Five Reasons Your Book Won’t Get Read

by | Mar 27, 2024 | Writing a book

Writing a compelling and readable non-fiction book involves more than just presenting ideas or information; it requires attention to a myriad of details that can significantly impact the reader’s experience.

Two recent book purchases inspired this article and made me think more about ensuring that myself and my clients don’t do these things. I like to think I am pretty switched on with this stuff, although I am not an interior designer. But every day is a school day, and you can always learn new things.

Let’s face it—we can all slip into bad habits—yes, even me and you.

There was one book that I wanted (book one) and one that was suggested by Amazon (book two). I started book two first and had to give up for many reasons listed below. Book one, published by a well-known publisher, is better but still has a few funnies.

Font Size, White Space And Layout

The first section of this article is my biggest bugbear.

Interior book designers will pay attention to fonts and ensure that the fonts they choose complement each other and make the book readable. I am reliably informed that serif and sans-serif fonts are the ones to use. No comic sans here, please.

Not only is the type of font important, but the size of the font and distinguishing between headings and the main body text. Even in this day and age (gasp), I still receive documents that make it difficult to know which are the headings and main body text.

Then, there is the spacing between headings and paragraphs and ensuring that there is enough white space to be able to read the text.

White space, or the absence of text and graphics, plays an important role in book design. It helps to reduce visual clutter, making the book more approachable and less daunting to readers. Adequate margins, space around headings, and line spacing all contribute to effective white space. It’s not merely “empty” space but something that guides readers through your book, enhancing readability and overall aesthetic appeal.

Impact of Poor Text Spacing on Dyslexic Thinking

I am not dyslexic, but when I was working with someone who was, I did a test by MadeByDyslexia and discovered that I had dyslexic thinking. Take the test. It is fascinating, and you might be pleasantly surprised by how brilliant you really are.

I find many things hard to read and make sense of if they are not properly laid out. I will always reformat a document so that I can read it, but you can’t do that with a print book. In book two, the font was small, and there wasn’t any white space, which meant I found it hard to follow.

This is because:

  • Inadequate spacing can cause visual stress, making letters and words appear to blend together. This can slow down reading speed and make reading more tiring.
  • Poor spacing between lines (leading) and between words can exacerbate tracking difficulties, where readers lose their place in the text. Proper spacing helps guide the eye smoothly from one line to the next.
  • Text that is not properly spaced can increase cognitive load, as the brain has to work harder to decipher and understand the text. This can be particularly challenging for people with dyslexic thinking, as they might use alternative cognitive strategies to process written information.

Other Neurodivergent Types and Reading Challenges

Various forms of neurodivergence can affect how individuals interact with text. If these are your target readers, you need to consider the following.

Some people may struggle to pay attention to densely written or visually cluttered pages. They may (will) benefit from clear, well-organised text with breaks and visual cues that help maintain focus. I think this has to be true for all of us.

Others may prefer straightforward, literal texts with a clear layout and predictable structure. Many of us see things in patterns and pictures, so having a structure is helpful. Visual or sensory sensitivities might also make certain fonts or layouts more comfortable than others. Some fonts look like they jump to me, and that’s not jumping for joy…

Anyone with dyspraxia, a condition affecting physical coordination, might struggle with the fine motor skills required for reading, especially if needing to track tightly spaced text or navigate complex layouts. Again, I think this must be true for many people.

Designing Accessible Text for Neurodiversity

I am not an expert, and this is based on what I would like and my experience of working with someone with dyslexia. To create more inclusive text presentations, consider the following design choices:

  • Generous spacing between letters, words, and lines can improve readability and reduce visual stress.
  • Fonts with distinct letter shapes and adequate x-height can help prevent confusion between similar-looking characters. We chose Roboto for the main body and Century Gothic for the headings; they work well.
  • Use headings, bullet points, and paragraphs effectively to break up text and provide clear navigation cues. Book two’s exercises did not have bullet points, which I found confusing. If I had wanted to keep this book, I would have rewritten the exercises to make sense of them.
  • Incorporate visual elements like charts, graphs, and images (good quality and relevant) to complement text and aid understanding, particularly for visual thinkers. But only if relevant. Book two described an EFT exercise that would have benefited from a visual. Their steps were unclear, so a visual would have stopped the confusion.
  • Providing content in multiple formats (such as audiobooks or digital texts with adjustable font sizes and colours) can cater to diverse preferences and needs.

Making Your Work Readable for All

  • Maintain a consistent style throughout the book to help readers easily navigate your text.
  • Consider the needs of readers with dyslexia and other needs by choosing accessible fonts, creating white space or by offering digital versions of your book that allow for customisation in text size and spacing.

Lack of Structure and Unvalidated Exercises

A book (like book two) suffering from erratic progression and untested exercises poses a significant challenge to readers – like me.

When a narrative jumps haphazardly from one topic to another without a clear, logical structure, it can lead to confusion and frustration. This is further exacerbated if the book includes poorly tested exercises. For a truly engaging read, chapters should seamlessly flow from one to the next, with each segment thoughtfully building upon the last. This coherent progression ensures that readers remain engaged and easily understand your work.

Meanwhile, incorporating well-tested exercises enriches the reader’s learning experience. It reinforces the book’s credibility and useability, making the journey from start to finish a more pleasant experience.

Examples from book two included a section with four things to do before going further. One was journaling, which, for me, needed no further clarification, but one was healing advice, which was not followed up anywhere in the book. Why say you need to do this deep healing and not offer a way to do it?

Two EFT exercises made no sense, and both followed a different way of tapping. A visual and bullet points would have helped show what to do step by step. And, of course, the method discussed had a structure. I did laugh when the text said to close your eyes rather than read the following and then… Ok, I’m being pedantic, but by then, I knew this was going on the fire pile.

Because I help my clients to write transformational journals with a process, I am acutely aware of making sure that the steps work, make sense and flow.

No Clear Takeaway or Practical Application

Readers turn to non-fiction for personal or professional development. A book that fails to provide clear takeaways or actionable advice may leave readers feeling that their time has been wasted, making the entire reading experience somewhat hollow and leaving readers perplexed about journeying through a book without a destination.

I think this says it all. If you are left hanging, what’s the point? It’s like having a novel take you on a journey and leave you stranded in the narrative. When I read fiction, I want a resolution that ties up the story’s threads. And being me, I want a happy ending…

Nonfiction readers want conclusions that offer closure through understanding, enlightenment, or tools for action. I like action, so I want to do things after reading something.

When a book fails to provide this, it’s like being led through a maze only to find the exit gate locked. There’s a sense of being stranded within the text, surrounded by information but without the key to unlock its value.

Failure to Address the Reader’s Needs or Question

This point is similar to the one before. If the book doesn’t solve a problem, answer a question, or meet a specific need of its intended audience, it may not resonate with readers.

To ensure that your book effectively meets the needs of your readers and guides them from curiosity to clarity, these might help:

Know Your Readers

Before penning a single word, invest time in understanding who your readers are, their challenges, and what questions keep them awake. Knowing your audience allows you to tailor your content to speak directly to their experiences, making your book not just a read but a solution to their specific problems.

Create A Roadmap

Think of your book as a map that leads the reader from a point of need or curiosity to a destination of resolution and understanding. Begin by clearly defining this journey in your book or journal plan.

What are the key milestones (chapters)? How does each section build on the previous one to deepen understanding or skills? Ensure every chapter includes a clear call to action or a reflective question that guides the reader and cements what they have just read about.

Clients working with me will spend time understanding their readers and creating a roadmap before writing anything. Once you have a roadmap, you can create a lead magnet and start marketing immediately.

Get Feedback

I often advise clients to blog their journals or books and share snippets of ideas because the feedback is invaluable. The same applies to the lead magnet. If it engages and people download it, you must be doing something right.

This will show whether your content is hitting the mark or adjustments are needed to better address your readers’ needs. Additionally, this feedback loop can help ensure that your calls to action are impactful and that each section of your book effectively leads to the next, creating a seamless and engaging reader experience.

Poor Quality of Writing

I’ll conclude with the quality of writing. I think that writing style and language are subjective. Book two kept using negative language that naffed me off. Book two is easy to read, and I love its style, but someone else may disagree.

However, knowing your audience is half the battle. The rest is down to good editing and checking your grammar. I confess to using Grammarly, but sometimes, it suggests horrible ways to express something. It does, however, keep me on my toes.

There are underlying principles of good writing that universally appeal to a broad audience.

Know Your Reader Again

Different groups of readers may have varying tolerance levels for complex language, technical jargon, or even narrative tone. A book intended for academic scholars in a specific field will differ in style from one aimed at others wanting introductory information. Tailoring your language, tone, and style to match the expectations and preferences of your target audience is essential. This should go without saying.

The Role of Editing and Grammar

The magic is in the editing, and it’s also pretty tedious, but hey ho. Good editing goes beyond checking for typos and grammatical errors; it involves refining the text’s clarity, flow, and coherence. It’s about making sure that the message is not just conveyed but also received as intended. A good editor and/or proofreader with a discerning eye can often catch nuances and subtleties that automated tools might miss, ensuring that the writing remains authentic and engaging without sacrificing the message.

And Finally

I am sure we all have things about all kinds of stuff that naffs us off. I adore books, and if something doesn’t work and I think it’s so bad that I wouldn’t want to inflict it on another, I’ll burn it. Otherwise, it’ll go to the charity shop for someone else to enjoy.

Do tell me what are your bugbears about books.

Let your journal be a mirror reflecting your true self, unfiltered and raw, capturing the essence of your journey through life.

Dale Darley