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Three Reasons Why You Should Read Debut Novels

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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Blonde came out — which got a starred review at Publishers Weekly — I blogged about the fact that he had five unpublished novels at the time (and he's sold some of those since then).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.

It would almost be like saying you knew them when.

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About Tia Nevitt

  • Justin Allen

    I can think of one other reason to read debut authors – one Tia hinted at, but I like to hit the nail directly!! – the health of the entire book industry, from the authors to the publishers to the bookstores, requires that readers find new writers! We have all heard about the problem of Amazon and Walmart and the like selling books below wholesale. A lot of folks don’t understand how that’s a problem. As a book buyer they like a good deal. Who doesn’t? The problem is that those venues either only stock a very small grouping of books (walmart), or focus all their attention on a select few releases (Amazon), leaving the less popular authors to fend for themselves (and most likely get lost in the shuffle). This will ultimately lead to vastly fewer books being published, and a much narrower scope of possible reading… Eventually, one of the genres you like, one of the lesser known books that you would have loved, simply will never see the light. Not because it was not good. Not because it would not forward the art. No, there will simply be no one willing to take a risk on an unproven commodity, and maybe even no one to publish it at all.
    So, be brave. Search out new worlds and new civilizations – bravely go where no one you know has gone before. Give a debut a try!

  • Hi Tia 🙂
    Thanks for the great article. I love finding and reading debut authors. It’s like eating a new food. With some trepidation I begin, hoping I will like it. Most of the time I love it & run to all my family & friends telling them they must try it!
    Thanks again,
    All the best,

  • Thanks for adding that, Justin. I thought about writing something like that in there, but I decided to stick to my own area of knowledge.

    RK, thanks for commenting! I’m sure debut authors everywhere will thank you!

  • Although most of the times the authors I like get priority in my readings, I really love dicovering new novels and authors (after all those I like made a debut too 😉 ). And like you said in 10 years time, I will certainly get to say: “I read this author since his debut”.
    Wonderful article, Tia!

  • As a reader, I completely agree with you, especially the bonus point. It’s how I discovered Jenna Petersen, Julia Quinn and Julia London among others. And I’m a loyal follower, excitedly awaiting each release date for them. An interesting side note to that, is when they recommend new authors or mention someone new they’ve read and enjoyed. I always go check those authors out, too.
    Our industry is really built on word of mouth and it’s a wonderful thing to be able to contribute to someone else’s enjoyment of the written word by finding a new author and sharing their talents with your friends.

  • Thanks, Jennifer!

  • Raven

    From an aspiring author’s perspective, reading debuts in your genre also gives you a look at the type of concept and skill level you need to break in. When I say type of concept I’m not talking about publishing trends. I mean you can see how good and engaging your concept has to be to garner interest.

  • And that’s a big reason I read debuts! To find out just what it takes. And boy does it ever look tough.

  • As a debut author who worked on my novel THE LAST BRIDGE for over ten years I can honestly say the only thing better than being published is getting support and feedback from dedicated readers.

    The truth is no matter how much publicity you get books sell by word of mouth and careers are built by loyal readers.

    So as a debut author I say, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!

  • I agree with all your points, but how do you feel about debut authors who self-publish and don’t have some sort of seal of approval from editors, agents & publishers?

  • I think they have a tough job that they’ve given themselves, and I respect them. My first blog, Fantasy Debut, had a regular feature called Discovery Showcase for self published and unpublished novels. I haven’t started it again at my new blog (which has been in operation less than a month) because I’m still trying to get my web traffic back up to its former levels.