About a week ago, I did a post on what happens when an author disappoints readers. That can happen for any number of reasons. For one thing, authors aren’t perfect. For another, there’s the matter of personal taste. An author may write a book that just isn’t to a reader’s taste, and that may disappoint. There are other things, too, that can leave a reader unhappy about a book.
At the time of that post, I asked you to let me know what you do when that happens. Do you come back to the author? Do you return if you’re a fan of that author’s work? If the disappointment wasn’t too serious? Or do you choose not to return to authors who’ve disappointed you?
Here’s what you had to say, and many thanks for responding.
As you can see, you’re a forgiving group of readers. Of the 22 of you who responded, 20 (91%) are willing to return to an author who’s disappointed you. Eight (36%) of you are usually open to returning in just about any case. Twelve (55%) will do so if you’re a fan of the author, and/or if the disappointment isn’t too upsetting. Two (9%) don’t return to authors who’ve disappointed you.
Why this willingness to return when an author’s let you down? After all, there’s only so much time available for reading. And there are many, many more good books available than anyone can read in a lifetime. Based on the comments you offered, and on what I’ve heard elsewhere, here are my thoughts (with which, of course, feel free to disagree)
One reason may be that you’ve seen that a given author is capable of writing excellent books. This gives you at least some confidence that a disappointing book is just one book, not a pattern. So you’re willing to return, because you’re fairly certain the payoff will be worth it. Of course, your patience probably has its limits (that’s a topic for another blog post, I think). But in general, you believe in authors whose work you really admire.
Of course, that explanation only accounts for those cases where you’re let down by an author whose work you love. What else might be going on? A few of you mentioned an extra willingness to try an author again if the disappointment came from a debut novel. Many authors need a novel or two to find their voices. Even Agatha Christie’s first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was rejected numerous times before she finally found a publisher. And lots of Christie experts think her best novels came later. So you might be more willing to give a debut author another chance, with the hope that the second novel will be better.
There are personal factors involved, too. As one of you mentioned, you might have read that disappointing book at a time that just wasn’t right for it. Or when you were in the wrong mood for it. There’s the ‘personal taste’ factor, too. A book might tackle a subject that doesn’t interest you. And yet, you liked the writing style, characters, or something else about it. So, when the author has a new release (on a different topic), you’re willing to try it.
A few of you choose not to return to authors who’ve disappointed you, and that’s understandable. After all, no-one has the time to read everything. And we’ve all experienced the frustration of spending our time on a book that lets us down. Why set yourself up for that? In the main, though, you’re willing to try an author again, especially if it’s an author whose work you love, and/or the disappointment wasn’t too severe.
In looking at this and reflecting on the question, I wonder whether there’s a difference between writers and people in other professions when it comes to trying an author more than once. Are writers more willing to forgive (because writers understand as few people can how difficult it is to write a book)? Or, are they harsher critics (because they see ways in which the book could have been improved that non-writers may not)? What do you folks think about that? If you’re a writer, does that fact make you more forgiving? Less forgiving? Or doesn’t your writing impact your willingness to give an author another chance?
Thanks again for your help with this question!
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Norman Whitfield and Edward Holland, Jr.’s Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.