I’ve been thinking about this topic for a bit now with some recent unsuccessful stories of authors I really like. This thinking led me to ponder a few questions. To start with, when a solid author produces something that you, as a reader, just don’t like at all, what does it take to scratch that author off your list? Furthermore, are reviewers kinder on authors they like who happen to flop?
Do reviewers softball bad books by favorite authors?
Take for example KA Mitchell. I recently read and reviewed her new book Chasing Smoke and I found it distinctly lacking. After I had written my review, I checked out others and found a lot of reviews mentioned the poor mystery aspect. Others found the relationship more palatable than I did, but overall there was a general consensus that the book had significant problems. However, the reviews were a lot kinder and gentler than I expected considering the qualms presented.
Now, not to belabor that book in particular but it got me thinking that KA Mitchell was getting off rather light for an unsuccessful book. I certainly don’t want her lashed to a cross and whipped but similar books by less popular authors have been trashed for the same mistakes. In some ways I understand it as KA Mitchell is considered an auto buy for many readers, me included. But in others, less popular and established authors aren’t given the same forgiveness.
It led me to thinking that when an author has a strong stable of work behind them, it’s easier for readers, and reviewers it seems, to forgive one bad step. When it’s a newer, less well known author, that forgiveness is slow in coming. There is no basis for knowing if that bad book was a fluke or more representative of their body of work. No one wants to spend their money on bad books so unknowns create more caution.
So, how popular does an author have to be to benefit from this forgiveness? What goes into it? Do reviewers “soften” reviews for good authors when they try something new and it doesn’t work?
Readers’ forgiveness is legendary
For readers, I wonder what it takes to strike someone off your auto-buy list. It’s not one failed book for sure. Smart Bitches did a great post a while back about breaking up with series and how many readers tended to cling loyally to series and authors long after their expiration dates. Many commentators even said they didn’t enjoy the books but kept buying anyway as they just had to know how the story progressed.
I certainly can relate to that as I hung on to the Anita Blake series until Harlequin. I was so horrified at that book I couldn’t and wouldn’t continue, but I clung WAY longer than I should have and really even wanted to. I kept *hoping* it would get better. [Ok, I read 2 Merry Gentry books. I’m deeply ashamed of this btw and yes, I know they’re trash.]
So this establishes that if an author is successful it takes much more for them to drop off the favored pedestal. I don’t disagree with this but it makes me wonder how much work the author has to do for that status and how precarious that status may be. It could be a case of reading a bad book by an author you know or chancing on an unknown author.
So I’m rabidly curious and hope others chime in with answers.
Are readers more likely to hang onto a series or an author?
If an author disappoints you, what does it take to break up with them?
Does the author have to insult your beliefs or personal hot buttons?
Or does multiple failed books do it for you – 3 strikes, you’re out type mentality?
I’m not sure where my personal line is drawn but for the amount of effort it takes to write, edit, and publish a book then wait for the reader reception, I’m willing to buy most authors again. How about you?