I've been reading debut novels for years. In fact, I've made a specialty of it. I have read so many debut novels over the years that I decided to make discovering debuts the focus of my blog. Here are three reasons why I think everyone should be more willing to read debut novels.
1) They are new. The fact that they are new in and of itself is a great reason to read debut authors. New authors must bring fresh ideas to the fold, or they won't break in. With a debut novel, you'll often see new angles on traditional genres. For example, when Diana Gabaldon's Outlander was first published, it differed from the traditional historical romance in many ways. It had time travel in it. The woman was older than the man. Jamie and Claire were married first, and fell in love later. Clare had to deal with the fact that she still loved her other husband from the 20th century. It had a male-on-male rape. But most of all, it had a Scottish man. The highland romance has become its own subgenre. Don't believe me? Just do an Amazon search for "Highland Romance."
2) They are good. In order for a new novelist to break in, they have to be good. Don't think this is the first novel they've ever written. When Alex Bledsoe's The Sword-Edged Blonde came out — which got a starred review at Publishers Weekly — I blogged about the fact that he had five unpublished novels at the time (and he's sold some of those since then). An author's first novel is rarely his first attempt. Furthermore, the author's debut novel is not written under a time crunch. The author has often taken years to perfect it. And that's before an agent even sees it.
In addition, that polished manuscript must make it through a gauntlet of checkpoints. An agent is almost required, and it's very difficult to engage one's interest. The agent must interest an editor, and the editor must get the publisher to buy it. After that the publisher must convince the bookstores to stock it, whereupon the book cover, blurb and opening pages must engage your interest so you will buy it.
And if new ideas and well-executed novels aren't good enough to tempt you…
3) Debut authors are friendly. Debut authors are the nicest people in the world. Yeah, yeah — they do want you to purchase their book. That doesn't mean they aren't interesting and fascinating people to swap emails with. And having fans is still new to them. This is the best point in an author's career to get to know them. They often run blogs that haven't been discovered by masses of people yet. If you comment regularly and are genuinely interested in their work, they'll appreciate it and will remember you, and you may even find a friend.
However, if you're an aspiring author, don't expect them to read your work or offer a referral. Debut authors are not in a much better position than you are to get your work read. Sure, they know their agents and editors, but their positions are very precarious at this point. They are nervous about how well their books are going to do, and they know that if their book tanks, so does their career.
And finally — a bonus fourth reason! — it is fun and exciting to discover someone new. You get to be the first person among your book-reading friends to rave about a debut author. Remember that at some point, Tom Clancy, Stephanie Meyer, J.K. Rowling, Nora Roberts and Dan Brown were all new. In 10 years, some of the debut authors of today will have joined those names.