It’s a rush of excitement when you discover that the author of a brand new book you just finished and absolutely loved has a long backlist of titles published in the last ten years. Your brain is filled with a giant sense of relief – I don’t have to wait nine months for their next book to come out to get more of their writing! I can read their old stuff while I wait! Yes!

And then you dive in.

And it’s wonderful.

Their last book is just as funny, witty, and sexy as the book you just read.

And the one before that is so great too.

You’ve found your new favourite author.

And then you decide to go all the way back and read the book that started it all. The book that launched their career and got them started off on the journey to write these books that you have enjoyed so much.

And it’s terrible.

That first book… oof. You can’t even get through the first chapter.

The story concept itself is problematic. The characters flat. The sex scenes cringeworthy.

And all you can do is be glad that their writing has improved so much. Because what you’re holding in your hand shows where they started and the books you loved show where they’re at now.

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When the backlist book is not nearly as good as the recent read by your new favourite author

Last week I picked up the debut novel of an author whose more recent books I’ve really enjoyed. It was a romance novel and I was expecting it to be full of hilarious banter, sweet moments, steamy love scenes, and interesting characters like the other four books I’ve read by that author.

Instead… I got something so bad that I stopped reading after the first chapter or two. The first book was published in 2013. Since then, this author has published upwards of 20 more books. They are prolific and their most recent books are great!

The first one though… it was not for me, for a few reasons.

First, it was an erotic romance. I usually read contemporary romance or romantic comedies. I didn’t enjoy the book as much as the other ones because it’s just not the right genre for me. I’ve been reminded through this experience that just because an author you like wrote something, doesn’t mean you’ll like it. Some authors write across a few different genres. Check the genre.

Second, the writing just wasn’t good. The dialogue was awkward. The characters flat tropes (hot, mean boss, gorgeous girl who wears tight pencil skirts to the office). The plot was non-existent. I enjoy a steamy scene like the next girl, but there needs to still be a plot to the book than just two characters having sex. The first few chapters of this book were sex scene after sex scene after sex scene. There didn’t seem to be a plot other than two characters who worked together and hate each other thinking about sex with each other and then having raunchy, rapey sex in inappropriate places. Maybe there would have been more plot and more depth to the characters if I’d kept reading, but after he ripped off her panties twice and put them in his desk drawer, I couldn’t read any further.

And yet, despite this bad experience with their earlier novel I will still read the newer books by this author. Why? Because I’ve seen how their writing craft has improved. I’m definitely going to steer clear of that early series, but they have a bunch more books in their contemporary romance stack that I want to read and some new books coming out.

So, my lessons learned are:

  • If you find an author whose work you enjoy, look up their backlist.
  • Before reading a backlist book, check the genre to see if it is the same genre as the book you enjoyed.
  • If you don’t enjoy an author’s book, see if they’ve written something else – later or in a different genre – that you might enjoy and consider giving them another chance. Don’t cross an author off your list until you’ve tried out a few of their books.
  • Even the best authors had to start somewhere and the more someone writes the more likely they are to improve their craft.

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piles of books | Reading the backlist to see how a writer has improved on

  1. Hallo, Hallo Trisha Jenn,

    This happened to me recently – if you drop by, read my “Chai Another Day” review – as you’ll notice, I borrowed the first three novels of this Spice Shop Mystery series. Due to an impressively gruelling 5x migraines in May, I wasn’t able to get into all of them — however, I did read the first one – or, I attempted to read it. I had the fourth novel for review consideration but what was bothering me about the first novel was my inability to attach into it. Now, this was a series of four novels but the first three were with a different publisher. I decided to keep my thoughts about the first novel on my review for the fourth – mostly because as soon as I started reading “Chai Another Day” a lightbulb went off!

    This author had not just matured through the years between installments of the series but her whole style had changed! The series was much more clearer in the fourth novel than in the first and I honestly took the fourth as a re-starting of the series, as if you had read the first you’ll recognise what is revealled in the fourth as being revealled in the first, etc – for me, that made all the difference.

    Sometimes its not just being cognisant of the backlist and/or the genres – when it comes to serial fiction, in very rare instances as this hasn’t happened oft for me — sometimes the latter books in the series are where the heart of the series lies rather than at the beginnings. I am unsure how this happened in this one directly but I literally could not put “Chai Another Day” down and with the first novel, I felt I was forcing myself to read it.

    It just shows that you have to keep an open mind when your reading and stay curious if you think the author is one you will eventually enjoy reading.

    PS: In regards to Erotica, I do not read it either – though I am noticing a lot of Contemporary Roms are shifting *towards!* becoming more a light version of that genre and that’s just not working for me.

    • Jorie, I’m so glad the fourth book worked for you! This is a really good example of trying another of an author’s books. Not all books are for all readers and sometimes a different book can make you fall in love with an author whose work you thought wasn’t for you. 🙂

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