For the past few months, I have been reading a lot of books, certainly more than what I read in the past few years. Goodreads tells me 30 books. But I have certainly read more than that. Some have made me ecstatic, some were painfully boring, some were just nice, some I just could not finish. This condition seems to afflict both new and seasoned authors. The hurry to put your book out there is certainly affecting the quality.
There are many new authors who have been writing and I have been reading many authors for the first time. I do agree that everyone doesn’t hit jackpot all the time. If it is a self-published book, I am very sceptical. But would I read it? Yes, I would. I want to give the benefit of doubt and a chance to every author to see what is it they have written. In fact, if not satisfied, I try to read their next outing too before making up my mind. Oh! I do change my mind too. I do not give out ratings for books for the same reason. What I like, you may not like and vice-versa.
So, what is it that I, as a reader look for in a good book? Lets look at the technical aspects first.
- Language – If I am reading an English book, I want the author to use immaculate English language. The grammar has to be perfect. It is jarring when the author is writing in bad grammar with no tenses. I assume the author is thinking in another language and then writing in a different language. Please don’t do that. Then there is the case of the translators who have immaculate grammar, but they are not able to bring the same effect as in the original language.
- Beta reading & proof-reading – Use a proof-reader and also a beta-reader before sending for final print. Believe me, it’s worth paying them. Typos and incorrect text is becoming so common by authors that we do not even use it as a reason for bad writing. It is accepted. Duh!
- Editing – Some books are just ramblings which ultimately slow down the pace and distracts from the story. Of course, the author can meander as much as he wants as it is creative freedom, but make it interesting. I do not want to know the details of the complete dress worn by the heroine. As a reader, I would like to add some imagination there.
- Do not tell – I used to wonder what this means. But of late, I see many authors spelling out everything for the reader. Come on, we are intelligent enough to understand and make our own deductions. It gets the reader involved in the story. Let the reader feel the love the heroine feels for the hero. Let her feel anxious about his love but just show it to me and let me feel it too. Let the heroine have her heart beating faster, let her stutter a bit, let her blush. I will understand the rest.
Let us look at some of the non-technical aspects.
- The story or plot – In a book, the story has to be the king. The reader anticipates a good story when they start to read the book. But, if it is not there, we may just go and watch a one dimensional movie instead. Of late, a lot of books of the chick-lit genre is just that. One-dimensional. The author seems to be hoping for a movie contract and written a script accordingly. You just lost a reader and many more.
- Characters – Have some good fancy and unpredictable characters with shades and layers of attitudes. Let the reader understand the character. By the time the book ends, the character should become a known person for the reader. He should be able to anticipate the reaction of the character to any situation. Mr. Darcy, anyone?
- Location – Where is the story set? The location(s) becomes as much a character as the people in the stories. What era is the story based in? Is it a real place or a fictitious place. Bring the place alive. Who can forget the fictitious Malgudi or Middle Earth of Lord of the Rings? Or even the famous Baker street address of Sherlock Holmes.
- Marketing blitz – Blitzkreig marketing is a dud most of the time. Seriously, if a book is good, it will go places. It did even in the absence of the internet. There is always a market for a good book. Excessive marketing will improve sales but only for a limited time. Let the readers discover a hidden gem. But, it need not be in your face every time someone is visiting a website or the only book available in a store. It completely puts me off. Nothing half about it.
By no means is this an exhaustive list. Do let me know what you look for in a book?
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