Reasons Why Favorite Authors Disappoint Their Readers

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

In about a month another one of my books, Rebellious Heart, will start making its way into reader hands. Sometimes it's hard to believe that I'll have FIVE books out there. It's exciting, but also a little scary.

It's exciting to be reaching a point in my career where I'm not debut anymore, where I'm more seasoned and growing accustomed to the published author life.

At the same time, it's also scary to have another book going live. It's always unnerving around release time waiting for reader reactions, praying fans will enjoy the new story, and hoping that those who don't like it won't be too harsh!

I know that not every book I write will resonate with all my readers. In fact, the bigger my readership gets, the greater the chances that I'll disappoint more people. It's inevitable.

Even if we do our best to craft a page-turning, heart-wrenching, riveting story, authors can't hit a home-run with every book.

I know this because my favorite authors don't always wow me with every single one of their books. In fact, occasionally after reading a book by one of my tried-and-true's, I come away disappointed. Not often. But it does happen.

Usually, when I come away from a book like that I just shrug my shoulders and say, "Oh well. I'll probably like the next one better." I don't give up on an author just because one book didn't resonate.

For example, I recently read The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale and I loved it. For a young adult historical fiction, it was a beautifully written and enthralling story. I tried another by Shannon Hale, Book of a Thousand Days, and it just didn't grip me the way the first story did. I'm not giving up on Hale's books just yet. I'm still going to try at least one more.

But that begs the question: How many books do you read of a favorite author before you give up on them, before you move on to someone else? What are some of the reasons why a reader might be tempted to stray from an author they love?

1. The subject matter of their stories no longer resonate.

This is probably one of the top reasons I stray from a favorite author. For whatever reason, the stories don't grip me anymore. It could be because I've changed in my tastes, my needs, or my priorities. Or it could be that the author is writing about topics that just don't interest me the way previous stories did.

2. The author changes their writing style.

Whether they get bored or simply want to keep things fresh, writers may incorporate new writing techniques or styles into their books. Sometimes those changes grate on readers who are already comfortable and familiar with the writing style of the author.

3. The author switches to a different genre.

The old rules about authors having to stick to one genre for branding purposes are changing. Numerous authors are dabbling in more than one genre and having success in each. However, if a favorite author completely switches genres, especially to a genre I don't like, I probably won't follow them to that new genre.

4. After multiple books, an author looses originality and their stories all begin to sound alike.

This has happened to me for a number of authors I like. Usually I take a break from the author. And after time away, I can go back to that author and enjoy him or her again. Even so, I appreciate when authors take the time to come up with fresh stories, new twists, and original characters time and time again.

5. The quality of editing goes noticeably down.

Sometimes best-selling authors are given more freedom with their stories. Editors may ease up (especially with content edits) thinking those authors have won a permanent place in reader's hearts and thus no longer need as much input. But with the plethora of books out there, it's all too easy for even die-hard fans to put aside their favorite authors because the stories haven't had the help needed to take them from mediocre to great.

6. Trends change.

Genres tend to have cycles of popularity. For example Vampire books became very popular after the Twilight books came out. New authors sprang up following on the heels of Stephanie Myers. But eventually after gorging themselves on that genre, readers are ready to move on to the next popular genre, finding new favorite authors and leaving old ones behind.

What about YOU? How many books do YOU give an author before giving up on them? What are some of the reasons why you stop reading a favorite author?


  1. One of my favorite authors is Deeanne Gist. Though she can get a little more detailed in setting description than I like, her writing is so superb I can overlook that. The dialogue is believable, the plots always gripping, characters relatable... so in other words if it's GOOD writing, I can overlook some of the things that are just preference and still LOVE the author's books.


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  2. Hi Jody,

    Reasons 4 and 5 resonated for me. Under option 4 I'd include the subcategory "author overcommits". There have been a couple of times recently with a couple of authors where a recent book of theirs just hasn't felt as well written as previous ones I've loved.

    When I've had a bit of a look around, I realized they had two books coming out within a reasonably short time frame with two different publishers and also had a very full looking publishing schedule for the next year. I could be completely wrong, but I suspected there was a connection between that and at least one of the books having a more rushed feel about it. It wasn't that it was a bad book, it just wasn't nearly as good as their previous books had been.

    Option 5 I've come across with some very well-known authors. I half-read a book recently where I really contemplated if it was possible the author had some kind of "what I send you is what you publish" clause in their contract because I couldn't believe an editor would willingly allow it past them otherwise. Head hopping, pointless scenes, plot explanations that made no sense, it really put me off buying any future book of theirs because it honestly felt like they didn't care and were just churning out a word count to meet a deadline. I couldn't even finish it.

    On the upside, there are so many incredible books out there these days that this doesn't happen very often :)

  3. Oh, Jody, you touched my heart when you said, "At the same time, it's also scary to have another book going live." You are the perfect writing model for me to follow. I love the way you treat your readers as well as the way you write and weave stories. My first one comes out August 30 and I feel so jittery. To hear that you still feel that way on your 5th helps me embrace the feelings and realize it's part of the process. Thank you for everything you do here for us and for your lovely books!


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  4. Try Enna Burning by Shannon Hale. It's the sequel to the Goose Girl and it's my favorite Shannon Hale book (and I loved The Goose Girl).

    Yes to #5. I quit reading books by two bestselling romance authors because of noticeable errors in the books. If the editors couldn't be bothered to probably edit them, I couldn't be bothered to buy any more.

    I've switched which genre/category I read and write, so now I don't read as much YA as before.

  5. I would never give up on an author because one of her books didn't quite catch on with me. To answer your question, I think number 1 might be the reason I would take a pause from reading an author.
    We're human and we grow and change and that has nothing to do with the writer. As readers time and interest can change especially as we leave the teen years to adulthood and then possible adulthood to motherhood. It doesn't mean the author's work diminished just that the reader's time, energy or interests changed.
    As a child I loved stories like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I grew up, got married, had children, home schooled for 23 years and 3 more to go, busy, busy, busy.... I read Charlie again last month. The other day I bought Mary Poppins... for ME! I think I will always stick with my favorites.

  6. How many books I will read after a disappointment depends on how many of that author's books I've read before the disappointment. If I've read one or two, then one or two disappoint, I'm done. If I've read ten and one misses the mark, I'll keep picking up their work. I read everything that Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, James Clavell, Robert Silverberg and James Michener wrote. Sometimes there were less than perfect attempts, but that didn't dissuade me from getting the next one.

    As I've gotten older and started writing myself, I've become more critical. When I get to the end of a book, I'm usually done. Your books are actually one of the exceptions to the rule. I'm enjoying watching your development as I read your blog.

    One thing that will immediately turn me off is when an author tries to hand their franchise off to someone else. I read everything Clive Cussler wrote, until Clive Cussler wasn't writing them anymore. Same with James Clancy.

    Another thing I've noticed is that with my own writing and social networking, I'm reading/writing more words, but less of them are in a book. I used to get through two or three books a week - now it's more like two or three a month, and that's in a good month.

  7. Jody, your post echoed my own fears. Every time a new book of mine comes out, I worry over how it will be received. And every time I start plotting a new book I worry that I won't be able to come up with an original idea, that I'll get lazy and fall into a predictable routine. It's amazing how much effort it takes to push yourself to greater quality with each manuscript. But it's oh, so important.

    I'm a very picky reader, so it takes a lot to get on my favorite list in the first place. Once an author is there, though, it takes a lot of disappointment for them to fall in my eyes. One author in the general market who did fall from my favorite list was Julie Garwood. I LOVE her historical romances. They are still some of my all-time favorites. But several years ago, she switched genres on me. She now writes contemporary romantic suspense. I read the first one, but the genre just wasn't what my reading heart longed for, so I never bought another one.

    Another favorite historical author, Jodi Thomas, started writing contemporary women's fiction. Thankfully, she continues to write historicals as well, alternating between the two. I don't read her contemps, but I still line up to buy her historicals the moment they come out. I'm glad she chose not to completely abandon her historical readership. I wish Julie had done the same.

  8. The only way I give up on a book is if the story just doesn't grab me. The only way I give up on an author if successive stories fail to grab me and usually for reason #4.

    I really don't like giving up on authors.

  9. Oh Jody! Tuesday's Blog would be a lot easier for me to comment on, than this one.:0)

    I have a huge thing called a conscience, and if I can identify with an author that I really like, I will read their books ad infinitum. I really feel disloyal if I don't read all my fave authors books.

    My favourite genre are books written in an historical era, and I'm very quick at picking up the storyline which obviously indicates it's appeal to my insatiable appetite for reading. Needless to say,if I am "hooked" on a particular author,any of his or her books, will inevitably land on my bookshelf!

    Suffice to say Jody, I have enjoyed ALL your books to date and I really AM looking forward to reading, "Rebellious Heart." I just HOPE the shipment won't take forever to reach Aus!:O)
    In the meantime, I'll just have to be content and read a couple of autobiographies that have recently come my way.

    Keep writing your books sweet lady.... I'll keep promoting them!

    Take care.

    Bless you.:0)

  10. I don't give up on an author if I'm not crazy about one of their books. However, there are a few that I've given up on because their books started becoming the same plot with different names. What I noticed was that these authors are bestselling authors who put out several books a year. I think the pressure to put out a lot of books created recycled plots.

    Ally Carter is my favorite YA author, and with each book, I kinda tell myself it can't live up to the hype I've given it in my head before reading it. But, EVERY time, it does. She's just that good. Not every one is my favorite, but every one is good. One day I hope to be like her. :)

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  11. Great list of reasons, Jody!

    My number one reason for dropping an author is if they begin adding expletives into their stories. I read Christian fiction because it's supposed to be cleaner than worldly books. And they are. But when a word or two slip by, it makes me wonder about the standards we're setting. As Christian authors, we are to lead the way by example. If we let those pesky words slip by us, what else are we willing to overlook?

    Have a blessed weekend!


  12. The stories and characters sounding the same is why I generally give up long-time authors. I think it's more an issue of me exhausting their writing styles and stories than anything.

    As for new authors, I suppose it will take three books to make or break me. There's an author with Jody's publisher who's first book I loved, so I eagerly bought the second only to be disappointed. (The romance wasn't nearly as good, and though there were other things well done and similar to the first book, when the romance has no tension, I generally loose interest.) The author's third book is coming out in a few months. I'll buy it and read it. If I'm disappointed again, I'll be done with the author. If I love it as much as the first book, then the author probably has a new fan for life. And yes, this has happened several times with other authors over the years.

  13. I echo Karen's sentiments above, in that it takes a while for authors to really make it onto my "Must Read Favorites" list, and a lot for me to give up on them once they're there. Unfortunately, one author that recently did get removed from that list was Deeanne Gist, for reasons #1, 2 and 5 listed above. Dee's latest release not only failed to grab me, but was noticeably different from her previous efforts, and noticeably wanting in some editorial oversight from her new publishing house. Another factor is that she is transitioning away from Inspirational and into the General Market. Not that I don't ever read GM fiction, but as I write Inspy, it's definitely my reading priority. So all told, I don't see myself picking up any more of her books.

    The good news is, however, you Jody (and you too, Karen!) are on my Must Read Favorites list to stay. :-)

  14. Linda McFarlandJuly 25, 2013 4:18 PM

    I read a variety of authors to avoid 'boredom' setting in. I agree with statement women our tastes change. I am always so impressed with your blogs, Jody, you show compassion and care for your readers. No pressure but I can't imagine not loving one of your books. Have a blessed day...Linda

  15. It takes a whole lot for me to give up on an author! I guess it is linked to what you said above about no one being able to hit a home run every time. Some books by an author will be favorites and some I may read and then decide it was only ok. But that does not mean I won't read their next books. It has usually worked out that way for me. If one book seems to not be up to par with the one before it, I just wait. There is usually another great one down the line. Sometimes that doesn't hold true and the author may have changed style too much for me or maybe my tastes have changed. And I will follow different authors into other genres, provided they are genres that I like.

    I appreciate your candor on your blog. Bringing up a topic like this and getting to read others thoughts on the topic is refreshing. I have often thought that it must be scary to release this project that you have poured so much of your time and effort into and then wait and see how it is received. I will say that I get frustrated when I read downright "mean" reviews about a book. I believe in being honest, but hurtful and angry reviews seem like they have some other agenda behind them.
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  16. I admit I am a picky reader. I have authors that I love, but I don't love every single one of their books. I can really only think of one author that I have given up on and now she has quit writing all together. Her books were the very first books I read in the Christian romance genre. I devoured them, but then her writing started to change. She tried to center the story around too many characters and the storylines had no substance. A good storyline has to have some sort of conflict or major issue that the story follows. And sadly her stories just lacked too much to even finish. My mother-in-law, who also was a huge fan, felt the same way. If she started writing again I would probably be tempted to read a borrowed copy of her new story to see if things had changed, but I would not spend money on one of her books until I was confidant her writing abilities had improved.
    So to answer your question it is not easy to give up on an author you love, but after buying too many disappointments there does come a time to draw a line.

  17. YES. YES. And again YES and thank YOU for number 4 especially. That one resonates with me as a reader. We need fresh! I agree that when an author veers too off course from what his / her readership are used too, it gains raised eyebrows and readers not willing the type of book that the writer seems to have an interest in writing. (I'd even say that the latter would probably last a period, since some of us might still have hope that the author will come back to his / her original genre..) But I think the author is even MORE likely to lose readers, if there are too many repetitions and cliches in the plots, characters, covers, story lines, synopsis (etc...) of the stories that they write. It usually is one of the biggest reasons I'll stop reading books by a certain author. Then there's what you said... And I'd also add that if I deem a certain element in the author's work inappropriate then I'll stop. (Which would fit in, I guess, the change in the style of writing.) I had that experience last year, I think. And it involved a Christian romance author... I like passionate, sweet romances, but I found that she kept pushing those in her books and it got too edgy for me. I also agree that it is fair not to give up on an author because one book didn't satisfy. VERY smart post, Jody. And so important.

  18. I especially agree with your point about how the books sound alike. I used to buy several books from a really great author, but after a while I noticed that she had the same time of characters (different names and situations but the same personality traits) in every novel. It got kind of repetitive after a while. If I really love an author's earlier works, I'll keep reading. If it's just one disappointing book, no big deal. But if it's several in a row, then I start reading other authors.
    And good for you for having so many books out there! That's impressive!

  19. I enjoy when writers branch into new genres, so long as it's a genre I enjoy.

    What really turns me off though, is when a series shifts too much in tone and theme from when it started. If the things that made me fall in love with the characters and their world no longer apply, I can have a hard time adjusting and I lose that connection.

  20. I think #3 is one answer to #4. And this: The old rules about authors having to stick to one genre for branding purposes are changing.

    I see this especially with my indie author friends (and myself) as we experiment around, flexing out writerly muscles. I think it helps to stay fresh. And I'm delighted when readers cross over and read all my works, but I hardly expect it. I'd be more likely to give up on an author that's gone stale than one who wrote a genre I'm uninterested in. Example: I adore Hugh Howey's Wool and Molly Fyde series. He wrote a zombie book, too. I really dislike zombie books. I probably should give it a try, because I love his other works, but I decided to pass, and read another one of his, Half Way Home, instead. And it was my favorite yet!

    Great post!

  21. I really love this discussion everyone!! It's fascinating to read all of your comments and to see the diversity of reasons why readers stop reading (or stay loyal!) to their favorite authors. As a writer, I appreciate knowing what keeps readers coming back to my books, and what might turn them away. So thank you for the input! :-)

  22. I love reading new authors (to me, not just debut authors) so it's rare that I continue to keep reading an author. I'd say only 25% of the trilogies I start I actually finish. I love to read books from authors I have a relationship with and will continue to read theirs. After that, it's really about story and the writing, not the author.

    I do have a small selection of favorite authors and I'll read every book they put out...b/c I'm never disappointed even if the plots are similar b/c they're books/plots I love.

    I know I might have a different approach but I love the discovery of new books/authors and writing. :)

  23. It's funny that you would use that example. I loved all of Shannon Hale's books until I read Book of a Thousand Days and thought it was a terrible disappointment. I ended up rereading it later because I needed an audiobook to listen to while I worked and it was the only one available from my library. After listening to it, I absolutely loved it.

  24. You're spot-on with these reasons, Jody! Any of these would slow me down on an author. With so many books to read, one bad one will make me less likely to pick up the next one. And I have definitely stopped reading books because of #5.

    For instance, I used to enjoy Mary Higgins Clark. I always thought she was a better storyteller than she was a writer, but I like a good mystery. Over the last decade or so, however, her books have been pretty bad, editing-wise. Especially with all the head-hopping. (The only one I liked was written from a first-person POV.) That said, I suspect she has a ghostwriter now & her publisher knows her name sells the book so they don't have to care. But it's disappointing.

    Another reason I stopped reading a different, once-favorite author is because she went down a dark, morbid path with her books. It started with a novel where she put the reader in the mind of a 13-year-old girl as she's being murdered. I couldn't finish it. The next one I picked up was even worse, so I haven't read one of her books since.

  25. I love hot, sensual romance, but I want the heat to come in large part from the emotion and the chemistry between hero and heroine. Bella Andre is the gold standard for me--incredibly hot, but never crude. I've loved her Sullivan series, then out of the blue in the seventh book there is a truly awful scene. Just ick. And it was completely gratuitous--not necessary for the story line. In fact, the story would have been strengthened if this scene had been written differently. I felt betrayed. In fact, I'm still not sure that I'll read the last book in the series.

    So in the case of this series, I was "promised" more of the same, but the author didn't deliver.

  26. Reasons 3 and 4 are my picks. An author who is known for her romantic and funny books really threw me when she, all of a sudden, headed into a detailed description of rape and murder... I choose not to read books about those subjects so I was not happy! I like happy surprises, not ones that I lie awake trying to forget!

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  28. I'm pretty unforgiving about cliff hangers that didn't come with a warning or a head's up. I'm not talking about long arcs, either. I can understand some stories just can't be told in one book, but letting the reader know they are not going to get the complete story they expected in good faith up front so they have the choice of opting in or not is simple respect. The newer trend of having the second to last book in the series be a cliff hanger is pretty transparently about pre-selling the last book in the hopes of extended contracts and it's pretty insulting to the reader.

    I don't want to close a book feeling like I've been played. That will end my pursuit of an authors' work.

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