Supporting Debut Authors

I remember a year-end post on Rachelle Gardner’s blog two years ago, where she listed “ten really good first novels”. It was an impressive list of publicly acclaimed books and I was shocked to learn they were all first novels for their authors.

  1. Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
  2. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  4. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon
  6. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
  7. Peace Like a River, Leif Enger
  8. The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
  9. The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd
  10. Catch-22, Joseph Heller

You won’t find too many books by debut authors on my shelves. I’m a cautious reader and tend to wait for recommendations from others before spending my money. On the other hand, if I see a title that appeals to me I rarely stop to check if it’s a first book or a fifteenth. So I was surprised to realize several books that I’ve enjoyed lately are from debut authors:

  1. Crossing Oceans, Gina Holmes
  2. Dead Witness, Joylene Butler
  3. Code Blue, Richard L. Mabry
  4. Losing Faith, Denise Jaden
  5. Bad Latitude, Dave Ebright
  6. The Secret Year, Jennifer Hubbard
  7. The Preacher’s Bride, Jody Hedlund
  8. The Forest for the Trees, Betsy Lerner
  9. Bitter, Sweet, Laura Best

What’s also interesting to me is that all of them except one I learned about because of a blogging connection with the author. Who says blogging doesn’t sell books?

What have you read lately by a debut author? What brought it to your attention?


Published by Carol

A freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction living on the West Coast of Canada.

23 thoughts on “Supporting Debut Authors

  1. Thanks, Carol for the mention. I’ve read Dead Witness & The Secret Year, both were great reads, very well done. There’s some satisfaction in getting a story “out there” but I found that it’s a feeling that doesn’t linger. As a writer, you feel like you have to raise the bar & produce something better the next time around.

  2. And, Dave, that’s what makes writing so much fun and such a challenge. Debut novels are sometimes masterpieces. On the other hand, my first effort was schlock. Oh, well, it didn’t see print. So I’ve still got at debut novel in me.

    I’ll bet that there was a lot of writing done by the authors before all those debut novels.

  3. Carol, I love this post for several reasons. There are so many great books by first time authors! Two of my favorites are on your list (Joylene and Dave)—I’m sorry I haven’t read the others—BUT they are going to be on my “to read” list.
    The other reason I love this post is because, as a writer, you are helping fellow writers get recognized. For that I’m giving you a “standing ovation”!!!
    Thanks Carol, you are a blessing to us!

  4. What an impressive list of first-time author successes! Encouraging post! Thank you.

    I think Gone with the Wind was Margaret Mitchell’s first and only novel. What a great one it was! I read it and saw the movie. No one that read the book or saw the movie will ever forget the last line by character Rhett Butler. Ha! I never shed a tear throughout the entire movie, but the tears flowed unrestrained at that point. I guess I was hoping for a happy ending rather than a realistic one. I was very young. Blessings to you, Carol…

    1. Oh, Carol Ann, thank you for mentioning Bitter, Sweet. I’ve also read it and thoroughly enjoyed it, so it was an unfortunate omission from the list. I’ll remedy that immediately! 🙂

  5. I have Bad Latitude and Bitter, Sweet, but haven’t been able to read them yet. This only confirms that I chose well. I thank you so much for mentioning Dead Witness, Carol. That’s what I mean, your graciousness and kindness knows no boundaries. What a dear person you are. I’m blessed to know you.

  6. I think you missed our great friend Laura Best.

    I read at least half of the first list and one from the second. IF I read from the book jacket that it’s from a debut author, I am more inclined to buy it. Other than that I too buy on recommendation.

    1. I did miss her initially, Tricia, but I added her a couple hours before your comment. Maybe changes don’t show up promptly in some readers. I’ve probably missed others, too. I should keep more thorough notes on what I read. My memory obviously isn’t very dependable.

  7. I’m waiting for Bitter, Sweet – hoping it’s at the post office waiting for my arrival this weekend – ordered it a couple of weeks ago. No doubt in my mind that it’ll be great – Laura rocks!

  8. Thanks for your comments, everyone. It’s great to hear others are reading and enjoying debut authors, too. Of course, as writers ourselves, we’re probably a little biased in our desire to see those first novels get noticed. It would be interesting to hear what non-writing readers think, wouldn’t it?

  9. Oh dear, I feel as though I showed up late for a party! Um, thanks for the mention, Carol and Dave, and Joylene, and Tricia, and Carol Ann. 🙂

    Carol, you were right there when my book came out and offered to do an interview. It was awesome of you! You’ve been wonderfully supportive and I thank you! I’m constantly in awe of the support that is out there in the blogging community for writers.

    I’ve read “Bad Latitude” of course, and I also have “Dead Witness.” My mum just finished reading “Dead Witness” and gave it two thumbs up and she can be a tough critique. I’ll have to look into the other books you mentioned.

    1. It’s never too late to pop in and say hello. 🙂 Besides, if you’d come earlier it might have been before I discovered my omission and you’d have thought I didn’t like your debut novel, which would have been terrible. And I would have had to explain, and apologize, and grovel…. ack!

  10. Out of this list, I’m sad to say—so far—I’ve only read Jody Hedlund’s The Preacher’s Bride. But I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Wonderful, well-written novel with beautiful historical accuracy. I must get my hands on the others.

    1. There are various genres on this list, Christine… some are YA; #8 is a writing how-to; #1 and #2 are mysteries, etc. If you particularly liked Jody’s you might also enjoy Gina Holmes’… it’s also Christian altho’ not historical… well written and moving.

  11. Thanks for the mention!
    I’ve actually read a LOT of debut books in the past two years, because I was part of some debut author groups and we read one another’s work.

    Judith Robl also made an astute comment–The Secret Year was my first published book, but it was far from the first book I ever wrote. I made dozens of attempts at novels before that, and TSY was about my third or fourth serious attempt at producing something publishable. And I’d been writing and publishing short stories for years.

    I do know some authors who got published with the first novel they ever wrote, but it’s not common.

    And when I was a young reader and didn’t yet know any writers, the way I chose books was:
    1. Author of other books that I already knew and liked
    2. Interesting title, cover, jacket description and first page

    So a debut book always had to catch my eye with the items in #2.

    1. That’s a good point of Judith’s to pick up on, Jenn. I don’t know about Betsy Lerner, but of the others on my list I don’t think their debut novels were the first they’d written, either. Any authors I’ve heard about have said they wrote for years before their first novel was published. There are now four completed books on my shelf that probably won’t ever go public, and I’ve been published in magazines and literary guild chapbooks for over a decade. I think it’s good for those of us who are aspiring novelists to be reminded of the need for perseverance and patience.

  12. I find all this so interesting. My own debut novel is coming out this year, and it certainly isn’t my first. But I’m glad to stand with that large group of writers who have a drawer stuffed with a couple of manuscripts. And I agree with Dave, the contract for the debut novel is hardly on it’s way and the gears start churning to continue working on the novel to follow that one. It’s not a time to let the grass grow under your feet.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Christine. I’m not at that place, but I’ve heard others say that the second novel can be harder than the first because of that feeling you must “raise the bar,” as Dave mentioned. Some have worried the second may not be as good as the first and it won’t sell at all. It all suggests that getting a first book published doesn’t mean subsequent publication will be any easier.

  13. Carol, that’s really interesting. I hope that people won’t NOT buy a debut authors book just because they’ve not heard of them before. If that’s the case then I guess I’m in trouble. My debut novel, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, comes out in March! I hope you’ll take a chance and give it a read!

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