Three Strikes You’re Out? How Many Chances Does An Author Get?

Recently I read (okay, listened to) the third book in Gregory Maguire’s OZ series, “A Lion Among Men” and I wasn’t really terribly impressed.  As I was writing my review, I realized I haven’t really been crazy about any of his work, except “Wicked” which I really enjoyed.  I don’t have anything against him as a writer (or a person, for that matter), he and I just don’t really click.  This got me to wondering why on earth I read four books by him, none of which I enjoyed, just because I liked “Wicked.”  Heck, I even reread “Mirror, Mirror” to see if it was just timing, or if I really didn’t care for it.

And I’ve done the same thing with Philippa Gregory.  I really liked “The Other Boleyn Girl,” which actually is what drew me into historical fiction, now my favorite genre.  I enjoyed “The Queen’s Fool,” and “The Boleyn Inheritence” although not nearly as much as “The Other Boleyn Girl.”  “The Constant Princess” disappointed me and “The Virgin’s Lover” left me cold.  And yet, I actually bought “The Other Queen” in hardback when it came out – although I quickly gave it away on my blog, it definitely was not a keeper for me.  Seriously, what does she have against Elizabeth I?  All this and I can’t help but be curious about her upcoming book, “The White Queen,” although it seems like she’s cranking them out pretty quickly now (“The Other Queen” just came out in the fall, about a year before “The White Queen” is scheduled to be released) and I can’t imagine but that the quality is suffering.  At least this time I’ve pledged that it WILL be a library book.

umpireThe library book lesson is one that I’ve started to learn with Jodi Picoult.  I initially loved all of her work I read, but I quickly OD’d on her.  The storylines seem very different on the surface, but if you read too many of them they all start to blend into one another, although I do hear her newest book is quite good.  She’s really cranking them out too, though.

Why is it that I seem to give an author endless chances to impress me if they managed to do so with their first book?  Really, if I haven’t liked over half of their work, shouldn’t I just call it quits?  How many chances do you give an author?  Is it three strikes and they’re out?  More?  Less?  How many should they get?

34 comments to Three Strikes You’re Out? How Many Chances Does An Author Get?

  • Pam

    I have the same problem with Philippa Gregory. Her Other Boleyn Girl brought me into Historical Fiction, I absolutely love that genre and am itching to find some new titles since I kinda OD’d on it a while back. I felt the same with Jean Plaidy, the first couple of the Medici books were great but then it felt she was pumping them out. Also recently the latest House of Night novel I thought was a bust, it’s not great literary achievement anyway, but this book felt rushed and didn’t tie anything up. I also saw some not so great reviews of the latest James Patterson. I reviewed it earlier and since it was the first I read, I thought it was pretty fantastic, apparently for his fans it’s not really hitting the mark for them, this is the 8th book in that particular series. I can’t imagine writing a series, J.K. Rowling took ages between books and there was always quality in her Harry Potter. Maybe the need for greed is more relevant than it used to be, especially since book buying and reading are at an all time high.

    Thank you for a non-controversial post.

  • I think for me, it tends to be a familiarity thing. Even when an author’s work has become disappointing, if you’ve read most of their work, it pretty much becomes habit to pick up more works by that author. Maybe it’s a hope that their newer work recaptures the quality of the previous work?

    Shauna’s last blog post..Sunday Salon: A Week in Review

  • I just had this problem with Jose Saramago. I actually gave him three chances. I loved Blindness, which made me pick up All The Names. I read maybe a chapter before putting it down forever. Then I checked out Death with Interruptions. I read about fifty pages, loving it until I came until a dense chapter and put that one down also. I might pick it up, I might not. But if I don’t like the first book I pick up by an author, I usually won’t try to read anything else about them. I still haven’t picked up a book by Picoult and have no plans to.

    Vasilly’s last blog post..Sunday Salon

  • I’m not especially forgiving if I come across a book I didn’t care for–will likely never bother with the author again. I read Wicked (loved it), then Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister or whatever it was titled, and it was just okay. Haven’t bothered with any other of Maguire’s. And I’ve only read two of Gregory’s, too–The Other Boleyn Girl and The Queen’s Fool. Again, loved the first one, found the second one to be just okay.

    I also think that I’m more tolerant of authors with less hype. The more hype=the greater my expectations=the greater my disappointment (all too often).

    Jena’s last blog post..Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

  • Philippa Gregory never got me going in the first place – I think it’s because I read Constant Princess first. I put that thing down for weeks at a time without picking it up.

    I tried to read Wicked and that series and just couldn’t get into them. I tried and tried and tried.

    I’m with Pam about time required to write a great novel. I mean, you have to have time to make it great. How many times do we write blog posts and then an hour later remember something else we should have included? (I know that’s why we write them in advance, but still) I definitely think there’s greed asscociated.

    I Heart Monster’s last blog post..Book Inspection: Pretty Face by Mary Hogan (And Contest!)

  • I have exactly the same problem with Philippa Gregory. I had decided not to read any more of her books, unless someone like you (who says they were disappointed with all of them apart from The Other Boleyn Girl) starts raving about her new book. Let me know if it is any good!!

    Jackie (Farm Lane Books)’s last blog post..The Thing Around Your Neck – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

  • Its tough with series (like with you, for the Wicked sequels). Even if the subsequent books leave me a little cold, I find myself reading the whole series just to know what happens. Whereas with stand alone books, I’ll stop bothering with that author sooner.

    Lorin’s last blog post..Review: The Hunger Games

  • I have this problem. I just can’t seem to stop picking up books by authors that are supposed to be popular even if I don’t like them. I even do it with Philippa Gregory despite the fact that she can drive me mad. I loved The Other Boleyn Girl in high school, so I figured I liked her books. I read The Virgin’s Lover a couple of years ago and hated it. On reading reviews of TOBG I realized I’d hate that now, too. Yet I just picked up Wideacre the other day. I was thinking mostly that if there weren’t any real historical figures, I couldn’t get angry about it, and maybe that meant I could enjoy the story. LOL! It was also only 30p, but I wondered even as I was buying it why I still wanted it.

    I don’t know if I will try the new one. I don’t think I should be allowed to read books about the Wars of the Roses these days. I just learn more and more and it’s all very detrimental to my enjoyment of fiction because inevitably things don’t go the way history says or even the way *I* think they should go. I’m too opinionated. It’s much easier to enjoy historical fiction when I don’t already have preconceived notions of the culture, the characters, and precisely what happens. Oh well!

    I also did this with Steven Erikson, I think I mentioned him on my blog. Everyone raves about his fantasy series but I strongly disliked the first two. I still bought the third one and I want to re-read them to see if I like them now. Why? I don’t know. I think it’s just because I don’t want to miss something that everyone else seems to really enjoy.

    I apologize for ranting on your blog. Too much to say!

    Meghan’s last blog post..Guest Blog & A Giveaway: Eleanor Bluestein on Why Short Stories?

  • Apparently I have no limit, because I’m still reading James Patterson and his books stopped being good about 10 years ago.

  • Kathy

    I’ve done that a lot too, but have given up on some authors, like Patricia Cornwell.

  • Ti

    Yeah, but how would you know unless you read them all? In hindsight, now you can say you didn’t like them but without reading them, you would never know and if the first one was so FAB then you would naturally want to keep reading more of his/her work, right?

  • I’m right with you on the Piccoult. Different topics on the surface, but there is a recipe there that she sticks with. I do the same thing though. Even though I think an author has gone sour, I continue to buy the books. Is it loyalty? Eternal optimism that they will find their way back? Just slow to learn my lessons? I have no clue.

    Sandy’s last blog post..Wordless Wednesday

  • Ali

    I wonder if for me it’s a ratio thing. If I liked one book and didn’t like the next, I’ll read one more to see if it was a fluke. But if I liked 2 books, I might try two more after the one I didn’t like. Hmmm, I might have to keep track to see if this actually bears itself out.

    Ali’s last blog post..The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

  • I usually give two chances. I’m willing to say the first bad read was a fluke, or perhaps it had the bad luck to follow a particularly good book that it simply couldn’t live up to. If the second one falls flat, though…yer out!

    Bibliolatrist’s last blog post..Trying to be a good person, one review at a time

  • You know, I think this is a great topic, but I have no answer. I feel the same about Philippa Gregory, though I’ll definitely be checking out her new books. And I have NO idea what her problem is with Elizabeth I. When I saw her at the National Book Festival, I was really tempted to ask her!

  • I’m right with you there on Picoult as well. In fact, I had a (very small) bet running with a friend of mine that I could figure out what would happen at the end of the book w/in the first twenty pages or so of one of her novels. I could.
    I feel like it’s partially a matter of timing, though. I still love Brian Jacques (of Redwall fame), even though I KNOW that all of his books are essentially the same story. Maybe it’s because I read him as a kid and I want the same story again and again? Who knows.

  • This is a great topic! I feel the same way about Jodi Picoult—I love Plain Truth and Keeping Faith but then the characters and even the courtroom stuff all started to blend together. To give you just a small perspective from the other side, though, I published my first novel last year, with Hyperion. Even though I’m a no-name first-time author, there’s tremendous pressure to produce a book a year, because it’s felt that THAT is what builds an audience and launches an author on to the bestseller lists (and then keeps them there). It’s taken me two years to write my second book, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to write a book a year. The best advice I got was from someone who read my first book, told me he thought I had talent worth nurturing, and that I shouldn’t let anyone rush me into producing too fast. “Protect your brand,” he said. I live by that, and am working hard to write the best book I can.
    As readers, do you get frustrated if you LOVE an author but then have to wait two or more years for another book?

    • Thank you so much for weighing in from the other side, Kathleen! I’ve heard fantastic things about your book, by the way. I remember that Jennifer at Literate Housewife really liked it (I’m requesting it from the library RIGHT NOW so I can read/review it soon).

      I do understand why publishers would put that pressure on authors, because it does keep you in the spotlight if the buzz from one book has just died down when people begin to talk about the next book that you have coming out. Personally I only get really anxious to read the author’s next book if they are writing in a series. If the author is simply a novelist I love, I just keep an eye and an ear out for their next book. The anxious waiting only really comes in for me when the pub date is getting close. It is more a celebration than a frustration.

  • I am willing to wait for quality. Maybe not 5 years…but I don’t need a book a year from an author if they aren’t the type that can write a brilliant book in a short amount of time.

    As far as your original question…I probably give an author 2 chances, depending on who it is. I haven’t read Wicked yet, but I thought Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister was pretty good and Mirror, Mirror was awful.

    lenore’s last blog post..Book Review/Discussion: Genesis by Bernard Beckett

  • I’ve just started Lion Among Men and I’m not loving it, but it’s OK. The funny thing is was intrigued rather than liked Wicked and I was bored out of my mind with Son of a Witch, but I feel compelled to keep going. It could be because, while I can’t claim to understand it, I was fascinated with Mirror, Mirror and I *loved* Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, so I cut him some extra slack. Also, I’m finding a certain attraction to the way he writes rather than to the story itself as I’m listening to Lion Among Men.


    Lezlie’s last blog post..LLP: April 2009 Wrap Up

  • We probably all do this to some extent. I have read all of the Spenser mysteries by Robert B. Parker, and even though he started recycling plots (or using more and more outrageous plot devices) some time ago, I keep on reading them. I’m getting ready to review another one this week! I really loved some of Anne Rice’s early work, and I kept reading for a long time after she went off the rails. You can always keep hoping, I guess.

  • I agree that Picoult is terribly formulaic and yet I keep reading her. Same with Patterson and Cornwell…why do I keep reading these series books when I don’t like them anymore? I keep hoping they’ll get better, but they just don’t.

    I am willing to wait a while for a good book. Diana Gabaldon is a good example of that!

    Melissa – Shhh I’m Reading’s last blog post..Booking Through Thursday…Worse?

  • I wouldn’t entirely blame the author when follow-up titles seem to lack the quality of the first (or first three or whatever). If a first or second book does really well it’s apparently SOP for that author’s publisher to then demand they produce another to be published within a year. If said author has a backlog of manuscripts, that might not be an issue, but if none of those are deemed adequate, or if the editor wants a second with some connection to the first, the author is under duress to produce that book in months whereas they might have spent a year or more on the first.

    It’s hard enough to produce ANYTHING fit to read under a gun, much less one’s best work.

    • That definitely makes sense if the first book you read by the author is actually their first book. It could also apply in the case of Picoult and Gregory, who do seem to be churning the books out every year now.

  • Cornwall…I swear someone else is writing her books. I loved her early books and then maybe 10 years ago…awful.
    Picoult…liked a couple that I read, but then they got very repetitive.
    Patterson…he at least admits he is no longer writing the books. He supplies the ‘idea’ and then that other name on the cover actually writes the book. I personally thing that is a disgrace and why anyone would buy ‘his’ books is beyond me.

    Quite honestly, anymore, one bad book from an author is enough to drive me to another writer. So many books, so little time, no need to waste it on something questionable when there are so many other great books waiting out there.

  • I’m writing this without reading the other comments, so I’m not influenced.

    If I read two dud books in a row by an author whose first book I liked, then I’m not likely to try another by that person.

    If the first book I pick up by an author is a dud, then someone I trust will have to work hard to talk me into trying another.

    But if I’m reading a long series by an author, then I’m fairly forgiving about a dud here and there. I’m two thirds done with Patrick O’Brian’s series of twenty-one books. A loser here or there is almost understandable. Same for some of the longer mystery series I’m reading.

    If I’m reading a series and book after book suddenly goes south, then I tend to stop reading the series. The Cat Who mystery series is a prime example.

    Beth F’s last blog post..Monthly Wrap Up: April 2009

  • I usually give an author at least two books before I decide whether or not I want to read any more of their work. (Assuming, of course, that I manage to find the time to give them another go. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen). If I’m really on the fence, I might extend it to three. And on a few rare occasions, I abandon them entirely after one truly terrible read. I’m pretty good about giving up on stuff that isn’t working for me; I rarely force myself to read an entire series just because I should like it, and I won’t go rooting around through an acclaimed author’s bibliography for that one amazing book that’s going to change my mind about them. If I’ve read two or three books that just didn’t work for me, I figure I’ve got a pretty good idea of where I stand.

    Memory’s last blog post..64. The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, Eighteenth Annual Collection

  • I’m a little late to this discussion, but..,

    If the first book I read by an author is a dud, I’m probably done with that author. I have 1000s of books on my TBR lists, so I don’t feel the urgency to revisit that author any time soon. If I’ve read several I liked, and come across a dud, I’ll give the author another book to redeem themselves. If the next book is still bad, I’ll move them WAY WAY down my list, and probably won’t get to anything they’ve written for a long time.

    I agree with Beth – if I’m in the middle of a series I enjoy, I’m much more willing to put up with one or two that are not up to par. And as far as Kathleen’s comments about waiting for the author to produce the next book – if I really love the author, I’m willing to wait as long as it takes for the next great book to get published!

  • mee

    It depends how much I liked or disliked the ones that I’ve read. I think I gave Jodi Picoult 3 strikes (the first two weren’t bad but I greatly disliked the last one).

    mee’s last blog post..Sunday Salon: Lazy Week

  • Usually it takes very few books for me to decide whether an author will get another chance. If the first book that I read is really a bad experience then it will take a lot for me to pick up another book by the same author. The topic has to really appeal to me. If it’s an okay book with writing upwards of decent, then I am usually willing to give an author another try. I can’t imagine reading the author again after 2 different books.

    Nicole’s last blog post..The Little Book on Meaning, by Laura Berman Fortgang

  • I think I’ve come up with categories – (A) if the first book by the author was really boring or too pretentious, strange, forced, slow, violent or fluffy, I’m unlikely to try another by the same author unless it gets rave reviews, looks fantastic, and seems markedly different from the last one I’d tried OR i’m stuck somewhere and have no other options and am bored silly.

    Category B: If the first book was middling and left no big impression, I’m likely to give the author a try again. Until they come up with something like a category A book or it seems like they’re just writing the same book over and over again. If so, then I just trail off in boredom and want to waste my time. There are just too many lovely books out there waiting!

  • I think that it is because these are pretty popular writers that many people seem to enjoy. So, when you read one book by them and don’t get it you feel the need to read something else by them just to prove that there is something wrong with you. Not with them.

    I haven’t done this myself, I resist the urge. I read “Wicked” and I didn’t like it enough that I would never try to read anything by him again.

    Monique’s last blog post..A Second First Time: Booking Through Thursday

  • […] from Devour of Books wants to know when is a good time to kick an author to the curb?  How many books do you read before you just won’t read an author anymore.  I know that I […]