New Releases and Older Titles

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Elizabeth Fama’s guest post for Marchetta Madness made me think about new releases, older titles and my reading preferences. Here’s an excerpt from that post:

Debut authors are all the rage right now: publishers and marketers are enamored of them; readers build Goodreads lists around them. And while many authors have stunning debuts (I understand LOOKING FOR ALIBRANDI is pretty great), there’s a disturbing trend toward “hype” that’s unproductive for the craft. Learning to write is a lifelong process, and you need breathing room to cultivate it, not pressure to produce Part Two in less than a year because your first book sold at auction and you’ve contracted for a series. Seasoned authors like Marchetta (and Megan Whalen Turner, and Tobin Anderson, and Philip Pullman, and…) have blessedly had that breathing room.

When I replied to Elizabeth after receiving her post, I told her that I never really thought much about the popularity of debut authors nowadays. There have been some debut novels that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading – like Saving June by Hannah Harrington and Something Like Normal by Trish Doller – but in general, I don’t think my blog focuses on them. Or on new releases either. Why? Probably because I buy most of the books that I read and I tend to rely on recommendations and reviews to help me decide what to get. So I wait for feedback from authors or fellow bloggers before I purchase a book. There are exceptions to this, of course. There are times when I get lucky enough to read a galley weeks or months before a book’s release date. I also have several authors on my auto-buy list and I grab their books as soon as I can get my hands on them.

Looking back on my reviews, it does seem like I read more older titles than new releases. Honestly, I haven’t really noticed it before. It’s not like I make a point of choosing novels that haven’t been released recently. It’s just that love hearing about other readers’ old favorites, especially when I feel like we share similar tastes in books. I also love pimping my own favorites, which is why I enjoy participating in the Retro Friday meme hosted by Angie. I get to promote older titles that way.

As for hype surrounding books, even though I’m not an author, I do agree with what Elizabeth said about writing being a lifelong learning process. I really hope hype doesn’t contribute to the pressure that authors feel to produce a new book as fast as they can. And I think most of us are wary of hype anyway, which is why we wait for reviews from bloggers we trust before we dive into a hyped-up book (or at least that’s what I do).

What about you, have you noticed the trend for debut authors? Do read a lot of debut novels or would you rather read older titles? And what do you think of the hype surrounding books?

21 thoughts on “New Releases and Older Titles

  1. Wonderful post! As I’ve become more of a YA reader, I find myself reading mostly new releases. It’s a rarity to find an out-of-the-gate stunner by a debut author. The hype surrounding some debut books – rather it be publisher hype, book blog hype, or twitter hype – propels sub-par writing into the spotlight. Word-of-mouth and pride keep some so-so books in the forefront when the writing doesn’t justify the praise. It’s always my hope the future books show the author to have more than just a good idea and so-so writing skills.

    • I think debut novels and new releases are more evident in YA because it’s such a popular genre now. I agree, it’s hard to find a debut novel that’s amazing. Yep, it’s frustrating that hype focuses attention on books that aren’t that well-written. Like I said, I just wait for reviews to trickle into the blogs that I follow and when they’re positive, that’s when I start paying attention. So in a way, I’m thankful that other bloggers are willing to give debut novels a try because I can base my reading choices on their feedback.

  2. I mostly review older titles too. Net Galley has changed that some by giving me earlier access to some titles than waiting for the library would. Also, trying to read the books I need for discussion purposes at Heavy Medal in the fall has me reading more new MG titles. Like you though, I’m not going to buy a new release unless it is by an author I already like and trust.

    “The hype surrounding some debut books – rather it be publisher hype, book blog hype, or twitter hype – propels sub-par writing into the spotlight.”
    And that’s exactly why.

    • Brandy, I probably wouldn’t be able to get advanced review copies if not for NetGalley. Before that site, all of the books that I read and reviewed were bought or borrowed from friends. At least we don’t get pressured to read review books, right? I love that your blog focuses on older titles as well because I get to discover new-to-me books that way.

  3. I hardly ever read a new author right when they come out with their first book – unless I’ve read short stories or whatever else by them before, i.e. know their work.
    I read new-to-me authors by recommendation from trusted blogs and friends with similar tastes (on the net, because my real life friends don’t share my literary tastes).

    • Smart move, Estara. That’s the way to go! I’ve gotten burned by new-to-me authors before so I’m not as willing to try them without recommendations from trusted bloggers. And yes, I get my recommendations from online friends as well because I don’t have that many real life friends who share my reading tastes.

  4. I very much agree that hype is detrimental to debut authors. Their first books are bought and highly promoted, and if the books do not live up to the hype, they don’t have time to hone their craft and improve because they are locked into yearly contracts. I feel like instead of gaining audience, they lose it when they start so high.

    P.S. You are smart not to read debut novels. Going through ARCs of debuts is a daunting task.

    • Tatiana, it’s not that I don’t read debut novels, I’m just picky and wait for them to be recommended. 😛 Because I buy the books I read, they’re a bit like investments – I don’t want to spend money on something that I’m not sure I’ll like. I do appreciate bloggers who are willing to read and review ARCs though.

      It’s a shame that hype has had negative effect on debut authors. I really don’t know much about it since I rarely read debut novels. I was actually thinking of writing a different discussion post focusing on hype but I’m not sure if that will ever materialize.

  5. Ok, I just wrote this really long, thoughtful comment, and I lost it. 😦 Just know I love this post, and it’s really gotten me thinking about the times I’ve been burned by hype, had to treat my shiny new book syndrome, and commenters delurking when you review old classics (so fun!).

    • Argh Holly, so sorry to hear that you had encountered problems while leaving a comment! *shakes fist at WordPress* Thanks for making the effort to write a new one. LOL at shiny new book syndrome, I’ve experienced that as well. It’s nice to know that you’ve had followers delurk because of reviews of classic novels.

  6. Hi, Chachic! I love debut fiction! I read a lot of works by first-time novelists. Of course, I search online to check out the reviews of their works, which I also do for non-debut writers. Debut fiction, if written well, is very satisfying. I guess what’s more worrisome for these authors is when they come up with their 2nd book. A lot of them would feel paranoid about that sophomore slump, as if they fear that they wouldn’t live up to the promise of their first novel.

    As for hype, I’m all for it. After all, hype is publicity, and good or bad publicity is still publicity. If it means that more people would be knowing the book, buying it, and eventually reading it, then I think hype served its purpose.

    • Peter, good to know that you’ve enjoyed reading debut novels! Nowadays, it’s so easy to search for reviews of books before deciding if you should buy a book or not – that’s what Goodreads (Shelfari in your case) and book blogs are for. 🙂 Ah yes, sometimes the sophomore novel isn’t as excellent as its predecessor.

      I agree that hype = publicity. I guess it’s just frustrating when you see hype surrounding books that don’t deserve it. You know? Because there are so many excellent titles out there that deserve to get more attention. I guess that’s why I’m wary of hype.

  7. Awesome post!! I’ve often thought about this actually, maybe because, like you, I’m a blogger outside the US and for a long time my access to books was strictly limited to what I could afford to buy and pay (expensive) shipping for.

    Net Galley and Book Depository changed that.

    As for Hype, I hate it. I have a general mistrust of it because a) it raises expectations, and I much rather go in with medium to none expectations and be pleasantly surprised, than go in with high expectations that aren’t met. and b) I have found I rarely like hyped books as much as other people do – Twilight I hate, Hunger Games barely passes muster in my mind,, etc.

    And, actually, until Net Galley, I rarely reviewed debut authors, because of afore mentioned shipping costs it took me a long while to give a new author a chance, I tended to stick with my tried and true authors, my autobuys. And also, before NetGalley, I never got many ARCs or review copies ’cause of the outside the US thing.

    For a bit chunk of my blogging life so far, I focused on older books, in fact, I often reviewed books a year or two after they were first published because I would wait – and still do – for them to be out in PB so they were cheaper. This made me appreciate older titles. Because, maybe I couldn’t by the brand new hardback, but I could buy the book from last year that everyone had forgotten by now and had just come out in PB.

    I do think it’s important to support new talent, but I have a strange set of rules when it comes to it. Like I mistrust debut authors that write super long debut books; one because it immediately makes me think they lack editing skills, and two because it takes time for me to trust an author to spend 500 pages with them. I don’t do that for anyone new almost EVER. And I am far more likely to try a YA contemporary debut read over any other genre, because I’m more forgiving of them than of other genres I love – namely Historical or Contemp romance.

    And, time and again, when the much hyped about books from debut authors flop with me, I find myself reaching out for my Marchettas and Cabots and Kleypas and Quinn books, and go back to a place where writing is fun and awesome and there is nothing I rather be doing. That’s the power of old books to me.

    I rarely find new books that have that pull on me as those that I read when I began to immerse myself in the world of books.

    Also, I ended up writing such a long reply, I honestly only intended to say that I mistrust hype. 😛

    Awesome post, dear!

    • Alex, oh wow, long comment! You could have written your own post about this topic. 😛 Don’t you just love NetGalley and Book Depository? I feel like we’re in the same boat because we’re both based outside the US. It’s great that you can relate to what I’m trying to say in this post. 🙂

      I don’t hate hype – I just think it should be placed well. I mean if the book deserves to be hyped then I don’t mind if it gets promoted all over the blogosphere (and in other places as well). That’s what I’ve been doing with my favorite books – both the Queen’s Thief Week and Marchetta Madness are my own way of creating hyping up novels written by Megan Whalen Turner and Melina Marchetta. I do get your point about hype raising expectations. But now I think it has the opposite effect? Because so many of us have tried reading hyped up books only to be disappointed.

      Same with me, I try to wait for titles to come out in paperback before I buy copies because paperbacks are a lot cheapter than hardcovers. I only get hardcovers for auto-buy authors or for titles that I can’t wait to read because they come highly recommended. If I initially have a paperback copy of a book I love, I don’t mind spending extra to get a hardcover. So it’s usually ebooks (through NetGalley) for review copies, paperbacks for new authors I want to try and hardcovers for favorites.

      It IS important to support new talent but I also believe that it’s just as important to highlight older titles. New releases are all the rage because of the availability of ARCs and I feel bad that other titles (even ones that fairly new, like only a couple of years old) get overlooked.

      And yes, when you don’t feel like trying out a new author or a new book, old favorites will always be there, waiting to be reread.

  8. I think the pressure that is put on debut authors is really extreme, I wouldn’t want to be in their position. Even before some of them have published or even written a book they are hyped. And the expectations are over the top.

    One way to deal with hyped books is to wait some weeks after their release date to read them. Then the hype is gone and you can give the book a fair change. Normally I don’t mind hype because I see it as a way to celebrate a book. But sometimes even I get annoyed, one example is the promo surrounding the release of “Insurgent”. I know that I will need some weeks before I will be able to read the book without being influenced (negatively) by the hype.

    Personally I read more older books than new releases. I buy nearly all of the books I read and every day I discover new to me older books on other book blogs or on sites like goodreads. I love discovering authors who have already published a lot of books.
    I like book bloggers who read a good mix of older books and new releases. Blogs that only concentrate on new releases and solely rely on ARCs often tend to be very similar to a lot of other blogs who receive and review the same books. I think discovering older books is always a highlight, so only concentrating on new releases would never work for me.

    • Sabrina, I agree, I wouldn’t want to be in their position either. It’s hard to be pressured to do something and I bet the pressure that I feel related to the blog is nothing compared to what they’re going through.

      That’s an excellent idea. Usually, I try to let the hype die down a bit before I get into the book so my expectations won’t be so high. And also it takes me a while to decide if I should grab a copy right away or wait for a while (like wait for it to come out in paperback format or when my TBR pile goes down). Nowadays when I buy a book, I ask myself if I’ll be able to read it right away because if not, then I might as well put off buying it.

      Same with me, I read more older titles because I buy nearly all of the books that I read. I love that both you and Alex get the point that I’m trying to make in my post because we have the same perspective in relation to blogging oustide the US. Yes, you’re absolutely right, bloggers who only feature ARCs tend to become similar. It’s better to mix new releases with older titles to provide variety in a blog.

  9. This is an interesting post.:) I don’t really mind reading debut novels, but I do make it a point to check out reviews from bloggers first. I guess it’s a good thing that bookstores here sometimes take a while to stock new titles – usually by the time a book is available, most of the bloggers I trust have already reviewed a book.:)

    I think hype can be good – after all, I probably wouldn’t have heard of some of the books I’ve read if not for the hype surrounding them. Ultimately though, I try not to get swayed by hype and wait for reliable reviews.

    Also, I agree with you in having a variety of reviews in a blog. I think that reviewing older titles allows for more discussions since it’s likely that several people have already read a book and can contribute more.:)

    • Celina, yeah, I agree. It takes a while for books to reach Philippine shores and by the time they get here, so many reviews have already been posted. That’s a positive way of looking at it, instead of getting frustrated that most books don’t have worldwide release dates. 😛

      Yes, hype can both be good and bad. I guess it’s good because it’s nice when books get a lot of attention but it’s so easy to overdo the promotion to the point that readers get turned off, especially when the book isn’t even that good.

      I really enjoy reading and reviewing older titles, especially when they’re under-the-radar gems that deserve to be read. It’s always a good thing when I get to talk about a book that not many readers know about (yep, that does provide variety to my blog). 😛

  10. I like that you review older titles, it makes me want to abandon my pile and read those books instead. Also, being a US YA book blogger, I read a lot of debuts, I’m pretty sure a lot of this has to do with hype and also what comes in my mail. I imagine that if I was strictly reviewing books I purchased or borrowed from the library, my reviews would skew more towards established authors. I used to be the sort of reader who would zoom through an author’s backlist. Anyways, I love those posts and kind of am feeling nostalgic now for established authors, ha ha.

    • Aww April, it makes me happy that my reviews convince you to read older titles. Yeah, I think most US YA blogger focus on debut novels because those are the ones that get promoted by publishers, so they tend to send a lot of ARCs of those. Like I said in my replies above, I appreciate that you guys go through those debuts and let the rest of us know which ones are well-written. LOL I have a feeling you’re right, you’d probably be reading more established authors if you only read books that you buy or borrow from the library. I know how much you enjoy reviewing older titles for Retro Friday. 🙂

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