The First Ten Pages


It’s the author’s nightmare: the reader opens the book with high hopes, but more likely than not, she never finishes the story. Research tracking reader behavior on ebooks confirms what writers have always suspected. Readers are ruthless in their judgments: men tend to quit reading after 30 to 50 pages, women after 50 to 100 pages. Even a successful book (finished by 60% of the readers) loses most of the dropouts within the first few chapters. Readers who make it to the mid-point are usually committed.

Pew Research Center’s 2016 study reports that 3 out of 4 American adults say they read a book last year. Millenials are more likely to say that than Boomers.

Apparently, we are, nevertheless, a nation of skimmers. Tracking for online publishers indicates that only 50% of the readers scrolled down to 50% of the content in articles they opened. (A photo makes it more likely that the reader will scroll to the end, thus, my model posing for this entry.) If a friend recommends an article to you, don’t assume she’s actually read it. There’s no correlation between the tweets and the readers who read to the end.

Calling for volunteers:

I’m a believer. As a mystery writer, if I don’t catch the interest of the reader in the first ten pages, it’s not going to work. I hope some of my Facebook friends will agree to read the opening of my new story right now, while it’s still in its formative stage, and give me some feedback. The important thing is, you can’t possibly hurt my feelings because it’s a work in progress and I can always fix it! Nothing elaborate required. Just honest reactions. Show me where it gets confusing, slow, too many adjectives or adverbs, whatever. Any comments would be welcome.

Let me know and I’ll send you the opening of my latest: YOU CAN TELL ME.