Book Clubs: Selecting Books from First-Time Authors

rosie

My Book Club is currently reading The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion. Previous selections have usually been novels that were published many years earlier, presumably to allow the book and its author time to develop a pedigree. There seems to be an unspoken aversion to choosing recent fiction from unknown authors. Thus I am surprised that for the first time in our history we are reading a recently published (2014) novel from a nearly new author. I acknowledge that this is Graeme’s second novel but it was released only a year after his original novel The Rosie Project.

Why this apparent aversion to new authors? Is it the way Book Clubs organize their selection process? We use the “rotation” method where each member chooses the book the evening that they act as host to the group. My sense is that alternative processes such as the “bean” method, Selection Committees, and random raffles do not alter this bias towards selecting books and authors who already have developed a good reputation. These are public processes and all too frequently “kowtow” to majority opinion. As a consequence I worry that the creativity in today’s new authors and tomorrow’s literature is lost forever because of this bias towards already proven literature. I may be uninformed but I am unaware of any process today that specifically advocates for first time authors.

It seems more a case of good fortune or possibly good connections. I applaud Oprah’s Book Club as a means of emerging from the shadows but this requires you to be chosen. Similarly store publicity can help but print-on-demand books usually keep an author off the shelves of such stores. The New York Times and other publications help with their reviews but I know of nowhere that I can access to obtain a list of all first time authors (say during the last three years), with book title and details of the novel, and an indication of the reader audience that would be interested in the content of the book. Given what an indie author is likely to spend to have their novel published I suspect that many would be interested in contributing to an organization that features their work only, and does what it can to educate Book Clubs to select novels that will become part of tomorrow’s literature, and not yesterday’s.

Should anyone have a different view or conclude that my vision of authorship is impaired, you are welcome to communicate with me through my website at jonathanhusband.com.

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