claims authoring professionals are providing their followers.

Experienced authors from yesterday wrinkle their noses in disgust of such claims as they hold firm to the idea that even a 20,000-word ebook on Kindle is just a "short article," as one author replied to me in a Quora discussion.

These are just some of the many quotes and claims I hear on a weekly basis. With preferences all over the board, I sought to get the question answered for myself: Why do readers really stop reading any particular non-fiction book?

If you are an author or business owner, speaker, consultant or coach and you've been thinking about putting your process into a written book form, knowing the answer to this question is vital to your future writing success because:

  1. Fewer people are buying books outright but borrow the books instead as part of their Kindle Unlimited subscription. Authors get paid commissions on what percentage of the book is read rather than only commissions on book sales. Get your readers to read more of your book and you'll get a higher commission payment.
  2. Unread books mean poor reviews or no reviews.
  3. Possibly the best reason of all: If people are not properly guided through your book (to the end), they will not be fully equipped with all the knowledge you intended to share with them.

I'm sure we would all agree that if a book is simply poorly written or has a sloppy editor (or NO editor), a reader will probably stop reading it. Those are givens. I wanted to uncover a deeper reason for what stops readers from reading non-fiction books to the last page.

Referencing the small set of 58 business owners who replied to my poll request as posted above, we can start to get some insights.

Readers Stop Reading Books that are Too Complex

We all know this reason. Book length and complexity is the foundation for why short ebooks have become popular. Even though I'm the co-author of two Web Marketing All-in-One for Dummies books (Wiley), both exceeding 900 pages, most people today find benefit from consuming focused content for one specific topic.

The other component to complexity is how many authors neglect the basics in favor of showcasing their expertise with information that is too challenging to the reader. A person who has provided the same service for 20 years will often spew industry jargon that is second nature to the author but leaves readers in a fog.

For example, if I wrote a book on creating a WordPress website from scratch, would first-timers really know my meaning if I was to write: "Be sure to connect the core PHP files with your new MySQL database before attaching the SSL to your static IP."

This is just one example of how content can become too complex for readers. Each item must be carefully explained and written for the reader rather than trying to make the author look like a college professor.

Additionally, even if the author IS a college professor, I would suggest using small words to accurately describe your content and direction.

Readers Get Turned Off by Information that's Too Basic

The suggestion, "Short is the new black," is partly accurate. People do want short and focused. But, these poll results suggest readers do not want short books just for the sake of shortness. They still want information that is beyond the basic level of something they could read for free in blog posts. And, that means your book should not be so short that it neglects intermediate and advanced details to support your process.

They key is to find that perfect balance; cover the basics while adding complex components required for your method to be accurately described and understood.

People Don't Care if YOU Wrote Every Word of Your Book or Not

I was surprised to find in this survey how such a small percentage (just 10%) feel books not written entirely by the author (ghost writers) turn them off to the point of stopping them from completing their reading of the book.

I've read dozens of down in the dirt low quality ebooks that were obviously outsourced to a non-native English writer. The text itself is so poorly written that you can't even imagine the author on the cover proofread the material at all. As a reader, I feel insulted that the author put such crap onto Kindle. It's authors like those that give ebooks a bad name! I spot these slimy, grungy, books in a heartbeat and remove them from my reading list immediately.

Apparently, only a small percentage of readers feel the same way as I do about this issue. Maybe I'm in the minority because of how focused I am to producing top-shelf quality in every book we roll out.

At R50, we are not ghost writers in the traditional sense. We provide intense interviews of our authors to extract their content from their minds. We then produce their book using the words they've provided us.

We might be able to massage content into an order that better serves the book. And, we may spot a sentence that would flow better into the next sentence that an author client would not normally catch. But, our first goal is to always write in the voice of the author by using their actual voice to construct the content.

What this poll result should show to authors is that it's okay to get help on the content production side of things as you self-publish. Use a ghost writer or other services provider like R50 to help you extract the content quickly from your mind and then construct the book for you to save your time.

Bad Information is Bad for Your Bank Account

The final observation I'd like to make from this poll is the 15% that stop reading a book because the information is either incorrect or incomplete. To me, these shortcomings can mean the same thing. If there are five steps in a process, and the author only shares four of them, the information is both incomplete and incorrect...because it's not complete.

One of the great benefits of writing a book is that readers will want to hire you for consulting, implementation, training or speaking. More specifically, once someone realizes you really can help them with their problem, they want to get closer to you and pay you good money to help them fix their problem.

When you supply inaccurate details or incomplete steps to a process, and the reader recognizes it, the book gets removed from their Kindle library and you lose a potential client. In fact, the only words you'll hear from your reader in such a case will be the hostile and degrading review on your Amazon book page!

Concluding Thoughts

There is a new kind of book publishing where speed seems to be the first priority and quality a far distant second. At the same time, we must acknowledge that there are legitimate options to the days when the only two forms of publishing involved taking months or years to write a book and then shopping it to a publisher or going through the brain damage of locating a good book printer and printing 1,000 books to get the best cost.

Today, you could start writing a book on a Sunday and have it selling online by Saturday of the same week! My personal record, set a couple of years ago, was writing a 30-page ebook the weekend after Thanksgiving and getting it onto my website and selling by Monday morning.

Realistically, and my final point on this issue, is that each option appears to have its merits and might be the best fits for specific purposes. What seems to be rising is a balance between speed to market and quality of content. Put too much effort into striving for perfection in either and the other will suffer. The poll is certainly indicative of that.

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