Apparently not much. Shakespeare was right when he said, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
Character names are the one thing that can stop me from writing a story. To me, a name reveals a lot about a person: their heritage, their strengths, their personality. So I always take extra time in choosing each one. If it doesn't feel right to me, I can't continue until I find a name that does. If the right name eludes me for too long, I'll insert brackets where the name should be, and keep writing.
So imagine my surprise when I learned that some readers don't care one bit about names. In fact, three of my former high school classmates commented that they ignore the names in stories, and substitute their own.
I was floored. Of course, I didn't expect any reader to be impressed with the names of my characters, but I did hope they would remember them, at least.
As a reader, the only time I object to character names is when the author goes overboard. This tends to happen in science fiction and fantasy sometimes. The characters are called something unreadable, and unpronounceable. That puts a damper on the story for me.
Since learning the names I select aren't nearly as memorable as I hoped, I've tried not to obsess about finding the perfect one. I'll admit, it's been a challenge. I still want the name to feel right.
So now I'm curious about other readers. What about you - do you substitute your own character names while reading? Please share!