Don’t You Feel Like Trying Something New?*

trying-a-new-seriesNot long ago, I asked you to share your thoughts about authors who write more than one series. I wondered whether you actively look for other series by an author whose work you love. Many thanks to those of you who responded!

 

Now, let’s take a look at what you told me:

 

trying-an-authors-new-series

 

As you can see, of the 25 of you who responded, 10 of you (40%) told me you’re eager to try another series by an author whose work you really love.  That in itself isn’t an overwhelming majority. So, on the surface, it might seem that attachment to a particular author doesn’t make you rush out and try that person’s new series.

But then, I noticed something interesting. Of those who responded, 11 of you (44%) said that you actively look for a top author’s other series if that series is the sort of crime novel you like. What that suggests to me is that sub-genre (or style) of crime novel is at least as important (perhaps a bit more) as the fact that it’s an author you love. If you think about it, this means that 21 of you (84%) actively seek out a new series by an author you love. Admittedly, for many of you, that depends partly on the sort of series it is. Still, that’s a hint of some loyalty to your top authors.

But you’re not blindly loyal. You also think about what sort of book you want. What does this all mean? To me, it shows there are several factors that impact your decision of which series to read. One important factor is your feelings about the author. Another is your taste in crime fiction. In other words, it’s not just one thing that guides your decision making, even if that thing is your love for a particular author’s work. And that makes sense. Someone who really likes pitch-black noir might think twice before picking up a light, fun, ‘frothy’ cosy mystery, even if both books were by the same author.

And, consistent with that, 2 of you (8%), said that you actively seek out a new series by an author you love if it’s a similar sort of series (e.g. both PI series). This tells me that sub-genre also impacts what you’ll read.

What conclusions does this suggest? One conclusion that I’ve drawn is that your choices of what to read are affected by several factors. It’s not only a matter of whether or not you love a given author’s work. It’s more multidimensional than that. That said, though, it seems that your feelings about a given author do impact your reading choices. If you’ll notice, only 2 of you (8%) told me that your feelings for an author don’t influence your choice of what to read. What this means to me is that the impression an author leaves on you does matter. If that’s true, then I’ll bet you probably avoid a series by an author whose work you’ve really disliked. I don’t have the data to support that conclusion (yet), but that sort of finding wouldn’t be surprising, given what you told me about authors whose work you do like.

What might this mean for authors? If all of this reflects the way readers really make their choices (and remember, this is a very, very limited set of data), then it might suggest something about the sort of branching-out authors consider. Some authors, such as Elly Griffiths and Timothy Hallinan, have been quite successful writing two different sorts of series. The same is true for J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith, Kerry Greenwood, and others. But it is a risk. When two series are very different, readers might not be eager to make the move to the new series, even if they’re fans of that particular author. That’s not to say it’s impossible to have two very successful, but very different, series. Several authors have done so. But it takes planning, strong writing (of course!) and some luck.

What do you folks have to say about this? I’d really like your reactions. If you’re a writer, I’d really like to hear your thoughts on branching out to another series.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Joe Jackson’s Breaking Us In Two.

30 Comments

Filed under Elly Griffiths, Kerry Greenwood, Robert Galbraith, Timothy Hallinan

30 responses to “Don’t You Feel Like Trying Something New?*

  1. So perhaps there is something to be said about writing using a pseudonym… Mind you, I loved Iain Banks for his literary fiction and then explored his science fiction written under the name Iain M. Banks, which I also liked, but perhaps didn’t follow quite as avidly. A friend of mine, however, would only ever touch his science fiction.

    • That’s really interesting, Marina Sofia! And it shows how people’s feelings about an author’s work can vary so greatly depending on taste and so on. I do wonder, given all of this, whether a pseudonym is the right way to go if one’s trying a completely different sort of series. I haven’t done that, myself, but I know people who have. It’s certainly a way to invite different sorts of readers…

  2. Keishon

    Sorry to have missed this!

    I’m not the most loyal fan. For example when Jo Nesbo switched up to standalone, I was hesitant to follow him even though he’s a favorite of mine. Turns out his best work was writing series and not standalones. Now if an author changes genre I don’t normally read then no, I don’t follow him/her. JK Rowling, is a writer who I enjoyed her YA novels but her mysteries don’t work for me (surprising!).

    • Thanks, Keishon, for sharing your views on this. There are a lot of factors, I think, that go into whether one follows an author from one series to another. And that’s especially true if the series is very different, like the case of Rowling/Galbraith. You also raise an interesting point about series to standalones. Hmmm….I need to think about that one, so thanks for the ‘food for thought.’

  3. Loved your run on this! Too bad we weren’t part of the survey… This deserved a following…

  4. Janet F

    Whilst changing genres/sub-genres series1/series/2 or series/standalone even fiction/non-fiction may bring an author a broader readership, even if the change puts fans off, new readers may be gained as you say Margot it’s a risk. It occurred to me that perhaps it is simply (!) an authors way of keeping, or trying to keep, their writing fresh? Of course, they may just have a story they need to tell within them that is just different, in some way, from what has been there ‘norm’.
    I think of authors such as Val McDermid who not only has series/standalone/second series but has also written in the re-telling of Jane Austin stories. I have read, and enjoyed them all. However (as yet) I haven’t felt interested in crossing to her factual writing.
    Also, I came to read Susan Hill through her Serrailler series but have no desire to read her other books even though they are well thought of/successful.
    It’s another fascinating and thought provoking piece Margot.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Janet. I think you have a very well-taken point about authors wanting their work to stay fresh. There are, I’m sure, times when authors want to try something new to stretch themselves and keep their creativity going. And you know, it’s also quite true that authors sometimes have stories in them – stories that aren’t a part of their series. I know that’s true of me. I’m actually working on a story right now that’s completely different to what I’ve been doing. Thanks, too, for mentioning both McDermid and Hill. Both are versatile authors, and I give them credit for ‘branching out.’

  5. Like other have said, I think this is one of the best reasons to use a pseudonism.
    Personally, if I really like an author’s work, I will try a new series if that author puts it out, then decide after reading whether to keep following that series, based on my actual enjoyment of that work.

    I’m the kind of reader that, if I truly love an author, I’ll try to have all his/her books, but I do know (because it’s happened to me) that I won’t actually read or enjoy all those books.

    You know, I’ve always thought something that your survay seems to confirm: I think the quality of the first work you put out isn’t the main factor in its success. It may be a very good book, but if readers won’t find it, it will die just the same as a bad one. But if you make that breakthough and find your audience, the quality of your work will indeed make a difference.
    What I’m trying to say isn’t that the quality of the first book doesn’t matter. It matters greatly, if you intend to write more books. But the quality of that first book is less important than your marketing abitlity to make your first book discoverable.
    I wonder whether this is the reason why so many good books never get the success they deserve: good writers often aren’t good marketers.

    • You really raise an interesting point, Jazzfeathers! I’m sure that there are lots of excellent books out there, but they haven’t met with a lot of success, because people simply don’t know about them. There is, as you say, the whole marketing issue. It’s also, I think, the fact that people are inundated by choices of authors and books. That’s especially true in these days of easy access to the Internet. There is so much out there that it’s hard to get one’s work noticed. It happens for some lucky people, but there are plenty for whom it doesn’t happen.

      That said, though, you are right, too, about quality. If a book is of poor quality, then readers won’t be looking for more. If a series is not of high quality, then people won’t branch out and try the authors other series. So high quality matters, too. And I sometimes do the same thing you do for authors whose work I love. I’ll give another series a try, and then see what I think of it.

  6. Dear Margot, after reading your thought-provoking post, the first author who came in my mind was Erle Stanley Gardner. Now I really really like his Perry Mason series but don’t care about his D.A series though both are court-room dramas.(as for his Donald Lam/ Bertha Cool series, I read one book and that was one too many). The reason, I think, is that I love Mason, Drake, and Della but don’t feel that kind of affection for his other characters. Perhaps that’s why I have always enjoyed Poirot more than Miss Marple. Guess for me it boils down to whether I feel a connect with the characters or not. It doesn’t really depend upon the author. For instance, I love practically all the series of P.G. Wodehouse whether Bertie/ Jeeves; Blandings Castle or P.Smith as I adore all of them.

    Thanks for this interesting post.

    • Thank you for the kind words, Neeru. I’m very glad you enjoyed the post. You make an important point about characters. When readers get attached to a character, they’re going to keep on with that series. That aspect of it may have nothing to do with the author (although you may have a case of an author who creates really appealing characters). It’s one of those many factors, I believe, that impact what we choose to read. And it’s one reason for which readers do not blindly fall in love with an author’s series just because they’ve loved another by that same person.

  7. I’m not all that surprised, actually. Personally, I’m fiercely loyal, but genre and subgenre do play an important role. If one of my favorite authors were to write a cozy mystery, for example, I might be tempted to skip the new series. However, if they mixed in romantic or paranormal elements into their usual gritty thriller or mystery, then that alone would not deter me.

    In my own writing, I do have two series that started out vastly different from one another. And yet, similar. For example, the Mayhem Series is pure psychological thriller where the antagonist is known from the start, book one has a lightening-fast pace that barely gives the reader a chance to catch their breath before dumping them back into chaos. All the books (which are planned through book 4) have an underlying mystery, but the mystery isn’t the main focus of the story like it is in my Grafton County Series (Marred, Cleaved). Both series are gritty; in both series I include forensics but focused on different areas (profiling vs. blood spatter analysis, for example). Also, the Grafton County series has more heart and soul. Meaning, things happen within a marriage that don’t jive with single protagonists, as you know. 😉

    My own research shows that some fans read and enjoyed both series, but liked them for different reasons. Whereas others stayed loyal to one over the other. I found the results both interesting and frustrating, which aligns with your data. So when I wrote Cleaved, I decided to reduce the differences by increasing the pace to a more pulse-pounding, non-stop level of suspense without sacrificing the deep emotionally resonant component. By doing so, I’m trying to make the series’ more compatible with each other while remaining true to the original overall intention. As you mentioned in your post, it’s not an easy thing to do!

    • No, it isn’t, Sue. And I really appreciate your sharing your experiences at creating different series. You make some well-taken points about striking that balance between making the series interesting to as many readers as possible, but at the same time, keeping them distinct. I think there are plenty of readers who are like you in that they have genres and sub-genres that appeal to them the most. When something’s outside those (sub-)genres, they may be less likely to enjoy the reading experience, even if they are fans of the author. It is tricky…

  8. Margot, I don’t think I took part in this survey. I have been away from blogs this past week. The findings of your survey made me think about my own reading habit which, as you observed, is “multidimensional.” Like Keishon, I’m not exactly loyal to authors, even those whose work I like reading. This is mainly because as I grow older I want to read as many new writers as possible, maybe two or three books by each. Gone are the days when I read authors in series. Back then, I’d a lot of time. Now I don’t and I also have a lot of catching up to do and that’s never going to happen. Besides, I have this typical Libran trait of losing interest and jumping from one thing to another — the literary equivalent of ASD! Thus, my reading has no fixed pattern but I’m comfortable with it.

    • Thanks for sharing the way you go about choosing what to read, Prashant. You make a really interesting point about wanting variety in reading (and in authors). Making a commitment to a series (even more so, to multiple series) means that the reader has less time to devote to other authors. In other words, it’s a choice that the reader has to make. And I can certainly see how you don’t want to sacrifice the chance to ‘meet’ new authors and read new books, just to be sure you finish out a given author’s backlist.

  9. Interesting info, Margot. I did take the survey and would like to add that I often don’t stick with series through more than 4 or 5 books anymore, but if I liked them, then I’ll try a new series by the same author. Over the years, I’ve dropped many series because they went on way too long. I like new characters and new settings.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Pat. I’m glad you thought the survey was interesting. It makes a lot of sense to me that length of series would impact a reader’s choices. Series that go on for too long can get dull, even if they’re well-written. Rare indeed is the series that goes on for twenty, thirty, or more books, and keeps its edge. So, it’s not surprising that you generally move on after four or five books. Variety matters to a lot of readers.

  10. Interesting as always, Margot! Hmm… I started out thinking that I am pretty loyal to authors I like, but you’ve made me question that. For instance, I have never check out Christie’s writing under her Mary Westmacoot pseudonym – they simply don’t appeal. And I have three of JK Rowling’s non-Harry Potter books on my Kindle but haven’t read any of them, despite two of them being crime novels (and despite the fact that I was keen to read the first one before it was revealed that Robert Galbraith was her). I think I’m scared! So I guess that a big change in genre must put me off somewhat, though I wasn’t really aware of it. And it doesn’t always – I cheerfully changed from Sherlock Holmes to Professor Challenger. I certainly won’t read another series by an author whose writing I didn’t like, though.

    • That is really interesting, FictionFan. I’m especially intrigued by the fact that the authors you’ve mentioned made bog switches (crime fiction/romance, fantasy/YA/etc. to crime fiction, and so on). I wonder if it makes a difference how different two (sub-)genres are? I know, for instance, that a lot of people who like Ruth Rendell also like her Barbara Vine persona, although those novels tend to be a little darker and grittier. Now you’ve given me some really interesting ‘food for thought,’ for which thanks. Oh, and I do agree with you about authors whose work I don’t like. I may give an author a couple of tries, but not usually a whole other series.

  11. tracybham

    Very interesting results, Margot. I do like to try all series by an author I really like, but nowadays there are so many good authors that it is hard to keep up with tried and true authors and try new ones too. A quandary.

    • That’s the thing, isn’t it, Tracy? It’s really hard to keep up with all of the great authors and books available, isn’t it? It does make it hard to decide what to read…

  12. Interesting results and I did think there would be more loyalty to an author but on reflection I’m not surprised that sub-genre matters so much. After all we do tend to know what we like. Like you I suspect if readers don’t like the first series, they are far less likely to try another even if the sub-genre is a better fit. As I mentioned before I was more likely to read both Elly Griffiths’ series because they were totally different but if she had finished one, and then written another in similar vein I might be a little more cautious

    • That’s an interesting point about timing, Cleo. And I think you have a very well-taken point about the issue of sub-genre. People do have preferences, and, in general, they know what they like. So it makes sense that type of book would impact our judgement.

  13. kathy d

    Wow! Is this ever complicated! I love Ruth Galloway, Elly Griffiths’ independent forensic anthropologist, and her stories. But I have no interest in Giffiths’ other series.
    However, while I like Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch books, I was immediately interested in attorney Mickey Haller’s cases, as I am drawn to legal mysteries, and it’s a genre I’ve always liked. It’s a family thing, I think, going back to our family’s enjoyment of Perry Mason on TV years ago.
    I read J.K. Rowling/Richard Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike’s mysteries, and they’re good, although too violent and brutal in parts, but I have never had an interest in the Harry Potter series. Too much fantasy for me. But I like Rowling as a person; she is a philanthropist and stands up to bigotry.
    I like Corinna Chapman, but can’t get into Kerry Greenwood’s Phrynne Fisher’s books — but I love Essie David portraying the investigator on TV.
    And while I like David Rosenfelt’s fun mysteries with dog-lover, attorney Andy Carpenter, his stand-alones don’t grab me.
    And somewhat true of Sara Paretsky: V.I. Warshawski is a favorite character, someone whom I’d like to be like if I were physically fit, bold, brave, feisty, up to any adventure or deed, but I wasn’t taken by the author’s stand-alones. Except Bleeding Kansas had some merits.
    And I think Paretsky is a terrific person, crusading for First Amendment rights and a lot more, which V.I. promotes, too.
    I’m enjoying Val McDermid’s new book “Out of Bounds,” but I don’t like the violent, brutal books or series. And I think she is a terrific person of integrity who speaks her mind.
    So, it depends on the characters, plots, genres, level of violence, etc.

    • It is a complicated issues, isn’t it, Kathy? And it shows, I think, that each of us is different when it comes to what we choose to read and why. The examples you’ve given are really well-chosen instances, too, of authors who’ve written very different sorts of books. Even their most dedicated fans don’t always find all of those books and series appealing. Sometimes it’s plot and character, sometimes it’s (sub-)genre, sometimes it’s something else. That’s part of the reason for which I think there are so many factors that go into what we decide to read.

  14. Such a complex subject! I’ve been thinking about it ever since voting in your original poll. I have confidently decided that I have no consistency or sensible rules on this topic! I decide each time differently…

    • Well, there’s consistency in that, Moira! And, actually, you’re not alone in this. My guess is that there are plenty of people who decide these things case by case.

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